How much time do you spend in your vehicle whether it be actually driving or waiting around for a child or sitting in it because you just don’t want to go inside yet?
Perhaps you commute to work like many people do or maybe you spend a lot of time doing carpool to and from school and extracurricular functions. Perhaps you are like me and you spend a lot of time driving for business activities, volunteer functions, various board activities, and transporting kids to various activities and events.
For those who know me well, you also know that my family spends a lot of time playing Pokemon Go and when it’s super hot here in the desert, we drive from Pokestop to Pokestop throughout our neighborhood. We also do most of our traveling via our minivan because it’s more cost effective than flying everyone somewhere and then we have a vehicle to use while we are on vacation.
Given the amount of time my family spends in vehicles, I have always tried to be prepared and have them stocked with items we may need for various reasons. Just the other day I was called out by my oldest because we were out taking over some Gyms in Pokemon Go when he phone battery was starting to die. I would have swore I had a charger cord in the car but it turns out his phone uses a different plug shape than what I had stocked in the van. His response was irritation with me because “MOM, you always have stuff with you because you are prepared for everything!” but apparently I dropped the ball on this one. Needless to say we had to cut our little Pokeventure short that day.
This prompted me to review my current stock of supplies in our vehicles and make sure there weren’t other items missing. I also took this opportunity to do what I often do in these situations and make a checklist to help keep myself organized and reduce the chances of forgetting something. You can get your FREE checklist HERE!
In determining what items I thought should be in the vehicles I came up with four categories; Safety, Convenience, Cleaning, and Kids. Not all of these may apply to your situation, but they will probably help spur some ideas for you when packing your own kit. Following is the list of items under each category and a brief explanation. Keep in mind some items apply to multiple categories so I listed them under each applicable category. This is a generic high level list and you may find that you don’t need some of these items or that there are items you do need that aren’t on it. The checklist has extra spaces for that reason. Also consider your climate because certain items may not be safe to keep in a vehicle in the Arizona desert and other items you might need more of if you live in the frozen tundra of upstate New York or Montana.
Air Pump – These are really nice to have around when a tire goes low and its a small enough leak that you can refill until you get to the tire shop. This is the one I keep in my vehicles and it’s small enough to be stored and functional enough to get the job done plus the price is reasonable. Order yours here.
Blankets – I personally like these light weight throw blankets that are a few dollars at Walmart. I just keep a couple in the cars because we live in a desert so there isn’t the same level of need that we had when we were in KS and faced cold winter storms. The blankets come in handy for watching the kids sporting events, playing at the park, and when one kid is hotter than the rest of us on a road trip. Needless to say you’ll find this item under the convenience category as well as safety.
Car Aid Kit – Unlike a first aid kit, this is focused more on vehicle emergencies rather than medical emergencies. Some kits are more basic in what they contain than others. I like the one pictured above because it contains many of the safety items I will be listed all in one easy to store container not to mention you just have to make one purchases this way. I would recommend checking to make sure the jumper cables included in a kit are long enough to be effective because I have had a kit with jumper cables so short that we couldn’t use them because there was no way to get the vehicles close enough for them to reach. Click here to order this kit.
Duct Tape – The tape with a funny name and a million uses. It’s inexpensive, comes in fun colors and patterns and can be useful in a vehicle for a variety of temporary fixes that may come up. I could have included this under the kid category for those long road trips when they won’t keep their hands to themselves (kidding but you know we’ve all thought about it).
Fire Extinguisher – This item may not be practical depending on the size of your vehicle and where you live. I personally do not keep one in my vehicle because it gets REALLY hot here and I worry it would damage it or cause it to malfunction which would be dangerous. I also don’t want it in a confined area where my children can access it easily and use it as a toy or a weapon. Car fires are real though so that’s why I put it on the checklist.
First Aid Kit – This type of kit is great to have in every vehicle, home, and possibly an emergency preparedness bag. There are so many types with different items and amounts in them. The one pictured above is pretty comprehensive but the main thing is to check the list of included items to make sure it has what you feel is necessary. You may also be able to cross other items off your list because they are included in a premade kit. Of course you can always buy the individual items and make your own kit as well. You can purchase this kit here.
Flash Light – Since car issues don’t just happy during daylight hours, it’s critical to keep a flash light in your vehicle. There are plenty of options from small to large, LED, crank powered, batter powered, and so on. I like this one because it has a few extra safety features built in to it, but I also keep a small LED one in the glove box for non emergencies. Remember to keep spare batteries and check flash lights regularly to ensure they are still working. This flash light can be ordered here.
Gloves – These may have come in your car aid kit or first aid kit. If you live in a cold weather climate then you might also want to keep winter gloves in the vehicle as well in case you are stuck without power to keep you warm. Consider your possible scenarios to determine what types of gloves to keep on hand and how many.
Hand Sanitizer – This could come in handy if you need to clean off after doing some repairs or in the case of a medical emergency because it’s better than nothing. This is also listed under the cleaning and kid categories because it can be used to clean and disinfect if there’s a spill or for sticky, dirty little hands prior and after eating in the car. (Personally I keep a spray bottle of essential oils designed to disinfect naturally. I use DoTerra “On Guard” blend but there are other brands out there with their own blends or you can make your own with oils you already have.)
