On Packing Books for a Road Trip

by Jessica
Published: Last Updated on

Who doesn’t love a road trip? 

Earlier this summer, my family and I took a road trip to visit Glacier National Park in Montana.  From where we live, that’s about 16-17 hours of drive time. It was a lot of time on the road, but also, a lot of time to read!

Packing books, however, can be tricky. What am I going to feel like reading? How many books can I bring? Which books in my collection are okay to get a little travel worn? Will I end up buying even more books on this trip?! (Yep!!)

Full disclosure, I love audiobooks and did have a couple downloaded. I also brought my Kindle with me which, more often than not, ends up being utilized more as a portable movie theatre than an e-reader (on this particular trip it was used to watch episodes of The Outer Limits aka “the other” Twilight Zone).

Therefore, on this occasion, I decided to limit the focus to good old-fashioned bound books. 

Identifying the Right Reads

This is the first hang-up I usually face. What am I going to feel like reading on vacation? Nothing is worse than having your vacation book end up being something you are not into. I personally have been known to make the mistake of bringing books that I felt obliged to read because they were for a book club I was in and I “had the time to read.”

Once on a trip to the Black Hills, I  packed along a copy of The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent book, but you can imagine how great it felt to read about the true story of hundreds of  children freezing to death in a blizzard while trying to relax on a summer holiday. 

Shakespeare Co Booksellers Missoula Montana

Deciding How Many Books to Bring

The number of books to bring is dependent on two factors: the length of the trip, and how many tomes you are willing to lug around with you. Unless, that is, if you are planning to leave your books behind once you finish them. There is a whole bookish travel culture around the take-a-book-leave-a-book mentality that I find fascinating – someday I would love to try this, but today is not that day. At present, I am notoriously bad at getting both overly ambitious and highly anxious about having a nice variety of reads in case one book isn’t doing it for me. 

For a week-long trip with 17 hours of drive time each way, I figured that 3-5 books was probably more than sufficient. I ended up with 2 novels, 1 play, and 1 book of poetry. I made sure they were books I was truly looking forward to reading, or else they were something I was already reading and enjoying. 

Let’s Talk Durability

Lastly, I like to keep most of my books in pristine condition…yes, I am one of those sorts. No matter how careful you are, travel is rough on books. For this reason, paperback books are usually my go-to because they are light and flexible. Even if they do get torn or get mystery stains on them, they are usually inexpensive to replace.  

Packed for adventure

The Books I Chose

The 4 books I choose were:

  1. A hardback library copy of The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
  2. A paperback copy of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  3. Rituals: Poems and Research Inspired by the Mundane, the Maddening and the Wild for the Athlete and Advocate by Syd Zester
  4. Lastly, the oddball of the stack, a Dover Thrift edition of Antigone by Sophocles. 

On the trip I read all of these books except for Jurassic Park. Antigone I read on the return trip,  because after reading The Children’s Blizzard on one summer vacation, how could a tragic Greek play be any worse? 

How do you choose what books to bring when you travel? 

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