Military Wife

10 Things Every Military Spouse Should Have in the Car at All Times

Inside: When military life happens, these are the best 10 things military spouses can have in their cars at all times.


I was newly married and my husband was deployed in Afghanistan. Translation: zero communication. I was on my own to navigate the ins and outs of military life.

And then it happened.

One of the most embarrassing things I ever experienced.

I’m standing in Dunkin’ Donuts on base, chatting with a non-military girlfriend who was in town visiting and a man walks up to me. “Excuse me, ma’am. You will have to leave. You are not allowed to be in here in PT gear.”

In total shock, I quickly respond, “Oh no, sir. I’m not a Marine!”

At which point, he proceeded to tell me that this rule applies to everyone and I’d have to leave.

Related: 12 Military Life Etiquette Rules Every Military Spouse Should Know

Totally embarrassed, confused, and a little annoyed at my husband for never telling me about this rule, I walked out as quickly as possible. As I was walking out keeping my head down, I felt confused. Sure, I was wearing tennis shoes, but with leggings, an appropriate shirt and pearls. PEARLS! Who works out in pearls?! But, alas, it didn’t matter. I was just “lifed” out of Dunkin’ Donuts for wearing PT gear.

And that was the day I started carrying an extra outfit in the back of my car — just in case I was on base after an actual workout and needed to run into the Commissary or coffee shop really fast.

10 Things Military Spouses Should Keep in the Car

As military spouses, we know that we can never be too prepared for the roller coaster ride of military life. Here is my absolute, go-to list of items no military spouse should ever go without having in her car (Hopefully, this will save you a little embarrassment and heartache).

When military life happens, these are the best 10 things military spouses can have in their cars at all times.

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1. Cell Phone Charger

Okay, let’s start with the most important. Deployments happen, as do last minute TAD (temporary assigned duty) trips, long hours, and the ever changing arrival times.

Military spouses don’t have the same kind of control over their schedule the way a civilian might. This is why you never want to miss a phone call.

Keeping an extra car charger is a must. You don’t want your phone to die unexpectedly!

2. Cell Phone Car Mount

It’s not worth the risk of getting caught holding your phone on base while driving. I saved myself the drama and got a car mount for my cell phone. This way I can use my GPS without violating the base’s no handheld cell phone use policy.

If you get pulled over, it’s not just you who will have to deal with it, but your service member’s command is likely to get a call too. Not worth it.

3. Bluetooth Visor Speakerphone

If your car isn’t outfitted for Bluetooth phone capabilities, make sure to also snag a Bluetooth visor speakerphone so that when you get that long awaited phone call at the most inopportune time – driving on base, isn’t that how it always works? – you can answer the phone and talk without risking a ticket from the military police.

4. Registration and Insurance Card

At anytime you can be asked to provide your active registration and insurance card when driving onto base. Don’t forget to print and put the updated copy in your car so you don’t get denied base access!

5. Roadside Emergency Kit

As a military spouse, you don’t always have the luxury of calling your spouse or a good friend to help you out in an emergency.

We’ve all be in the situation where we are new to a duty station and don’t know anyone yet or in the middle of a deployment without the help of our spouse.

The thought crosses your mind, what would I do if I had an emergency right now? Who would I call? Carrying a roadside emergency kit in your car with all of the necessities – jumper cables, first aid kid, tow rope, etc – is a life-saver.

recovery from a military pcs move

6. Reusable Shopping Bags 

I usually shop at the Commissary and order whatever else from Amazon Prime, but of course sometimes I find myself at a register off base.

That is when I’m reminded that the base is federal land, not state property. In California, that means you pay for shopping bags if you don’t bring your own.

This is also true in Washington, DC, Montgomery County, MD, Brownsville, TX and other cities around the US. My guess is the list will continue to grow.

Keep a couple reusable shopping bags in your car at all times, so you don’t get stuck paying extra for a bag out in town. Every penny counts.

7. Yeti Mug

This is the best travel mug I’ve found to-date. It will keep your drink hot or cold for hours. It’s the little things that can keep you going on days you’re stressed. Plus, your service member will secretly love having a Yeti mug too.

8. Multipurpose Tool

Life happens, which is why a multipurpose tool can help you in so many different situations. Think: Needle nose, regular pliers, wire cutter, sharp knife, bottle opener, small, big, medium, Phillips screwdriver, fish scaler, ruler, nail file double side, hook remover, can opener and saw. 

…All in one compact tool that can fit in your handbag. So resourceful!

9. Extra outfit that is on-base friendly.

As I mentioned, ever since that dreadful Dunkin’ Donuts experience, I just store an extra outfit in the trunk of my car. In a moment, I can dress myself up enough to go in somewhere on base with one of these kimono cardigans (even when wearing leggings) and that pair of flats I also keep on hand.

10. Extra house key.

You definitely don’t want to get locked out of your house and have no one to call for a spare key. There’s a couple of different options based on what you feel comfortable with.

You could use this magnetic key holder (it’s the best one out there) and attach it to a secret place inside or outside your car. Or you could get this small lockbox with a punch code combination.

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