Last week I polled friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter for what they consider the 5 essential items that every parent needs to have in the car. The responses did not trickle in. They flooded! I heard from dozens of parents, automotive experts, product experts, organization experts, safety experts, store owners, site owners and product manufacturers. Here are their responses, in order of popularity

1. Wipes! Wipes are the #1 thing that parents don’t want to hit the road without. What kind of wipes? Half our respondents suggested plain old baby wipes, while the other half suggested something with anti bacterial properties. We suggest both kinds be stocked. If there is one thing a parent can’t have too much of, it’s probably wipes!

2. Snacks. Everyone suggested that you have some snacks in the car for emergency munching. But the jury was divided on the type of snacks. Most of the moms that responded suggested packing water bottles along with healthy non-perishable dry snacks such as crackers, 100 calorie packs of snacks, trailmix and dried fruit*. But a few wise moms suggested that you keep a stash of suckers in the glove compartment at all times. We like organic lollipops from Trader Joes or good ol’ Dum Dum pops. It’s a lot of bribery power for only a little sugar.

*Note: one sage mom pointed out that dried fruit ups the potty disaster potential – so keep this in mind if you’re a raisin fan!

3. Entertainment. Experts agree – entertainment in the family car is a top essential! The type of entertainment, however, is really up to you. Only you know the best way to amuse and distract your offspring. Suggestions from seasoned parents include portable DVD players, music CD’s, busywork “kits” of their favorite toys, art supplies, and handheld electronic games*. It’s all good if it means peace in the back seat.

*Note: Make sure to stash extra batteries if you rely on electronics.

4. Bags to Contain the Mess. When you travel with kids, sooner or later there will be a mess. Wet clothes, potty accidents, regurgitated lunches, spills, mud – you name it. Best to be prepared! Garbage bags were the solution of most moms* but a few more fashionable sorts suggested that you mask your messy situation with a stylish solution, using pretty Wet Bags like the ones from WetHappened to camoflauge and control the mess.

* Garbage Bag Bonus: regular trashbags are useful for getting the garbage out of the car and can double as a rain poncho in a pinch!

5. Change of Clothes & Underwear. After the spills, there are sure to be chills. A change of clothes for kids is always a good idea. And clean underwear is essential. Toss in a spare tee for yourself and a sweater or jacket that can be used by whichever kid forgot their coat this time.

Final Note: One item you may be surprised not to see on this list, is an emergency medical/first aid kit. We strongly urge ALL drivers to keep this essential in their car, not just parents. We assumed this essential was in place when we compiled our list of parent essentials. If you don’t already have a first aid kit in your car we recommend you purchase a Medibag from ME4Kidz post haste. And some wipes!