Road Trip Meal Ideas

Our drive to Florida was adventurous and part of the fun is definitely eating at places along the way.  However, we did want to be careful with our time and money and did the best with could with packing meals.  PLUS, we noticed that after a greasy fast-food meal, we felt so sluggish.  Here are some ideas that worked well…

I prepared all of this the night before and when we left early the next morning, I took everything out of the fridge and packed it into a cooler for the car.

Storage/Supplies

Tupperware: I kept all of the snacks (that didn’t need to be cold) in a tupperware bin that had a nice cover on it – that way, the things that might get crunched would be protected and I could find it in the car easily.

Cups: Target had a great little set of disposable cups with covers and straws that was helpful – I brought and bought drinks that they kids split so the cups were so handy.

Baggies: Target also had colorful ziplock baggies so I designated a color to each child so I knew who got their snacks along the way.
Putting pretzels, crackers, fruit and veggies into these small baggies is so helpful because then you can just throw the baggies to each child and they had a nice portion and didn’t spill all over the car.

Cooler: Obviously a cooler is necessary for things you would like to keep cold.  We loved using a large soft-bag kind this last trip because when we didn’t need it, we could easily fold it up (whereas the hard box kind would just take up space).

Driver Snacks: This is something I did differently this trip and was so glad I did.  I packed a separate bag of snacks for my hubby and I because I wanted them easily accessible for us while we were driving.  A few of our favorites: sunflower seeds, celery and carrot sticks, and hard candies all are munchies that keep us attentive 🙂

Breakfast

  • Frozen yogurt sticks – defrosted by the time we were ready to eat them.
  • Toasted bagels ahead of time, then spread them with cream cheese.
  • Juice boxes (froze half of them so that the ones that the kids would have for lunch would keep the other food cold and defrost by the time we needed them)
  • Grapes – already washed and cut in half and put into baggies for each person.

Lunch

  • Tuna pasta salad – my kids aren’t crazy about this, but my husband and I love it.  I usually make mine with pasta, tuna, celery, a little mayo, and my favorite: lemon-pepper seasoning.
  • Pita pocket sandwiches – work well to keep the meat and cheese (or whatever you have) from falling out as you eat it in the car.
  • String cheese
  • Oranges and/or apples

Snacks

  • Carrots and celery
  • Lindsey’s Energy Bites – awesome for their sweetness and protein
  • Applesauce pouches – those ones with the twist off top are so easy and convenient for travel!
  • String cheese
  • Any other snacks your family likes, but the key here is packing them into baggies ahead of time.

Road Trip Activities for Kids

Road trips are an adventure in themselves, but with kids?  It’s a whole new kind of adventure!  We have taken several LONG ones and would like to share, in hopes someone will benefit from some of them.  The following ideas are for various ages, but mainly toddlers to elementary school-aged kids.  For Road Trip Meal Ideas, check out THIS POST.

I felt a little silly when I packed for this 27-hour road trip, because I was spending so much time preparing activities – well, let me tell you, being “over prepared” was a good thing.  One thing to remember, it’s great to have variety because some of the things I thought they would spend lots of time on, they didn’t and other things I wasn’t sure they’d even like, they ended up loving.  

Each child had their own 3-ring-binder, which they chose the color for ahead of time.  Inside, I put things that were specifically for them.  Most activities were inside of a clear sleeve so they could use a dry-erase marker on it and wipe things off.  On the front cover, they had a map of the country so they could follow the route if they were interested.  This is a good idea because they had a visual when they asked how much longer we had to drive!  They had a pouch inside that held writing tools (including dry-erase markers, washable markers, pencils, pens, etc.)  The 7, 5, and 3 year old all had varying Car-BINGO sheets so they could play together along the way.  The older two had Sudoku (kid-versions), Tic-Tac-Toe sheets, math problems, word searches, and mazes. There were coloring sheets in the pocket so they could color – they picked out what they wanted ahead of time.  The younger two love stickers so I made sure I had a large variety of those (start collecting those free address labels you get in the mail!)   I packed each child a backpack with their things inside…they did not get to look inside until we hit the road!

