You could use my car as an archaeological expedition. In a previous life, it was a pristine powder-blue minivan. Now, when you open its doors, juice boxes tumble out. Sedimentary layers of necessities cover the floor. Yes, necessities. Kids need a lot of gear, and my husband was an Eagle Scout. We might be a mess, but we’re prepared.
Kids need diapers. The main diaper bag sits behind the driver’s side and includes, in addition to the obvious, an extra outfiit for everyone under the age of 18. Kids need toted around; a tidy pile of baby carriers occupies the floor behind the passenger seat. They always need to eat, so I keep a stash of juice boxes, granola bars, and other non-perishable snacks, in addition to the daily Snack Ration of carrot sticks, apples, or celery. Then there’s temperature control: every family member needs a warm layer of clothing stashed in the car at all times, because you never know when the playground might turn chilly.
Then we get into recreation. Everyone needs at least one book, possibly (definitely) more. These get switched in and out, as do the other rota of action figure-ish toys.The sand toys live in the trunk, because then we can’t forget to bring them. Same for the kid-sized nets and the swimming gear (including life jackets). This leaves enough room for groceries or Target bags, but not much.
Then there’s the auxiliary diaper bag, AKA my purse. We might bring everything, but we take almost nothing.
Here’s the secret: We’re prepared. But we don’t have to be all the way prepared all the time. I’m not lugging that heavy diaper bag into the store. Instead, I stuff a diaper in my purse. Kids hungry? They each get what they can carry in their hands, plus the cut-up veggies in my purse. If they need a warm layer, we put it on and go. We only keep one shovel and bucket per kid.
People lug around a lot of gear they don’t really need. We drive around a lot of gear we don’t necessarily need - just then. But when we leave the car, we travel light. I tie baby to my back and we get going. No need for a giant traveling system to lug one person. We fit all the gear into my purse.
In the morning, we never waste time wondering what we need. It’s already there. Imagine a morning trip without the stress of remembering pants and snacks and drinks. That morning can be yours.
And think about it. What are the chances you’ll need spare pants in Target? Low? Then plan to come back out to the car to get them. Don’t burden yourself with a ton of stuff you think you might need. On the off chance it’s necessary, get it from the car. I promise, it’s not a long walk. You’ll like the freedom from the giant diaper bag and the enormous mom purse.
You won’t stress about forgetting things. You won’t spend time digging for sunscreen when you know it’s in the backseat. Sure, your car might be packed to the hilt. But your arms and your sanity will thank you.