Make 24-Hour Go Bags for Your Kids

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Make Go Bags for your kids so that you are prepared for an evacuation in the case of an emergency.

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I’ve been meaning to “get better prepared for emergencies” for awhile now. Last year I did some small things like stock more water and store our important papers in a fireproof box.

We never “think” that a natural disaster or other emergency can happen to us. However, I’ve heard that folks who are prepared when the never actually happened fare much better. It can’t hurt to be prepared.

Where we live the most likely disasters would be earthquake or fire. Our home is more than a mile from the shore, so we’re not high risk for tsunami. I suppose other natural disasters could strike, but those are the major ones in San Diego county.

After Lauren wrote about her kids’ emergency bags, I started buying some of the supplies to put together Go Bags for my kids. I found clearance backpacks at Target after “back to school” and scooped them up. Then they sat in my closet with a few random supplies and I never got them assembled.

The purpose of a Go Bag is to provide the bare necessities for a certain amount of time, typically 72-hours. I made ours to be good for 24 since I don’t have the “extra” to stash 3 days’ worth at this time. But, it’s a start!

This past weekend I finally put feet to my good intentions! The Go Bags are ready to go. Heaven forbid that we should ever need them.

Here’s how to make 24-hour Go Bags:

1. Buy back packs in the same color for all the kids.

My theory on matching colors is this: Using these bags is no vacation. It doesn’t really matter to me that they are stylish or that the kids can tell them apart easily. (But, the opposite rationale, making each kid responsible for his own color is valid as well.)

The situation where my kids might need these bags would be an emergency where we must evacuate quickly. I wanted bright colors and all the same color. I want to be able to look for green backpacks in a crowd and count heads.

I was able to find five in the same green and had a sixth similarly colored bag at home to use for my littlest one. Shopping now at Back to School clearance is ideal. I got these bags for $2 a piece. You’re likely to find a similar deal at this time.

2. Collect supplies.

Lauren offered a great list of supplies necessary for a 3-day evacuation. Due to the expense and weight of 3-day supplies, I decided to prepare a 24-kit for their Go Bags. As I am preparing a 3-day family emergency kit separately, I figure this is sufficient in the instance where we need to leave the house quickly and there might be a chance of us splitting the family up for transport or some other reason.

Go Bags for kids are mostly to provide them with comfort and provisions for a short amount of time. These are in no way luxurious. Here’s what I included in them:

Emergency Contact Information: I found this great Emergency Card for Kids from However, I decided to create my own because there were superfluous fields on the government card.

Here’s mine (with fillable fields) in case you want to try this one instead. I filled out one for each kid, including our health insurance information at the very bottom in “additional information”. I printed each form, folded it in quarters and placed it in a snack bag to protect it from water.

$5 in small bills and coins: Again, this is not luxury. As I’m able to add more money, I will. For now, five dollars can help with incidentals if my kids are separated from me. It can help them buy a drink or make a phone call. The money is in the same bag as the emergency info.

A family photo: I printed wallet-sized photos of our family from Walmart’s website. They were about a quarter a piece. If the kids need help finding us or someone else, they’ll have a photograph to help the process along. This went in the plastic bag with the money and info card.

An extra change of clothes: I didn’t store “nice clothes”. I know there are varying philosophies on this. But, each bag has a red shirt, shorts, socks, and underwear. Again with the matching. I want to find my kids easily.

Toiletries: I used a quart size bag to hold toothbrush, toothpaste, antibacterial wipes, kleenex, bandaids, and a few light sticks. These things got kinda pricey since I didn’t already have them. Look for sales and save those complimentary toiletries from the hotels!

Flashlight and batteries: I didn’t splurge on these, so hopefully they’ll work in the event of an emergency. If you see a good sale on flashlights and batteries, stock up.

Bottled water and granola bars: I packed two of each. Again, this is not a long time supply. But, if we’re separated for a few hours, the kids will have something.

