Everything You Need in Your Car (and Where to Put it)

Cars can get so messy, so quickly. And yet, you don’t want to be without any of the things you really need (or want), so you keep shoving it all in. Here is a checklist for what to keep in the car, and where it goes (to keep you sane):

Driver Door:

  • Miniature fire extinguisher (this could save your life one day so it needs to be where you can reach it immediately)
  • Seat belt-cutter/glass-breaker (ditto to the above, plus if you ever have a passenger who is one of “those” people that doesn’t like to wear seat belts in case they get stuck, you can more easily be firm about insisting they buckle up)
  • Lotion (if the backs of your hands get dry easily, driving is a great time to moisturize them when they won’t smear all over gloves or clothes…just keep the fronts of your hands dry by placing the lotion directly onto the back of one hand and rubbing it in with the back of the other hand)
  • Hand sanitizer

Center Console:

  • Back-up mask
  • Your water (of course!)
  • Miniature garbage can (keeping one of these in your car will literally change your life)
  • Roll of compostable dog bags to line the miniature garbage can (just replace the bag and toss the old whenever you get out of the car)
  • A small container (mint tins work well) filled with quarters
  • Sunglasses
  • Note pad
  • Pen
  • Phone charger
  • Small plastic or metal container with compartments for:
  1. Something to pull back long hair (when the windows are down)
  2. One bandage
  3. Mints
  4. Gum
  5. Lip balm

Glove Compartment:

  • A light, long-sleeved button shirt for long drives when your arms are getting too much sun (and to avoid seatbelt irritation along your collar bone when you are in a tank top)
  • Plastic bag with care items to give to a homeless person on the side of the road
  • Granola bars or other non-perishable snacks (avoid ones with chocolate or yogurt covering as they will melt terribly in a hot car) in a hard container so they don’t get squashed.
  • Small scissors (one day, you will need them)
  • Medicine for a headache and upset stomach (or anything else you’re prone to getting) in a small insulated bag
  • Car manual
  • Sealed plastic bag (for water protection), tucked inside the manual to keep it flat, with:
  1. Registration
  2. Insurance card
  3. Phone numbers of your emergency contacts, in case your phone gets lost
  4. Extra battery for your car key

Passenger Door:

  • Sweater, rolled up tightly with a rubber band to save space
  • Hat/cap folded
  • Sunscreen (even in winter, you may need it)
  • Emergency water

Driver’s Seat Back Pocket:

  • Local maps (just in case your phone ever fails you and you have to revert to the dark ages)

Passenger’s Seat Back Pocket:

  • Large umbrella
  • Small umbrella

Back Door (Driver Side):

  • First Aid kit, including:
  1. Bandages
  2. Antibacterial ointment
  3. Cleaning wipes
  4. Gauze
  5. Matches
  6. Feminine products
  7. Tweezers

Back Door (Passenger Side):

  • Portable tire guage(this connects to your 12V plug in the car)

Car Organizer (You can buy the kind that attaches to the back of the front seat or one that goes under the front seat):

  1. Wet wipes (for when the hand sanitizer isn’t enough)
  2. Facial tissues
  3. Flashlight
  4. A plastic bag filled with four paper plates, disposable cutlery and napkins (for that time you don’t notice they’re missing from your take-out food until you’ve already driven away)


  • One reusable grocery bag with all your other reusable grocery bags folded inside AND your shopper card for your regular grocery store attached to the handle so you don’t have to pull your wallet out until it’s time to pay AND a binder clip to attach your grocery list to the shopping cart (and possibly a light sweater if you often forget how air conditioned the grocery store is)
  • Large laundry basket to put small loads of groceries in so they don’t roll around in the back
  • Old towel or blanket, rolled up tight with a cord to save space
  • Spare tire
  • Organizer with compartments for:
  1. Car jack
  2. Lug wrench
  3. Jumper cables
  4. Duct Tape
  5. De-greaser (like WD-40)
  6. Reflective triangle or flare

For Young Children:

  • In the car organizer: kid-friendly hand wipes, tooth wipes (road trips don’t have to mean cavities) and flushable wipes
  • In the trunk: a portable potty (with special disposable bags) for those emergencies that can’t wait till the next rest stop
  • In the back pocket of one of driver’s seat: a super-small, foldable potty-seat (even after your child is big enough to sit without one, because rest stop toilets are disgusting) in its own carry bag
  • In the back pocket of the passenger seat: emergency change of clothes
  • A hand towel for wiping off wet playgrounds
  • A foldable travel booster seat for those unexpected playdates
  • Basket than can easily be reached by them (elevated on the seat beside them and anchored by an empty seat belt), OR one that can be easily reached by you and passed back (tied to the back of the passenger seat headrest) with:
  1. Write-on book with attached dry-erase marker
  2. Sticker book (one where stickers can be moved around multiple times
  3. Maze puzzle
  4. Take-home book of the week from school (these are incredibly interesting in the short run as children made these themselves at school, but get ripped/boring just in time for the next one to come home in their backpack
  5. One special toy that always stays in the car

For the Dog:

  • In the trunk: a car organizer or shower caddy with:
  1. Safety harness
  2. A dog water bottle that allows your dog to drink from the top (or regular water bottle with collapsible bowl)
  3. Paw wipes
  4. Pet stain remover (for the atrocities that your dog commits in the car)
  5. A roll of paper towels
  6. A tennis ball
  7. A small container (mint tins work well) filled with treats
  8. Extra dog bags

For Winter:

  • In the glove compartment: driving gloves (with grips on the inside) so your hands don’t freeze as you wait for the heat to turn on
  • In the trunk: a car organizer or shower caddy with:
  1. Thick socks (for emergencies, but also if you are prone to cold feet like me, these are great for when you visit a “no-shoes” house and your feet are freezing)
  2. Snow & ice remover
  3. Can of de-icer
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