21 Essentials Every Mom Should Keep In Her Car


Grab your kid(s) and jump in the car, you’ve got a few errands to run and then you’re heading to the park (maybe for you it’s the beach or the mountains, roll with me here). You’re driving along and suddenly one of your kids has one of those giant, wet sneezes – those ooey gooey messy ones.  You know if you don’t act quickly, that gooey mess is going to be all over your child’s hands, face and your car.  No problem, you grab a tissue from the driver’s seat compartment and hand it over to your child.

As a mom of 3, I am in my car a LOT.  My kids have school, activities, playdates and appointments to get to.  Not to mention the road trips that we take if we do a weekend getaway or spend the day at the beach or the city.  When I first started on this motherhood journey, I had a huge diaper bag which went with me everywhere and weighed a ton.

I dreaded carrying that beast of a bag everywhere but I needed all of my “stuff”.  When child number 2 came along, the diaper bag didn’t stay with me for long, instead I started keeping more things in my car.  By lightening my load physically, I lightened the load on myself mentally.

Why is that?  Because if a great idea popped into my head, I sometimes wouldn’t follow through with that great idea because I had a heavy bag weighing me down. I often thought we should go to the library before we went grocery shopping so that we could do something fun besides just doing an errand.  However when I thought of lugging my heavy diaper bag, and my child and going up the steps.  Well…let’s just say that didn’t happen too often.

Contrast that to when I started keeping my essential items stowed in my car and my physical load was lifted from me so it was much easier to grab my child and go places when I knew that I wasn’t lugging a heavy bag with me.  You got it – we were able to do a lot more things together.

Below are the essentials every mom should have in her car, I have broken the list up into everyday essentials, emergency items, and sanity savers.  For those of you that have toddlers and babies, there is an additional bonus list below.


1. ANTI-BACTERIAL HAND SANITIZER SPRAY – I have to admit that I am a semi-germophobe and like to have hand sanitizer spray at the ready for when I have been out and about.  Plus my kids, being the germ carrying monkeys that they are (I assure you that I say this with complete affection), are constantly touching stuff so I like to have this handy.Everyone Hand Sanitizer Spray
My 3 favorite sprays are: Everyone Hand Sanitizer Spray in Coconut + Lemon – I love the fresh scent of this spray.  It seriously lifts my mood when I use it.  The other one that I like is EO’s Lavender Hand Spray which has a wonderful lavender scent.  The last is Cleanwell’s Natural Hand Sanitizer, it’s great if you prefer a more neutral scent.


Reisenthel resuable bag

A mix of larger ones for groceries and small fold up ones for other items that you don’t want to go into a bag that has carried damp groceries.  Keep these small folded up ones for when you are shopping for clothes, toiletries and other non-food items.

Reisenthel reusable bag compact

My favorite large re-usable shopping bags are kind of random – they’re from the San Francisco Zoo and Monterey Bay Aquarium and they’re really sturdy with beautiful artwork on them.  The fold up ones that I use for non-grocery shopping are compact and I always have a couple in my purse.  Lastly, I keep a zip up insulating bag in my car for those times that I’m buying something that needs refrigeration and will not be heading straight home.

3. LOOSE CHANGE & SINGLE BILLS – Keep a little coin purse with a stash of coins and $1 bills handy for parking meters as well as tolls.  If you feel like your wallet has gotten heavy with coins weighing you down, throw those coins into your coin purse stash so you always have coins to feed the parking meter.  This stash is also helpful if your kids like throwing coins into fountains – I know mine do and there are certain places that have these fountains that we frequent but I don’t necessarily have coins in my wallet.  But I do in my coin purse stash!

4. KLEENEX/TOILET PAPER – Do I need to explain this one =)?  I lumped these together as some people will not want to keep kleenex AND toilet paper in their car.  The kleenex I keep in the car for runny noses. If you have kids and spend time at the park, the kids will inevitably need to use the bathroom.  The upkeep at different parks varies so I keep toilet paper in my car just in case.  This is also handy for road trips as you never know what the restrooms will be like when you’re traveling.

Kleenex cubes

5. CELL PHONE CHARGER – Place a spare in your glove compartment and even if you rarely need it, you will be very happy that it’s in there for that one time every year when you really need it.

6. SMALL FIRST AID KIT – You never know when you will need a first aid kit.  Keeping one tucked away in your trunk is a good idea as sometimes a band aid and a hug is all your little one needs to feel better.

First Aid Kit

7. INSURANCE CARD & CAR REGISTRATION – I know you keep an updated insurance card and your car registration certificate in your car, but had to include it on this list as it is essential.

8. PEN & PAPER  – Call me old school but I like having good ‘ol pen and paper in the car to jot down anything – information if you’re in an accident, shopping list items, someone I need to call.  If I’m driving, I will have my daughter jot down things for me that I think of so I don’t forget it.


    1. – Impromptu picnic anyone?  Keep a spare blanket folded up for picnics, park days or even for long drives.

