I have written before about road trip tricks, but my preparation for our recent trip to Colorado really left me feeling great. In 2016, we took a three day car trip to Florida for my sister’s wedding. This time, our road trip was only eight hours one way. As for passengers, we had our two dogs (one of whom is an energetic puppy) and five humans. We have made this Colorado drive every year for about 15 years, so we know the route pretty well. However, I was very determined to have this road trip be a healthier one than in the past, and I also wanted it to be as relaxing as possible. Here is how I prepped for entertainment, hunger pains, and a family that still loved each other by the time we hit Colorado. Here’s what I packed:
- Two Redbox movies
- Fully charged screens
- Coloring/maze/chapter books with markers
- Baggies of Legos
- Beef jerky/fruit snacks
- Small cooler for Capri Suns/carrots/apples
- Dog cushion
- Old dog toys
- Rawhide sticks
- Poo baggies
- Two new dog toys
- Collapsible water dish
Now, when I look over my list, I think about how different my in-car supplies are compared to the supplies my parents packed for our road trips. We are so lucky with all of our entertainment options for travel, but I still feel like a genius when our trips go well.
I learned from a very good friend and blogging partner the magic of Redbox movies. Not only are they usually new, but they are $1.50 each. I am not a fan of buying movies since we don’t really watch them again (unless it’s Sing, Frozen, or the Goonies), so I love the option of having one or two new movies to make the road trip fun, and finding a Walgreen’s in our destination town to return them is super easy. To add to the anticipation factor, I make my kids wait at least an hour before we begin any movie or screen entertainment. I know that’s nothing like the patience we needed in the 70s or 80s, but hey, it’s something. By the time the movies are applied, the kids are busting at the seams to see the newest flick. The second movie isn’t activated until after our rest stop excursion. And our kids must read at least one of the hours on this trip. (My oldest finished an entire Hunger Games book on the way home, so I think he may have read a bit longer.)
Since our minivan is the size of a house (remember how much I love my minivan), I decided to give the oldest kid access to the snacks that he can deploy when I give him the go-ahead. He feels super responsible being the one in charge, and the other kids are excited that the snacks are near them. I packed Slim Jims and almonds to quell their protein needs until lunch, and fruits and veggies to make them earn a stop at a fast food restaurant.
The best part about having separate snack bags for kids and adults is that their palettes are not picky yet, so they are super happy about cheap Slim Jims, while hubby and I get the good beef jerky, and our veggies are dipped in hummus. It’s the little things.
Our One Stop
On our Colorado trips, we only make one stop. One. Non-negotiable now that everyone has complete control over their bladders. Our day trip made it so our one stop aligned with lunch. We have these rest periods down to a science. I take the dogs for a walk while hubs fills the tank and takes the kids to the restroom. We get our puppies their water, hit the drive thru, and continue on our way. When these stops work out the way we plan them, I feel invincible. A kind of exhilaration that mirrors freshly vacuumed carpet, 8 straight hours of sleep, and a glass of wine after a long day. It’s the kind of pride only road trip planners can understand, and this year’s stop was just like that.
Finally, you’re probably wondering about those puppies. They were perfect. Even the little Aussie. When I sensed they were bored and eyeing something they would like to chew, I gave them one of their old toys. After our stop, they both received a treat and a rawhide, and in the last hour or two, when they were getting tired of being polite, I gave them each one of their new toys. I love to spoil my pups so much, and these things were great pieces of incentive to keep up the good behavior.
We learned on our last road trip that we cannot order value meals for every person in the car and still afford our mortgage and car payments, so the strategic snack planning (that was equal parts tasty and healthy) made our kids full enough to only want a sandwich or a taco from a participating dollar menu. This was brilliant. Instead of 40 dollars at a drive-thru, we only spent 8 bucks. And, I had already filled their bellies with fruits and veggies.
In addition, I really dislike fast food. I can’t take the smell or the “taste” of it at all. Knowing this, I packed myself a chicken salad in our small cooler and munched on my own veggies and clean protein from my passenger seat. No grease. Nothing gross. Just healthy.
I write a lot about my parenting struggles and embarrassing mom moments, so it felt really good to write about that time Tessa got it right. Here’s to successful road trips. I hope the next time you are locked in a moving apartment with a whole bunch of living beings, that some of these tips help make it manageable. As always, we’d love to hear your sanity-saving advice on our blog and social media pages.