Be Prepared: Kid-Care Kits

One of the biggest things that we parents can do to make every experience a little more enjoyable, is to be prepared. I do love to fly by the seat of my pants, but being prepared for the “what-if’s” is something I started thinking about early on. When my husband and I were walking through Disney World a LONG time ago (pre-kids), I witnessed a very prepared parent moment: a child was running with excitement for seeing Mickey Mouse and took a terrible spill, skinned their knee to the point of bleeding (and screams)…no longer than 3 seconds later, a random dad whipped around, pulled out a mini-first aid kit from his stylish fanny pack and smiled saying, “a good parent is always prepared.” Well, even good parents can definitely be unprepared too, but that moment was foundational for me in how I think and hope to be prepared. So, at the risk of sounding like an overly organized person (which I’m not really), I would like to share a few of my ideas on being prepared!

 
Mom Purse: This Eddie Bauer satchel is the best bag I have ever owned. A few of my friends have made fun of me for whipping out a first-aid kit, lemonade mix, or mascara from my “Mom purse” but I love to be prepared! I bought this bag about 11 years ago and it has been through just about everything. I have washed it in my washing machine several times and it comes out looking new! I provided a picture of thebag and all of the things I currently have in it. The secret is having a lotof pockets and compartments with zippers.

The current contents of my bag include (but are not limited to!): 10 diapers, diaper wipes, hand sanitizing wipes, camera, extra onesie and pants for the baby, Oxy-clean spray, Shout wipes, baby Tylonal, big kid Tylenol, mascara, travel-deodorant, razor, Neosporin anti-sceptic cream, band-aids, Benadryl cream, mini-Play Doh, silly-putty, hand lotion, sunblock, powdered lemonade drink mix, Mio drink drops, gum, toothpaste, chapstick, phone
charger, sunglasses, comb, compact powder, pens, crayons, and a chocolate bar for mom 🙂
 
Deck/Porch Bin: In Minnesota, we spend a good 7 months out on our deck.

It becomes an additional “room” where we play and eat and do crafts. After way too many trips in and out of the house to get the same things over and over, I decided to fill a big Rubbermaid Tupperware with some commonly used items. We keep it in the corner of the deck and I purposely got a neutral color so that it doesn’t stick out too much against the house.

Some ideas of things you can keep in this: Tablecloth, bubble blowing supplies, beach towels, paper towels, plastic cups, paper plates, bug spray, candles, sunglasses, sunscreen spray and lotion, hand sanitizer (my kids play with toads), wet wipes (for after sticky popsicles), band-aids.
Side note: I keep all of the items that kids should not touch such as bug spray, candles etc, in a separate smaller tupperware with a
top that clicks shut.
 
Car Kit: In each car, we keep a small, pencil box tupperware filled with

various items that come in handy while away from the house.
These ideas can include: band aids, gum, nail clipper, postage stamps, comb, floss, small kid scissors, tape, pens, envelopes (you never know!), hair binders if you have girls, feminine products, and batteries.
 
Stroller Sack: This could be a pencil box or a soft pouch that closes, but it’s nice to just know you have a few items in the stroller in case you don’t bring a huge bag or purse along.
Items can include: SNACKS, band aids (always handy), wipes, hand sanitizer.

This may sound like a lot, but it makes our lives roll this much more smoothly!

>> Also check reviews of best stroller for baby at my new friend’s blog – babystrollercarseatcombo.com

A Week of Vacation Meals

Part of the fun of traveling is eating good food! Everyone has a different style of travel, but what you will read here, are our kid-friendly and budget-conscious tips.

 
The key to planning your meals efficiently is finding recipes that use overlapping ingredients. The sample menu listed here is obviously if you have a kitchen at your vacation location. We go to the grocery store one time at the beginning of the trip and get all of the perishable ingredients. There are a few things you can bring from home so that you don’t have to buy them and end up with waste.
 
