This post is the first in a series about emergency preparedness, just in time for the beginning of travel season–and hurricane season. I’ll be posting more in June about hurricane preparedness, so come back soon.
My preschooler frequently suffers from carsickness. I myself have IBS. One of my vehicles is 14 years old. And we take day trips a lot.
In short, like most people, there are a plethora of reasons we need our vehicles to be prepared in case of an emergency or even just inconvenience.
So I created a “car box” for each vehicle. I budgeted $10 for a basket to hold the items to go in each box, but ultimately spent just $3.97 each for a flexible laundry basket I found on the shelf at Walmart. And then I filled it with the following items:
- Jumper cables or a jump starter/portable power pack:. My husband and I had jumper cables for years. I always worried about using them correctly, so finally we researched and bought a jump starter/portable power pack made by GOOLOO. One day not long ago, we used it when my 14-year-old vehicle’s battery failed. It worked so well that we decided to purchase one for each of our other two vehicles. It was no longer in stock, so we bought a newer version. This item is great because it will easily jump start a vehicle or charge a drained cell phone. It even has a flashlight, although I did not find this feature dispositive.
- A first aid kit: I have one of these in each vehicle. For goodness sake, please make sure you put one or ten of your kid’s favorite character Band-aids inside it so that they don’t throw an unholy fit at wearing a “plain” bandage instead of a Hello Kitty one.
- A lantern with a hanger: I like the Etekcity camping lantern. It has a screw-off battery cover (no screwdriver needed!), and it is collapsible. We have three vehicles, so I bought this four pack for around $20 and placed the fourth one in an emergency box in our safe room.
- Flashlight:: Yes, I recommend a lantern that will hang without your holding it, but I also have a Maglite in my vehicle, one with an LED light.
- Fix-a-Flat: Although I’ve had a can of Fix-a-Flat in my car for around 20 years, I’ve never had to use it. I keep one in my car nonetheless.
- Bath/toilet tissue: As I mentioned above, I have IBS. I’ve seen some really thin toilet paper in bathrooms–a South Carolina rest area comes to mind. I want to be prepared just in case.
- Facial tissue: You never know when you’ll need it: sickness, car rides after funerals, etc.
- Washcloths: I bought 4 washcloths for $1.00 at Walmart around Memorial Day, and I use these along with a little bit of water (which I also keep in my vehicle) to clean my kid’s perpetually dirty face.
- Water: I have a bottle or two of water (in a sturdy bottle–not in a gallon jug that might get punctured and leak–ask me how I know!) in each vehicle. I change it out once a month during the summer.
- Nonperishable snacks: I try to keep a few snacks in the vehicle just in case.
- Extra clothing and shoes: So let’s face it. When you’re on your way home to visit family or on your way to somewhere important is when your kid picks his nose and wipes his hands on his clothes or throws up everywhere or throws himself in a mud puddle. So make sure you have an extra set of clothes and shoes in your vehicle. And given I’ve been known to destroy a flip-flop or squirt entire packets of ketchup on myself, I try to keep an extra outfit and an extra pair of sturdy shoes in each car as well.
- Blanket: I keep a blanket in each car. I have a fear (irrationally perhaps) that I will run off the road in my vehicle and go missing in the cold for days. In practice, I find this blanket more helpful during the summer when my child thinks I’m running the air conditioner too much.
- Snow scraper: If you live up north, this item is self-explanatory.
- Paper towels: I carry a roll of paper towels in each vehicle for cleaning grease from one’s hands, vomit from a child’s car seat, etc.
- Trash bag or shopping bags: I carry a trash bag and a plastic shopping bag or two so that I can easily discard gross paper towels.
- Lysol or Clorox wipes: I keep wipes of some sort in my vehicle so that I can clean a child’s dirty car seat or clean up some other disgusting mess that may occur.
