8 Car survival kits for the road

We moms spend much of our lives in the car. We run errands.

We take kids to school, to soccer, to piano, to swim lessons, and on. And on.

What all this time on the road means is that our car has to function as a home on wheels.

These eight car survival kits are designed to keep little ones happily occupied on short errands and long drives - and to ensure you're prepared for whatever little surprises life on the road throws your way.

Car Survival Kits: A Home for Everything 

I know: This looks like a lot of stuff to stuff into your home on wheels. But it's really not - if you package it right.

Also, depending on your kids' ages and hobbies, you probably won't need all of it. I've divided the car survival kits into eight categories. Just consider each category a survival kit, and package that stuff together in zip-close plastic bags or clear plastic bins. You'll be glad you did.

Make room in your vehicle for these survival kits: accident survival kit, bad-hair-day survival kit, boredom survival kit, chaos survival kit, injury survival kit, mess survival kit, safety survival kit, and sanity survival kit.

1.  Accident Survival Kit

This is the stuff everyone needs in case you have a car problem or accident, whether kids are on board or not. Keep these in the glove compartment.

  • Auto manual
  • Auto membership club information and phone numbers
  • Gas cards
  • Insurance cards and information
  • Registration and proof of insurance coverage

2.  Bad-Hair Day Survival Kit

Not really just for bad-hair days, this survival kit is there for those days your makeup needs a touchup or your hair needs help.

Stash these items in a small bin in your car:

  • Brush
  • Contact lens solution and case
  • Hair ties
  • Lint brush
  • Makeup kit

Along the same lines, keep a change of clothes for you and each of your kids at the ready in the car, too. Spills happen, so be prepared.

My friend Rose's daughter wears a uniform to school. And at least once a month, she will get ink, milk, or some other goodie on her uniform between home and the bus stop. No kidding! My friend packs an extra uniform for just that reason.

Don't forget the just-in-case clothes and accessories: umbrellas, rain ponchos, gloves and mufflers in the winter, walking shoes, sun hats and visors, sunglasses, jackets, and sweaters.

3.  Boredom Survival Kit

I get so cranky with parents who do not bring toys or games to amuse their small children in restaurants and other public places.

If you must bring toddlers to a nice restaurant or doctor's office, at least keep them amused and quiet. I pack activity kits for each kid.

The kids can take the activity kits into restaurants, meetings, or even dull visits with Mom's friends and stay occupied.

That way, I can enjoy myself, too. The kits also keep kids happy on both short errands and long drives. Good kid kits for little kids include:

  • Aluminum foil. Do you know how much art kids can make from this stuff? Think rings, crowns, and necklaces
  • Action figures, small dolls, or plastic animals. Bonus buy: A lot of them come in little kits designed to be portable. Choose these whenever possible. I picked up a clear vinyl-like backpack filled with toy soldiers for my 3-year-old son recently. He takes them just about everywhere, including the grocery store
Boy playing on mobile phone.
  • Coloring books
  • Crayons
  • Magnetic board games and wipe-clean games. These are really great choices because pieces can't get lost or bumped.

Good kits for big kids include:

  • Books
  • CDs and portable game players
  • Deck of cards
  • Cell phone games (with the sound off please)

On the road again? If it's a long trip, consider buying each kid a new book, craft, or toy that will occupy him or her for a while. Let each kid bring one plastic box or backpack filled with personal stuff. 

It's also a good idea to bring a pillow for each kid to encourage naps. And pack water bottles and healthy snacks that are minimal mess-makers such as frozen grapes, cereal o's, fruit roll-ups, and juice boxes.

4.  Chaos Survival Kit

Life is so hectic. The cardinal rule of chaos control is: If you have something, you won't need it.

How many times have you been on the road and suddenly remembered you neglected to call Aunt Kimberli to tell her that dinner has been canceled tonight? And then you realize you haven't memorized her number?

How many times have you needed to call another parent in your kid's class, but you didn't have the number? I always carry an old school directory in my car, just in case. (I keep the current one at home.)