Sample Menu for 4 Dinners
 
Night 1: Tacos – cook 2 pounds ground beef. Refrigerate half and mix in 1 packet of taco seasoning for this meal. Chop 1 can black olives (refrigerate half for pizza night), chop 1 half green pepper (refrigerate half for pizza night), chop 1 large onion (refrigerate 2/3 for pizza and spaghetti nights), chop 2 large tomatoes, chop lettuce (refrigerate remaining for a salad on spaghetti night) and open 1 can black beans. Serve with small container of sour cream and 1 package shredded cheese. Either buy a bag of tortilla chips or tortillas to build your own tacos.
 
Night 2: Chicken and Rice – Bring along a small baggie of chicken seasoning and a small baggie of salt in your suitcase. Also bring a small travel bottle of olive oil. Buy a box of Uncle Ben’s Original rice. Cook chicken in a pan with 1 Tablespoon olive oil, season with chicken seasoning. Serve with rice.
 
Night 3: Pizza – Buy a package of 2 pizza crusts, 1 package shredded mozzerella cheese, 1 large can of tomato sauce, 1 can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning, 1 can pineapple tidbits, and 1 bag of pepperoni. Bring a small baggie of 2 tsp dried basil, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp salt, 3 cloves of garlic. Mince the garlic and make the sauce with these ingredients. Use the chopped ingredients from taco night (green peppers, black olives, 1/3 onion) and build your own pizzas. Save the leftover sauce for spaghetti night.
 
Night 4: Spaghetti – Cook remaining 1/3 chopped onion and 1 clove minced garlic in a pot with a drizzle of olive oil. Add second half of meat that you cooked on the taco night. Add remaining pizza sauce and 1 more can diced tomatoes, 1 tsp dried oregano 2 tsp dried basil and a dash of sugar and salt. Cook your noodles. Serve with remaining lettuce for a salad. Make your own salad dressing with 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 clove minced garlic, pinch of salt and pepper, 1 lemon squeezed and equal amount olive oil.
 
So, to sum it up:
 
Bring from Home: 7 cloves of garlic, approximately 6 ounces Olive Oil, salt, pepper, sugar, Packet of taco seasoning, approximately 4 tsp dried basil, approximately 4 tsp dried oregano, dried chicken seasoning of your choice, 1 box spaghetti noodles, 1 box Uncle Ben’s rice. See “Packing Tips” on how to travel with these items.
 
Buy at Store: 2 pounds ground beef, 1 pound chicken breasts, 1 large green onion, 1 large white onion, 1 large lemon, 2 tomatoes, 1 large head of romaine lettuce, 1 large can tomato sauce, 2 cans diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning, 1 large can black olives, 1 small can pineapple tidbits, 1 bag pepperoni, 1 bag shredded mozzerella cheese, 1 bag shredded mexican cheese, 1 small container sour cream, tortillas or taco shells.

Packing Tips

Whether you are going on a short trip or a long one, packing requires planning. Will you have the chance to do laundry? If so, that makes things a LOT easier. If not, your bags might be a bit larger 🙂 My young children are very talented at decorating their clothing with food at each meal. Below are a few tips that I have found work well when going on trips with my kids. This will be an ongoing list…

 
  • Kids’ backpack: If your children are 5 years old or younger, don’t plan on them being able to carry a whole lot in their backpacks. Try your best to keep it light. I usually put several snacks, light activity books, ziplock bags of marker/crayons, an empty sippy cup (buy a cheap one so you aren’t bummed if it gets lost), a small package of hand wipes, and then a larger ziplock bag of light clothing (I put the clothes in a bag so that they can remove it when they are getting out their activities and nothing gets lost).
  • Mom/Dad carry-on: SNACKS are a must. I put them in all sorts of places in my carry-on so that they are at-the-ready! Hand sanitizer (gel must be in the ziplock bag if flying) or wipes, numerous diapers, an extra onesie and pants for the baby, band-aids, gum or suckers, Clorox wipes to wipe off the airplane tray table or restaurant highchairs, extra pens and crayons, Shout clothing wipes, camera.
  • Making Meals there? Check out the A Week of Vacation Meals for more on this. Here are some ideas on how to package certain items you might bring if you will be cooking only a few times and don’t want to buy everything there.

