Loading four bikes and gear may appear challenging, so here are some tips from our many summers of practice. We are a typical family of four, and we sometimes leave town for a ride or to explore a new locale. We started our family outings when our boys were infants, so we have LOTS of practice.
First, of course, you need to carry the bikes. For our combinations of 3 to 4 bikes and tandems we have both a roof rack (for the tandem) and a hitch mounted Yakima Big Horn 4. It is easy to lift the bikes onto this hitch-mounted rack and the rack is easy to put on and take off between trips.
Our roof rack uses the Yakima Landing Pad system, and while it requires two adults to place it onto the roof of our Caravan, it can also be locked on in just minutes.
When loading bikes on the hitch-mounted Big Horn, each bike alternates front to back, and it may take a couple of tries to find the best combination for your family's bikes. The bike holders can slide on the bars (tip, a quick shot of Formula 409 or similar cleaner eases sliding them). We also run a cable through all the wheels to secure the bikes onto the rack.
Once you have the bikes, next comes the gear. For many years, we have relied on Rubbermaid Rough Stuff Tubs for our helmets and bike gear. It keeps everything organized, and works when loading at home, the ride start, and especially for the trip home. We also have a few of those ubiquitous fabric shopping bags for the odds and ends that don't fit into the tubs. They keep the car neat, and make sure everything gets to the ride and home.
Finally comes your après ride extras. Fresh clothing is nice, especially on hot days. If showers aren't available, we throw in some baby wipes, for a quick clean-up before the drive home. A cooler of of drinks is also a good idea, especially if the start is not near a town or store.