WFMW - Holiday travel with the Dollar Store
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I love the Dollar Store. I could spend this whole post telling you about all the things I get, and what I do with them.... but today we're going to talk turkey. Going to Grandma's for Christmas turkey, specifically.

You all know to pack juice boxes and Cheerios to take a little jaunt with the carseat set - but as some one who's moved (and driven) 12 times in the last 5 years with 3 to 6 small children, I've got some frugal survival tips that you need to know - and most everything can be had from the dollar store!

First, the fun stuff - or How Mama is NOT Driven Insane On Car Trips.

My minivan has a little drawer underneath the front passenger seat - but many of these items would fit easily in a glove compartment, or a tote bag slung over the headrest.

First up, Snackville! I keep this stuff in the car, but if you're traveling, make a stop at DollarTree instead of gathering supplies at Stop N Shop and you'll save a fortune! They have tons of snacks, and other stuff too.

My super secret to feeding the masses are cone shaped coffee filters. Lightweight, they pack flat, and are useful for oh-so-many things -they're basically a disposable paper pocket! They make great little holders for cereal, crackers, or popcorn (bring your own from home for a frugal snack), and are easily passable from seat to seat. Going through the drivethru, I usually skip the kid meals ($3 a piece x 6 kids... might as well go out to a real restaurant with real nutrition!). Instead, I'll buy them a hamburger from the dollar menu and 2 boxes of fries. Use the filters to split it up between them. It's also handy for trying to feed the littlies any kind of food, sandwiches, nuggets, fries, pretzel sticks. In a pinch, you can also use them as blotting papers for running makeup, to wipe your oil dipstick, or to clean a foggy windshield. It won't lint up like napkins. (I keep some in the house, too. They make great funnel liners for straining, making 'yogurt cheese', or even tying up spices for cooking. It's like a giant tea bag.)

Next, a box of bandaids. Get the cheap kind - not the $5 box that sticks to little boy's knees at a depth of 6000 meters, we're shopping at the dollar store, remember? In addition to dressing the occasional wound, these are hours of cheap toddler fun. Run into a traffic jam? Give a handful of bandaids to the 2 year old. She'll have loads of fun unwrapping each one, peeling the paper, and doctoring herself, her bear, the car window. They're fairly benign, removable, and just unusual enough that the kids will want to play. You can also use these as a scotch tape substitute for hems, notes, etc. They'll stop a run (under your dress!) until you can get ahold of some nail polish or a new pair of hose. I've even used these to secure the baby's shoes when she insists on taking them off and flinging them across the car every time I finally get them back on!

Put a roll of toilet paper in a sandwich bag. Enough said (if it won't fit in your glove box, put a half-used one in there and squash it flat.) Great for snotty noses, too.

Pack a box of chalk. When you are waiting for your 4 year old to finish pottying, which takes forever anyway but even longer when you are standing at a reststop with nothing to do, let the kids draw on the sidewalk or asphalt. This is also great for long trips. If you know you are going to have to stop and eat at a restaurant, and the kids have been in the car for 6 hours, do yourself a favor, stop at a reststop or even the back parking lot of the restaurant, and play hopscotch for 15 minutes. Stretch those little bodies and get the wiggles out before the waitress starts calling your pride and joys "Satan Spawn"! The great thing about chalk is it cleans up great. At the most you'll need a damp piece of that toilet paper to get it off Darling's dress!
Other great, simple, cheap entertainment that packs flat:
A 2" paint brush and water from the drinking fountain is lots of quick fun, too. Paint the sidewalk.
A deck of cards wouldn't hurt either, or even alphabet magnets (the entire outside of your car is like a big magnet board) The cards can be sorted by color, shape, number for the 2 year olds, and can be used by any other age, any number of players. Try cardhouses if you're bored of games.
A blow up beach ball, or a package of balloons from the party aisle.

Purel, for after you've let the kids climb around the gas station sidewalk. Removes permanent and dry erase marker, pen stains on clothes, and can sanitize tweezers for splinters, too.

Get a package of Dixie cups or small plastic cups. When you have one water bottle and several kids that will die of thirst before you get home, you'll be thankful! You'll also save money if you can buy a quart of milk or juice instead of buying individual servings at the convenience store.

Diapers and wipes. Put half a refill pack in a gallon ziplock and 2 or 3 diapers. Yes, I travel with a diaper bag, but what are you gonna do if you left it at a reststop in Des Moine accidentally and Johnny has the runs from eating out of a vending machine? They make great barf bags, too. Even if you don't have kids, get some baby wipes and keep them in there anyway. So many uses, so cheap if you plan ahead!

A spray bottle (empty, but this is why you pack water). This is best, fastest way to get gross stuff out of the buckle when the toddler pukes on his carseat. Put a wad of papertowels underneath, turn it to "stream", and blast the stinky nastiness out of the crevices. Fast, easy, portable. Also good if you are stranded on a hot summer day - if the engine doesn't work, the A/C won't either. Mist yourself and the kids, then fan with your hand or the classic paper accordian fold.

This little invention is awesome. It plugs into your cigarette lighter and there's no runny, dirty melted ice to clean up! It doesn't cool hot things well, but it will keep drinks, snacks, etc. cold. You can save a lot of money by packing some cheese slices and sliced turkey and skipping the Golden Arches! Much better nutrition, too. It's hard on kids to eat high carb french fries, nuggets, and sugary juice or pop, then go to a strange place like Gramma's and be expected to behave better than they do at home. Make it easy for them. There are lots of styles and price points, so shop around!