I’m going to be watching for sales on this kind of thing so I can make their emergency supplies a little more substantial.

An emergency blanket: These are thin foil-type blankets found in the camping section. They are lightweight and fold into an itty-bitty storage space. They cost me $1. But, I bet you might find them cheaper if you keep your eyes peeled.

Things that I’ll add as I’m able (hopefully): extra shoes, more money, travel-sized toiletries, sweatshirts, dried fruit and other non-perishable snacks to expand the bag to a three-day supply.

Some of these (sweatshirts, shoes) are things that we use all the time, so I don’t want them tied up in a bag. But, as new items come in for birthdays and Christmas, I’ll stash the old ones in the Go Bags.

3. Store the bags near the door.

The point of these bags is to have them at the ready at a moment’s notice, so they need to be stored close to your path out the door. I’ve placed ours inside a foyer closet in a sweater stacking-thingamabob. They are behind closed doors but right at the foot of the stairs to grab quickly.

4. Plan to check your bags in a year.

We may not use these bags for five years, if ever. But, it certainly won’t help my 9-year old in 2017 if she’s trying to squeeze into 4T clothes. You need to change out the clothing as well as the food and water yearly. I’ve marked it on my google calendar to check the bags in about 9 months’ time.

The granola bars that I added to our bags have a “best by” date of June 2013. My kids are counting the days until they can break into the bags as granola bars are something I rarely buy. Hehe.

Do you have your Go Bags ready?

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  1. As I watch the smoke from a fire about 12 miles away, I remembered having read this at some point, but never acted on it. My husband and I had a plan of action worked out last night, as it was hard to get much info on which way the fire was moving, and now I’m going to gather the supplies to make a bag for each kid. I think I’m also going to print and laminate a list of what we have to do before leaving. We have small farm animals, but no trailer to load them in for transport, so we have a different plan for them than we do for our indoor pets. I need to get some pet carriers to make the time in the car less stressful. I’ve got a few solar powered lights, radio and charger to grab too-might not need those, but they’re here for power outages, so if it’d be easy to load them, might as well. What about extra battery charging supplies?

  2. I am a family child care provider of going on 20 years, and juuuust took the step to a make formal detailed emergency preparedness plan (outside of the requirements) as well as an emergency bag. I really like your idea of having individual bags for children to carry as well as the bags being the same color to cut down on arguing over preference in the event of an actual emergency. I have collected only a few things so far to get started, but a start is better than not, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for sharing your idea!!

    1. Every little bit helps. I like the color coding to be able to spot them in a crowd easily. We did this for years when we went to amusement parks, have everyone in the same color tshirt.

  3. Great website. I am working on a presentation for grade school kids on evacuation plans, and I am including your website as a reference for parents. Thanks.

  4. A couple of hand warmers to add to the space blanket goes a long way to keeping kids warm in cooler weather

  5. Years ago we were alerted to be ready to evacuate due to a large fire in Southern CA. I remember just throwing things in the box in a panic. I would suggest taking some time now and make a short list of “irreplaceable treasures/ photos/ documents & their location”. Place the list with the go bags. Then when you have a short time to grab and go, look at the list and you will know what you wanted to protect & cherish when you weren’t functioning in panic mode.

  6. If the family is traveling by more than one car I would put the car information on each childs information card (color, make, model, lisence plate number), as well as where the family is traveling to (hotel name, location, number; grandma’s house and address). If the family got seperated and something were to happen a small child may only be able to tell others “we’re going to a hotel (or grandmas)”. Cell towers could be out (as in Katrina), and knowing where the other parent was heading would be a big help.

  7. This is an excellent list! Thank you!

    I just posted it on our PPS Facebook wall. I know our community of parents will appreciate the time you put into this!!

