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Oh, the work that goes into a day trip with kids…
It’s not easy to anticipate every need of your child when planning to go out with them. Will they be too cold? do they need a snack (or ten)? Will they need a change of clothes? Different shoes? Do you need a baby carrier? Are you taking them on an all-day trip or just a few hours? Will you have access to food and drink or are you at a remote location for the day? And on and on and on…
Of course, if you have multiple children, you have to consider these questions for each child. The problem doesn’t end there though. Once you are able to answer all these questions… do you have a bag big enough to accommodate all these ‘what if’ situations?
Enter the Car Diaper Bag
The purpose of a car diaper bag is to allow you to be prepared for any situation. You will be free from having to lug around one enormously overpacked diaper bag or leave items you think you might need behind due to space issues. Once you master this solution it will become super easy to maintain, allowing you to leave your car bag in the car for a few days to a week at a time.
Does this sound appealing? Then let’s get started! First, we’ll cover…
The Requirements of a car bag
This bag absolutely does NOT have to be a purpose-built diaper bag! It will sit in the back of your car most of the time under the sun and extreme heat, so I don’t think it’s worth splurging on. It should, however, be a large size and contain some nice organization pockets to help you keep an inventory of what’s in your bag and what needs to be refilled. I would also suggest it zip closed, but that’s kind of a matter of personal preference. A tote bag will just turn into a black hole as the bag shifts around and contents jostle in the back of your car… NOT helpful!
My personal preference is a ‘weekender’ style bag. It is larger than the average diaper bag, usually has a bit of organization, and often a bit of structure. I’ve been using this weekender style bag I found at my local TJ MAXX for several years and love it!
Here are a couple of other suggestions, but feel free to use whatever you already have in your house.
Contents of a car bag
I have a baby, toddler, and pre-schooler. My needs may vary from yours, so use my list as a guide and not a hard checklist. Here is a list of everything that gets packed into my car diaper bag:
Permanent Items in my bag for the kids:
- Large blanket or ‘bath sheet’ sized towel. This has two uses. On long car trips, this will fit across the back seat to cover laps and keep little ones warm as a blanket. For outdoor trips, it can be used to clean/dry little ones or wrap dirty clothes in. If you have a baby/toddler, this can also be useful to lay down for in-car diaper changes.
- Change of clothing for each child, including a pair of underwear (or two) and socks. I buy an inexpensive plain tee shirt and pair of leggings to keep in the car for each child. These are great for accidents (or baby blowouts), unexpected rainstorms, getting wet at the fountain at the park, food spills, staying out later than expected and it gets too cool for shorts or dresses. Also… that dreaded car sickness vomit. No one wants to think about that, but a change of clothes can be invaluable for everyone in the vehicle in that situation.
*Tip: I always buy at least one size up with these clothing items. They don’t get a TON of wear, so if you buy big your investment will last a lot longer.
- Diapers, trainers, or pull-ups. I carry 5 for each child. That way if I don’t get to refilling my bag after the end of a long day, I am not totally out for the next trip.
- A full-size package of baby wipes. Wipes are like the duct tape of the mothering world, you definitely want a full-size pouch. Trust me.
- Diaper rash cream, a small jar of coconut oil, or multi-use baby balm. Whatever you like to use on diaper rashes and minor “owies”.
- A travel potty with disposable bags
- An empty lidded cup (at least one) for splitting drinks on the go
- Pantry (long-term storage) snacks and drinks
- Sweaters for each child
- Baby carrier
- Hats and sunglasses
- Spare pacifier
- A couple of wet bags for dirty diapers and soiled clothes
Permanent Items for Mom (I keep these tucked into a separate pouch in the bag for easy locating):
- Moleskin (with the adhesive back for uncomfortable shoes)
- Sun hat or ball cap
- Mini first aid kit
- Tide pen
- Tee shirt and leggings (because you never know)
- Packable jacket (because I am terrible at remembering to bring myself a coat!)
Variable items that vary with the season or type of trip:
- Swim Diapers
How to use your car diaper bag
The easiest way to use this bag is to pack it for one week at a time. Think ahead and decide roughly what is happening this week. Check the weather and start packing accordingly. Overpacking is okay since you won’t be carrying this bag all over. Over time, you will learn what items you do and don’t need for different types of trips, so packing will become easier and more efficient as you go. Once you arrive at your location for your day trip, you then take what you need from your car bag and pack it into your carry bag. If something unexpected happens, you can always walk back to the car.
At the end of the week (or the day if you have had an especially long day trip) bring your bag inside and start taking inventory. A checklist for your family might be really helpful to keep tucked into one of the pockets. That way anyone could refill the car bag. Once your bag is replenished, put it back in the car. Don’t wait for the next trip out, or else it could be forgotten. Now you are ready to go again at a moments notice!
So, what do you pack in your ‘carry’ diaper bag?
Congratulations! This bag is now mainly for you, Momma. Pick one that you love the look of, is comfortable to carry, and is large enough to carry some of the items that you had in your car bag. Again, this doesn’t specifically have to be a “diaper bag,” but they do usually have excellent organization capabilities. Size wise, it doesn’t need to be huge, but it definitely needs to be on the medium/large size. Also, it’s an added bonus if you can find a bag that converts to a backpack. Having full range of motion and two hands free is amazingly helpful when chasing around small kids!
First, your personal essentials:
- Hair ties
- Personal care/beauty items
- Hand sanitizer
- Nail clippers
Then baby/kid essentials:
- Diaper (or two) for each kid
- One pair of underwear
- Small package of wipes
- Spare pacifier
- Children’s Tylenol and syringe stored in a ziplock bag
- Perishable snacks and drinks
- Non-perishable emergency snack (crackers, nuts, beef jerky, protein bar) tucked in the zipper section of a bag.
- Sun stick for noses and cheeks
- Plasticware for yogurt or applesauce cups
- Kid safe earbuds. These are technically yours, but they can also be useful to give to kids for music or a game while in a restaurant/errands.
- Ziplock bags. I keep a few at the bottom of my bag for leftover snacks or to use as wet bags.
As you can see, there isn’t too much to carry in this bag on a regular basis. It shouldn’t be any big deal to carry even when you are out kid free. The bulk of what you need should be stowed away in your car bag. Take only what you need from the car bag to pack in your carry bag. That way you aren’t lugging around tons of extra items at all time.
Now you are ready to go at a moments notice!
Running errands all afternoon? You are prepared. Taking a trip to the aquarium? You are ready. Do Grandma and Grandpa want to take the kids to the zoo? Hand them that bag on their way out the door. Easy peasy.
A little bit of prep can make a huge difference!
Now it’s your turn to tell me what you think? Did I forget any essentials to pack in my bags? Do you think this system could work for you? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time, Momma!