Tylenol, benadryl. The tablets and strips are fairly "shelf stable",and I've used this stash more than I'd like to admit. Benadryl is a must have - in case of allergic reaction to strange food, pollens, bee stings, or to help the kids settle down and sleep (my OB's always recommend it as a sleeping pill for pregnant women!) It's one of those things that youNEED RIGHT NOW, and don't have time to run into Quikimart to get. Dramamine if you've got carsick kids.

I also have a hairbrush I bought just for the car. Seems someone always forgets and I don't notice until we are on our way to church! I have a plastic school box that holds other "nice to haves" - fingernail clippers (because a 3 yo's hangnail just can't wait), tweezers (splinters, fishing tiny parts out of tiny holes - handy if your kid stuffs a safety pin in his car seat buckle), a sewing kit. The sewing kit is actually there so I can find it - I've never had to use it in the car, but several times I needed to sew a button or something and couldn't find a needle to save my life - even though I have a sewing basket and a couple of these dollar kits in the house...somewhere.... ditto for the black Sharpie marker (although I do use this to write names on those Dixie cups!)

Put a disposable camera in the glovebox while you're at it. You can use it in case of a car accident, to document the scene, or, in my case, documenting the obscenely absurd signage, bad grammar on school billboards, and other stuff I find hilarious but husband thinks is a waste of film!

Now for the serious stuff. You need to have these supplies in your car - yeah, I know you've heard it before, but trust me, do it NOW and forget about it. I store it all in a small trashcan in the tailgate - the trashcan is tall and doesn't take up too much floor space, waterproof, and I bungeed it to the seat so it won't be rolling around back there.

You'll want to plan for an extended stay on the shoulder of a busy road. (What are you going to do with the kids while you wait for help? What if you have to help yourself? What if you are snowed in, too much water on the road to drive, or an accident shuts the freeway down for hours?)

Here's what's in my van:

Trash bags

Grocery store bags (good for wet clothes, throw up, etc.)

Old towels (again, if your kid has an accident in their carseat, and your halfway through an 8 hour drive, this will save your life!) See if you can find a white one, in case you need to tie it to your antenna in case of distress.

Paper Towels. I dont' need to go into the many and varied uses for these. Again, put in a plastic bag for protection. Who knows, you might need the bag, too!

T- Shirt (nothing fancy - a basic Hanes style. This is for emergency cover in case your clothes are ruined by miscellaneous baby fluids, or if you are wearing something nice and need to pop the hood. I have one of my husbands, it fits OVER my clothes.)

Jumper cables
(go here NOW, print out the instructions, and stick in your glovebox. Put it in a gallon freezer bag first - that way in an emergency, you won't mess up the paper with grease or oil and you'll still be able to follow the directions) There is a new kind out that you don't even have to get out of your car to use - a wonderful invention for a woman, as we generally have to worry about safety, our own and our children's, in addition to trying to fix the car. These are not available for $1, but spend the cash anyway.

Water - for drinking, but also so helpful for washing hands, radiators, etc. I actually have a flat of it ($2.50 at W*Mart) under the back seat instead of in the trashcan. You can often find 4 or 6 packs for $1 at the local 99 cent mart, too. This can be used as weight over a tire (remember how they used to pack sandbags?)

Capri-Suns, a bottle,
etc. I premeasure formula for an 8 oz. bottle, put it in a sandwich baggie, and put it in a bottle with nipple, cap, and all. All I have to do is add water.

Crackers, beef jerkey, granola bars without chocolate
- anything that is prepackaged against insects, etc, and can stand the temperature changes of a vehicle (these are hidden at the bottom - if the kids knew they were there, they'd be gone instantly!) The dollar store by my house has bags of nuts and dried fruit, as well as SunMaid raisins in individual boxes, all for $1!

It's really cheap at the StuffMart, expensive at the 7-Eleven. Also, you'll know you have the right kind.

. The leather work kind. If your hands are small, get 2 pairs - one for you, one for husband or Good Samaritan.

Flashlight. Like these that have no batteries. They also make some that you can charge off your car lighter, but that does you no good if you're batterie's dead! Not to mention, you don't want to store batteries long term in the trunk of a car where it gets quite hot!

Blanket. Even if you live in a warm climate, remember it can still get chilly at night. Great for picnics, or when you need a safe place to put the baby down. Use as a mat if you or someone else has to get down on the ground to look under the car or change a tire. Use as a seat cover.

First Aid Kit Get a larger one with Ace bandages, cold packs, etc. and just keep it in the car. You can always refill the bandaids, Neosporin, etc.

Tools. I didn't buy anything special, although they make kits just for cars. My car has some sort of plier wrench thing (I'm sure it has a name. I just don't know what it is. Maybe it's a channel lock? ), a Phillips, and a flat head. I just rounded up stuff that was laying around the house - my husband's a construction worker, so we've got all manner of tools around.

Fix A Flat - a $3 miracle in a can.

For the true survivalist, get some hazard triangles and road flares. Road flares are awesome - you can use them to dry out sopping firewood, then to start the fire in a truly apocolyptic survival scenario.

I've also got a copy of my vehicle's Chilton's Manual. These are about $20 at the car part store, but has checklists for what's wrong and tells you how to fix your car, including diagrams. It can also help you identify funny noises - do you need an alignment, or a new axle? It is a handy guide, and could help keep you from getting ripped off at the mechanics. Plus, this way we can find it when it's time to change the brake pads, instead of searching all of the bookcases in the house; we also have it with us at the part store so we know what kind of taillight bulb, etc. to get.

Happy Trails!

Tags: Less is More Christmas Club Works for Me Wednesday Need to Know
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 12/20/2006 06:46:00 AM | Permalink | |