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At least once a week, I notice that someone forgets something and I say “You left home without ____?”   I have learned to be prepared!   Now, I’ve found my favorite 10 things to keep the car.  Sometimes we will even grab our snack hack and take that with us, too!

I made this list of  10 must-haves for the car, when you have kids, a few years ago.  I have found that even though our kids are now older, the things that I keep in the car remain the same. 🙂

10 MUST-HAVES for your car~ IF YOU HAVE KIDS!

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We have four kids, so we are ALWAYS trying to find things in the car.  When emergencies pop up, we like to be prepared.   It was mostly “learning through experience” that brought us to this list.  I’ve been caught without many of these too many times and I’ve learned my lesson!   Our car is not “ready for anything” (most of the time, anyway!)   Plus, Our kids are young and we need a little more than families with older children.


1. Coats or zip-up sweatshirts in the trunk.
I do this because our kids are constantly cold, especially in restaurants, so if I can have a coat handy, it works out great.  I even do this in the summertime because this is when everyone has their AC on full blast and our kiddos get extra-cold if we are out to eat.

2. An extra pair of flip-flops
I can remember several times, when our kids were toddlers or young preschoolers, that they had just forgotten their shoes.   Don’t ask me how I overlooked that little detail while we were getting into the car, but somehow it happened more than once.

I’ve also had each of our four kids break a flip-flop at least once during an outing.
Oh- and muddy puddles.  How did I forget those?!   When my kids were young, they stepped in plenty of puddles and they were left with soaking wet shoes.
Having an extra pair in the car is always a good idea.  It may seem weird, but trust me… there is a reason. 🙂

3. Bandaids
You never know when you’ll need one.

4. Power Converter my FAVORITE thing to keep in the car!
This little box turns any normal plug into a car plug.  I can charge anything using this and I use it all of the time!   I’ve used this on my laptop, portable DVD players, a cooler that works with a little air conditioner that’s powered by an outlet, the kids’ tablets on a long trip (since our back seat doesn’t have the right outlet for their devices), and so many more things.
This is life-changing for me!  (I keep this & all of my chargers in the little-hidden console under the dash).  Here is the power converter that we have.


5- Extra Grocery Bags 
We always have stuff that needs to be thrown away when we are out & about (antibacterial hand wipes that I made them use after we left the last store, wrappers, broken pencils, paper, empty water bottles) and these grocery-store bags are the perfect way to get rid of it.   When we stop to get gas, or when we are going to walk into a store, I will just grab one of the bags from the dashboard and pass it around.  The kids toss any trash into the bag and we carry it to the nearest garbage can.

6. Snacks
I try to keep a few snacks in the car because sometimes plans change, and that trip that should have taken one hour is now approaching its third hour.
It just makes it easier if I have a snack to pass back to the kids.  Plus, this stops everyone (including myself) from asking if we can stop for something to eat.

7- Sunglasses (extras!)
A few years ago my Mom & I were shopping at Michaels and they had their sunglasses on clearance for 50 cents.  We bought about 6 pairs.  I have lost most of them by now, but I still keep a few spare pairs of these sunglasses in the car, just in case I lose my regular sunglasses.    My kids have also used them when they have forgotten their sunglasses at home.

Oh- I try to stock up each year, at the end of the season.  They are always discounted.
TIP:  You could even order a cheap pack of 12 and just keep them in the car, under the front seat.

8 – Water Bottles
I keep 3 water bottles in my trunk (in a tote bag).  It seems to be a cure-all when we have sticky hands!    (NOTE:  It has been found that they can leak chemicals, so you might not want to do this.  I keep them in there because we use the water to wash up when we are in a bind, but we usually have fresh (new that day) water to drink because the kids grab a new water bottle from the refrigerator in our garage before hopping into the car in the mornings.)

9- My “Restaurant backpack”   
This is a backpack that I keep just for going out to eat or going somewhere like that.  I keep hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, coloring books, crayons, some small toys & a few other little things.  When the kids were young, I kept a high-chair cover and disposable bibs in the bag, too.

10- 3 pack of $.99 Tissues 
It never fails that the kids need a tissue when I have none.  Now, I keep a skinny box or travel packs of tissues in the glove compartment.


  • A bag of books
  • Decorate a shoe box as their special car toy box- let them pick the toys that go in it.
  • Keep a roll of toilet paper in a plastic bag in the trunk
  • 1/2 a roll of paper towel (takes up less room, but does the job.)
  • Car laundry basket.  Everything goes in there and then into the house (sports stuff, etc…)
  • Spare change
  • A towel, in case you get caught in the rain (or jumping in puddles!)

