Traveling with a lot of luggage is tricky, both on the road and off. Large cars with lots of interior storage space are ideal for almost every family in the nation, but in today’s economy they can be out of the question when it comes to price. Smaller vehicles generally come with some storage space of their own, but it often isn’t enough for long trips with the whole family in tow. So what do you do with all the extra baggage?

car top luggage rackCar top luggage racks allow suitcases and/or other large items to be secured to the top of your car, thereby freeing up space on the inside or allowing you to take more luggage on your trip than initially planned.

For the most part, all it takes to secure them are a few strong straps or ropes that are either tied down to the luggage rack itself or running down through the car’s doors or windows to be tied beneath the roof. Granted, not all cars come with luggage racks, and this is especially true among smaller vehicles. Fortunately, this is something you can buy and install on your car yourself.

Even cars that do come with luggage racks may not be adequate for certain trips. The space on which to store luggage is only as wide as the car roof (sometimes less because of where the racks are positioned), and because they aren’t very high, it can be hard trying to strap items down securely enough so they won’t blow off of the car at higher speeds. As a solution, there are more advanced luggage racks that can either replace the one already on the vehicle. Others can attach to the preexisting roof rack to create a wider storage area.

Before shopping for luggage racks, however, be sure to take measurements of the top of your car (or look it up online by searching the make and model). This is very important, because while many racks are built similarly, luggage racks for SUVs are not going to necessarily fit on a small car like a Mini Cooper. Furthermore, some small cars have rounded roofs, which also limit how wide luggage racks can be.

You must also take into consideration the types of items you are going to be carrying. Bikes, for example, may require another attachment that goes on the luggage racks, or you may want to look into racks that are made specifically for bikes. What you will be carrying also helps to determine how far apart from each other your luggage racks can be set, so thinking about this ahead of time can save you from having to reinstall them later on.

Then there are car top carriers, which are technically different from standard luggage racks. These carriers are cases or bins that attach to luggage racks, inside which you place your suitcases and/or other items that you don’t want to carry inside your car. Car top carriers are generally made of some kind of waterproof material and are either a hard plastic shell (almost like a giant suitcase itself) or soft polyester that zips up and may have extra storage pouches. When installed and secured to the top of your car correctly, these carriers can actually be a lot easier to use than bare roof luggage racks.

They are especially handy if you have a lot of loose items or ones that are difficult to tie down. And of course, the waterproof material they are made of manages to keep your luggage just as dry on your roof as it would be if were stored inside your car. To keep items from getting wet while they are tied to a luggage rack, you have to also tie down a tarp or other waterproof material down over everything, and even then it can come loose and flap around in the wind. Worse still, it can come off if not completely secure, and this is both dangerous for you and other drivers.

To use a car top carrier, however, you still need luggage racks so you can attach them to your car roof. It is a good idea to wash your car before installing new luggage racks. This will break up any dirt and leave a clean surface for you to install the new rack. Getting the car cleaned regularly after the rack is on the car will also help keep it from rusting over. Maintaining luggage racks is especially important in areas with harsher, colder weather (or if you travel to these places often) because exposure to snow, ice and salt can make them crack, rust or become loose. Some people replace their luggage racks almost annually, but this doesn’t have to be you.

In addition to luggage racks for cars, you may need some form of luggage storage for when you reach your destination or stop along the way— especially if you won’t have frequent access to your car (or just don’t want to constantly climb up and down from the car roof). Bed Bath & Beyond has some great travel storage options, such as unfolding luggage racks for the bedroom. Folded up, these can travel easily on your car along with the rest of your belongings. You may also want to consider luggage stands, which allow you to easily pack and unpack suitcases.Storage Luggage Racks

If your luggage is exceptionally heavy, placing it on a stand will make it easier to pick up later. As a bonus, it also helps keep your belongings off of questionable motel floors, or even campgrounds. Bed Bath & Beyond also carries these, as do similar household items stores.

You may also want to check out Ballard Designs, a catalog and online retail company that is known for its European-inspired home furnishings. While this may not exactly scream luggage or storage, they do have some of the nicer luggage stands on the market that are not only good for travel, but will fit in nicely as with your home as well.