Road tripping is SO nostalgic for me. Growing up, my sister and I were pretty spoiled with only two kids in a full sized minivan- I got the back seat and my sister took the middle seat and we basically had our own little beds to stretch out on. My husband, on the other hand, was always wedged between two of his 5 siblings with Barkley, the St. Bernard, parked on his feet. Obviously we come from VERY different road trip experiences, but we both have amazing memories of these trips! This summer we introduced our girls to the family road-trip life by embarking on a 6 week excursion from Texas, to Utah, Oregon, Washington...and back. Originally, I created this post as a “what we did to prepare for the trip” kind of deal, but things got busy and I never got around to posting it. Which, honestly, is fine because now I can report back on what things were the best and what I’d do differently!
Do you prefer sweet or savory road trip snacks? As the journey went on, it was obvious that I leaned too far into the “sweet” side of snackage in my packing and left out some highly desirable savory snacks. I do however, still abide by the three major guidelines I set for myself when choosing snacks:
1) No chocolate. Melty, sticky, gooey, nope.
2) Stay away from crackers and chips that get crumbly and basically explode all over the car. Goldfish, I’m talking to you.
3) Try to find new and novel options. Fan favorites are always good, but I love throwing in something that will surprise and delight. For this trip I made a visit to Trader Joe's because we almost never shop there and I knew they'd have some fun stuff. A big win from TJ’s was their peel-away fruit leather buttons- Layla is OBSESSED with fruit snacks, aka "'nacks" but I cannot STAND watching her through an entire pack of fruit snacks in less than a minute. The Peel-away fruity buttons slowed her down a bunch, so I’m glad I picked those up. We also did fruit by the foot, which is a less healthy version and also worked marvelously!
If you’ve ever had a dog you’ll probably recognize this trick; the idea is to slow down the consumption of a treat, or just keep your furry friend occupied for a little longer, by stuffing peanut butter, cheese, etc into the crevices of a hollowed out rubber toy. I think this tactic was my most fun and successful diversion from the boredom of being on the road, and it was totally by accident. A few days before we left, the girls each got a tiny little coin purse from a friend’s socially-distanced birthday party. At the last second I packed them “just in case” and I am SO glad that I did! When the girls started whining I’d pack a tootsie roll, gummy worm, or other little treat into their coin purses and then pass them back. They absolutely LOVED the excitement of getting a little surprise! Before we left, I also prepped a bunch of plastic easter eggs filled with similar goodies and sealed them with washi tape. The girls actually did REALLY well during our trip (not going to lie, the DVD player was our BFF) but you know the last 2-3 hours of the 30 hour trip home when everyone is just DONE and ready to be out of the car? Yeah, those eggs were my saving grace. I passed back egg after egg, and to be honest, the girls didn’t even really care what is inside, they were just having fun undoing them and being surprised at the contents. I totally get why those “surprise” toys are so popular! This is like a wayyyyy easier and less-expensive option ;) highly recommend!
DIY Magnetic Tray Tables
When packing activities, so many of the things I packed would be so much easier with a tabletop, so we decided to hack some cookie sheets into lap tables by drilling holes through the edges of the cookie sheets, zip tying buckles to the cookie sheet, and then using a nylon strap that wrapped underneath the car seat to buckle up on the other side. I was SUPER excited about these because I thought they would love using them for eating, coloring, or playing with small toys, but they were kind of a bust. My girls love putting their legs up and so they lasted about 5 minutes with the trays on each time we attached them. Next time I’ll probably just bring clip-boards instead!
Photo of girls with Play Kits
However, I was totally surprised by one of the last minute activities I packed. If you’ve ever been tricked into buying on of those character-themed beading necklace kits in a little plastic purse, you’ll raise a fist in solidarity with me for the disappointment I felt when Ruby ripped it open only to find that it’s mostly plastic filling with a few beads packed into the cleverly placed crevices. BUT HAVE NO FEAR - I found a totally amazing and way more practical way to repurpose these darling plastic purses. I put a few of the girls’ favorite small toys, a tiny play-doh, two popsicle sticks, a piece of tinfoil, and two cookie cutters in each little plastic purse and the girls played with these little kits for HOURS. The little purse case was the perfect size to fit on their lap and give them a little play surface, plus it didn’t require parental assistance to get on/off. Big win. The girls also LOVED their FigLittles magnetic play-kits because of the same concept - the tin boxes gave them a super easy play surface and also contained the toys for easy access.
This was our first time spending a significant amount of time on the road with little kids so, admittedly, I kind of overpacked. Which was fine because we had room to spare, but this trip definitely gave us the confidence to do more road tripping in the future, and I’m pumped to make tons more memories on the road.