Many of my friends sent their kids back to school this week. Here in the Chicago Public School system, we start on the day after Labor Day. This means that in a few short days I will be waking up early, fussing at 4 kids to “hurry up and get your bags…socks….shoes…sweaters…”, and hitting the road for our commute to school.

This week we are trying our best to get ready for the madness that is about to ensue. Below are my 5 tips for getting ready for the back to school commute.


Say Goodbye to Your Old Beater

Yes, this one is extreme! But, sometimes it needs to happen. Think about it… each day we rely on a huge machine made of steel to get our families from place to place safely. The steel does its job to keep the car in one piece and keep us safe. However, one thing wrong with the mechanics of the car and it can be a big deal. Unfortunately, cars do not last forever. I realized this back in 2014. My minivan had seen better days. And before I knew it, it’s days were numbers. I had spent money getting this and that fixed, but one day I decided enough already! My van and I had been through a lot. It had been beaten up by small kids, left us stranded in downtown Chicago, had me driving around with smoke spewing from under the hood, developed a flat tire after an innocent car wash, caused us to miss an event because a repair that was made a few days before, *undid* itself (sigh), and so much more. When I was at my wits in I decided it was time to let it go. Yes, it was paid off. Yes, it was nice to be without a car note (very nice). But, having a reliable vehicle to drive my babies around is very important. We were at the point where each and every time we left the house I was saying a prayer that we would get there and back without dealing with problems with that van.

I said goodbye to my van and upgraded to a new (used) SUV. It was such a weight off my chest to know that I would be able to drive my kids to school without worry of breaking down on the side of the road at any moment!

If you have the same thoughts about your car, and you have to drive your kids back and forth to school now may be the right time for a new vehicle. Late Summer/Fall must be the time to buy. Over the past couple of weeks, I have noticed more and more 0% APR commercials popping up on TV.


Handle Your Car Maintenance

Of course, if you cannot get a new car at this time, or you are lucky enough to have a car with no problems, that’s great! You want to make sure that it keeps running smoothly and lasts as long as it possibly can. Watch the miles on your car and get an oil change when it’s time. While it’s been said for a long time that all cars need an oil change every 3,000 miles, this is not necessarily true. I’m lucky in that my car has a built-in oil life indicator. I can check it at any time and get a percentage of *life* left in my oil. In my opinion, this saves me money by preventing unnecessary oil changes. You can also sign up for maintenance alerts with your dealer. You will get a reminder when it’s time to set up an appointment.


Clean the Car – Inside and Out

The other thing that I hated about my van was that after years of food crumbs, juice spills, and other small children accidents keeping the light beige interior clean seemed like a futile attempt. When my boys were born, my girls were only 3. I felt that I had much more important things to do than clean out my car. However, I learned my lesson. That van had more crevices than a lost cavern! And it had stow and go seating. The only thing that area stored was crumbs and small toys!

If you drive around with as much stuff in your car as you have in your house it makes it very hard to find things. If you drop something you may never see it again! And by not cleaning the interior on a regular basis, it makes it very time consuming, and very difficult to try to clean up all of the “kid residue” when the time does come. Also, the car might start to develop an unpleasant odor…. probably due to some random food item that a kid dropped that you cannot find because it’s hiding under something else!

I vowed that my new car would not suffer the same fate. And so far so good. For the past 2 years, the kids and I have done a great job of keeping the car clean. They are now old enough to help, so we head off to the car wash as a family. They handle the vacuuming very well! And, we no longer have a need to keep a ton of random toys in the car. It makes for a much happier commute!


Keep Water & Snacks in the Car

Yes, I just finishing complaining about snacks being the bane of my disdain in my old car. But, everyone who has a commute eats in their car at some point in time. It’s convenient. In our case, the drive into the city to my kid’s schools are around 40 minutes. It only makes sense to have quick breakfast items on hand to grab on the way out the door. And my kids are always complaining of being hungry as soon as I pick them up from school. So, having a few bags of healthy snacks in the car can keep the peace.


Stock the Car with Useful Items

There are a few useful items that should be stashed in your glove box or console when driving around with a car full of kids. These include hand sanitizer, wet wipes, tissue, and trash bags to name a few.


What other things can you think of that help you get ready for the back and forth to school?

Head over to the Steel Matters blog for more useful auto info, You can also follow Steel Matters on Facebook.


This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Steel Market Development Institute. The opinions and text are all mine.