– Olive oil: Find a small travel shampoo bottle (3 ounces or smaller if you are only taking carry-ons) and put some in there…bring more if you are checking luggage.

– Spices, salt and sugar: Measure the amount you will need into a ziplock bag, label so you don’t forget!
– Coffee and coffee filters
– Laundry detergent: The powder kind is easiest to travel with
– Pancake mix: Makes great breakfasts
– Dry pasta and cereals: Keep them in their box so they don’t get crunched
So much of this depends on what kind of trip you are going on – but these are just a few of the things I have found to be helpful for when we travel.

  • Specific Favorite Activities: Some things we have had and LOVE include the following:

– Rand McNally, Boredom Breakers Travel Card Games: These are for ages 3 and up and include three easy-to-pack card games (“30 Second Interview” – answering questions about yourself, “Tough Choice” – choose between two options, and “I Saw It First” – try to spot roadside landmarks)

– Leapster: A small, hand-held video game that is has very good, educational games for children ages 3 and up.
– Iphone Apps: there are several educational games for free as well – just search for “kids games” or “kids games and flashcards”
– Paint with water books (use water to paint fun pictures – check your local bookstores)

Travel Via Airplane

Flying can be difficult and stressful WITHOUT kids…so, here are some things that we have learned to make the experience less stressful, and maybe even a little enjoyable!
 
