10 Items Parents Should Keep in Their Car at All Times


Family of four getting ready for a road trip

A family car is not complete without extra reusable water bottles, blankets, a roadside kit, hygiene products, clothing, a fun family kit, a first aid kit, and other essential items.

There’s never a dull moment while riding in the family car–especially when a crisis arises, and you find yourself totally unprepared. As busy parents we are required to master juggling sporting events, recitals, band practice, school meetings, carpooling, shopping errands, weekend outings, and everything else that requires us to chauffer our loved ones. With all the crazy scheduling and coordination that needs to occur, remembering to prepare for every possible “family road crisis” is challenging to say the least. Not to fear, because we’ve come up with a list of items you’ll want to always have in your car.


Our curated list is not exhaustive, but it should give you the necessary road survival items.


  1. Reusable Water Bottles

A reusable water bottle requires less oil to produce and eliminates the harmful plastics that end up in our oceans, streams, and landfills. The other added benefit is that it saves money on buying the disposable bottled drinks and allows parents to make better choices on what their children are drinking. One thing to keep in mind is that not all reusable water bottles are the same. Because of the daily change in temperatures in a vehicle, we recommend using food grade stainless steel containers. There are lots of fun designs to choose from, which are better at regulating temperature and are much safer than their plastic counterparts.  Another tip is to put them in the dishwasher at the end of the day to get rid of any bacteria, making them ready for the next morning.


  1. Blankets

There are so many uses for blankets, that we could write a separate article just on this topic. When we say a blanket, we are referring to a typical fabric-made blanket not an emergency (Mylar) blanket, which we will cover later. One of the best uses, in our opinion, is attending a sporting game and having to sit on those cold hard steel bleachers. Simply grab it from the car to keep your bottom’s cushy and warm as you cheer for your team. You can also use them for picnics, park outings, road trips, or even when a kiddo is feeling sick.


  1. A Roadside Assistance Kit

Prevention is key to staying on the road, so keeping up with your vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule is crucial to have a worry-free car ride. However, gathering a well-prepared roadside assistance kit can be a life saver during an unexpected car breakdown. Here are the essential items you’ll want to have:


  • Basic Hand Tools – this includes a Philips and a flathead screwdriver, a pair of long nose plyers, a knife, and a wire cutter. A more compact solution is to find an all-in-one multitool that includes all those items plus a lot more.
  • Flashlight – even though your cellphone may have a light, you will still need a dedicated flashlight for roadside emergencies. Also make sure that it’s waterproof.
  • Utility Gloves – very handy to change a tire or perform other heavy tasks requiring your hands.
  • Reflective Items – for nighttime incidents, having flares, a reflective vest, or triangle reflectors will help alert others of your presence.
  • Cell Phone Charger – in case your phone is not fully charged and you need to call for help.
  • Personal Protection Items – a whistle or pepper spray are some options.
  • Code Reader – using an OBD2 code reader / scan tool (or an OBD1 code reader if your vehicle is older than 1996) can help solve why your check engine light is on. And make sure to check out the powerful INNOVA RepairSolutions2 app for technician validated solutions to your vehicle’s check engine light problems.
  • Jumper Cables – to jumpstart a dead car battery.
  • Duct Tape / Nylon Rope / Plastic Zip Ties – for those MacGyver moments...


  1. Weather Related Items

Being prepared for mother nature is always a good idea when heading out in the car. Here are some ideas:


  • Hot Weather – umbrella, sunscreen, bug spray, hat
  • Cold Weather – ice scraper and snow brush, warm gloves, and kitty litter (1/4 bag) to create traction by placing under the wheels when you get stuck in icy conditions


  1. Hygiene Products

Having an extra set of hygiene products in the car is indispensable to resolve those “oops” moments. Include wet wipes, hand sanitizer, facial tissue, paper towels, and extra diapers for the younger kiddos. And when traveling long distances, a roll of toilet tissue can be worthwhile.


  1. A Car First Aid Kit

A good first aid kit in the car is vital for medical emergencies. Searching the internet will offer a surplus of options to choose from, but make sure that the kit includes at a minimum the following items:


  • Adhesive Band-Aids for minor cuts
  • Gauze pads for larger wounds
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Bandage with safety pins
  • Pain medication (aspirin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol)
  • Burn cream (aloe vera) for minor burns
  • Antihistamine for allergic reactions
  • Epi-Pen for family members with severe allergic reactions
  • Tweezers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Digital thermometer
  • Saline solution for eye or wound cleaning
  • Emergency (Mylar) blanket
  • First aid manual


You will also want to include any prescribed medication and include any infant versions of pain relievers if you have a baby.


  1. A Schedule Organizer / Planner

As busy parents, a planner is fundamental to keep track of all the daily, weekly, and monthly activities. The key is to select one that makes sense for the whole family and that it is shared and used by everyone in the family. This can be in the form of a shared mobile calendar, a mobile app, or even a printed daily sheet showing everyone’s schedule. If you have a printed version, having a copy in the car is a good way to keep everyone on track. TIP: make it a habit to review it while everyone is in the car for the morning commute. This way everyone knows what’s going on and uncover any scheduling conflicts.


  1. Extra Clothing

With all the activities and events our kids participate daily, it’s a good idea to keep an extra set for those clothing “accidents”. Use a large zip lock back, label it with your kiddo’s name, and include the items you think they might need (e.g., uniform, socks, shirt, underwear, etc.). Also, throw in a towel just in case water is involved.


  1. A Family Fun Kit

Most car outings–particularly long road trips–can be a bit boring. A well-prepared family fun kit for the car can help pass the time and ease boredom. A few examples include trivia games, story books, coloring books, travel toys, healthy snacks, audiobooks, music, and anything else your kids may like to do. Also, don’t forget to bring something for yourself like a book or other activity to help pass the time while waiting for them on the sideline.


  1. Reusable Shopping Bags

Many studies have found that using reusable bags hugely reduces the amount of harmful plastic bag waste, which end up in nearby waters and landfills. For this reason, many U.S. and European cities have banned the use of plastic shopping bags at local stores. Protect the environment and wildlife by using reusable shopping bags. Plus, they are known to better protect its contents from spills, save money (some stores charge for plastic bags), they are reusable for numerous outing activities, and can last for several years.   


Hopefully this list provided you some great ideas for you and your family. As we’ve learned, preparation is key when heading out on the road. Maybe the Boy Scouts had it right when they came up with their time and tested motto...Be Prepared!