Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How to enjoy a road trip with kids: Food

Originally I had titled this, "How to SURVIVE a road trip with kids." But then I realized that surviving is always possible. And my kids are actually pretty good travelers. So I switched it to "enjoy" because enjoying something is way better than merely surviving. Also, I have to acknowledge that this really only applies to my family since who knows if other kids have an infatuation with sticker books. Or Happy Meal toys. So let me begin, and cover the basics.

This is my "prepare for success" method of trying to anticipate any need we may have, and packing accordingly. This means that in my college backpack (yes! It still works! Thank you Jansport Super Pack!) behind my seat, I have the following: Big compartment - surprise time items (more later); medium compartment - DVDs (more later); small compartment: iPod, window markers/crayons, extra pencils/pens, dramamine/advil/tylenol (and now excedrin!), hand santizer, tape, chapstick, scissors, stamps, neosporin, bandaids, and safety pins.

Next to that bag, directly behind the console that sits between Joel and myself, is our collapsible cooler packed with frozen juice boxes (to thaw/cool), cut up apples, baby carrots, string cheese, chocolate milk boxes, and whatever other coldish things I want to bring. Maybe an extra water bottle, but not ALL water bottles. Note: Peeled oranges to not do well because they get mushed and are juicier and juicer=messier.

Next to THAT bag, behind Joel's seat, but within easy reaching distance, is the SNACK BAG. This is where I give myself free reign to go CRAZY. What did we bring this time? Beef Jerky (lots of it), peanut butter m&ms (lots of them), starburst, sour patch kids, chocolate covered pretzels, veggie straws, goldfish, dum-dums and red vines. I re-implemented my strategy from our previous road trip of giving the two older kids small gift bags filled with baggies of snacks (1/4 c of candy, 1/2 cup of crackers, or just a mess of veggie straws or several slices of apple). They had picked out a treat for themselves (Donovan=hot tamales; Ainsleigh=Reese's peanut butter cups) and so that was the only difference in their bags. This way, they have a variety of snacks in the back seat and don't have to ask me for a little something here and there. I think this helped with staving off carsickness. This time I also reminded Donovan about what happened LAST time (if you don't know - he got a major stomachache when he gorged himself - lesson learned!).

So the kids have snacks to start, but if they want more, say, goldfish, I dig into the Snack Bag where there also resides a roll of paper towels, a box of ziplock bags, and several plastic grocery bags. I retrieve the ziplock bags and the snack, fill, seal, then throw it back to them. Hooray! As they have garbage, they put it into a plastic grocery bag and whenever we stop, I do a brief scan and toss it. Empty wrappers are NOT YOUR FRIEND on a road trip.

Finally (snack-wise), everyone has a sport-top water bottle with their name on it. Drinking water is cautiously encouraged. I say cautiously, because excessive liquid intake results in more stops and STOPPING IS THE ENEMY. Our goal is to stop no sooner than every 2.5 hours, and every 3-4 hours is preferable. And that's how we roll.

Oh, when possible, I pack a lunch in a smaller cooler that stays in the back. When we're doing two days of driving back-to-back, we buy a lunch on the second day. This is where Happy Meals come in handy. When we were getting off the freeway to go to McDonald's, Ainsleigh said, "Um, Mom? I thought you said McDonald's isn't good?" And Donovan joined in, "Yeah, you said it's gross." Did I? "When we have In-N-Out available, we go there. When we have Chick-Fil-A, we go there. When we're in the middle of nowhere and our option is McDonald's, McDonald's is great. Plus, they have free wi-fi and Daddy needs to work." They were a little skeptical. I didn't make a very good case, I guess.

I have to hand it to McDonald's - they've upped their game. Plus, they had an amazing play place where the kids went crazy while Joel finished uploading some stuff. I had a salad that was pretty good. But the kicker was they got TOYS! Who knew three Batman (I think?) figures would entertain Donovan so much. They did.

Generally my rule is to KEEP DRIVING while eating because a) everyone is quiet for a little bit, and b) it gives them something to do while the car is moving forward. When we stopped at the play place, I had a bit of anxiety as the minutes ticked by and we were NOT moving forward. But Joel had to get some work out, and the kids deserved some activity.

Confession time: I started out this roadtrip with a 44 oz cherry coke and 2 excedrin. PREPARE FOR SUCCESS, people. Most gas stations from here to California offer refills at half the original price. Let's be honest - at 44 oz, I'm not doing a ton of refills. And Joel is helping himself to some. But anyway, there it was. And I am pleased to announce that I did not have a migraine. And THAT is a major factor in ENJOYING a road trip.

This is getting long. So tomorrow I will delve into the ENTERTAINMENT aspect of enjoying a road trip with kids. Stay tuned!


loewymartin said...

My next road trip I'm packing you.

mary kaye said...

Oh, I remember the days...but we didn't have DVD's. And Afton liked to sing while the boys pleaded (whined) for me to make her stop. The boys like to tease which made Afton cry. They didn't have to stay in seat belts or any kind of restraint system for that matter. Thus wrestling and physical confrontation could ensue. Common remark..."Don't make me pull over and take care of you!" Terry never let me drive unless the kids we asleep and he didn't have to deal with them. He made me make the sandwiches while the car was moving because he didn't like his sandwiches soggy. If you don't think it is a trick to juggle mayo and mustard in a moving car just try it. Naturally we would be on a bumpy road around lunch time. To this day when we hit an extremely bumpy road we joke that maybe it is time for me to make lunch. My method of survival was to wrap up packages for each of the kids to be doled out at specific hot wheel cars after 2 hours, or activity books after lunch. Because they were in birthday wrap it was like getting a present. They were cheap but the kids were excited to get them. I kept those all day suckers on hand for that moment I was going to go insane because it took a long time for them to suck them down to nothing and as long as the suckers were in their mouths - the kids were quiet.
Good luck on future trips.