With the season of travel coming up, going places with the kids is on my mind. If you missed it, here are the links for the traveling with kids series. Check out part 1 (airplane travel), part 2 (your in-vehicle bag), part 3 (packing), part 4 (while you’re gone and making unpacking easy), part 5 (safety), and part 6 (away for Shabbat).
So let’s look at your car, van, truck, bus…your vehicle. How can you keep it ready to go with minimal prep?
First, this post assumes you have adequate seat belts, car seats, and booster seats properly installed in the vehicle. That’s always a big hassle, so to make it easy, go do that if it’s not done.
Then pack a car bag that you keep in the car. Mine is really a diaper bag, but even with bigger kids, you can still use this bag. We keep it in front of our baby carseat and it doesn’t interfere with legs or space at all. Although you do have to replenish what you take out when you get back home, or the bag will be low on critical elements when you need them! Here’s what we have:
- Wipes. Yes, I know, a shocker. But we use wipes on hands, spills, noses, and of course, tushies. But even without kids in diapers, I think we’ll keep some wipes on hand – they are SO useful!
- Diapers. I have one kiddo in diapers now, and we still need one at night, too. So I have both kinds stored away so if we stay out late, we’re ready.
- Change of underwear for anyone newly trained or having trouble. Just in case. 🙂
- Change of clothes for anyone small who might need it. I used to keep a complete change of clothes for each child sealed in a gallon ziplock bag. But we rarely needed it, and now I just have a few things that could cover a couple of the older kids plus something for my current baby.
- A couple of plastic grocery or garbage bags. For anything that gets wet or yucky, for collecting garbage, or for upset tummies. They are small and handy, and very useful!
- Entertainment. We keep several drawing pads or clipboards with paper and a box of colored pencils tucked under the back seat. Why colored pencils? Beside the fact that they are excellent for developing fine motor skills (and there’s the teacher in me), they won’t leak and stain (like markers) or melt and drip (like crayons). They are just waiting for someone to use them. 😉 We also have several cds with kid friendly music, some purchased directly, some purchased and burned in a mix. We put away the Pesach mix recently, but it still comes out every now and then. My kids love The Story of the World, too. (For longer trips, we do books on CD.) And there is always a family sing-along or whistle along, I spy, and if things get a little crazy, the “Quiet Game.” You know, let’s see who can be the quietest!
- Food and drinks. We use several reusable water bottles in our van, and we wash them with our regular water bottles. But we also have a couple of packaged water bottles for those times when we might need them. In addition, we have a round of juice boxes for the kids. And for food, we keep 100% fruit leathers (quick sugar, and sweet), cashews in baggies (protein), and a big sleeve of crackers (carbs) handy. Yes, we try to better prepare for meal times, but it doesn’t always work out just right. (And we used to keep protein bars on hand, but in the summer…well, they don’t hold up well. You can kind of pour them right out of the sleeve…) And up in front, I have a stash of dum-dums. When people are behaving well, sometimes it “rains” suckers…strange weather, but well-loved around here!
The other issues are more forward thinking: keeping up with maintenance, oil changes, dashboard lights…and refilling the gas tank. We try not to let it drop below half before refilling just so we’re always up for a drive to the mountains.
And there you have the keys to making shorter car trips easier. Since the car is all ready and packed, just add the kids (don’t forget shoes…) and adults!
Preparation is the key to spontaneity – here, at least. 😉