  • Prepare your children: Even if your child is only 18 months old, give them a good pep talk before the flight. You know your child best, so adjust things according to their age and temperment. On our recent flight to Florida, I saved the pep talk for the drive to the airport (children ages 5, 3, 2 and 5 months). We discussed the importance of following directions. It helps to explain that there will be many people in charge at the airport and on the plane (security staff, police, the pilot, flight attendants) and we must do exactly what they tell us to do. Everything is organized so that we are safe. Explain what they will do at the security checkpoint (keep it simple: take off coat and shoes, put bags on table that goes through a camera, walk through a doorframe, and get everything back). Explain what they will do on the plane (sit in seat, wear a buckle, keep feet off the chair in front of them, put bag by their feet). The key is to make everything sound important and special.
  • Prepare yourself: Much of the preparation for you will be smart packing. Check out “Packing Tips” for more ideas. But, also just do your BEST to remain calm and not worry about unnecessary things. Don’t plan on reading your favorite book or magazine (and then if you get to, it will be a perk!) and sorry to say it, but don’t even think about getting yourself a delicious latte to sip on (that is unless your children are much older). I save that latte for when we get to our destination 🙂 If you remain calm, your children will most likely remain calm. Many airports now have a designated security line for families. When you arrive to the airport EARLY, ask an airport staff member if they have a special line. My hometown airport has designated the security line to the far left. However, with that said, on our recent trip to Orlando, the “family” line in Orlando was no different from any other line. Hope for some help but don’t expect it. If you are traveling with a baby, bring a sling or baby Bjorn to put the child in while you walk down the narrow airplane aisle. It helps A LOT!
  • Dress for Comfort and Ease: To help the security checkpoint go more quickly, dress yourself and your children appropriately.
– Avoid wearing belts (these will need to be removed)
– Wear slip-on shoes, if possible (also need to be removed)
– Where socks if you feel grossed out walking through barefoot
– Remove your cell phone or anything else from your pockets ahead of time
– Dress in layers but if you can, avoid coats because those will need to be removed
– Fleece pullovers work great for the kids because planes often are a little chilly
– If you are a nursing mother, wear something comfortable and easy to nurse in
– Limit accessories so that the detectors are not set off by any metal
– Use the restroom several times before getting on the plane – we do our best to avoid using the airplane restroom – put a pull-up on the kids who are prone to lots of potty breaks!
  • Ziplock Bag: Seasoned travelers know about the restrictions of liquids, aerosols and gels in the quart-sized ziplock bags. However, if you haven’t flown in many years, you might not know about these requirements. Anything that is a liquid, aerosol or gel must be packed in your checked luggage OR if it is 3 ounces or smaller, it can be put inside 1 quart-sized ziplock bag. See the TSA site for specific information: http://www.tsa.gov/311/index.shtm. Keep in mind that if you have a medication, baby food or baby bottle, these can be brought through, just have it ready to show to the security staff.
  • Stroller Tips: When going through security, you will need to fold up your stroller. Sometimes the staff will carry it through and sometimes they will have your put it on the belt to be checked. Make sure there isn’t anything in the bottom of the stroller that could fall out. Your stroller can go all the way to the door of the plane with you. Check with your airline but with MOST airlines, it does NOT cost a penny to do this. When you get to the gate, you need to talk to the agent at the desk and they will give you a special tag to put on the stroller. Wheel that baby right on down to the end of the door of the plane and that is where you need to fold it up and set it by the door. The staff will take it down below the plane and once you arrive, it will be waiting for you when you get off. Save yourself a lot of trouble and make sure all of the pockets and area below the stroller are empty. Don’t use a stroller that you love and would cry over if it gets banged up (the staff do us a great service taking it below the plane but might not handle it with the same care we do). I always bring a baby carrier, like the Baby Bjorn to carry the baby in after this part. That way, you have your hands free to carry a carry-on bag and help your other children get seated. –> Also check reviews of top strollers at here!
  • Car Seat Tips: On our recent trip to Florida, we chose to bring all four car seats so that we wouldn’t need to rent them. Again, check with your airline but MOST of them do not charge. You can check them like regular luggage for FREE! However, bring along large, black, heavy-duty garbage bags and tape to package them in. There are also special bags sold in stores for this very purpose. Once you arrive at your final destination, just pick them all up at baggage claim like you would your other luggage. If you do this, don’t forget to bring extra bags and tape for the trip home!
  • Luggage Tips: Most, but not all, airlines charge approximately $25-50 per checked bag, each way. Check with your airline to confirm pricing. If you have a Delta SkyMiles American Express card or are flying Southwest, everyone in your family will get 1 free bag on domestic flights! There are also weight and size limitations. You can find that information on your airline’s website. My husband and I are kind of crazy and when we went to Florida for 2 weeks with our 4 kids, we brought all carry-ons! (see the picture) It was a fun challenge and so Ifigure I could provide tips here on that. We were fortunate to have the chance to do laundry while we were away, so we packed only 5 outfits each. I wore a backpack and carried my “mom purse,” my husband carried a large duffle bag and computer bag, the two older kids wore backpacks with some clothing and activities, and we put the last kid bag in the stroller. We checked 3 car seats and had the baby in her infant seat (which was checked at the gate along with the strollers). See the “Packing Tips” section for more information.
  • Activities While Flying: Depending on the ages of your children, you will want to have plenty of activities for them during the flight. Yes, a small DVD player is nice to have, but there are other things to bring along. Keep in mind that depending on where you are seated on the plane, hearing the movies might be difficult without good earphones. I usually pack a couple of mini play-doh containers (need to be in the ziplock bag), coloring books, crayons and markers, stickers, toy cars, mazes, paint-with-water books, LOTS of snacks, empty sippy cup (just ask the attendant to poor the drink directly into this to avoid spills), gum or suckers, silly putty (also needs to be in the ziplock bag), Mr. Potato Head, Legos…those are just a few ideas. Every trip, I have made “treat bags” with new items for them to enjoy – this keeps things interesting and they don’t get to open them until we are on the plane. If you have an infant, try to have them nurse or suck on a bottle while taking off and landing to avoid ear issues. We let the older kids chew gum. Always embrace the calm moments – if they are content just sitting there, then don’t suggest anything else. Bring out new activities only when needed…the time will pass, but it does feel long if they are having a tough time. Remain calm 🙂

Travel Tips


Travel has always been a big part of my life. I grew up in a family of six also, and my parents gave us the gift of traveling early on in our lives. Before my first child was born, I worked for a company that organizes group musical tours all over the world. I feel fortunate to be able to share some of the tips I have learned along the way (and will continue learning!). Sarah and I will add our traveling tips in the links that follow…please feel free to post your comments on other tips you might have for those traveling with children!

 
Travel via Minivan (or other) – coming soon!
 
 

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