A Mom's Secrets to a Better Ride

Photo by Sasiistock/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Sasiistock/iStock / Getty Images

Have you ever calculated the number of hours you spend in your car? If you have children, you might be transporting them back and forth to school daily. Perhaps you are taking them to sports practice and games along with a myriad of other activities. When your vehicle is full of little people, the daily car time can lead to trash spilling out as the car doors open or fights over who will sit where. Whether you function as a couple, a single mom, a small family, a large family, or just by yourself most of the time, the following ideas might create more pleasant travel time. Whatever your situation, your vehicle is almost an extension of your home. Below are a few ideas:

Trash Free

Keep used bags under the driver’s seat.

When you are approaching home or filling up your gas tank, pass a bag around the car asking for people’s garbage. If by yourself, always empty trash from your car while you are waiting for your gas or parking in the garage. While the vehicle is in motion and kiddos are strapped in their seats, you might receive cooperation and a quick response by passing around an empty bag requesting nearby trash. Train them early on this habit. Most of us park close to the outside garbage cans. Transfer all trash to these cans as soon as you’re home. This maintains a trash free zone inside your vehicle.

Healthy Snacks

If space is available in your vehicle, pack healthy snacks in case you are delayed unexpectedly. When you’re heading out for an extended time, pack perishable items in a cooler such as cheese sticks, boiled eggs and cut veggies. For non-perishable snacks, consider crackers, granola bars, pretzels and beef jerky.

Audio Books

Our favorite audio books were anything Odyssey from Focus on the Family or Lamplighter. The truth is that on one family road trip with 64 hours of drive time ahead, I loaded over 80 hours of Adventures in Odyssey prior to leaving. This kept everyone quiet and occupied as we drove. Parents enjoy audio books as well. They also think assigned seats are great too.

Assigned Seats

While the children in your vehicle might be just perfect, mine were always fighting over who would sit where. No appeal to fairness or kindness motivated independent resolution. So, my response was to assign seats. Sometime I rotated them on the first of the month or on the three transitional times mentioned earlier in chapter one: January, June and August.


  • Windex wipes

  • Clorox wipes

  • baby wipes (you need them even if you don’t have babies.)

  • Kleenexes

  • hand sanitizer

  • small broom/dust pan

  • coupon pouch

    large pocket file for receipts

  • note paper/pens/pencils Items to keep little ones busy

  • 2-3 shopping bags to keep numerous loose items from running around

  • bag of returns

This keeps them out of the house and allows me to complete the return quicker when we are passing by the appropriate store.

Assign a child to clean out all vehicles as part of your one day a week family cleaning spree. If you’re on your own, drive through a car wash as needed or put it on your weekly or monthly schedule if you want to do it at home.

One idea that worked for me when my kids were little was to pull up to one of those outdoor vacuums. Encourage every rider to clean up their space. Pick up the trunk and the floor. Recruit helpers when your reach is challenged. In my group of five children, I had two that really loved to vacuum out cars. Strangely, my recently Air Force Airman did not like to do weekly contributions inside the house, but frequently volunteered to vacuum and clean out all the vehicles as his contribution. He did a great job at it too. His last job in high school was working at our nearest car wash. He loved it.

As with all systems, routines must be determined and then implemented. Keeping a relatively clean and organized vehicle along with patterns of listening to audio books and assigning seats is a realistic goal for everyone. Just think, the early habits you establish might just turn into your teenager’s favorite job.