Planning a 3 month road trip (Part One)

We (DH, Sadie dog and I) are planning a 3 month long trip starting in August, heading up the east coast from North Carolina, across Canada, down the west coast and across the south.   Stops include Boston to visit older daughter, Los Angeles to visit younger daughter, and see various friends along the way. We will be traveling and living in a Class B camper van, so have limited storage. We tend to spend time hiking and exploring, checking out art museums in cities, with the occasional lunch or dinner out. 

After looking at weather history, looks like it will be pleasant Spring/cool Summer weather, with temps dropping cooler in the evening, but there could be a possibility of cold temperatures in some areas, especially the northern national and state parks. 

As far as clothes, I’m thinking comfortable clothes that are easy to drive in and are versatile for multiple activities, layers including wool or cashmere, a couple of hoodies, a leather jacket, a packable down jacket, a dress, hiking pants, jeans, and a backpack style bag. I would like to plan on washing clothes every couple of weeks. (Will hand wash a few things in between). My biggest problem is always shoes because I want to bring more than is usually practical. And then of course bags to complement!

I’ve started working on a capsule but these are my ideas so far. If you’ve done a trip like this, I would love to hear any advice you have, what worked and what didn’t, and any favorite items you brought with you. 

Edited to add ever changing collection for this trip:

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • kate replied 2 years ago

    Love the low boots you're taking.  I would take either the skirt or the dress not both...and pack a good raincoat with a hood or at least a good rain hat. Maybe two pairs of shoes, but I'm a minimalist packer..

  • Joy replied 2 years ago

    It can be very hot in August.  Be sure to take hot weather outfits, especially for the South.  You may also run into Santa Ana winds in Los Angeles, hot winds off the desert. Include a towel for the car seat and light toppers for over air conditioning.  Have fun.

  • Lana replied 2 years ago

    Kate you are right, and you got me thinking — it may be better to bring a dress that could be dressed up or down. I have a knit maxi that would also be a good beach/pool coverup. Thanks for your input. I’m also rethinking the leather jacket; I love the color, but it’s probably not necessary. 

  • Lana replied 2 years ago

    Joy, by the time we get to the South, it should be October, but it could still be hot.  It’s so hard to pack for variable weather. I’ll brink some tanks too. Layer, layers, layers. 

  • Roberta replied 2 years ago

    I can't wait to hear more about your epic journey! I have never lived out of a van, but my vacation habits are similar: hiking, museums, lunch, nap. I always end up buying one or more souvenir T-shirts along the way, and that will supplement your wardrobe. I would bring more shoes, honestly. You will need waterproof sandals/shoes, and something very soft and cozy when your feet are tired. Also, if you get really bored with your shoes along the way, they can be an expensive purchase. Better to bring an extra pair and stuff them under your bed somewhere.

    I have a very light weight, hooded rain jacket, with zipper pockets, that I always bring with me. The pockets mean I don't always have to carry a bag, and the hood is useful in a sudden shower. I also carry a wristlet that I can use as an "evening" bag.

  • Stagiaire Fash replied 2 years ago

    Wow, that’s quite a trip!

    I haven’t done anything like it, so have no tips from practical experience. But my mind goes to laundry. I hang mine to dry; how will you handle yours?

  • Lana replied 2 years ago

    Roberta, I think I’m going to add a raincoat —great idea by you and Kate.  The only issue is going out to dinner, I would like a dressier option, but I don’t want to do what I did traveling through Europe with a backpack and hauling around a heavy leather jacket that never gets worn. I will have the van this time so it would be easier to bring. I have a pair of waterproof Havianas that need to go on this list for beach and showers at campgrounds and slip on shoes for lounging. Thanks for those ideas. 

  • Lana replied 2 years ago

    Stag, good question, I have a portable clothes line I can hang in the bathroom or outside, and every two weeks we will probably use laundry facilities. We’ve done quite a bit of traveling in this van and other rvs, but never for this long. I noticed last time, that I ended up repeating outfits for specific activities, so don’t need as much variety as I thought I would. 