- Peppermints and or peppermint gum: I find that peppermint helps relieve my IBS symptoms to a certain extent. So I keep a pack of gum in each vehicle (and my purse) at all times, and I try to keep a few hard candy peppermints on hand at all times, too.
- Medications: I have children’s Dramamine arriving monthly from Amazon’s Subscribe & Save because I’d like to avoid the aforementioned vomiting drama. I also try to keep Excedrin in the vehicles for my husband. And I need to keep some of my IBS medication on hand just in case I get sick, too. I’m hopeful you don’t need to carry meds, but if you do, make sure you put them in a safe place in your vehicle. (I’m sure you know not to carry meds like narcotics, right?)
- Sunscreen: Because I’m always forgetting sunscreen at home, and I only remember it right when we get to the park on the sunniest day of the year.
- Towel: The crunchy mom in me carries a towel because I tell myself that one time when my child throws up or makes another huge mess during a car trip, I’m going to reach for the towel instead of the paper towels. It hasn’t happened yet. But the towel remains in each car.
- Maxi pads/tampons: Because I go on trips and forget them and then need them.
- Rain poncho: Because you just never know when you’ll need to jump start your car in the rain.
I also ensure that the console of each vehicle has the following items:
- One or two extra cell phone chargers: My husband and I both have iPhones, and we buy these AmazonBasics cords. They are durable, and they work–and they save us a few dollars. (In my household, these make great stocking stuffers at Christmas.)
- Umbrella: I use an Isotoner auto open and close one-touch umbrella. You can find it at Amazon or get it about $8 cheaper at your local Walmart.
- A safety hammer: I bought multiple sets of these safety hammers–I gifted several along with iTunes gift cards to the teenagers I love most–and put one in each vehicle console. I have been blessed not to use them and hope I never need them, but in an emergency, the goal is that they will break a car window and/or cut a seat belt. These come with a mounting bracket, but I do not have any of mine mounted.
- Pens and notebook paper: I put pens in the car console because otherwise, I’ll have no way to write information like claim numbers in the event of an accident. I keep notebook paper because otherwise my husband will write all over the registration trying to write down something particularly useless.
- Sunglasses: I’d love to have a pair of Dolce & Gabanna sunglasses. But I can’t justify the cost because I break about 5-6 pairs of sunglasses a year. So I use Dollar Tree sunglasses instead, and I buy cheap sunglasses for my child as well. And yes, I keep one pair in each vehicle–sometimes two pairs. You know–just in case I break a pair.
I also keep a bottle of either “regular” hand sanitizer or, my favorite, the aloe version in the cup holder of each vehicle. And during a particularly bad flu season (this year’s, for example), I keep three face masks, one for my daughter and two anti-viral masks for my husband and myself.
I’d like to note that some people elect to carry gloves, actual jumper cables (my Gooloo is a substitute), duct tape, rags, a tow rope, chains, and/or a Swiss army knife in their vehicles. I won’t be making any roadside repairs because I have AAA and no mechanic experience. I did carry a large knife in my vehicle until I started regularly driving onto military bases. What you need in your vehicle is highly specific to you, and your mileage may vary. Compile your own list. Use mine as a start if you’d like, but do some research and figure out what you need in your vehicle.
Also, I’ll note that my husband and I are currently contemplating installing a fire extinguisher in each vehicle. Remember that if you buy one, you want it securely stored so that it doesn’t become a projectile in a car accident.
Finally, I keep a red plastic car folder in each vehicle with the current registration, current inspection information/verification, current insurance policy declarations, and the most recent maintenance record inside. Emergency contact information is on a sticker on the outside of the folder.
Oh, one more thing: My husband and I have had a AAA membership for seven years. We’ve used it once, when our car battery died and we had no way to jump start it. Still, our AAA membership has helped us get discounts on life insurance, car insurance, and hotel stays. We find it worth it overall at this point in our lives. If you’re interested in joining AAA, click here. If you purchase a AAA membership via this link, you will get a $10 gift card, and so will I.