I have been teased, side-eyed, and praised for being a hyper-prepared mom when it comes to planning for the triage side of parenting. I’m the mom you go to when you need a band-aid, tampon, apple sauce pouch, or someone to whole-heartedly agree with you about most any “can you believe my spouse” story. While the latter stems from my love of chit-chat and desire to pay that empathy forward, the rest comes from a deeper, arguably darker impulse:
Do. Not. Stop. Me.
That is to say, I do not like to be thrown off my plans. And I am not naturally organized, so I have to be very deliberately organized if I don’t want to, say, spend five minutes trying to unlock a Honda Odyssey that is not mine. (Why are there so many grey ones?) So, to accomplish my dual goals of being able to fix what ails ya, and generally “ya” = kids, I take pains to plan ahead. My expertise is hard won, by raising three accident-prone, wet-clothes hating, always-starving kids who I take to parks, restaurants, and shops, and on planes, trains, and in automobiles.
As we embark on this season of road tripping for family reunions or getaways, it’s time to fortify your reserves so that you can weather all of the inevitable yet unknowable obstacles that you will face. Here is my road-tested formula for what to pack, both to-go and to-keep in your vehicle:
Maybe it’s a diaper bag, or maybe all of your small people evacuate in toilets (and if so, well, lah-dee-dah). But in either case, you need the grab bag that can go where you go. A backpack is great because you can wear it yourself or strap it to a child who needs a job (hint: all of them).
Contents to consider:
Ziplocs – pack stuff in these, and pack some of these. Gallon sized. They protect your items from the water bottle or sippy cup or leaky pen that WILL happen. And they
protect everyone from the mud puddle socks, accident-undies, or any other manner of biohazard that you need to keep but not smell.
Diaper stuff – obviously, if you have diapered friends, plan accordingly. And don’t forget the Desitin. Car seats exacerbate diaper rash.
First Aid – in one bag, pack band-aids and consider a couple of mondo sized ones; skinned knees and elbows demand them; antibiotic cream; a small container of Vaseline or Aquafor for rashes and dry lips; a travel pack of Kleenex; and a fever reducer like ibuprofen. Depending on your family’s propensities, you might consider cortisone
cream; bug spray wipes; saline wipes for noses; and allergy meds.
Spare Clothes – I recommend grabbing a few items from Goodwill and packing them as soon as they come out of the laundry. That way you are not too attached to them, and your kids won’t steal them back. Things to bring? A tee shirt that can fit most of your kids; underwear; leggings – bonus if you can make this work for multiple sizes too; socks. If you live somewhere that is cold, grab a long sleeved shirt that you could layer underneath a whining child’s clothes and one of those $2 pair of stretchy gloves. Another great things about the Ziploc? You will roll all of these clothes up, lay them relatively flat, and then press out the air for a nice, compact fit.
Entertainment Goodies – Don’t over think this one. Some scrap paper, a handful of markers, maybe a few of those awesome, cheap, and tiny Dover Little Activity Books, perhaps a skein or two of embroidery floss if you have older kids. Just the bare necessities for restaurants and long waits. Then brush up on Tic-Tac-Toe and Hangman.
Non-Perishables – My bar is here stuff they like but don’t love. My backpack is not of the Willy Wonka variety. Instead, I want palatable but not exciting treats. Oatmeal raisin granola bars, food pouches, and maybe a few fruit snacks hidden at the bottom.
You’re going to want to keep some stuff in your car, and try to resist moving it. These are the things that help in a pinch while you’re trekking those long miles home to grandma’s house.
Non-Perishables – See above, but now add: “more” and “hidden” to the description. And consider a few juice boxes or water bottles for the thirst attack.
Book – the best ones need to have staying power and be easy enough to read with all of the attendant jostling. Graphic novels and kid encyclopedias work best for us. And for our youngest, those Little People flip books are fantastic.
Clean Up Crew – paper towels, baby wipes, disinfectant wipes, and a few plastic grocery bags. I could regale you with stories of people puking as I drove. But I won’t. Feel free to picture it, though, and imagine how helpful these items would be. Stash in glove
compartment or center console.
Picnic basket – Stopping for food is a drag, and often the options are sub optimal. Instead, pack easy to pass foods like sandwiches, crackers, cut fruit, and cheese sticks. Additionally, pack some empty plastic food containers for passing out servings.
Comfort items – if your kid needs a blanket or stuffed animal to sleep, pack it. And grab a couple small blankets no matter what, because tired kids get cold more easily. Plus, you can fashion them into little pillow, use as clean up, or as a toga if your children use up all of the spare clothes.
Happy trails to you this holiday season! And don’t let a little puke stop you. After all, these kids need something to write in their college essays one day.
Looking for an escape from your children after contemplating all of the bodily fluids they could bring your way during the 13 hour trip to the in-laws? Let Denver Date Nite plan a night to make you forget.
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