large family van organization

I have never  had a van organization before, I just always had a diaper bag packed full of the items that I needed.  Where we used to live, I was never too far away from getting help so I didn’t need to  pack the van with supplies.  But since living here, we do a lot of driving to various areas and that could lead into a host of different problem scenarios.

I started out this summer with a large cloth duffel bag filled with items that we would need while we were out.  I had this sitting under the bench seats of the van and then I picked it up one day and realized that it was completely wet–from who knows what!!  I then had a few open plastic containers that I kept in the van, but it seems that I was always trying to shove them under the seats, because they didn’t fit properly and there was always dirt accumulating in the bottom.  This was not working.

I decided to properly measure,find out the amount of space under my bench seats, and then head off to the store for containers that would fit.  IMG_20150713_154930These were great, heavy duty with waterproof lock tight lids.  Just what we needed.  IMG_20150713_154916This box will stay stored in the van at all times. It contains things that I know I have not had and thought to myself that I should keep a stash in the van. I put it under the first front row bench so that I can access it quickly while traveling. It includes the following:

  • a thin fleece blanket—sometimes children get cold after swimming all day, even if it has been 100 degrees!
  • An extra outfit rolled up for the little boys—I chose a larger sized shirt, shorts, and underwear so that the 3 and 5 year old could use it if need be.  Eliminates the need to have an extra outfit for all of them.
  • An extra outfit rolled up for the little girls—Again I chose a longer dress and underwear so that either little girl could wear it if needed.
  • a couple extra pull up diapers
  • a package of wipes—-we use these all of the time.
  • bug spray—because we might end up exploring the woods
  • sunscreen–because we could end up at the river
  • hand cleaner—an extra one, I keep a smaller one on the console at all times.
  • motion sickness pills—never needed these before in my life—we drive on lots of curvy mountain roads–a necessity!
  • a map of our area—in case GPS does not work or phone dies—has happened numerous times–smile.
  • a bag of granola bars–in case of food meltdown—another scenario that has happened many of times–smile.
  • travel size pack of shampoo and lotion—you never know if I need to wash someone.  Sometimes children can get very dirty.
  • mini plastic cups—for passing out snack mix or crackers while driving
  • scissors—for anything–sometimes we cut our $5 pizzas with it to make slices thinner for little ones
  • plates–to make eating in the van easier—yes we do this a lot!!
  • a bag of quarters—in case we need to fill our tires with air and don’t have quarters.
  • a container of our healthy snack mix–it includes dried fruit and wheat cereal.  This works well for me, while traveling to get over motion sickness.
  • a first aid kit—contains Neosporin, Itch cream, bug bite stick, and bandaids.


These are the plates that I picked up at Walmart for $.77 each.  They are toddler sized ones—perfect for van travels.  We do a lot of eating in the van.  I know most large families won’t eat in the van because it makes such a mess and I get that, but sometimes it is easier to eat while driving.  We almost always pack a  lunch or dinner when we go places.  If I don’t make the sandwiches before hand, I bring the material along and make it in the car.  I used to do paper plates, but food sometimes rolls off and if we have something like watermelon that can get all the bread soggy–yuck!  These plates will do well.  Before I pass back each child’s plate, I always state the rule—DO NOT THROW FOOD OR WRAPPERS ONTO THE FLOOR!  You would be surprised at the amount of pepperonis that I have found on the floor because a child does not like them!IMG_20150713_154938

In my next container, stored under the 2nd row of bench seats, contains more of the items we don’t always need each trip.  It includes:

  • extra water—a necessity when traveling and hiking
  • Fix a flat—-a lifesaver in case you have no cell phone service up on a deserted mountaintop!
  • electrical tape—it was the only extra tape I had around–figured it would work well if we ever needed it!
  • a flashlight
  • a pocket knife
  • screwdrivers–because my husband asks, “don’t you keep a screwdriver in your van?”  We have needed one before so I grabbed it
  • a roll of kitchen size trash bags—these are great for wet clothing, vomiting clothing, or just trash for a large family
  • an extra towel—this was the towel that a woman gave to me when I fell and gashed my face on the waterfalls.  I figured maybe I will be able to return the favor by providing an extra towel to someone someday.
  • blue bag—filled with car games.  It has magnetic drawing boards, magnetic tic tac toe, magnetic hangman, magnetic checkers—stuff we never play with, but in an extended van trip may come in handy.


