"Carpooling can be a real nightmare if you're not organized," says mom and family travel expert Grainne Kelly.
I learned that the hard way after I volunteered to carpool a group of first graders for a field trip. One child forgot his booster seat (luckily someone had an extra one) and I brought two toys… for three kids (cue the fighting in three... two... one…).
If you are coordinating a regular car pool, make sure you have all the details ironed out ahead of time.
"Keeping a written schedule of who is responsible for picking up and dropping off the kids is essential for success," says Kelly. "Make a calendar each month and copy each parent in your car pool group to avoid confusion."
The Project Girl has a great free printable template for a car pool schedule that you can print and pass out to keep everyone in the loop.
In addition to the schedule, you should also exchange emergency contact information that includes insurance information and any health, medication or allergy information.
There's an app for everything — including car pools. If you would rather have your car pool calendar electronically instead of on paper, check out Cozi. This app is free and it allows you to create a car pool calendar that you can share with other parents in the car pool.
Manage CarPool is another cool app that lets you add your route and car pool list. If you are running late or if there is an emergency, it lets you send a text message to everyone on the passenger list.
You have the schedule figured out, now it's time to get your car ready. Make sure all children have a car seat or booster seat, as needed. You may even want to consider keeping an extra booster seat, such as the BubbleBum inflatable car booster seat (BubbleBum, $30), in your car for emergencies.
A car organizer, such as the Prince Lionheart Backseat Organizer (Prince Lionhart, $25) comes in handy for keeping extra water bottles, handheld games, hand sanitizer and snacks within arm's reach.
If you have the room, this Travel Pal Car Organizer (Babies R Us, $16) is great if you are running low on cup holders. Kids can easily reach in for games, snacks or drinks while you are on the go.
You may also want to consider placing kick mats on the front seats to protect the back of the seats from getting stains and scuffmarks left by kids kicking the back of the seat. You can make your own car seat cover, such as this pretty pink one from Jennifer Evans of Sewplicity.
Depending on the length of the drive, consider bringing toys to keep the kids occupied. Some fun toys for the car include crossword and coloring books, Find It - Kids Edition (Fat Brain Toys, $19), Rush Hour game (Fat Brain Kids, $19) and Rubik's 360 (Amazon, $15).
Kids also like listening to music in the car, but Kelly says to make sure it is appropriate. Kidz Bop has kid-friendly versions of popular songs that are sung by kids — or you can also check out the TuneIn app to stream their large selection of children's music.
"If you choose to allow snacks in your car, use individual snack size baggies to contain portion size and prevent spillage," says Kelly.
Keep a trash bag handy and make a rule that all trash must be picked up before they leave the car.
I love this car pool hack from Gina of CampClem.com. She uses an old tissue box that she stuffs full of her old plastic shopping bags.
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