This one is cheaper and has a little more padding but isn’t machine washable.

Outdoor water resistant blanket
This one is machine washable but less padding and more expensive.
Washable flannel outdoor blanket


10. EXTRA PLASTIC BAGS – Got trash?  These little dog poop bags are convenient as they are compact so they don’t take up much space but are handy to have in the car.dog poop bagsThis is great for tissues, wrappers, papers – things that may otherwise land on the floor of your car now have a spot to go until you get to your destination.  Someone’s feeling car sick?  Give them a bag!

11. TIRE GAUGE –  Newer cars tend to be a bit more sensitive to tire pressure so having a spare tire gauge in the car makes it easy to check your tires.

Tire gauge

12. LOOSE EXTRA JACKET – So here’s the thing…I get cold REALLY easily.  In fact, more times than not, I am cold.  So I typically have a sweater or jacket with me at all times but there have been times that I’m juggling 3 kids and trying to get out the door and have forgotten my jacket.  A spare jacket comes in handy at these times.  I say a loose extra jacket because for me, my kids are spread out in age – 13, 10 and 5 years old. It works out well to have a jacket that each of us could use in a pinch.I am 5 ft 2 in and my son is about 5 inches taller than me and at least 60 pounds heavier.

This loose spare jacket can barely fit my son, it is really tight on my son and big for me and my middle daughter.  It is giant on my 5 year old but keeps her warm if we’re at the movies or a restaurant that has their air conditioner blasting.  For her, it’s more like a blanket.My husband is almost a foot taller than me and even he has used this jacket!  Once we were having lunch at a restaurant and he decided to take our middle daughter to the movies, they walked there from the restaurant and didn’t have time to go home and get a jacket.  In desperation he took mine and I was so tempted to snap a picture of him trying it on as he looked so funny in my turquoise Roxy jacket, but I refrained as I would be too tempted to post it here.  My point, though, is that a loose jacket will come in handy.

13. FLASHLIGHT – There are these cool flashlights that have multi-purposes now.  The one that I have came in a 3 pack from Costco and works as a standard LED flashlight and can be used as a hazard blinking flashlight.  This is also handy when you drop something in your car and you can’t see where it went.  I always feel like I’m on CSI when I bust my flashlight out to look for the lost item.


14. EMERGENCY WINDOW BREAKER / SEAT BELT CUTTER – Thankfully I have never needed to use these things but after reading some terrible car accident stories, I decided to order them for my car.  For me, it’s the same as buying car insurance – you get it and hope that you won’t need to use it.
Emergency window breaker seat belt cutter

15. ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE MEMBERSHIP CARD – I suggest having some sort of roadside assistance membership if you are not handy with car maintenance.  My AAA membership has been well worth the cost, the couple of times that I’ve needed to use it.  Once I came downstairs from work ready to go home and noticed that my tire was flat (I had a nail in my tire).  The other time my transmission started going out and I was on the freeway, I needed to be towed to the auto shop.  Both times, I called AAA and someone was quickly there to help me.

16. EMERGENCY ROADSIDE KIT WITH JUMPER CABLES – If you don’t want to pay for a roadside assistance membership, it may be a good idea to keep an emergency roadside kit with jumper cables in your trunk.  In researching different kits, it looks like most kits come with 8 gauge jumper cables with 6-8ft cable lengths.  However many reviewers said that a) an 8 gauge jumper cable didn’t work on their car and b) the cable length wasn’t long enough if your car is precariously parked and you are not hood to hood with the car that is jumping yours.If you live in a remote area, this is such an important item, talk to someone who knows a lot about cars and purchase an emergency roadside kit with jumper cables that is right for your vehicle.

17. MYLAR THERMAL BLANKET – the purpose of these blankets is to keep your body temperature stable in a freezing environment but can also be used to deflect the sun in a scorching hot environment.

Emergency Foil Mylar Blanket

18. BOTTLED WATER – I hate the thought of a bottle of water sitting in my car, getting heated and leaching plastic into the water.  Nonetheless if I’m in a true emergency situation, I’ll take what I can get.  Every few months, swap this bottle out for a fresh one and water your lawn with the old one.

19. GRANOLA BARS OR OTHER SNACK THAT WILL KEEP FOR 6 MONTHS – Like bottled water above, I would prefer not to ingest something that has been sitting in my car for 6 months.  Yet in an emergency situation, having a couple of these stashed in the car will be a lifesaver.


20. AUDIOBOOKS – Oh how I love audiobooks!  I will do a separate post on my favorite audiobooks but let me just say that if you are like me and don’t love to drive, audiobooks may be great for you.  When I have a great audiobook in my car, I don’t mind driving as much because I’m listening to something that I’m really interested in. Audiobooks are great for kids – it will keep them spellbound by a story and because you’re listening to it with them, gives you plenty of opportunities to discuss teachable moments which come up.  We have pulled into our garage and sat in our car for 10 minutes because we wanted to find out how a chapter was going to end.