Here is under our first row seat along with a vomit bucket.  Who keeps a vomit bucket????  We do ever since moving here.  An ice cream bucket with lid is great to pass around to whoever needs it.  IMG_20150713_155602

Here is our 2nd row of seats and where we keep the extra box.  We also ALWAYS keep a potty chair in the van.  This has been a necessity for our family.  We use it all the time.  We will end up at parks, rivers, the woods, and have no place to use the bathroom.  Boys can go easily, but girls???? Have you ever had to try and get your preschooler girl to go to the bathroom in the woods?? Not gonna happen.  So we have learned to always keep this in the van.  We have had children use it while we were driving down the road.  Even I have used this many times, it has been a lifesaver.  We have had a potty in the van for about the last 10 years.

The potty chair sits inside of a plastic dish pan.  We go to the beach and rivers a lot.  We always have wet clothing and towels or dirty shoes.  This container is where I put all the children’s bathing suits after I strip them down and put them into clean,dry clothes.

I have a couple gallon jugs of water in the van as well.  We have used this to wash children off after playing all day and have used it to drink. You never can have too much water.

We have the traditional white, Ford 15 passenger van.  I think it is the staple model for most large families LOL! I like ours because it is the commercial, heavy duty version.  Everything is sturdier.  I think that is a MUST in our family.  There are no frills inside.  No extra compartments for sticky food waste to go in.  No drink holders in the back to get ripped off.  No material seats to get stained with food. I like it.  It was very plain when I first saw it, but I have learned to love that it cleans off easily.

The seats are leather or fakey leather–vinyl?  I don’t know my materials–smile.  All I know is that you can wipe them off easily and that is nice.  The floors are rubberized matting.  I keep a hand broom under the passenger front seat for sweeping out the van.  Usually a quick sweep after a trip and the van is clean.  We head to the car wash twice a month and do a vacuum to get in the cracks and crevices that the dirt accumulates.  Once a month, we wipe down the floors with Simple Green and water.

Up front in the console, is pretty empty.  I keep a hand cleaner in here all the time and we spray everyone’s hands every time we  get in the van.  I have my sunglasses which stay in the van—a necessity since we moved here–lots of sunshine.  There are also 4 cup holders.  Every time we go somewhere, I always take a drink.  My water bottle with green tea bag is my staple drink.  I normally take a cup of Kombucha or some coffee. I have eliminated the need to stop and grab a drink by taking my own.  We also have a small open compartment on the bottom but it is empty.  I keep these areas cleaned out because we almost always fill them up when we go somewhere.  When our entire family goes, Dad can store all of his items in here–wallet, phone charger, phone, etc.

I have a dash holder for my phone with charger.  That way I can use my GPS while driving and not have to look down at my phone all of the time.  The cord is built into it so no one accidentally takes my charger out of the van.

Up in the visor, I keep our car papers like insurance, registration, towing and our car pass for South Carolina parks.  It is held on with a clothespin.

In the trunk, normally there is a 4th row seat, but we don’t need it so we keep that seat out and stored at home.  This way we have a nice big trunk space.  I don’t store stuff in here all the time, because our trips vary each day.  On the floor of our van are the holders for our bench seats and they stick up.  It can be annoying as you are trying to fit items in the trunk, because they get stuck on those holders and don’t slide in perfectly.  I had my son cut a piece of plywood and we set that in the trunk area.  Now we have a nice smooth, flat surface to store things on.

We have no need for a stroller here–all the children can walk and hike fairly well!  Depending upon where we go we usually pack our trunk based on that.  My husband is an explorer and he will say we are hiking, but we might end up in a river playing.  I have learned to be prepared and take all that I need.  On the weekends we usually goto Table Rock State Park for swimming, fishing, hiking, and food.  On those days I would take the following:

  • A laundry basket holds all of our swimming tubes and foot air pumps.  We take 10 tubes and 2 foot air pumps.  Each time we go we pump them up and deflate after use.  They are stored in the laundry basket at home so we just grab them when we head out the door.
  • A laundry basket filled with 10 towels, all rolled up and on top we set a Queen size flat bed sheet for beach sitting.
  • I grab an ice cream bucket and fill it with a few sand toys.  I have found that my children and other children at the beach usually like to play with the “odd” beach sand toys.  I save laundry soap lids, heavy duty plastic food containers, and cups.
  • My husband grabs the fishing poles
  • I have each child grab an extra set of clothes to change into after swimming—they wear their bathing suits and flip flops to the lake.  I roll each outfit and then set it in a tote bag.
  • A bag filled with tennis shoes –in case we hike.
  • fold up flat wagon—we received this as a gift and love it.  We now put all of our items into the wagon and roll it to the beach or the picnic area and sometimes we have put children in it to carry them.  Love it!  The best part is that it folds up flat and does not take up much space in the van.
  • cooler–filled with everyone’s water bottles
  • cooler filled with our meal—-a typical Sunday dinner will be leftover chicken from lunch, tortilla, cheese, lettuce, and ranch—we make wraps with it.  Watermelon cut up, veggies and hummus, bag of chips or crackers, and a dessert.  Easy for me.

