It’s crunch time and Hubby and I are up late doing last minute packing tonight. Just when I thought I was about to zip up the suitcase, I found this great road trip printable idea from www.thedatingdivas.com that I just had to share. Thanks to these handy printouts I can add cute logos to the Cubs’ (my girls) road trip snacks. Some of toppers allow you to write in the name of the cities that you plan to visit. I’m affixing these tags to brown paper bags filled with little prizes and 4th of July goodies that I got at the 99-Cents Store earlier this week. The Cubs can’t open the prize until we reach the city listed on the front of the bag. This game will sharpen their map reading and navigation skills, keep them engaged and add a little anticipation when we reach each new city. Now they won’t have to ask if “we’re there yet?” If they don’t get a bag – then we’re not there. “Happy Trails.”
Now that “wheels up” is only 24 hours away, we’ve got to get it in gear today to pack the car and get ready to roll out on our epic road trip adventure. One of the best parts of preparing for the trip is when the Cubs (my girls) pack up their summer readers, books on tape, travel journals, power up the old DVD player and make their movie selections for the road. Since we will be in the car for long jaunts, we’ve decided to try and set aside a reserved time for a “Minivan Matinee” to make watching the movie more of a special treat and help break up the ride. What better way to enjoy a Minivan Matinee than to watch a few movie classics about “actually going on a road trip?”
Although there a lot of entertaining and hilarious road trip movies out there, not all of them may be suitable for younger audiences. So, I’ve divided up the list to include some of our family-fun favorites for kids of all ages, as well as a few my “Mommy-Friendly” picks.
Family-Friendly Road Trip Movie Picks
Wizard of Oz
The Muppet Movie
Are We There Yet?
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
College Road Trip
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Mommy-Friendly Road Trip Movie Picks
Thelma & Louise (of course)
The Bucket List
The Guilt Trip
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Little Miss Sunshine
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
National Lampoon’s Family Vacation
Last time our family took a really long road trip, we spent a lot of time in restaurants, grabbing gas station snacks, or idling in drive-thru lanes woofing down burgers, milkshakes and other Supersized fast-food delicacies. Yes, I know being on vacation affords you a bit of “culinary leeway,” but I’m really trying to put in an effort by making healthier and more cost conscious choices this time. I’m finding that with a little planning we can help cut down on food expenses while on the road by hitting the grocery store to make our own car snacks and other munchies in advance. And if you like, the money saved can be used for a special stay at an upgraded hotel property, a fancier night out for dinner, one more hot stone massage, or quite frankly – just another tank of gas!
Today after church, we decided to hit the bulk food aisle at a new employee-owned grocery store in our area called WinCo Foods http://wincofoods.com/. It prides itself in being a supermarket low cost leader – and it’s great! The concept is sort of like a cross between a big box membership club store and a local farmers market on steroids. They had all of the items we were looking for to make our own trail mix and other minivan gourmet specialties. We loved the dried fruit, berries, granola, nuts, sunflowers and the awesome array of mixings. The Cubs (my girls) will have ball at home making their own individual snack stashes to munch on in the car.
We also plan to take a cooler that we can put other food items in to make continental breakfasts, and deli lunches complete with veggie trays, humus, olives, yogurt and cases of bottled water. Just stuff we can eat on the fly whenever we want. We also hope to enjoy locally grown produce from fruit and vegetable vendors to supplement the other food we’ve packed to keep items fresh and flavorful.
Buying the dry food ahead of time is a great way to find your favorites. It’s best to stick with nonperishable food as much as possible (but in our case, the food doesn’t stay around long enough to actually “perish”). But don’t limit yourself to ONLY dry foods. Having a few special condiments, milk, and other usual foods also can come in handy with the cooler and help you stick on budget that will be kinder to your wallet and your waistline.
Here are some other road trip foods favorites:
- Cereal and Milk
- Breakfast or protein bars
- Bagels and peanut butter (or cream cheese if you can deal with keeping it cold)
- Nuts (like cinnamon almonds – great way to get a protein fix early in the day)
Lunch or Dinner:
- Cheese and crackers
- Lunch meats
- Sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly or lunch meats and cheese with mustard)
- Olive Oil, pepper, and a great loaf of bread
- Trail mix and/or nuts
- Dark chocolate (This is my Hubby’s favorite – I’ll have to keep it dry in the cold cooler, but it’s so worth it. After a long day on the road confined with three women in a tight minivan, he’ll think that chocolate bar is the best thing since Sports Center).
— “Happy Trails.”