21. KID STUFF – Keep a stash of fun kid stuff in your car, things that you would typically pack if you’re going on a road trip with your family.  This way, if you’ve ever stuck in really bad traffic with your child or you are waiting in your car for an appointment or to pick up your other child, you will have something for them to do.  Some ideas are a small stash of books, coloring book, crayons, drawing board, new novel or graphic novel.  Essentially, whatever will hold your child’s interest while they’re waiting.  You can also pull this out if you go to a restaurant which has a long wait.


If you have young kids/babies, then inevitably you will need more stuff.  Here’s the additional essential items that moms of young kids/babies should have in their car:

      1. SPARE DIAPER CHANGING ITEMS – The Skip Hop Pronto is perfect for this.
        Skip Hop Pronto
        I kept one in my car for years, this is essential for eliminating your diaper bag.  It holds diapers, wipes and even spare leggings.  It includes a wipeable changing pad so you can change your child’s diaper anywhere – trunk?  Backseat of the car?  At the park?  No problem!
        Skip Hop Pronto Changing Mat
        It is compact so it’s perfect to throw in the stroller and it even has a handle if you want to hang it from something.

  I kept the dog poop bags attached to mine so that I had everything together whenever there was a poopy diaper.  The benefit of these bags is that it helped reduce the smell of the diapers when you’re out and about and need to toss a smelly diaper.2. SPARE CLOTHES & UNDERWEAR – Kids are kids and they will have accidents.  Keep a spare set of clothes for your child in the car, make sure you put a bigger size so that if they don’t need this for awhile, it will still fit when they do.  Another option is if your little one goes to daycare/preschool and takes a backpack with spare clothes, just keep it in your trunk so you always have their spare clothes in the car.3. ANTI-BACTERIAL WIPES (INDIVIDUAL PACKETS) – Let’s face it, kids are messy…but they don’t need to mess up your car.  These wipes can be used to wipe down any messes that were brought into the car.

4. EXTRA BOOSTER SEAT – If your kids and their friends are old enough for a booster seat and you carpool with other parents, it’s great to have a spare booster seat in the trunk.
booster seat

  • 5. PORTABLE POTTY & REFILL BAGS – This little potty has saved me so much time & worry!  I wish I had one of these with my older two, but I didn’t get one until my third came along and we were in the car so much for her older siblings.
    OXO Tot portable potty
    Keeping a portable toilet means that you don’t have to worry about finding a bathroom and makes potty training so much simpler as you always have access to one.You know that feeling you get when you’re driving and your child that is potty training tells you that they need to use the bathroom?  That “holy smokes, I need to find a bathroom NOW” feeling?  Well have no fear, just pull into a parking lot and pull out your portable toilet and you are all set.
    OXO Tot Potty Replacement Bags
    Have a clean bag in the portable potty at all times and within seconds, your child can use it.


6. FUN KID MUSIC – Have you ever been stuck in traffic and your little one is screaming in the backseat? It’s great if you can start singing to your kiddo to calm them down, but sometimes Mama needs all of her attention on the road and can’t  sing at the same time.  It’s times like this, that putting on their favorite music can help calm your child and give you back your sanity.


A side note to what is essential in every Mom’s car, is what is essential to not have in your car – junk.  If your car is a mess and you spend a lot of time in your car, it creates a feeling of disorganization and overwhelm.  The golden rule is whatever anyone brings into the car, needs to go out with them as well.  If you get your kids started early with this rule, it becomes a habit and your car will not be a dumping ground for their stuff.

What about you, what do you keep in your car?  Is there anything that is essential to you but not on my list?  Please leave a comment below and let me know!  If you would like a printable checklist of these items, grab it from my free resource library.  You can access the free library by signing up here, you will be emailed the link and the password so you can return to it anytime.

If you had all the time in the world, is there something that you would like to accomplish?  Maybe learn how to play the piano or take dance lessons?  Get in better shape?  Create lasting traditions and have more quality time with your family? Are you so exhausted by everything that you have to do that you can’t even imagine what you would like to do?  If so, I encourage you to start dreaming and grab the free downloads from my resource library so that you can get back your time and stay focused on your goals each day.  Get access to my FREE resource library here.


2 thoughts on “21 Essentials Every Mom Should Keep In Her Car

  1. DK

    Great list but essentials is the key word here. Maybe you could make it the absolute essentials (5-10) and then the “nice to have too” list. And while u r posting photos show how you can put the essentials into a box that won’t take up your whole trunk. Just a suggestion. ❤️❤️

  2. Kat | Striving Mamas Post author

    I think great minds must think alike! I initially was going to do that but then I realized that what is essential to me, may not be essential to another mom but this list covers the top 21 items. I did break the list down into: 1. Everyday Essential Items, 2. Emergency Items 3. Sanity Savers with Kids and 4. Bonus list for Babies/Toddlers. The font that I had did not distinguish this, I updated the post so that it is in a bigger font and easier to see this breakdown. Thank you for your comment, I truly appreciate it!


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