If the children and I were just going out for a quick trip,  I always have them fill up the waters and we put them in the small cooler.  I then  grab something for a snack in the van.  It might be graham crackers, snack crackers, apple slices, or granola bars.  This eliminates the need to eat out while we are driving.  My trips aren’t usually too long with them, so I don’t grab a diaper bag anymore.  We can pretty much go out and return the same way!!

Little ones, usually grab a small toy to take with them while traveling.  Sometimes it is a small lego man or a matchbox car.  The girls might grab their purses filled with paper and pen or small baby.  I don’t take anything to entertain them.  We used to take tablets to keep them busy, but we don’t anymore.  My children have enjoyed to travel—or maybe they are just getting older.  They love to look out the windows and see the mountains.  My daughter Autumn, 6 says “Mom, do we have to go back to our old house anymore?  Because I like it here in the mountains!  They are so pretty to look at!”  Makes me smile and I would have to agree with her.

Have I missed things?  Probably.  I don’t think I could be prepared for every situation, but I am preparing for what I know I haven’t prepared for before.  Live and learn that is what we do.  Be blessed today.


11 responses to “large family van organization

  1. You are very organized. I always look forward to your post. God bless!!!! Have a safe summer!!!!

    • Thank you Kim—I wouldn’t call myself super organized—we have just had way too many moments of…..”wish I would of had that packed.” LOL. Be blessed

  2. Yes, a potty seat is a must around here as well! And you asked “who keeps a vomit bucket in the van?” We do too. Only I finally just learned what works better for us (since it’s not as necessary as it used to be, but still needed…) is gallon baggies. The generic gallon baggies. We keep a few in everyone’s area within easy reach (backs of seat pockets work great). They use them, we seal them up and throw them away. No smell and nothing to clean anymore. (Although one time we were on our way to a public place so I “hid” the bag in a Wal-Mart bag before tossing in the parking lot trash can.)

    • I had to laugh out loud. Amazing the things you will do. The vomit bags—-hmmmm I just might replace out bucket:)

  3. I forgot to mention the snack cups too. We had those too until I had one too many dropped and spilled. By one too many I mean a million! I changed the stack to a baggie of baggies. I fill those up and pass them around. Then if they don’t finish it I can seal them up and save them and if they drop them they don’t really spill out. Just a few pieces maybe.

    • That is definitely a much better avenue. I did cups only because I had gotten a large—meaning like 500 cup pack for around a few dollars:) I will be using cups for a while now;) Mine are getting older, we only endure a few spills now and then. But baggies, yes a plus!

      • Oh true, older ones don’t spill as much, and yes- I would use all of those 500 cups up too! 🙂 I just had cups because it’s all I thought of before!

  4. Oh, and thanks for the great idea of a flashlight. I mean, duh…how did I never think of that? One to add to our box now-thanks!

    • Well if you have a phone, more than likely you have a flashlight at hand always;) We just had an extra so I put it in there.

  5. Love your posts! We only have 6 kids but have a 15 passenger van with the back seat pulled out. Our trips are usually fairly long because we live in the country and combine errands to save gas. I’m looking forward to the day I feel okay letting my kids eat in the van again ha!
    Your ideas are great. I usually keep 2 sizes of diaper and wipes in the front of the van and a double stroller and 2 laundry baskets in the back. The laundry baskets hold most of the groceries (or other cargo) when I shop so they don’t roll around every time I brake.
    We’re in south Texas so extra outfits aren’t totally necessary. My babies are fine in just a diaper in case of blowout. 😉

    • You don’t ONLY have 6 kiddos!!! You HAVE SIX KIDDOS!!! That is alot, any number of children can be alot. I like all your ideas as well. I really miss the days of having the potty chair in the van—the other day my kids said, “Why don’t we get a potty chair for emergencies?” LOL I just might:)

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