And, of course, a pen or pencil is essential. You always need one, and there's never one in your handbag when you do. 

Here are some other handy business basics for the road warrior:

  • Coupons. If you don't have them with you ready to use, what good are they? Stash them in an envelope in the door pocket
  • Mileage book. No, you cannot deduct all those hours you volunteer at the school or the local food bank. You can, however, deduct the miles that you drive to do the volunteer work. So keep a record each time you venture out on a mission of mercy. Jot it in the notebook, and store it in your second door pocket envelope.
  • Receipts. Keep a third envelope in the door pocket to stash credit card, gas, and minor purchase receipts

Another handy thing to keep in your car is a master errand list. If you don't tame this seemingly benign monster of a time-taker, you'll never have time for the fun stuff.

Write down all the errands you need to run for the week, and then group them geographically. Check your schedule for the week, and plan which days you'll complete which runs.

5.  Injury Survival Kit

We all know we need a first-aid kit at home when we have kids. But do you carry one in the car?

Since we spend so much time on the road with rambunctious kids, being prepared for minor overzealousness and medical mishaps is essential. (Not to mention the need for aspirin to treat the occasional headache caused by a long drive with loud, active kids.)

So, what goes inside your portable first aid kit? Use whatever you have handy, such as an art supply box or a simple tackle box, to stash and store:

  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes or ointment, burn ointment, and hydrocortisone cream
  • Bug spray
  • Emergency contact list. Just in case your babysitter is driving when an accident occurs. Include your cell number as well as names and numbers for the doctor, the orthodontist, and even the veterinarian if you bring the dog along for most outings.
  • First-aid manual with CPR instructions
  • Instant cold packs
  • Over the counter medications such as kids' Tylenol or Motrin and aspirin (not for anyone under 12, however)
  • Prescription drugs (Store what you or your kids might need if you get stuck unepectedly, including inhalers for your little athletic asthmatic, in childproof containers.)
  • Sterile gauze
  • Stretch bandages
  • Sunscreen 
  • Tweezers for bee stings or splinters

Finally, complete your emergency kit by storing a "Send Help" sign nearby. You can buy these almost anywhere. Just pray that you or your designated driver never needs it. If your cell phone is charged, you probably won't.

6.  Mess Survival Kit

Here's what you'll need to keep the car, and the little passengers inside it, moderately clean. Store these items in a small, clear bin in the back of your car. But make sure it's easily accessible:

  • Bottled water (You can drink it, or you can use it to clean up spills.)
  • Napkins (Leftover fast-food napkins are perfect.)
  • Plastic bags for wet clothing or other items
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Tissues
  • Trash receptacle or bag
  • Wet wipes or a tub of baby wipes

7.  Safety Survival Kit

Think like a Girl Scout before you head down the road. Here's my list of staples you simply must have for safe journeys:

  • Antifreeze
  • Blanket
  • Corkscrew (trust me)
  • Flares or reflective triangle (these are critical to letting other drivers know that you've had a problem on the road)
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Ice scraper 
  • Identification, registration, and insurance cards
  • Jumper cables
  • Rubber squeegee
  • Small set of tools
  • Tools for changing tires and a spare tire (properly inflated)

8.  Sanity Survival Kit

Each morning before leaving home, I make sure the kids have stocked the car the all the equipment they will need for their afternoon activities. These include a baseball bag with my son's glove, bat, hat, balls, and shoes, and my daughter's theatre bag filled with her script book and jazz and tap shoes.

Whatever your kids are into or doing that day, prepare for it first thing in the morning. That way, if something is missing or dirty, you'll have hours to locate or clean it.

And always keep a ball or scooter in the minivan or trunk. That way, your little one can amuse himself on the sidewalk while he's waiting for Sis to finish soccer practice or big brother to come out of the orthodontist's office.

This has saved my sanity on more than one occasion, I'll admit it. 

These eight car survival kits can help ensure when you're on the road again, everything goes smoothly.

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