Parking Lot Strategy


I never realized before I had children that there was need to put such thought into where I park the car.  I went to a couple stores today and realized, as I scanned the possible parking spaces, there are a lot of factors that go into my decision making process.

If you don’t have kids, there are basically two types of parking personalities.  I was the first open spot kind of personality.  I really didn’t care if it was close. I could walk a few extra feet.  I just wanted to park and get into the store as quickly as possible.  My husband was the other personality. The annoying kind The as close as humanly possible kind of parker.  He would circle the lot, passing empty spots he deemed too far. He’d follow someone from the store to their close spot, turn his blinker on and sit and wait while they loaded their car while there was an empty spot two spaces away.  Then he would gloat about how close he got and how I would have taken that other spot and had to walk six more feet.

When Samantha was young, it didn’t much matter.  We kept our parking personalities.  Since we live in California, I didn’t feel the need to park as close as possible to keep her out of the cold.  And since she was little, she didn’t fuss about circling the parking lot fifteen times in hunt of the perfect spot.  So Sean hunted.

Then she started wanting to walk and fussing over car rides.  And Ella came into the picture, then Penny.  And the parking situation got tricky. Here are some of the factors that go into my decision making process.

The parent to child ratio.

A one to one ratio.  Easy. Do whatever. Everyone can handle one child in a parking lot no problem.

A two to one, or heaven forbid three to one, ratio.  Then it’s time for some serious strategy.


Containment Devices

Do you have a baby carrier?  A stroller?  You can park farther away.  If you can effectively contain the situation so you have a one to one ratio or all your children somehow strapped in, no problem.  If there is no containment, park close.


Length of Expedition

This needs to be factored in along with the containment device.  Is it a quick trip into a small grocery store for some cheese?  And you have containment?  Park as far as you’d like.  If  you’re going to Target, or God help you, a toy store for a birthday present not for your child, park close and you better have containment.  Otherwise, it’s time to abort the mission.


Exit Strategy

How many bags will you have to carry, along with your children?  Are you gong to have a shopping cart (this can be included in the containment devices)?  If you’re going to be weighed down, you better be close. If you have a shopping cart, parking near one of those shopping cart corrals might be a good idea.


Surrounding Obstacles

Lastly, you need to consider how you will get everyone into and out of the car.  Are the cars next to you parked on the line?  You’re bound to hit them with your door since, with children, car doors must be open as wide as possible.  Is your spot close so that when you come out, you’ll be surrounded and maybe have to have the kids climb in through the trunk to get into their seats?  This is never a good idea with an SUV.  They figure out quickly they can get out of your reach and there’s no way for you to pull them into their seats until they’re good and ready.


I have found my ideal spot is generally in the middle, with no surrounding cars, and ideally right next to a shopping cart corral.  Where’s your favorite place to park?  Did I miss any important factors?


** Photo by Lower Colombia College via Flickr

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About Jessica Anne

14 Responses to “Parking Lot Strategy”

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  1. Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli
    Twitter: kristinglas

    Always near the shopping cart return. I will forgo the family parking spots to be closer to the corral. I no longer have containment, makes navigating the parking lot very stressful. Actually navigating the store too b/c they like to push the cart or hang off it, which makes steering very tricky. Things fall.
    It’s best to just stay home.
    And you forgot another (annoying) parking personality, he who must always search out a drive through parking spot or reserse in. Good times.

    • Jessica Anne says:

      Yes, staying home is frequently the best option, but if you have to go, gotta have a strategy. And your right, that is an annoying parking personality I forgot. Yuck.

  2. Leighann says:

    You are so right!! Park near the cart coral!! That is my plan everytime. Also? Never too close to another car. Somethings bound to get dented.

  3. Amanda says:

    Plan for how I am going to carry the baby, the shopping bags, and my middle daughter who is almost always throwing a tantrum … because this is what she tends to do when we are leaving the store. I’m glad my oldest will usually listen to me and follow close behind because it’s nearly impossible to juggle all these things.

  4. The Drama Mama
    Twitter: poopscoopinmama

    You are too funny. I am more like your husband AND I will bitch about people that clearly have NO children with them parking in the “Parents with Children” spot that is located next to the handicaps spots, strategically close to the store AND the cart corral. LOL. I love your philosophy.Hilarious!

  5. Lula Lola
    Twitter: lulalola112

    Cart return is a must. Then you can at least load your kids then unload your buggy, and return it without fearing that someone is abducting your kids or stealing your laundry detergent. Kids make you rethink everything!

  6. One of the things I always do is ignore the distance and opt for any space on the pedestrian walkway. I love how there are 18 rows to park your car in, but only two with a sidewalk that meets up with the crosswalk. We like to be right on the sidewalk, it makes it easier to find the car (which I ALWAYS lose), and since my kid is too old for containment, it means we’re just safer.

  7. Renee Schuls-Jacobson
    Twitter: rasjacobson

    You just made me so grateful that my Monkey is now 11 years old and I don’t have to think about this. At. All.

    Ever. Again.

    Still, my father always taught me to “park away” – so that’s what I try to do, so I don’t get scratched or dinged. Alas, my father would not be pleased to see my car. Sometimes it rains, ya know, and a girl has to think of her hair. ;-)

    I am here via LBS. I hope you’ll come and visit my link. It is under my name. Or just click on my blog and search around for something that might catch your fancy!