    With gratitude,

    Amy McCready
    Positive Parenting Solutions

  8. Just wanted to note the good reason for doing the cash in small bills/coins is that if all you have is a $5 bill then that bottle of water you want to buy costs $5. In an emergency situation it could be difficult to find someone willing to give change.

    1. Thanks for making that point. I kind of assumed that, but should have made that clear.

  9. I read a lot of accounts of people after the fact what they wished they’d done differently. 2 that stand out: if you have a Katrina type scenario you must be able to recreate your life with official legal documents….so copy all that onto stick drives or hard copy (more parents than kids). Also I read about one lady who evacuated due to flooding back east thinking they’d get a long weekend at a hotel and then get back to life. Their house flooded to the second floor and the poor woman was stuck in the hotel with just her crappy gardening clothes for 6 weeks!! SO we decided to pack clothes that were good enough I’d feel ok at a Red Lobster level restaurant, but durable in case we were in a hiking it out type emergency. It’s hard balancing the “we’ll probably never use this stuff” cost analysis with the “what do I really want to have to avoid the my life is over hysteria.”

    1. I think I read that somewhere before. It’s so hard to know. At this point, I feel like something is better than nothing. But, upgrading as we are able is a great idea.

  10. This was a great article! Thank you! This is something I’m working on as well. I found these personal water filters (and have added them to my list of ‘to buy’ items: They are $20 each and would allow your kids to drink any water they find. A little pricey, but definitely worth it, considering there is no expiration date. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I’ve never commented on a post despite following your blog for a few years now and I must say how you have inspired me to be prepared in case of an emergency. I look forward to you following up with your bigger emergency packs for you and your husband. Thank you also for inspiring me everyday with your freezer meals, homeschooling techniques, and awesome recipe swaps. I especially look forward to how you create great meals with your farm share as our family has one as well. :o)

  12. Great start!
    You’ll want something in there to pass the time. I recommend lightweight and small items like a deck or cards, sudoku puzzles (don’t forget a pencil), a small paperback book, crayons and paper (fair warning: crayons can melt if stored in a hot garage) or other age appropriate activities.

  13. You’re so organized. Thanks for the step-by-step directions. I’ve added this to my list of things to do.

  14. Thanks for the article. It’s great that you took “baby steps” and started with a 24 hour kit. Now you can slowly build up to 72 hours!

    I need to update our emergency bags. I had 3, but I know much of the stuff is outdated. Plus, now that the kids are older, most of them can carry their own bag.

    A family we knew once got woken in the middle of the night and was told they had 5 minutes to evacuate their house (the whole neighborhood had to do the same) because of the threat of a flood. Luckily they had their 72 hour bags ready and grabbed those on the way out. You hope to never have to use them, but you truly never know!

    1. That’s how I looked at it. I know that 24-hours isn’t “ideal” but it’s definitely better than having nothing. As we get extra items we can add to them. My girls loved helping me put them together. Unfortunately, my 4yo keeps asking when she gets to use her emergency bag. I think she’s attracted to the granola bars. LOL

    1. I bought them last year at Target’s after “back to school” clearance. They are not super good quality, but they might never get used, so I’m okay with that.

  15. The bags are a great idea. Just a hint. It is wise to store your flashlights without the batteries inside of them. If the batteries corrode, they will ruin the flashlight.

  16. Your title again is a bit wrong.
    This should be a family affair.
    If a child is even 4 years old they can assemble their own to go bag and the to go bag can be for everyday outings as well so that it is used all the time.
    I don’t see why us Mom’s always think everything is our duty. Children need to learn to be responsible for themselves if true emergency does ever happen the more you have taught them the better chance they have to survive. In true emergency you may get separated from them very easily and even as young as four can have skills to find ways to make due until you are able to unite once again.

  17. Our major threat is a hurricane, and we keep our supplies stocked because we rarely evacuate, but I think bags for the kids are a good idea in the event that we are surprised by flooding or another event. Thank you for the great list.

