Becoming a mother means doing some major planning ahead before heading out the door. There is a laundry list of “things” you have to remember to set yourself (and your kids) up for a successful day. These are the kid essential items—aside from the diaper bag and jumper cables—that you should keep in your vehicle at all times:
1. Snacks and water
This one is the holy grail for survival on the road. But even if you always remember snacks and drinks for your kids, don’t forget to bring something for you to munch on. It’s impossible to predict when hunger could strike—at soccer practice, on a road trip, or even just on a drive to get the baby to fall asleep. This will keep you from beelining it to the first fast-food restaurant you see.
2. A garbage can
That’s right! Not only do we need to keep the kids fed and happy, but we’re also trying to save the Earth! Having a garbage can is a super-simple way to keep your car clean and teach your kids a little responsibility. Also, keep a stash of plastic bags on hand to re-line your garbage can or to handle any unexpected messes.
3. Air fresheners
Yes, plural. Because did you read No.2 about the garbage can!? And not only that, but sweaty soccer cleats and tiny humans can smell worse than garbage. Between carpooling to school and giving half of the baseball team a ride home, the last thing you want is a smelly car.
5. Hand Sanitizer, napkins, and baby wipes
Gas pump, blowout diaper, vomit, and car seat crusties (or mushies) are just some of the things that you or your vehicle will encounter at some point in parenthood. There is no escaping it, and I promise you’ll need these things more than you think you will.
A selection of toys (or books, or movies, or anything that you know will keep your children occupied for a while) is mandatory. Unfortunately, traffic will always be a thing, and you can only play so much “I-Spy.” We keep some electronic alphabet learning boards in the pouches on the back of the seat for easy storage. Our toddlers love these toys because they are designated to the car, so they don’t get sick of them like they do their toys inside the house.
7. A change of clothes
Keep a change of clothes for each member of the family in your vehicle. They come in so handy when a day at the beach turns into an impromptu swimming lesson. Also, a warmer jacket is always nice to have.
8. Towels and blankets
If you’ve never had a road trip where everyone is throwing up, then I’m jealous of you. Throw some old towels and blankets in the trunk in case of an emergency or to have handy for a picnic in the park. (Yeah, I just mentioned throwing up and picnics in the same paragraph. Sorry about that.)
9. Two laundry baskets
Two? Just hear me out. Keep one in the trunk for dirty clothes, blankets, shoes, or anything that’s been used that day and needs to go inside to be sorted or washed. The second basket is for the things you’ll need that day—perhaps a backpack, the diaper bag, a lunch, or important paperwork. At the end of each day, bring in both baskets. Restock the basket you’ll need for the next day and empty and sort the basket of yuckies. This will keep you organized and get you in a routine of being prepared.
10. First aid kit
Believe it or not, I’ve actually used mine a dozen or more times. Hopefully, you never need it for something serious, but you’ll be glad you have it with you if someone needs a band-aid.
Ella, ella, eh, eh, eh. (Sorry, saw an opportunity and took it!) No one loves being soaking wet. Keep one or a few umbrellas in your car to keep you and the family dry and looking fly all year ’round! Pro tip: The dollar store sells them for, yep, you guessed it, one dollar.
12. A potty chair
This one is right up there with food and water. Especially, especially, especially if you have toddlers. I can’t even count the number of times that having a potty chair in the car has saved us from having to use filthy bathrooms in public places.
This one might seem like it’s out of left field, but on late nights where you just don’t have the energy to cook, keeping your coupons in the glove box can save you a lot of money when the whole family is going out to eat at a restaurant.
Now if you are starting to wonder how you are going to fit all of this stuff in your car, then I suggest upgrading your vehicle. Kidding! Actually, it’s very doable to fit all this stuff in any type of vehicle, and being well-prepared can save you a ton of headaches.