Keeping your car stocked, safe
For a daylong trip, here are a few things to bring:
- Blankets, towels and swimsuits – a beach could appear.
- Water – a gallon jug from the store is a frugal choice – or purchase reusable water bottles in different colors: one for each family member. Fill half-ways and freeze the night before, then fill with tap water in the morning. You can refill along the way.
- Heat-safe snacks like fruit, pretzels and energy bars. For children, pick something you know they like; when little ones are tired and hungry and far away from home, it’s generally not a good time to introduce “weird” snacks they’ve never seen before.
- Trash bags – always take your litter home with you.
- Paper towels and baby wipes – they come in handy in so many ways.
- Flashlight and extra batteries – headlamps are really handy during small car repair or other emergencies in the dark.
- Sunscreen and mosquito spray.
A word about food:
When heading to remote areas like National Forests you’ll want to bring some food. Services can be very few and very far between.
Think simple: peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese are good choices for sandwiches.
Bring fruit of the sturdy kind, like apples, bananas and oranges.
Get in the habit of making your own trail mix: buy your family’s favorite snacks in bulk, mix, shake and pour in recloseable plastic bags and you’re good to go. Stay away from stuff that melts – remember it gets hot in a car trunk.
For coffee drinkers, invest in a sturdy thermos and make an extra pot in the morning to bring along – don’t add milk, it gets rather stinky after a couple of trips. Find a powdered creamer you can live with instead.
A cooler is nice – make sure it doesn’t take up your entire trunk. For a day trip, you can improvise by putting a couple of frozen cold packs inside doubled paper grocery sacks.
Always bring cash – many smaller diners and cafés don’t take credit cards or checks, and they offer unique and cheap dining opportunities.
Take care of your car:
- Check tire pressure and learn how to change a tire before you have a flat on a rural road.
- Make sure your spare tire is in good shape and that nothing is missing from your car’s toolkit.
- Check oil, coolant and windshield fluid levels – know which goes in what reservoir, to avoid confusion and costly mistakes.
- Check the battery regularly and if you drive long stretches on gravel roads, replace the air filter when you come home.
If you bring pets:
- For dogs, bring extra leashes and collars – most parks, trails and hiking areas require dogs to be leashed. Having an extra collar can really save the day.
- Always check in advance if your dog is allowed at the final destination.
- Don’t forget a water bowl and extra water.
- Bring a serving of dry food and some treats.
- And bring little bags for doggy-you-know-what – cleaning up after your dog is the right thing to do.
- Of course, never leave your dog in a hot car – not even for a minute.
Sources: AAA, American Red Cross
Simple first aid kit for the car
Some cars come with first aid kits fresh from the factory – check your owner’s manual and the trunk. Don’t forget to re-fill whenever you’ve used some of the material.
To make your own – grab these things and stick them in a plastic box or little bag:
- Band-Aids in various sizes.
- Medical tape.
- A roll or two of gauze.
- Antiseptic ointment – check the label to make sure it’s the anti-bacterial type and not just Vaseline.
- A pair of scissors.
- Painkillers – make sure they are appropriate for children; always keep the directions.
- Allergy medication – if someone in your family is prone to a pollen-induced runny nose.
- Sunscreen, bug spray and an anesthetic spray can all come in very handy.
- If someone in your family takes medication on a regular schedule, carry a dose or two with you. If you unexpectedly decide to spend the night somewhere, it can literally be a lifesaver.
Source: American Red Cross