Yesterday, I got a wonderful care package at my doorstep from some dear friends who know that we love trying out new road trip activities on our adventures. It’s a Family Travel Pack chock filled with games, puzzles, Mad Libs, “the world’s greatest word game,” http://www.madlibs.com/, Travel Time Trivia Volume 2, (not to be confused with Travel Time Trivia Volume 1), videos and music CD’s that are sure to be great “boredom busters” as we motor down America’s highways and byways next week. In the past, the Cubs (my daughters) loved decorating the minivan windows when we go on trips to summer camp by using car paints that usually drip, run and are a bear to clean off. But this time, we’ve got a supply of “Window Crayons” by Crayola http://www.crayola.com/products/window-crayons-product/, that come in a variety of colors and are easy to use on any surface. Best of all, they wipe off great! I know you’re probably thinking “what mom let’s kids decorate windows on a car trip?” Well, I do. (My “Diva Card” got revoked a long time ago when I got married, had kids, got a dog and started driving a minivan named Maypearl, so hey why not?) Besides, I just love the idea of having my rear windshield being covered in flowers, smiley faces and sayings like “Hollywood or Bust” or “Are There Yet?” It just makes it fun. Another one of my favorites from the Family Travel Pack is the “Interstate Highway Bingo” card. I know it’s old school, but I enjoy giving the Cubs an excuse to look up from their cell phones and to challenge them to be on the lookout for items listed on the bingo card like a tree grove, a rest area or even a state trooper (which actually could come in pretty handy). The Travel Pack also included a list of “Conversation Starters” that are great ways to get families talking and sharing while on the road. There are things like – “Which would you rather explore outer space or the deep ocean, and tell us what you would like to find there?” or “Where would you fly if you could fly like Superman for the day?” or even – “What are two things we should do as a family on the weekends?” There are so many more! And the cool thing is you don’t have to be on a road trip to use these conversation starters – you can just be sitting around the dinner table or having quiet time before bed. I guess the most important thing is that you “spend intentional time having conversations.” Take a little time to talk and laugh. It really doesn’t matter if you’re on vacation or just bumming around the house. Enjoy these priceless moments. No “Diva Card” required.
Now that we’re officially a week away from our epic road trip adventure, I decided to take “Maypearl” (The Minivan Express) in for state inspection and service. I’ve been on the web all week researching what you’re supposed to do to get your vehicle “road ready” for a long trip. I want to help minimize the chances of breaking down, getting a flat or dealing with any other unforeseen mishaps along the way. Right now, I freak out at the mere thought of getting a flat tire a mile away from home, let alone 3,000 miles away in the middle of nowhere. Then, I continue to work myself up in a tizzy thinking about being stuck in some long-forgotten ghost town that looks as if it could be a backdrop in a scene from the “The Walking Dead” (which I really wouldn’t mind so much if one of the “Walkers” can point me in the direction of the nearest Starbucks). That’s motivation enough to get the car checked out! So here I am at the mechanic’s shop getting the fluids checked, tire pressure checked, the spare tire checked, the state inspection updated, on and on. All the things you’re supposed to do to make sure your car is safe. The mechanics at Auto Clinque are wonderful and they have got Maypearl all ship shape and ready to roll. Bryan at the shop recommends coming in at least 1-2 weeks to get your car looked over before you hit the road. After you make sure your car passes muster, check out my favorite “Mommy’s Minivan Road Ready Tips” that might make your adventure even more fun (and safe).
1: Tell somebody where you’re going. Give your itinerary to your mom, your girlfriend, a neighbor – just somebody you trust. And if you do go off the grid, at least they can tell Anderson Cooper where you were “supposed” to be.
2: Take lots of paper towels for spills and messes, and don’t forget trash bags, yummy snacks and anti-boredom activities for the car. (More on that later). Enjoy books-on-tape and lay off the handheld electronics. Part of the road trip experience is actually seeing “the road.” Talk to each other, tell stories and simply enjoy the “company of confined spaces.” Did I mention paper towels?
3: Don’t try to drive with endless 500-mile days. (Hint, hint Hubby). Break it up. Stop and see the sites. Research the history and culture to make it fun for the kids and yourself.
4: Stay away from trucks. Trucks are mean.
5: Forget high speeds. Sure and steady is the way to go. You can enjoy more mountain vistas and drive more twisty miles than someone bent on making the best time across the mountain pass AND you’ll save on gas. Remember, cruise control and cup holders are your friends.
6: Lastly, have a good attitude, an open mind and a joyful heart. The rest will follow.
Now that we’re officially getting “Road Trip Ready” this summer, it’s time for a mini “Warm Up.” That means taking ole “Maypearl” (a.k.a “The Minivan Express”) for a daytrip to the country. For us, we not only like to take in the sites, but also the “tastes” of summer at a local blueberry grove in Edom, TX cleverly called “Pick ‘n Edom” Blueberry Hill Farms. Edom is a heavenly slice of small town Americana with one street light, one roadside restaurant and even an old telegraph station. Next to making “emergency retail pit stops” at Edom’s picturesque antique shops, our next favorite thing is going on an annual pilgrimage to pick blueberries right off the bush at Blueberry Hill Farms. Being city gals, my cubs (daughters) had only seen blueberries in the produce aisle or in the jelly section at the grocery store. What a treat to see where blueberries actually come from! We meandered all along the rows picking ripe, plump goodies right off the branches and even filled buckets with blackberries too. Best of all, the farm includes a wonderful barn stocked with an aromatic array of blueberry goodness including pies, mixes and everything in between. We so enjoyed visiting with owner Chuck Arena who had just bought a doughnut maker from Michigan and whipped up fresh batches of blueberry treats for us right on the spot. (I’m still licking my fingers just thinking about it). Looking for a great day trip for you and your family? You don’t have to go far – just check out the local farms in your area. It’s a great way to pick farm fresh fruit right from local growers and get your kids outside to see where “real food” comes from. And if your travels take you to East Texas, you can always visit my friends at Blueberry Hills Farms at www.blueberryhillsfarms this June- July from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.