What else can you think of?

Road Trip tips for Kids 

Or check out this master list of freebies. 

 master list of freebies


Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. Loved the post, even after two boys I still forget to restock our supplies. 🙂

  2. I love this list! I like the idea of a restaurant bag, but I already carry two diaper bags with me. (One stays in the car while we are in somewhere with the other one.)

  3. I keep a lot of the same items in my car, it’s so handy just in case. I also keep a spare top for myself, you never know. 🙂

    1. Oh my goodness- that is SO smart! I am going to do that, too!

    2. After a rather serious issue, where we ended up leaving a restaurant to go buy a new shirt…I ALWAYS keep a “nicer” shirt in the car, along with the extra kid clothes!
      I keep one that wouldn’t look overly dressy for shopping, but wouldn’t be TOO under-dressed for a nice restaurant. You never know what you’ll be doing, when you need it!!!

  4. Yes, I have a lot of those in my car too! (But no extra shoes…That is genius!) The snacks have come in handy in quite a few emergencies…like when the kindergartner decided last minute she didn’t want to buy lunch that day. Raisins and peanut butter crackers became a quick lunch!

  5. Great post! Be careful with the water bottles in the car though. The heat causes the plastic torelease chemicals that can cause cancer. I live in arizona so here its a huge issue. Not sure were youre from

      1. That is only an issue if the plastic contains BPA. Buy a good quality product (such as Tupperware), marked BPA free and you won’t have to worry.
        I also use a plastic tote box to contain my ‘stuff’ in the front seat. That’s where I keep my purse, coat, snacks, Kleenex, baby wipes, and whatever other odds and ends I accumulate. The tote I use has the two piece lid that flips open and remains attached. Then, when I actually have an adult passenger, I just chuck the whole tote into the back. Saves a load of embarrassment when I don’t have to keep ferrying armloads of junk from front to back. And, the flat lid allows for extra space when needed. Ie) I just flipped it closed and put my bedding out plants on top. The back was full of groceries.

        1. ALL plastic leaches chemicals. BPA free plastic just leaches different ones, and new studies are showing the replacements for BPA to be no better or worse than BPA. Glass is best if you are going to drink it, but if it’s only for “emergencies,” I wouldn’t get too worked up either way. If you are interested in finding water bottles in glass though, VOSS packages water in glass bottles in 2 different sizes.

  6. Great list! I also keep a freshen up pack in the glovebox for myself. A mini deodorant (I have surprised myself at how often I forget this!) those little disposable toothbrush freshening things, hand sanitizer, Chapstick, and a small bottle of body spray in a fresh scent like cucumber.

    1. OH- I love those ideas!! & I’m with you on how often I forget, too!! #lifewithkids haha!

  7. Great post! We also have in our car a blanket, in summer we have sunscreen and a complete outfit for my son for those times when we are driving longer than expected.

      1. We also keep 2 small fleece blankets in the backseat. Our toddlers will use them to cover their legs if they feel cold from the air conditioning, or if it’s winter and the car is a bit chilly when they get in. During the Summer, I drape the blankets over their car seats when we get out, and it keeps the sun off of them; no burning hot buckles or latches to contend with when we get back in the car.

    1. She addressed that in the post. And it’s addressed in the comments. If you’re not drinking it, it’s not a big deal. You can also use glass bottles if you’re concerned about it.

  8. I love this list! I saw 2 comments about a vent wrap, though, and I can’t find it mentioned anywhere in your list! What is it & what am I missing? 🙂

    1. haha!! It was a giveaway that I was hosting to win a free pack of them for your car (its an air freshener that is hidden in the vents). 🙂

  9. I also have fingernail clippers in my pouch,a can opener and toothpicks.

    1. I never would have thought of those- good ideas !

  10. In the summer I keep a beach bag with sun block and extra swim suits. Then all I have to do is grab towels and off we go to the spray park or beach. I get the suits at or local childrens consignment shop for super cheap.
    I also keep several fleece blankets in case of emergency (or spontaneous picnic).

    1. Great idea- I need to do that b/c we love to go swimming!

  11. Books! We take a few books and put them in in the map pockets behind the front seats. I spy books work the best for us. Every few days we rotate them out.

  12. One trick I learned from my mom, whenever we go to a fast food restaurant, I always take the extra napkins we didn’t use, and store those in the car. It helps with spills and noses too. I also usually have some sort of eating utensil as well, and Pepto Bismal tablets, because someone is sure to get sick.