And yes, our vehicle broke down on our last road trip as we returned home from a visit with family who live over 270 miles away. I had my 3 month old, 2 year old, and dad with me at the time when my SUV lost power. We were driving down a busy interstate and had just enough time to glide onto the shoulder. I wished that we could have made it to the next exit so we weren’t sitting on the shoulder of a busy highway, but the engine was dead.
So, there we sat, trying to brainstorm quickly what our options were. I wasn’t sure exactly what town we were in or what my car’s issue was; I just knew that we needed to get my daughters out of the car and away from the shoulder of the busy highway.
So, in a matter of minutes, we had the girls out and made our way to the service road and sat just off the side of it. I called our insurance company’s roadside assistance service to request a tow truck and then called my husband. He was at work at the time and was able to leave to come help us. We were about an hour away.
It was then that I realized how close we were to my husband’s dad’s house. He lived in the next town just off the highway. I gave him a call, and he was able to come and pick up the girls and me off the service road while my dad stayed with the car and waited for the tow truck.
I am so grateful that he was able to come and get us because my dad ended up waiting almost five hours for a tow truck. It was the afternoon before Thanksgiving so it was a very busy travel day, and tow trucks were hard to come by. They would say that one was on the way, and then they would cancel or be delayed. I felt terrible for my dad, but I was so thankful that I was not sitting there for five hours with my infant and toddler waiting on the service road of the highway. It was chilly that day, and it just wasn’t safe.
Finally, after our roadside assistance service continued to fall through, we called a tow truck company ourselves, and my SUV was towed to the shop. My father-in-law was able to give us a ride to my parents’ house over an hour away.
What was supposed to be a 4 to 5-hour road trip turned into an 11-hour day. It was a crazy day, but I just kept thinking all day how lucky and blessed we were to have broken down where we did. We happened to have family nearby. We weren’t in the middle of nowhere, and we were able to get a ride back to my parents’ house from my father-in-law.
I couldn’t help but think about the what ifs though. What if we weren’t near family? What if we had to wait on the side of the service road for all those hours with my young daughters? What if we had to walk a mile to the next exit to wait inside a gas station for five hours? What if it was pouring down rain like it had been earlier in our drive?
The whole experience was helpful in that it taught me to be prepared in case it happens again and to be prepared to wait a long time for a tow truck.
So, I’ve compiled a list of helpful items to pack in case your vehicle breaks down on your road trip with a baby and toddler in tow. I hope it never happens again, and I definitely hope it never happens to you, but it sure is helpful to be prepared in case the unexpected happens.
Road Trip Essentials for Your Vehicle (when traveling with young children):
1. Car charger for cell phones – Make sure cell phones stay charged throughout your drive.
2. First Aid Kit – Have a basic first aid kit in your car in case of any minor injuries. My dad actually got a cut on his arm when he was taking the car seats out of the car to then reinstall into my father-in-law’s truck. My dad was trying to do it very quickly on the shoulder and ended up getting a cut on his arm that bled quite a bit. We had a medical kit in the car, so he was able to bandage it up while he waited.
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3. Bottled water – Water is good to have for a variety of reasons. You can stay hydrated, and you can also use it to rinse your hands and other items as needed.
4. Snacks – We had not eaten lunch yet, so my dad was able to eat the snacks we had as he waited. I like to have peanut butter, bread, and fruit already rinsed and sliced ready to go in the car for my toddler in case she gets hungry. This is also helpful to have in case of a situation like this.
5. Formula – Even if you’re breastfeeding, it is good to have another way to feed your baby in case of unexpected situations.
6. Well-stocked diaper bag – We didn’t have a lot of time to grab things out of the car when we were picked up. Having a well-stocked diaper bag with the essentials like diapers, wipes, change of clothes, a toddler cup of ice water, and formula for the baby can be super helpful to be able to grab in a hurry. Also, if you can fit a book or some sort of entertainment and/or activities for your toddler and infant, that will come in handy as you wait.
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7. Weather gear – Have an umbrella and rain coats or ponchos in case of rain, jackets and blankets for cold weather, and a portable battery-operated fan in case of heat. Thankfully, it was just a little chilly when we broke down so my toddler had her jacket, and I covered my infant with a stroller blanket as we waited outside.
8. Flashlight – A flashlight is helpful in case it’s dark outside. It can also be helpful if you need to look under the hood, under the car, or under the seats in the car.
9. Roadside assistance information – Thankfully, I had good service and was able to Google the phone number for my car insurance company’s roadside assistance service from my phone. However, it would be best to have this information somewhere in your car like the glove compartment in case you’re in an area where you don’t get internet.
10. Small amount of cash – Even if you don’t use cash, it is a good idea to have a little cash with you like 20 bucks in case of emergencies. It’s also a good idea to bring a limited number of credit cards and identification with you on your trip in case your wallet is lost or stolen. My husband’s wallet was stolen on a trip he took earlier this year, and we learned the hard way to only take the essentials in your wallet when traveling.
11. Double stroller – We have a double stroller that fits the infant car seat and my toddler, but we didn’t take it with us because we didn’t think we would need it on this trip. Knowing how far we would’ve had to walk to get to the nearest gas station, I know it would have been faster and safer to use the stroller rather than having my toddler walk beside me while I carried the infant seat.
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Our SUV is less than five years old and is well-taken care of, so breaking down was unexpected. Looking back on that afternoon, however, we have a lot to be thankful for, and we were able to celebrate that the next day on Thanksgiving.