Family Car Buying Guide: Questions to Ask Before Buying a Family SUV

Turns out, we are a buying a car! It’s like having a baby; but with more upfront costs, depreciates quickly, yet fun to ride.

We are in the market for a seven seater car and it’s something we have never looked at in our life. The good news is that every car manufacturer has one seven seater offering – and it’s usually just one model. The porblem is that the pricing for a seven seating car in the same models can vary $10,000-40,000 (thanks Volvo!).

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When it comes to buying a larger car, I mean SUV/crossover/minivan/small creature bus, what matters to you may not matter to someone else. And those details will determine which car you should buy.

I designed this handy guide to ask yourself and your partner on what matters to you when purchasing a seven seating SUV. You can also download this handy PDF. I’m hoping to put together a test in the upcoming weeks that you can take and receive suggestions on best matches.

Questions to ask yourself when buying a 7 seater car:
Do you want three full rows (two passengers in the front, 3 passengers in the middle, 2 passengers in the rear) or a second captain’s row?
A captain’s row is where the middle is just two seats and use identical seat framing as the front seat. They are often more comfortable, but can cost more money while losing the 7th seat.

Do you want second row seats to fold down and be flush with the flooring or just fold down? Or does it not matter?

Do you prefer the second row seats to move together as one unit (3 seats), two units (1 seat, 2 seats) or it doesn’t matter?

Do you plan to keep the third row seats in regular use for people or folded down for more truck space?

Do you want the third row seats to comfortably accommodate adults, older children, or babies/toddlers?

Do you want the third row seats to fold down?

Do you want the rear doors to open as regular, lift up falcon style (e.g. the Tesla Model X), or automatically slide open and close?

Car perks
Do you want a full spare tire and kit?

Do you want Apple Airplay, Android Play and other similar latest connectivity?

Do you want USB cables? This way you can connect your phone and charge.
Because some car manufacturers charge to add a USB outlet. Facepalm.

Do you want standard outlets?
If you are a pumping mom or someone who will travel on the road a lot, consider this.

Do you want automated parking for parallel parking (and regular parking)?

Do you want high definition screens?
Makes a big difference when you’re looking at a map or anything else for that matter.

Do you want driver seat memory?
If you are short and your spouse is tall, seat memory will keep you two from quarreling.

Do you want a tow hitch?
If you are an outdoor person and plan to take bikes and things on trips, a tow hitch will be helpful. You can also add it post purchase.

Do you prefer yearly maintenance or every six months?

How much does a speaker system matter to you? Rank from (1) a little to (5) a lot.

Do you want a traditional sunroof (1/3rd the room) or panoramic sunroof?

Engine and systems
Do you want AWD or two wheel drive?

Do you want a turbocharged v4 engine, v6 engine, eco/eco boost v4 engine or frankly have no idea what is written here.

Do you want gas, electric only, or hybrid?

Do you want a tighter drive or a soft drive?
The difference here is suspension control. A tighter suspension gives the car more oompf, is noisier, yet tends to be more fun to drive.
Soft drive is for people who want confort and ease and don’t care about their car being an oompf maker.

Essential International Packing Travel List: 3.5 Year Old Toddler 1 Year Old Baby

This is THE list if you are packing for small creatures. I’m still working on packing lists for different ages, though for you, I got you covered for a one year old baby and a 3.5 year old toddler.

The list is long, but it covers everything I could think of when packing. Everything. There are definitely items that are annoying to carry (extra medicine mainly) but you never know when you’ll need them. And of course if you don’t pack them, you’ll absolutely need them!

I included my favorite toys, essentials like diapers and wipes, medicine, extras, clothes and safety. You will need to think of the type of weather and location to make final decisions. Rainy weather = rain boots and raincoats. Winter weather = legging layers, snow boots, gloves, hat. You get the idea.

I use this packing list as my guide when traveling internationally to India and Sweden, but you can apply it anywhere for young children.

DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST PDF! Easy to print checklist for you.

HAND LUGGAGE:

Toddler:
Headphones
2-3 emergency diapers (even if your child is potty train you never know when you might them)
2 undies
1 pair pants
1 top
1 sweater
Toddler backpack
Toddler rolling back – optional but can be fun. Be prepared when toddler is tired, you will have to carry the bag.
1 blanket
1 neck pillow
2 packs stickers
1 plain notebook
Crayons
Markers
Favorite stuffed toy – if your kid has one, take it!
Water ink set from Melissa and Doug
Reusable water bottle

Duplos – a car, couple people or animals, few blocks
OR
Few wooden animal toys – always a success

Snacks – see below

Baby:
5 hours per diaper x trip length + 4 extra =
2 wipes packages (75 count) = I prefer two packages instead of giant package because if I lose the giant package, I have no more wipes!
1 warm outfit
2 pairs socks
Favorite stuffed toy
Duplo car and some people or animals
Reusable water bottle

Parental unit – Mom or Dad
Extra top
Headphones
Adult tylenol
Hairbrush
Toothbrush
Toothpaste
Mouthwash
Hand sanitizer
Lotion/hand cream

Snacks:
Puffs – Cheerios or the like
Saltine crackers – Seriously, your life will thank you
Fresh fruit – this will help you on the first leg of the journey when fresh fruit is at a premium at 38,000 feet. Blueberries, bananas, and mandarin/clementine oranges are the least messy.