Hazard Flares – These may be necessary in the event of an emergency after daylight because it can be very difficult to see stalled vehicles on the side of dark roads. I like this set because it comes with a carrying case (and I’m a sucker for carrying cases) and these don’t require actual fire. Depending on the car aid kit you decide to use, some form of flares may come with that. If you need to order these, click here.
Jumper Cables – Batteries die at the worst possible times and places and you rarely see it coming. Jumper cables are a must have for all vehicles. Make sure you get them a good length so you can reach the battery of another vehicle no matter which side the battery is located on. You could take your jumper cables to another level and find a set that doesn’t require another vehicle to jump the car. Again this item may come included in a car aid kit.
Kitty Litter – This absorbent product can come in handy and is inexpensive enough that it doesn’t hurt to keep it around. I put mine in a gallon baggy with the month and year on it and keep it in the back of the vehicles with a cup to scoop it. It can be used to clean up oil and other liquids that may spill or leak from the vehicle. It can help with traction in ice and snow but if that’s your goal you will likely need more than a baggy full of it. Some people say filling a sock with litter will help keep your windows from fogging up as well.
Multi-tool/Small Tool Set – Having a small tool like the one pictured above can come in handy in the event of an emergency or even for normal daily request like opening a toy or fixing something while in the car. Some car aid kits may come with something like this but if not, its a good idea to keep one on hand in your vehicles.
Safety Vest – If it’s after dark and you are stuck fixing your car on the side of the road it would be best to be wearing a safety vest so oncoming vehicles can see you. If an actual vest isn’t your thing, you can probably find reflective tape or keep a certain reflective outfit in the vehicle for emergencies. This may come including in a car aid kit.
Spare Tire – Most vehicles are going to already have a spare tire and some tools to help put it on the vehicle. If you vehicle does not have one or you have had to use it and never replaced it, you should probably get on that. Check you manual to determine size and type required for your vehicle.
Tire Gage – This simple tool can be very helpful when you are at the gas station and considering putting air in your tires or are a little concerned that one or more tires aren’t like the rest. It’s important to maintain air in your tires that are within the recommended pressure ranges for both safety and gas efficiency. I personally like the cute little tire gage that come on key rings. They can also double as temporary entertainment for children though this doesn’t last long in my experience.
Tow Strap – It’s a good idea to keep one in your vehicle since you don’t know who might be able to help you and whether they have a tow strap on hand or not.
Water – There are many reasons why you would want to keep water in your vehicle. Depending on where you live you may need to store it different ways to avoid over heating or freezing and expanding the container too far. Water is on the check list under every category because it is necessary for vehicle emergencies, convenience of having it to drink or rinse off with, necessary for cleaning messes, and important for kids to have while traveling in the car. I like this jug for storing the water used for emergencies but I also keep bottles of water up in the front of the vehicle for drinking and cleaning purposes. You may need to carry distilled water in the trunk if you have a vehicle that is prone to overheating and requires distilled water to be added. This container can be ordered here.
Batteries – I keep a variety of sizes of batteries in my vehicles. We use them for portable electronics, headphones for the vehicle’s DVD system, flash lights, and so on. My biggest challenge is keeping them stocked up because my kids go through batteries like they are candy. This is also listed under the kid category for the reasons mentioned above.
Blankets – see above under safety
Chairs – I keep a few folding chairs in my vehicles so that I have them when the kids have a sporting event that doesn’t have bleachers or for any time I need a place to sit outside of my vehicle. It has come in handy more times that I would have expected.
Paper/Notepad – Personally, I keep notepads all over the place. I get ideas or think of things to go on a list and don’t want to have to hunt down a notepad. Having a notepad in the car comes in handy all the time. I use it to track care details, to take down messages while traveling, to write reminders to myself, and even for kids to use to draw or write things down.
Pen(s) – If you’re going to have paper you better have some pens to write with.
Phone Charger Cords – As I mentioned above, this was the item that started this whole checklist. In today’s world, a charged phone is vital and keeping some extra charger cords in your vehicle can make or break your situation. Since we have two different charging port designed on the phones in our family, I now keep both types of charger cords in the vehicles. I really like the ones pictured above because they are colorful, durable, and very long. You can order yours here. Make sure you pick the correct format for your phone’s charge port.
Phone Charger Adapter – Without an adapter you won’t be able to charge your devices. I recently found this one which is great because it has 3 usb slots so I can charge multiple devices at a time with only 1 car outlet. It was a two pack so you can have one in each vehicle or keep a spare on hand for when it eventually fail because all chargers do at some point. You can grab yours here.
Tissues – I don’t know about you, but I can’t go without tissues in the car. It never fails that someone gets a runny nose or even a bloody nose (we have weak noses in my family) and you never have enough tissues. Not to mention the makeup uses. I get the square box for up front and keep it in a cute round thirty-one gifts holder and a rectangle box for the back of the vehicle and keep it in the tissue pocket of my thirty-one gifts car organizer.