  • rachylou replied 2 years ago

    I’ve never done three months on the road. I’ve done one month on the road and three-month travel trips. This is just me but… What I’ve learned is I live in dresses and skirts when travelling. And this holds true even when I camp. I absolutely loathe pants when travelling. On these trips, my pants went mostly unworn, altho a pair of jeans came in handy every now and then. I did get caught in hail and snow camping in Yellowstone in September. Kinda lucky I bring a full-size sleeping bag for the dog - because had to give my mum my long puffer at night and then double bagged for me and Lilypup.

  • cat2 replied 2 years ago

    I would add a windbreaker type jacket, that can be layered over the down or worn on its own. It’s a great layer for hiking or windy tourist days.

  • Style Fan replied 2 years ago

    What a great trip!  I have made this trip, but not all in one go.  August and September can be scorching in Canada.  Or not.

  • Lana replied 2 years ago

    Style Fan, that is what is so crazy about the weather, historical data can only help so much.

    Rachylou, Glad you were prepared for that! I was thinking that skirt could be useful — it converts to a dress or skirt Depending on whether you fold over the waistband or not and it’s very cool and comfortable. I could wear it hiking. I’ve got some thinking to do. The main thing is to be comfortable while driving.

    Cat 2, Also a great point! I was hoping my raincoat to work for that but it’s a bit heavy.

  • Suz replied 2 years ago

    What a trip! It sounds amazing—and challenging to pack for, for sure. 

    I've never done anything like this -- at least, not since I was in my late teens, and I did it with a bike and a rail pass. But I second your thought about layers and items with versatility. Scarves can be a great addition -- they don't take up much room, can be removed or added for temperature control, and change the look of a solid neutral outfit. 

    A versatile dress that can be dressed up or down would be the best type to bring -- preferably one doesn't wrinkle. Maybe one that can be layered under as well as over. You could get a some Heattech long johns from Uniglo to use in case of cold emergencies on the Canadian leg of the trip. But it's much more likely to be hot, depending where you're going. August and early September are typically hot all over, although on the coasts it can be cool by early September. 

    Re footwear -- take as many as you practically can manage. Especially if you plan to hike and walk the dog a lot. (Hi, Sadie!) I walk a lot on all trips, and I've learned two things -- it can be worth the suitcase real estate to have options. A change really IS as good as a rest sometimes! Also, bandaid prophylactically, and body glide. 

  • replied 2 years ago

    I’ve never done a trip of this length or intensity, and it sounds amazing!

    If I may offer an organizational suggestion: create several smaller capsules according to your various likely activities, and when they’re complete-ish, combine them to see where there is (or can be) item overlap, if that makes sense. That is, your museum/lunch/dinner capsules may overlap quite a bit, or even be their own capsule, but a separate hiking capsule would be quite different. I just did this for a much shorter car trip to Santa Fe, and it worked like a charm. I would also consider bringing swimwear, in case there’s a great pool or hot spring calling your name. Good luck!

  • rachylou replied 2 years ago

    The skirt straight off struck me as perfect…!

  • rachylou replied 2 years ago

    And one more… I’ve discovered hang drying on the road takes a seriously long time… like days. I don’t know why this is.

  • JAileen replied 2 years ago

    We’ve gone on a couple driving trips the past few years.  They were nowhere near the length of your planned trip.  One trip was through the Southwest, to Fort Worth and back, and the other one was from Northern Nevada to St Paul, Minnesota.  For both trips I wore mostly cropped pants and tees, but occasionally my nylon hiking pants.  I also brought a Nanopuff, Nanopuff vest, a hoodie, and a windbreaker, and some shorts.  I wore all of these things several times.  I also brought a few slightly nicer things to wear for out to dinner, but my husband always wore a hiking shirt and hiking pants so it seemed pointless to dress up at all.  

  • Sal replied 2 years ago

    Exciting times!!

    I would be looking at things that are quick to wash and dry.

    I haven't travelled in a van but always struggle to take less than four pairs of shoes.  One walking or hiking, one suited for city walking, one pair of flip flops or similar, and one pair that are a bit more dressy but still good for walking.  Given the change of seasons I would pick one pair of sandals and one pair of city sneakers, as well as the walking shoes.  I think:)

    How fun this will be!!

  • Suz replied 2 years ago

    Haha, I'm thinking you might have to get one of those rooftop storage bins for the shoes....