    My children have identical bags that they picked up for free at a carnival, so that is also a cost saving option.

    Kristin, I shall have to look for gas masks, and I think it is time to review our fire escape plan, and make sure my youngest knows how to open the doors and windows to escape.

  18. These are great ideas! Something I’ve found helpful is storing a crankable flashlight so I don’t have to worry about the batteries going bad. IKEA has a great one (we’ve had it nearly two years and it still works great) for $5. One more tip I learned at a meeting was to keep a gas mask underneath each person’s bed (we found them cheap at a gun show). In case of a fire, this could be the difference between life and death, as every moment counts with smoke inhalation.

  19. I love this! We’ve been working on stuff for us but hadn’t figured out specifics for the kids. I really like the emergency card. I’m having a problem filling in the sibling area though. Is the form intended only for one child with two copies? or two kids with one copy? The sibling info copies back and forth so I can’t get each to have the other listed as a sibling.

    1. Hmmm….good point. I filled mine out before they were autofill and realized what a pain it was to retype everything. I’ve fixed it for the top line of sibling info. You can download a new copy from the post. The second and third lines of sibling info will duplicate in both forms, but the top line will let you list different siblings. Let me know if that fix works.

      1. That worked great. I’m sorry to sound picky but I noticed also that the email addresses for the parents copy from the father on the left to father on the right and mother on the right. I hope that wasn’t horribly confusing. Thank you so much for this form and article! great kick in the butt for me ๐Ÿ™‚

          1. ๐Ÿ™ still getting the father’s email on the mother’s section (right hand side)

  20. Thanks for sharing. We live in a tornado zone with no basement. We have our emergency radio and flashlights in the “safest” part of our house and always have our kids put their socks/shoes on if we go into wait-it-out mode. These bags could be easily done for my two. I’ve never been all that great at keeping an earthquake trashcan up-to date but this is a good reminder to refresh/ad to that.

  21. I was thinking along the same lines as Steph: my kids are 2 and 3 1/2 and the idea that they would be separated from me in a disaster is terrifying. I’m not sure they’d know what to do with their backpack. We also live in a tornado area, so maybe stockpiling in the basement would be better? I don’t know.

    1. Being separated from my big kids in an emergency is just as terrifying. But, I could see it happen if you had to put a few in the grandparents’ car or something like that for transport.

  22. Wow, this is a great idea. We just moved to a tornado prone area so there’s less grabbing and going and more hunkering down to do. That said, during tornado season, I gathered all of the necessary supplies to keep us safe in one area so when it got bad there was no searching around for a flashlight or the emergency radio.

  23. Great job. I worked on mine for a bit when you first were discussing them a year ago or so. I also included some very small entertainments – one has a deck of cards, youngest has some crayons and paper
    Everyone has a pen and a little paper for emergency use
    Light sticks and flashlights, some food but no water – that’s a good idea in case we’re separated
    So is money – didn’t think of that!
    I got fleece sweatshirts and such super cheap – maybe old navy sale? – which helped with the weight over regular stuff
    Will be updating mine with your list at hand – thank you!

    1. Great point on the entertainments. I forgot to include those in the pic and so forgot them from the post. I stopped at the dollar section of Target and got playing cards or puzzles to include in each bag. Thanks for pointing that out!

  24. This is a great how-to. We’ve put some emergency planning into gear as a family. But not developed backpacks. I really like the idea of the bright colors, matching colors, matching shirts. And the family photo is a great idea if separated. Thank you for getting me thinking and moving. Hard stuff to plan for but necessary!

  25. What a smart idea!
    I’m brainstorming about Go Bags for a family with 2 preschool-and-younger kids. Kinda feel like the diaper bag is a pretty good Go Bag for now.
    It is lacking in some of those essentials,… maybe I can pack a smaller bag to grab in addition to the diaper one?

    1. That’s probably fine if your diaper bag is always packed and ready. Mine wasn’t always like that.