16 Items Every Mom Needs in the Car

Soon after you become a parent, you quickly realize that surviving life with children is going to require “stuff” beyond what your home can hold, especially if you ever plan to leave the house. In fact, much of our time is spent driving junior around town, be it to school, the grocery store, the playground, the pediatrician, or wherever else you need to go. 

Sure, you can try to carry everything you need in your diaper bag, but that could get heavy. Rather, why not create an organized space within your kid-mobile that has everything you need. Based on our personal experience, here’s a list of must have items for every mom to have in the car.

1. Organizer

There are a number of ways to organize your car/van/SUV when you have little ones. Some people prefer to keep everything contained on the back of their seat or in the backseat center console so their child can access it, others like to keep everything neatly packed away in the rear of the car so the mess is out of sight. Either way, it’s important to have at least one form of organization. Here are a couple of options:

In the rear of our mini van, we use a cargo pack organizer to keep critical items off the floor. We’re currently still in diapers, so things like diapers, wipes and a change of clothes need to be easily accessible. Down the road, we’ll be trading in diapers for after-school gear. With 5 roomy pockets, there’s a place for everything regardless of the stage you’re in.  

If you drive a sedan (or don’t have space in the back for a cargo style organizer), you might consider using a collapsible market basket to hold your kid’s essentials. In addition to the cargo organizer, we keep our basket in the trunk of the car, but it could just as easily be kept on the floorboard of your car, depending on how quickly you need access to the items. In fact, if you don’t regularly use a market tote, you may want to have one on hand just to fill with activities and snacks for long car rides. 

When not being used to contain all your kid’s stuff, it can also be used for grocery shopping, and we like that it can be monogrammed for a personalized touch. The handles make it easy to bring with you inside to refill or exchange items. 

2. Trash Can

Kids have a tendency to accumulate trash faster than any other human being, and if you aren’t careful, your car could become a tiny landfill. We’ve found that having a small trash can in the car isn’t only nice to have, it’s a necessity; so much so that we keep two handy. 

For wrappers, lollipop sticks, tags, outdoor “treasures” and the like, a small cereal container from the dollar store is tucked away in the front seat center console. When it’s not being used, it’s out of sight; and using a small trash bag, we can easily toss our waste as often as we need to. 

If we take longer road trips with the whole family (i.e. grandma’s house or vacation), we find having a larger trash can can keep meals on-the-go and the drinks that go along with it better contained than relying on a drive-thru paper bag. The StableMate car trash basket is absolutely leak proof courtesy of its sealed inner liner which can hold 4.5 gallons worth of trash. It also features a discreet magnetic tab cover to keep trash out of sight, side bracing for stability (so it won’t tip over), a wide mesh exterior pocket to hold wipes and sanitizer, and grab handles to make clean out quick and easy. 

3. Change of Clothes

When you’re transporting kids, anything can happen. Sometimes it’s as simple as a diaper blow out that requires a complete wardrobe change. Or, your child got a little carried away with the water fountain while playing at the playground and he’s soaking wet. Or, potty training just took three steps back. Whatever the case, always carry a change of clothes with you – at least one per child. If for some reason you don’t use this change of clothes for months at a time, be sure to exchange for size and season every so often. 

Be sure to include an extra pair of socks. Some places require your child to remove their shoes or wear only socks while playing (jump parks). Maybe your kid always wears socks, but some kids don’t, and if you always have a pair of socks in the car, you’ll never have to stress out over packing a pair before you leave the house. 

4. Plastic Bags

On the same note, you’ll need a bag for those soiled clothes. Keep a few plastic bags handy for clothes, stinky diapers, or whatever else may come your way. Alternatively, you can use a “wet bag,” (and you probably still should if you are cloth diapering) but we find there are so many reasons to reuse your grocery bags that plastic is sometimes just as easy – and you don’t have to go through the extra expense of a dedicated bag. 

5. Mobile Changing Station

If your child is still in diapers, you are likely carrying a diaper bag, but we find it helpful to keep a changing pad, a few diapers, wipes and butt cream in the car just in case. You never know when you’ll be in a situation where you’ve burned through your diaper bag supply and still need diapers. Much like your change of clothes, be sure to always keep the right size on hand.

6. First Aid Kit

Accidents happen, and sometimes you need a band aid. Ready-made first aid kits are available at just about any pharmacy or big box store, so you have no excuse for not having one in your car. But, if you want to create your own “ouchie kit,” here are a few items that you should include:

  • Band aids of assorted sizes – We recommend something along the lines of Doc McStuffins or the Ninja Turtles. Apparently, character strips have stronger healing powers than generic bandages. In fact, if you choose to go the store-bought route, be sure to trade out the generic beige band aids for something more fun if you want to decrease the amount of time it takes for your child to recover from their playground boo boos. 
  • Instant Ice Packs
  • Neosporin or Vasoline 
  • Tape or Gauze
  • Roller bandage
  • Pain reliever (Ibuprofen or Tylenol)
  • Nonlatex gloves
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Thermometer

7. Sunscreen and Bug Spray

Obviously, right? Especially with recent threats of global warming and the zika virus.