Bars – Larabar, granola bar, nature’s bar…whatever your children love.
Animal crackers – this is treat and a BIG hit for both kids.
Baby food pouches – even if your kids are no longer into those fruit, veggie pouches, take some! You never know when you will need them and you never know when there is a dearth of food options. I pack 6 pouches for a 36 hour door-to-door trip (three pouches/kid).

Candy – no, stop it. I know you and the children are going on a special trip but the last thing you need to do is offer sugar to them. There is nothing worse then giving young children a sugar high and no where to run it off! If you must, pack the candy for yourself in your purse.

Medicine:
The list below is a total hit or miss. If your children are not sick, then all is well and you do not need anything from below. If they get sick while traveling or are already sick, well, best to have everything with you! Remember, once you are on the plane, no one is giving you baby medicine to deal with fevers, coughing, etc.

Gripe water
Petroleum jelly
Ibuprofen
Baby Benadryl
Baby Tylenol/

CHECKED LUGGAGE
I am excluding all parent packing here and focusing on the kids only. Consider how many days your trip is (including travel time) and whether you will have access to laundry.

Baby potty – a Potette or something similar
Baby seat – if your younger one needs assistance at sitting at the table. I love the Fisher Price portable one. It does take up space in the suitcase though!
1 pack new crayons
1 pack new markers
3-5 small, favorite books – pick books your kids love and ones that you will tolerate for the entire duration of the trip. Seriously.
Moving vehicles – one per child
Extra Duplo – so they can keep building!
3-4 sticker sets – the dollar bin at Target or Michael’s is your best friend
Inflatable balls – compact and will endlessly entertain your younger one.

Baby diapers – Count 5 diapers/day x days of the trip. Add 3 days extra of diapers in case of delays or heaven forbid, illness!
Wipes – We average 15 wipes/day (yes, I have counted), but it depends on your usage. Wipes are usually easy to find and if you do not have any, wet paper towels work just as well.
Extra medicine
Extra snacks – for the trip home and back up on your travels.
Baby thermometer
Baby nail cutter
Sunblock
N95 masks – especially useful if you are going somewhere with higher pollution levels
Pedialyte – In case the kids get very sick and you need to give them electrolyes

Clothes:
Clothing is highly dependent on the weather of your destination. Cold weather means more clothes because of layering and gear. Gloves, snow shoes, hats, and even snow suits maybe needed. On the flip side, if the destination is rainy or in the rainy season, pack rain jackets and rain boots – they are impossible to find at any store last minute (yea, I’ve looked!)

For your toddler, let him/her help with choosing clothes. You will of course finalize the items, but let them pick their favorite tops, bottoms, undies and socks. They will be thrilled and they get to be part of the process. This is also a great learning and development opportunity for them (very Montessori friendly), don’t miss out on it.

3 Tips to Survive an International Trip with a Toddler and Newborn

That’s right folks, how do you survive traveling with a toddler and newborn across the world? You don’t.

Just kidding! You can travel with babies and toddlers but you need a few tips. And a lot of drinks. Hahaha.

#1 Think positively – This may sound like a bunch of juju, but you are going to make it to the destination. There maybe a lot of crying, screaming, and wondering why you choose to torture yourself, but you and the kids will reach the final destination and hotel in one piece. Take a deep breath and know you are embarking on an experience together – that is priceless.

#2 Entertain & Food
– Depending on the age of your kids, you can provide them with some entertainment. On long distance flights this may mean a lot of toys and creative ideas, short haul flights have it easy. Pack toys and books that your kids like and are light weight. Younger toddlers do well with magnets, stickers, washi tape, and lightweight books. Older toddlers can do sticker books, Duplos, dolls, cars and other imaginative play.

Pack snacks! Lots of good snacks. Don’t bring out the candy and junk food because the last thing you need is a hyperactive toddler. Pack Cheerios (puffs), small sandwich bites, non-juicy fresh fruit like bananas, blueberries, cut apples, rice crackers, cheese sticks, pouches, water bottle and milk.

#3 Give yourself a break – There will be meltdowns. You will cry, the children will cry, everyone will cry. It’s okay. Hang tight. Breathe (see tip #1!). Eat an extra chocolate for yourself. Have a drink. Don’t enforce all the rules you have at home, though please don’t be the parent who puts headphones on and ignores the kids. When you reach your destination, take a hot shower. You deserve it – love yourself.

I hate the cliche that “you can do it!” because traveling across the continent, the Pacific, the Atlantic on a plane with young ones is terrifying. All I can say is, you are not alone.