5 Baby Must-Haves No Mom (or Dad!) Should Travel Without

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I don’t think it’s exaggerating much to say I’ve spent at least half my life as a mother in my car with sleeping children. From the colicky infant days when nothing else would soothe them besides a drive around town, to the not-quite-ready-to-drop-a-nap days when my cranky toddler and I both desperately needed for him to take a short rest, I’d say my car is Mommy’s little (expensive) helper.

In all that time spent behind the wheel with tiny passengers, I’ve come up with a list of 5 essential items you should carry in your car or minivan at all times:

1. A snack. I’m guessing you already tote around Cheerios or puffs or something for your little ones if they’re old enough for solids. But I’m talking about a snack for YOU. How many times have you skipped breakfast or lunch because you’re in a rush, only to find yourself ravenous and at the mercy of the closest drive-thru? I keep protein bars and a bottle of water in the center console of my car.

2. A car phone charger. We all know texting and driving is a no-no. But when you’re sitting in a parking lot with a snoozing kid and an hour to kill, catching up on email, Twitter, or college basketball scores is the perfect way to pass the time… IF you haven’t forgotten to charge your phone, like I often do.

3. A book. Cell phone dead? (See above.) It’s always a good idea to have some extra reading material in the car. I like magazines, short stories, or essay anthologies that you can dip in and out of and just read a few pages at a time. Unless your kid’s a marathon car-napper, this isn’t the place for War and Peace.

4. A hat for the baby and/or a stick-on sunshade. I learned this tip the hard way after a long drive down I-95 South on the way home from the in-laws’. We didn’t have tinted windows in the back, and the sun was beating down on the baby THE ENTIRE WAY. I ended up hanging a burp cloth from the window, which kept flapping in his face, making him even more upset.

5. Extra diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes. I know, I know. You already keep all this stuff in your diaper bag. But let’s say SOMEONE grabbed the diaper bag instead of his computer bag when he left for work. Or maybe SOMEONE accidentally left the diaper bag at a highway rest stop during your family road trip. Really, do you want to take the chance of being without diapers or wipes? Pack extras in the trunk.

You’ll thank me the next time you find yourself sitting in the supermarket parking lot during the first nap your baby’s taken in days.

What essentials do you keep in your car?

Plus, more from The Bump:

15 Ways to Deal With a Fussy Baby

Best Advice Your Mom Ever Gave You

Worst Baby Sleep Advice Ever