8. Paper Towels

If you’re anything like us, you always stash some extra napkins in your bag when you leave a restaurant. While you may not need those napkins right away, we all know that a moment will soon present itself in which a napkin is required (in our experience, it’s always the husband needing to blow his nose).

We certainly don’t want to put an end to such a beautiful habit – we simply suggest that you throw a roll of paper towels in the trunk just in case. When your kid spills their entire sippy cup all over themselves, you’ll be glad you have them. Or, when you decide to have an impromptu picnic, you’ll have a place to wipe those messy hands. 

9. Baby Powder

Baby powder isn’t typically recommended to use on baby bottoms anymore, but it is still very useful. If you’re heading to the beach or the sandbox, be sure you also have some baby powder.

After your child is done playing, dry off as much as possible (if they are wet) and shake any excess sand from their clothes, shoes, towel or anything else covered in sand. Then, place a small amount of baby powder in your hands and rub it into your child’s skin to quickly absorb moisture and the sand will fall right away. You can do the same with shoes or sandals, clothing, hair, and car mats. Just sprinkle a light layer on and shake it off (or vacuum – but don’t rub it into your car seats or flooring as it’ll leave a white trail).  

10. Spray Bottle 

On hot days, we all try to park in the shade to prevent our kids’ car seats from getting too hot. If there is no shade, try to park such that the sun comes through the back window. While your car is still going to get hot, it may prevent your front dash, steering wheel and seats from getting as hot.

You can also keep a spray bottle full of water on hand. Before your kids jump into the car, blast your air conditioning and spray their seats (including the buckles) down with water. The seat will almost instantly cool down enough that your child won’t scream as soon as they sit down. 

11. Protective Coverings

Car seat covers, floor mats, kick mats, etc. – if you are transporting children, you absolutely need to protect your car. We’ve used after-market car seat covers and they are okay, but if you really want to protect your seat cushions, consider investing in seat covers from your vehicle’s manufacturer (especially if you bought new). 

Kick mats will protect the back of your seats from getting destroyed by dirty feet, and floor mats will make cleaning up spilled snacks much easier. 

If you want to go the extra mile, add silicone cupcake liners to your cup holders. The next time your coffee mug or big gulp springs a leak, you won’t have to worry about cleaning up a sticky mess.

12. Car Hangers

 

Coats and book bags have a few places they tend to go – the floor, the trunk or on a hook! Car hangers easily convert your vehicle’s seatback into added storage space. In much the same way you use hooks in your home to hang things up, you can use these car hangers to hang up coats, bags, groceries, etc.

Each of the High Road Contour CarHooks can hold up to 25 lbs each, so you can keep your car organized and loose items off the floor and seats for a cleaner, safer drive.

13. Blanket 

After finding ourselves sitting in dirt more often than we care to admit, we decided to keep a blanket in the back of the car for trips to the park, beach or any other place that doesn’t have a park bench or cozy place for our babies to roll around. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, an old quilt or beach towel will do. Furthermore, if you have a really big spill, your blanket or towel can double as a cleaning tool. 

14. Snacks

Before you leave the house, make sure you have at least one snack and a water bottle in the bag. You never know when you’ll be stuck in traffic and need to fill a tiny belly. In addition, we suggest that you have extra snacks in the car for the rare occasion that you walk out of the house without something to eat or drink. Our standard go-to snack is a fruit gummy, but keep whatever your kids will eat handy; and if your kids are like ours, you may want to keep these snacks in the center console for a quick fix. 

15. Cell Phone Holder

Far too many people are killed or seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Therefore, rather than risk the temptation of checking our phones for the latest Facebook gossip or responding to text messages, it’s best to just keep it out of reach. However, you still need your phone for services like navigation and you might be tired of using your cup holders to stash it in.

We use this High Road Express 2-pocket car air vent phone holder to keep our phone in view, but out of reach for any time that we need our phone in view for directions. It features a soft-lined pocket for protected storage in the back (for items like sunglasses), and an easy-view mesh pocket in front. There’s a bendable back strap that can be flexibly adjusted to fit most air vents. Unfortunately, it does not include a hole in the bottom for charging, but you can easily flip your phone upside down in the holder if you need to charge while you drive. 

16. Emergency Road Assistance Kit

Finally, be sure you have an emergency road assistance kit in your car at all times. Should you ever need roadside assistance, get a flat tire or need a jump, you want to have the proper tools to get back on the road as quickly as possible – even if you don’t know how to use those tools yourself (we’ve asked for a jump in a shopping center parking lot before – and having our own jumps greatly helped).


It’s amazing how much more prepared you’ll feel by having your car well organized to hit the road. Whether you have one kid or a small army, we hope these tips help. What did we forget? 

For more traveling mama words of wisdom, check out 10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean and Organized

Photo Credits: Ashley Sisk

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Ashley Sisk

Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children and Kitty Paw. She's a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time chasing her preschooler, nursing her new baby, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.

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