  • madeline replied 2 years ago

    Sounds like an awesome trip!
    I would include a 1-2 pairs of yoga pants (maybe one full length and one cropped). Two tees-tech fabric or cotton blend-one long sleeve, one short sleeve or elbow length. I like these items for lounging or sleeping or both!
    Agree with Suz in the scarves.
    And don’t forget a hat.
    Have fun. Pictures please.

  • unfrumped replied 2 years ago

    Wow, this is huge!

    No experience with this kind of trip except yes to layers. For me I would push the casual/ comfortable to the limit , but with some key jewelry, lightweight washable scarves for color/ zing- and have a couple of the tops more dressy- esque for feeling more dressed up for dinner, and one of the toppers also since I’d be likely wearing the topper in air conditioning or anything chilly. For that I would still rely on travel- worthy and washable fabrics, usually some kind of good quality knit, maybe merino or some rayon- nylon blends, or woven performance fabrics.
    I would be strict with color palette in the sense of being happy with all sorts of mashups- likely lots of neutrals but also colors that play well together, solids or go with anything stripes.
    For shoes I’d go extremely comfy, trying on with outfits, but would still take multiple pairs of those and the right socks.
    Would agree with some almost jammy- type clothes ( still would be items that work in your capsules) and non- restricting shoes for days you expect to have a long drive.

  • Stagiaire Fash replied 2 years ago

    Suz, lol Re rooftop carrier full of shoes!

    Lana, I don’t think it was nearly as long, but Jenn did her usual careful plan I g and excellent posting about a long road trip along the West coast she did last summer. Janet has done longish trips in a camper. Not sure how much she’s posted about wardrobe on the road, but both might be worth looking up.

    Rachylou, I bet the spin cycle on the washers you’re using isn’t so fast.

  • Jaime replied 2 years ago

    The trip sounds fantastic! I have never done anything like this, but my first thought, as usual, is shoes. Make sure those that make the cut are well tested. Of course you will still be in civilization so will be able to resupply in an emergency. Good luck with the planning!

  • Firecracker (Sharan) replied 2 years ago

    How exciting!
    One thought about skirts and dresses: a dress can double as a skirt, too, if you put a pullover on top. It might be an option if you have one you'd wear like that.

  • Lana replied 2 years ago

    Suz, thanks for the ideas, I’ve added some scarves to my trip collection, added a couple of dresses and my shoe additions are growing!  

    Jaime, I keep forgetting I do have cabinets in the van, LOL. Shoes are so important for comfort levels; I need to test them. 

    Silver, I spent last night using your suggestion for smaller activity related capsules!  I’ll show them in a separate post but that was a brilliant idea. 

    Rachylou and Sal, quick dry is important so I’ll need to think about that hmmmm.  My hiking pants are not very quick dry. Yes, and shoes are the thing I struggle with too — it’s not worth restricting at the expense of comfort.

    JAileen, I’ve noticed on previous trips that I don’t wear the dressy things either so I’m really questioning the leather jacket and a couple of other items. I do have a gray plaid pair of pants that look nice but are stretchy knit with an elastic waistband. I could wear them for anything. 

    Suz, LOL! I should do it. That way I can buy more on the road. Hee. 

    Madeleine, I ordered a hat because of you suggestion — my old one is falling apart and huge. I’m bringing a knit onesie for lounging and sleeping but probably could use one more option. 

    Unfrumped, you bring up a good point about color palette.  I’ve planned a fairly tight one, and I wonder if I should expand a little.  My last big trip I got really sick of my clothes by the end. Someone told me once to try on all the outfits before a trip, just to make sure it works IRL. 

    Stag, I’ll look for Jenn’s posts and I’m hoping Janet will tell me what worked for her because our trips are similar. 

    Sharan, I’m going back and forth on the skirt vs dress question, but so far have 3 dresses under consideration. 

    Thanks for all your help everyone. Will start another post for my capsule so far. 

  • unfrumped replied 2 years ago

    Your plaid pants vs leather jacket sound just like the types of things I’d be trying to evaluate. Not that you have to “ give up” your style, but just focusing on what will give you the most bang for your space and maintenance.
    I have a Marmot rain jacket tgst I took on a trip to Ireland, and it was incredibly useful both for rain/ mist and as a windbreaker for layering. I chose a kind of oyster white color to lighten an otherwise dark palette, but a lightweight rain jacket is the type of thing you could often find in a happy but versatile color.
    I specifically wanted something that could be rolled/ smooshed up in a lightweight tote or backpack, rather than a more tailored dressy raincoat or trench, because I heated up walking or going inside places that were heated and so did a lot of on/ off.

