We tend to spend a lot of time in the car with the kids. Whether it’s a family road trip (always an economical choice for vacations) or just an everyday type of outing, we log plenty of drive time.
Traveling with kids can be fun. I love having the time together to chat. But it’s not always easy. From the “are we there yet” chorus to potential problems along the way, it takes some planning to travel well with kids.
I like to be prepared. Over the years, I’ve learned to keep 10 essential things in our car for traveling with kids – whether nearby or far from home.
Top 10 car necessities for traveling with kids
1. Travel first aid / road assistance kit. I consider this the most essential item on this list. We’ve used the travel first aid kit in our car many times. Thankfully, we’ve only needed it for minor injuries – a bandage and some antiseptic ointment here and there. To be safe, I have a AAA road safety kit (affiliate link) with lots of different components in case of various situations. This kit includes jumper cables, flashlight, gloves, and more. I have a sense of security with a first aid kit and roadside safety tools my car when I’m out with my kids – but I’m glad when we don’t need to use them!
2. Napkins. When we stop for fast food on the go and the kids grab a mountain of napkins, I take the extras with me instead of throwing them away. I stash them in my car glove box so they’re handy when we inevitably need them. We use them all the time. As much as I would love to ban all food and drinks from my car, I have to be realistic. Snacks and drinks can’t always be consumed before or after a drive when you have a busy family. And spills happen in the car. Those napkins come in very handy.
3. Wet wipes/sanitizer. Even after we cleared the diaper stage, I kept wet wipes in the car for the inevitable sticky situations that happen with little kids. Now that my kids are older, I’m past the wet wipes stage, too. But I’ll always carry sanitizer. I consider it a mom’s best friend when the family is out and about! The sanitizer handles all my germy and sticky situations now.
4. Plastic bags. These are useful for stashing trash (like the napkins/wet wipes from numbers 2 and 3 above) until the next pit stop. They’re also necessary for the carsick kid. One of our kids gets motion sickness sometimes. We’ve tried both Dramamine and sea bands for road trips and still found ourselves passing a plastic bag to a sick child. We never know when or if it will strike, and it’s usually in an inconvenient place, where we can’t stop – like driving through the mountains in the rain, miles from the nearest exit. Yep, plastic bags have been necessary many times in our car.
5. Sunscreen and sunglasses. Even when you’re heading out on a cloudy day, the weather can change in an instant. I vowed that I’ve been caught out in the sun with no sunscreen or sunglasses for the last time! I just keep these things in the car now. We all have multiple pairs of sunglasses, with one pair designated to stay in the car. I also keep a small, inexpensive sunscreen in the car glove box. Since I’ve read that sunscreen can become less effective being left in the extreme temperatures of a car, I don’t keep it more than a season, and it’s not our primary sunscreen. It’s there just in case we don’t have our regular bottle of sunscreen.
6. Music/audio books. For everyday driving, I have a family friendly selection of music handy. For longer road trips, we always try to get some new tunes on deck for our listening pleasure. Portable DVD players are also great for entertaining kids. However, traveling with a child who gets motion sickness means DVDs are out – since looking at something stationary in the car can trigger the nausea. Audio books are a great alternative to DVDs. Classic audio books are fun for the whole family, while children’s books can cater to individual kids with their own ear buds.
7. Blanket. I keep a blanket in the car during the winter in case of car trouble that leaves us out in the cold. But I leave the blanket in the car during the summer, too. It’s handy when someone’s too cold and others are warm. It also makes a great pillow, and it’s perfect to use as a cover for things you want to leave in the car discretely while you’re out (like an iPod or a purse), especially if the blanket matches the interior car color.
8. Portable air compressor. Along with the standard spare tire, jack, etc. that come in a car, I’ve added a small air compressor (affiliate link) that plugs into the car’s accessory power outlet. We have used it many times on tires that get low on air. I bought one for every driver in my family since I have found my portable air compressor so handy for dealing with my tires. It’s also super convenient for pumping up balls for the kids at home or at the park.
9. GPS. I think this is standard for most women these days. We don’t have any problem admitting we need directions. My hubby, on the other hand, does not like the GPS. The voice drives him crazy telling him where to turn. He tries to always look up the route in advance to get where he’s going without the aid of a GPS. But when there’s a road closure, detour, or change in plans, even he will admit that the portable GPS navigator (affiliate link) is helpful. It stays in the car, even when hubby doesn’t think we’ll need it. I don’t go anywhere without it – just in case.
10. Cash/change. Although you can find ATMs almost everywhere these days, I like to be prepared for those unexpected moments you need cash or change. Sometimes you find yourself at a parking meter or garage, at a toll road you weren’t expecting, in need of a tip, etc. It’s always good to have some money tucked away in the car for just such an occasion.
What about you? Are there other things that you keep on hand in your car for traveling with kids?
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