As I’ve mentioned before, I’m more than a bit apprehensive about flying with my family, so we’ve become big fans of the road trip. My son’s food allergies complicate things slightly, but with some advance planning and food prep, we’re on our way!
About two weeks before the trip, I like to hit Pinterest and read some of the creative tips that other parents have collected as far as keeping kids busy and entertained. I find this helps to get my mind in planning mode.
Next, I start collecting my supplies and planning my attack. Our local toy store has some excellent travel games and toys. I’ve found that the key is having lots of options for entertainment. I’d rather be overprepared than run out of things to do. Some of my boys’ favorites include the age appropriate workbooks and little sticker activity books pictured above.
Like many families with food allergies, or otherwise, we tend to primarily cook at home, so fast food from a rest stop just doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve found that the key for our success is planning, pre-portioning and packing ahead. Environmentalists beware: this road trip runs on lots of plastic baggies and individually wrapped items. We load a soft cooler with customized meals for everyone. Sandwiches work well, as do small yogurts, carrots, grapes, sliced apples, SunButter to-go packs, and other whole foods that aren’t messy or filled with sugar. Depending on your children’s favorites, you might want to include homemade muffins, wraps, or quesadillas. To keep us organized, the night before we leave, I pack a meal kit in a large Ziploc for each family member with their favorite sandwich, smaller Ziplocs with snacks (I buy large bags of snacks like pretzels and dried fruits, for example, and repack individually), and a water bottle with their name on it.
In a separate tote bag, I pack a variety of snacks in individual portions that don’t need to be refrigerated. Some of my sons’ favorites include beef jerky, fruit strip bars, cereal bars, and crackers. Normally, I’m against snacking in between meals, but on a road trip, I hand out snacks constantly. You’d be surprised at how quickly a small bag of goldfish or dried fruit will calm a case of the wiggles. I also keep extras in the trunk, which we continue to use when we arrive at our destination.
The day before our trip, I like to clean out the car. I remove any extraneous items from the side pockets and glove compartments. I load my areas in the passenger side with everything I will need within arm’s reach including baby wipes; our Epi-pen and auviQ stash; small first aid kit which includes band-aids, Neosporin, Benadryl and Motrin for the children, and Advil or Aleve for the adults; and garbage bags and Ziploc bags in various sizes.
My survival items on any road trip include pre-made coffee such as Starbucks bottled iced coffee or Starbucks Via iced coffee packets that can be made in a water bottle (I have learned the hard way that my caffeine headache will set in by 8 if I don’t get my fix), my Kindle which I load with several ebooks, every electronic device we own with extra batteries or car chargers, child-size headphones, and this handy headphone splitter that my husband discovered which allows the boys to watch a movie together. I’m lucky that my husband does the driving, and he loves listening to audiobooks to keep focused and alert. I hit my local library and borrow a few audiobooks on CD or download podcasts to my iPhone. It’s always good to have options because if you only bring one and it doesn’t work out (annoying narrator voice, malfunctioning CD, or you just don’t like that book) then you’re stuck pressing the scan button on the radio. (My favorite books this year include Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Delancey by Molly Wizenberg, and Nickeled and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. Hubs enjoyed Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. We’re both obsessed with the Serial podcasts, which you can download to your phone.)
If you’re traveling for the holidays, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful. How do you survive a family road trip (especially a road trip with food allergies)?