Car-Free with Little Kids

Friday, February 3, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

We have been very blessed to live in an area where having a car is not necessary. I have not personally driven in almost eight years, and we have never owned a car. Many family and friends assumed we would need a car after our first child was born, but I especially love being car-less with kids. They develop a lot of walking stamina and leaving the house is as simple as putting on shoes, and maybe strapping on the Ergo, and LEAVING.

It's not possible in every area, but, if you want to give the car-less life a shot, here's how we make it work.


Budget lots of travel time

Little legs have a max speed, so it normally takes me a good 20-30 minutes to get somewhere that's a mile away. I've found it's worth it to take a more pleasant route that is a few minutes longer, than the quickest, but less beautiful, path. 


Practice different terrain and going longer distances

We live in a very hilly area so my early walkers all get lessons in how to go up and down hills. (It's more complicated than you think.) We also ease in to longer longer (and hillier) distances bit by bit with the toddlers to build up stamina. The goal is to get my 3 year olds comfortably walking a mile.


Backup Babywearing

Just in case the toddler is less ready, or just less cooperative today, than I had hoped - I bring a backup Ergo in my tote bag. It beats carrying a deadweight toddler (or worse, a squirming toddler) in arms until you get to your destination.


Cut down on what you need to bring when out and about

Space is at a premium when you have to carry anything you might need while out. I have a zippered tote bag of sand toys that comes along to the park, and I bring water bottles for everyone, but that's mostly it. I don't carry snacks, backup clothing for the potty trained, or toys and books. Therese is most of the way to potty training so I don't need a diaper bag (or bottle bag) right now.

Figuring out what you really need and use is important to achieve feeling less like a pack mule.

Get a transit card

We have these lovely transit cards in my area that are loaded with funds that are applied when you touch the card to a reader before boarding a bus, train, or trolley. There are often discounts for using the cards (instead of buying a pass every morning), and it's phenomenally faster with kids.


Join a carshare

Eventually there comes a need to go further than your legs, or the bus lines, will allow. For things like hikes and Thanksgiving visits, we use a car from our local carshare. There are cars located all over the city and you check it out for a period of time. All of the carshare companies have their own rules and rates so shop around. (For weekend trips, it's often cheaper to rent a car from a traditional car rental. Again, shop around.)

Additional note: invest in a carseat that is lightweight and easy to install. Those bases are not helpful when they don't stay in a car.


Make use of delivery services and DIY

We live very close to a grocery store, but carrying bulky or heavy things home is still a challenge. I've made use of the Grove Collective, Amazon Prime, and for bulk wipes, cleaning supplies, formula, etc. 
I also DIY a much of things that I just didn't want to carry home anymore - bone stock and hand soap are my biggest ones. Now they're cheaper and better than what I was buying at the store AND I don't have to carry them home. - win!

What questions do you have about being car-less with kids? What did I leave out? Share your tips too!


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  3. These are great- I don't really live in an area where I'd feel comfortable walking places (Streets!Cars! Controlling 2 and 3 yr olds plus a 5 month old!) but I was looking into a triple stroller so we could walk more. That's amazing your little ones are building up the strength and stamina to walk a mile at a time! Honestly, what stresses me most about going out is getting everyone in and out of the carseats alone, so walking more sounds great to me!

    1. Because we live in an area that has narrow sidewalks and narrow stores, if I use a stroller I typically use a single stroller, wear the youngest kid (I love my Ergo), then have any additional kids have one hand on the stroller.

      It does take a while, and requires some persistence, to have the kids build up the stamina to really walk decent distances. But once they do, it's an amazing world of freedom! We can easily take family hikes and I have expect my 3-4 year olds to walk the whole thing. It makes the whole experience much more enjoyable!

  4. Oh man, I thought the title said "CARE free with little kids" and I thought you'd tell me how to lower my stress level. These were great tips, too, though.

    1. Hahaha, I can see how scanning the title would cause that. I do have this piece if you're interested:

  5. This is so cool!!! I think it's awesome that you get your kids moving around. You have really inspired me with your ideas (especially since I don't have a car when my husband's at work). We don't live in a very pedestrian-friendly area, but when we hopefully move to a house in the future, we're going to try to get someplace that is pedestrian-friendly so that I can get out and about more often, especially as Peter gets older. I think it's interesting that you pack so lightly-I'm guessing that perhaps it keeps your kids from having accidents because they know you didn't bring a change of clothes, so they're stuck with what they've got-has it worked like that for you guys?

    1. We will likely have a lag for cars once we move to the Twin Cities, so I'll report back on what is different living somewhere that doesn't have a walkscore in the upper 80s.

      We have had times where kids got pretty wet playing in water at the park, and they had to walk home in wet clothes. There just really wasn't another option. They learned to take off their shoes and socks before going into water - since that bothered them the most - but they say they don't mind wet pants. If it's not super cold I'm cool with them finding what amount of uncomfortable they can live with.

      The only time I've had issue with clothing getting soiled from accidents are in my diapered kids, and they have a simple change of clothes in their wet/dry bags. They only have one though so if that gets dirty too it's just time to head home.

    2. That is so neat that your kids are adaptable like that! I am interested in hearing how things go with this as y'all adjust to life in Minnesota!


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