  • Lana replied 2 years ago

    Unfrumped, I’ve ordered a lilac waterproof windbreaker to bring instead of my heavy bulky raincoat, so fingers crossed it works. The plaid pants will work I think, they are stretchy and light, more like light joggers but still have a little refinement. The leather jacket I’m still not sure about, but it’s such a happy color!

  • April replied 2 years ago

    World's Worst Traveler here, just chiming in with no useful opinions but much admiration for anyone intrepid enough to see the world this way. 

    <standing ovation> 

  • Janet replied 2 years ago

    Oh wow, I’m really late to this and need to read all the other responses you’ve gotten. As I said in your other thread, I’ve traveled in a similar way a couple of times now. I have a bad habit of overpacking, and mainly because I expect more “dressing up” occasions than there will actually be. I can get away with far fewer city clothes than I’m tempted to take.

    For my most recent trip, I left my leather jackets at home and took a light puffer that layered with everything to serve me for temps down to 15 degrees. I also took a rain shell and waterproof pants (those I never used). Beanie and gloves and a couple of Buffs for hiking and outdoor activities are a must for any temps under 50. I brought along the lightweight Hoffman/Herschel floral jacket in my finds below, which was a total impulse Marshall’s buy, and I wore it a TON! It was a great light layer for the desert in the mornings and late afternoons when it was cooling off, and also nice over a long sleeve top and hoodie on cooler days. The happy print livened up my mostly dark, mostly neutral gear/road trip capsule.

    - Besides that floral jacket and my puffer, the next most worn item is my puffer vest. Great for just that little extra layer and a touch of warmth. Plus it insures that I always have usable pockets (jeans do not always have that!).

    - I have some good black “travel pants” from Athleta that stand up to a lot of wear before they need laundering. They look polished enough to wear in the city but can go on a hike if needed. I have some Athleta crops that serve the same purpose in hotter weather. I also take 1-2 pairs of my comfiest jeans for driving days and town days. Hiking pants or shorts for the rest of the time.

    - I take basic casual knit tops/tees that aren’t hiking gear but get worn for driving/town days. Graphic tees are my go-to because they’re easy to launder, rugged, and have some color an d personality. And I have a ridiculous number of them. I also like a plaid shirt or two for layering and a little extra color/pattern while not being too precious. One or two hoodies are a must.

    - Other than hiking boots/shoes, I usually take a pair of fashion sneakers, a pair of black boots, and some sandals. I’ve learned not to take too many shoes that don’t have a definite purpose on the trip because they’re bulky to store in a limited space.

    - I will take a small but beloved variety of jackets — hiking/gear ones, a fun windbreaker, a fleece…but also I take a good denim and a nice utility jacket that look decent for being out and about in town or elevating a gear outfit to grab a casual dinner. I take along a couple of pretty but not precious patterned scarves to wear in town as well. Those and my signature statement rings and some earrings can help me feel town-ready.

    - I don’t bother with bags other than a backpack-style purse and maybe one small crossbody. Those pretty much take me anywhere on this kind of trip.

    I’ve loaded up some finds below that give an idea of what I include in my road trip capsules.

    Selfies from recent 6-week solo road trip out to AZ/NM/CO. Lots of hiking and photographing. Temps from single digits at night to 90 daytime! I hiked in snow and in the desert heat. Had a total blast, and I’m sure you will too!

  • kkards replied 2 years ago

    Nothing to add but gosh this sounds like a great adventure, and I’m seriously jealous
    #VanLife #RetirementGoals

  • Janet replied 2 years ago

    Popping back in to say I think your timing for this itinerary is perfect. You should have brilliant late summer temps for the early part and hit some nice fall color later on.