Water – see above under safety
Cleaning Wipes – Great for wiping off hard surfaces inside your vehicle after kids have touched everything with dirty little hands or just to wipe things down every so often because of dust and normal build up that occurs. If you have special finishes or materials in your vehicle you may need to use something specific for the interior of your car.
Gloves – see above under safety
Hand Sanitizer – see above under safety
Paper Towels – I like to keep a roll in my door to wipe down the inside of the front window from time to time in between my thorough cleanings. It’s a trick I picked up from my dad because he would pull out the roll and do a quick wipe down from the driver’s seat while we were heading down the road because you can’t tell that it’s dingy until the sun hits it just right and you can no longer see out of it. I don’t know if it’s an Arizona thing because it wasn’t such an issue in Kansas but it happens. They are also useful for cleaning up other messes and for when you do the thorough cleaning of the vehicle and have to get gunk out of cup holders and stains out of carpet and seats.
Towel – Keeping an older towel in the car has always been something my family has done. My grandpa would cover all the seats with towels and you couldn’t sit on a seat without a towel or you’d be in trouble. Having back up towels in the car for unexpected rain storms in the desert or trips to the pool when someone will inevitably forget a towel is also helpful. They can come in handy for cleaning up spills or protecting surfaces from spills. You’ll see that this is also listed under the kid category. I could have listed it under convenience because in my case I like to have one that I can throw over my seat in the summer because I tend to burn the exposed portions of my legs on the leather seats when it’s 100+ degrees here.
Trash Bags – It’s a person preference whether to keep full size trash bags in the vehicles or just keep a stash of grocery store plastic bags around. I do both. I have a full size trash bag in the back of the vehicle for deep cleaning days or if someone has to put dirty or wet clothing or items into it. I also keep a stash of grocery bags in the passenger door pocket which I use for the daily trash needs of the vehicle. When one fills up I have a new one to put in use.
Windex – Rather than keep a full bottle of Windex in the vehicle, I use small spray bottles from the travel item bins at Walmart. I make sure to mark on it what is in it and which vehicle it goes in. I keep it with my cleaning supplies in the vehicle. It comes in handy with the quick wipe down doesn’t get it done on the inside of the windows and then for deep cleaning the vehicle. It can be used on the outside windows if needed and not near a gas station with window cleaning stations.
Baby Wipes – No matter what age your kids are or whether or not you even have kids, baby wipes are nifty to have on hand. I use them to wipe down toys, furniture, people, and just about anything else that won’t be harmed by a soft cloth with soap and water on it. Having a package in the vehicle is a life saver every time we stop for food or treats in the car and for those moments when you notice a small stain on the seats or hard surfaces but can’t get to your regular cleaning wipes or don’t want to use that harsh of cleaner.
Batteries – see above under convenience
Hand Sanitizer – see above under safety
Headphones – Our minivan has a DVD system in place that can use wireless headphones rather than having to play it over the stereo system. The first van we bought only came with 1 pair which wasn’t enough. That’s when I found these beauties on Amazon. Our new van came with enough for everyone to use, but as they are starting to break and wear down, I have my eye on purchasing another set of these. For us these are a must have because I just can’t handle listening to Shrek for the 100th time in the last few weeks. If you could benefit from these order yours here.
Movies – We try and keep at least 2 movies in the minivan so that the kids have options. At one point we kept the whole DVD binder in the van but with the Arizona heat and the risk of having all of our kid movies stolen, we switched to just keeping a few in there.
Spare Clothes – With kids come messes and having spare clothes in the cars is never a bad idea. I don’t keep anything for my older kids anymore but there are times I wish I did. My youngest is still messy enough that I do keep one outfit on hand but it’s probably too small by now because I forget it’s in there. This was a much more important item during the potty learning phase.
Towel – see above under cleaning
Toys – if your kids are young enough to still need you to supply entertainment for them, you might want to keep a small baggy of car appropriate toys around. We kept spare hot wheels and little action figures in a bag in the thirty-one gifts car organizer I mentioned above. This came in handy during long car rides and when we would stop places but I forgot to bring the full travel bag with us. I wouldn’t keep anything that could melt or get too hot to play with during the summer and it shouldn’t be anything that you wouldn’t want to lose, leave behind, or have stolen because those are potential risks. I found that little items from the dollar store or random toys that came home with the kids from school prize buckets or fast food kid’s meals were good for this.
Water – see above under safety
So there you have it, the vehicle kit checklist breakdown. Like I mentioned in the beginning, you may decide some items aren’t needed for your situation or that you need more of some things because of where you live and the circumstances involved in your life. I left spaces on the checklist for you to write in those types of items. Some that I can think of of hand are umbrellas, sun shades, scissors, lotion, a make up kit, a sewing kit, sunglasses, audio cords, ball hand pump, sunscreen, spare shoes, and so on.
I hope this helps you prepare for the unexpected and have enjoyable travel experiences!
Please share you vehicle must haves in the comments below.