You’ve seen it. You look over the back of the driver’s seat and the floor is covered in day old
or month old bread crumbs. Compliments of that piece of bread your 2-year-old just had to have on the way to the library. Next to that is a soggy carrot stick, bendable from sitting in a car kept in the sun-beat driveway. No idea when that one escaped. There’s a fruit leather wrapper, super sticky and inside out, plastered onto the cup holder in the back row. Then deep in the buckles are the unmentionables. You stick your fingers down there, trying to loosen the crumbs so when you vacuum, it can actually suck them up. You might knock off a blueberry that had tried to congeal to the side of the buckle and pull out no less than 15 almonds. Moving inward, you start to tackle the car seats. One of them has a permanent rattle to it. Once upon a time, you thought that giving the children pistachios with shells was a good idea. For the car, not so much. The shells were put in the booster cup holder, cup holder closed, booster turned upside down, and shells stuck for eternity. And the sand? Thanks to a beach trip with a lack of rinsing water, you brush the car fabric and it expels sand clouds for your enjoyment. Gum. I’m not even going there.
So here we are, about to enjoy another such vacation.
Being in the car for at least an hour will give you a taste of the entertainment and food necessary to keep children happy for HOURS. Think at least 11 hours.
Not that we have it down
see above if you think I’m lying, but I might have a couple things that have made it easier. Two categories for you: tummy control and brain engagement.
This works in two ways. In and out. Both necessary and part of a long car drive. We’re getting real here people. You want the truth…I’ve had a plastic bag with certain smelly nuggets in it at my feet for part of a trip. That’s not happening again! Seriously, I should get paid the big bucks for this job.
This said, you do have to plan bathroom stops. Each of the kids gets a water bottle filled at the beginning of the trip. That’s all they get. Our potty rule is you have to get out at every gas stop, no matter what. And no matter if you feel like you need to. Stick to your instincts here, you know they’ll call “potty” 2 minutes back on the road. There’s usually at least one side-of-the-road stop in there anyway. The last couple times this has worked very well, but we have yet to potty-train our 2-year-old. Two words: liquid control.
And there’s the in. Car food can go unhealthy fast. Without planning ahead you’ll grab the chips, cookies, fruit snacks, pop tarts, lunchables, jerky, mentos, and soda without even blinking. If I give myself 3 days notice, I can collect a healthier and better variety for my crew.
My possible food list:
Bags of Cereal (for breakfast at 6am on the road)
1 Yogurt per child (for breakfast…a sometimes treat at our house)
Healthy Banana Muffins
Pumpkin Banana Muffins
Peanut Butter Date Bars
Small peanut butter packages to dip apples
Raisins or other dried fruit
Small Hummus packages to dip veggies
Peanut Butter Granola Bar Bites
Fruit Leather or fruit ropes (preferably the leather, sometimes the ropes)
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Hummus, Tomato, Cucumber, Lettuce Sandwiches (bring stuff ready to make in the car)
Triscuits or Multigrain chips
Gluten-free Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Nuts and seeds
A quick reminder that not eating every minute in the car is okay and actually good. Kids don’t need that much food. You don’t want to get out of the car feeling bloated and gross. Besides, this will give time for your kids to brain engage and for you to actually sit facing forward in the front seat. Hopefully with a small minute of quiet.
Wouldn’t it be cool if Santa was out checking on the kids in the world and happened to drop a bag of presents on top of the car? That’s exactly what happened when Tyler was little. Every hour or so, my MIL would stick her hand out the window and magically bring in another entertainment activity. They had everything from pipe cleaner people to spreading Elmer’s Glue on their hands and holding them out the window. I’m sure you remember how the glue dries and then you can peel of the glue “skin” from your hand. Good trick!
I don’t support the glue in the car, but I do have my prize bag collection going. This is just an idea and these are the things that made the cut this time, I know this will change with each trip. So make your own to your kids needs and your budget. Budget in mind…this should be budget friendly. We’re not going for a holiday vacation in the car.
My possible prize list:
Flip cards on a key ring
Stamps markers and papers
Color Wonder coloring sheets
Small toy for each child (keeping in mind they will be playing with it in the car)
Small paper bags to decorate with crayons and play as puppets
Scotch tape (because it never gets old)
Bag of library books they haven’t seen yet
Books on tape you haven’t listened to
Square paper to make fortune tellers
Good luck and enjoy the post trip excavation
cleaning! What is the craziest thing you’ve found in your car? What’s your favorite travel food? Do you have any go-to kid car activities?