    When I did my Teardrop Trailer Tour back in 2010, I left in late August, went northwest to the UP of Michigan then west into the Dakotas and the mountain states, hitting Badlands, the Black Hills, Roosevelt NP, Devils Tower, Glacier NP, a bit of Yellowstone, etc. Then continued on to the Palouse in WA and then the Oregon coast and Crater Lake. Headed south into CA to see the redwoods and then Great Basin NP and some of NV, into UT (did a quick trip there because I’d visited the big 5 in other trips), and CO (Rocky Mountain NP and south along the Million Dollar Highway during fall foliage!). Then did bits of Route 66 to head back home. Somewhere I have a wall map with my whole route outlined — I had it up in my studio gallery with photos from the trip. I was away for about 2.5 months, and my husband flew out and joined me in Portland, OR to enjoy a few days on the coast, and then again in Denver, CO. That trip was truly epic and remains one of the absolute highlights of my life! I’m so excited for you!

    PS if you’re interested, here are some of the pics from that trip. A lot of rusty details in this collection, more so than landscape photos, but these are a drop in the bucket. Every so often I pull up a folder of images from this or other trips and revisit and re-edit the photos to see what I may have missed or taken for granted earlier!

  • Lana replied 2 years ago

    Janet, thank you so much for your detailed response!  It helps more than you can imagine and will help me rethink some things. My capsule is city activity heavy, which you’ll see when you get to the Part Two post, and I don’t think it’s realistic for what we plan to do.  I was nodding my head and chuckling as I read your first comment.  You’ll see what I mean when you see my capsule — we have a very similar approach and types of items. I think I need to do some revising and plan more casual comfortable items that can be dressed up some with a jacket or jewelry, and remove the dressy stuff. I’m eying those shorts too— I normally don’t wear shorts but the wider legs on those make me reconsider. 

    Btw I do have these pants shown in the finds below which look dressy but are ridiculously stretchy. I could definitely hike in them and they could be dressed up too  for a night out.

    I haven’t looked at your photo link yet, but will look forward to it. I am so excited about this trip. 

  • Janet replied 2 years ago

    Lana, I love those Athleta shorts. I clicked through on my Find and discovered they now make them in a BLUE! I might need to try those. I wonder if the fit is the same as a few years ago when I bought the first pair.

    I think my rugged travel capsule needs have been particularly simplified by a few factors:

    1) Traveling with my husband and dogs in the Airstream. We don’t do cities, just small towns, and those tend to be very, very casual. Places like Durango, CO, Bisbee, AZ, Cody, WY. Even smaller cities like Tucson, AZ or Santa Fe. I felt completely at ease in all those kinds of places in causal outfits spiced up with some interesting jewelry, accessory, or jacket.

    2) Laundry on the road is a chore, and you never really know about the machines. I’ve used a lot of commercial campground machines and mostly they’ve been fine, but occasionally there is some mystery stain or goop that gets in there. So I’m inclined to not take things that I’d be afraid to ruin in the wash. I do my underwear in the sink and hang dry.

    3) Traveling with dogs means the vehicle is a perpetual supply of dog hair.
    Also, the nature of this kind of trip is that there are lots of little stops to hops out and check out a scenic overlook or a roadside market or what have you — lots of dust and dirt and sand and mud gets tracked in all the time. Nothing will stay pristine for long. I learned to have a higher tolerance for a bit of dirt in my environment and on my person, LOL. I’m normally quite a clean freak!

    4) Tight quarters mean that you’ll never be as organized and have things as tidy as they are on your first day out. Anything that takes extra time to put away or get out will quickly get shoved into an available space or be left sitting out because it’s a PITA to deal with. If you feel like you’re trying to make space for things while you are packing, consider whether you need it all. Stuff expands on these trips! Especially once you buy a quilt from the Amish market or the bottles of wine from the Harvest Host vineyard, etc., etc.

    Just some thoughts. I’m happy to share if it’s useful! I absolutely love traveling this way and have learned a thing or two. :-D

  • Lana replied 2 years ago

    Janet your photographs are stunning!  I especially love the closeups of the textures and colors. 

    We like Harvest Hosts too, so much nicer than crowded campgrounds, and along with that I hope to do some Boondocking and of course visit The Parks. Like you, we’ve seen quite a few in the interior of the States, so the perimeter will be a blast. 

  • Angie replied 2 years ago

    Lana, you had me with Sadie! What a cutie, and how lovely to be road tripping in this way.  Boston and LA hold a special place in my heart - along with Seattle. Fun to see your kids, and more of the US! A memorable adventure awaits :)

    Janet sprang to find as someone who has done this type of trip regularly in their Air Stream, and is full of handy tips. Listen to Janet! 

You need to be logged in to comment