Well you knew that was going to be first didn’t you?! Yes I’m a total food bribe on road trips and the longer it takes to eat something the better. We didn’t actually stop for lunch on our trip (but see the Breaks section below), we mostly just nibbled in the car. Below is what I packed for car food - check out Traveling Toddler Treats for other ideas.
- Raw pumpkin seeds
- Grape tomatoes, cut in half
- Zucchini strips — just julienne raw zucchini into thin strips, perfect for munching
- Apple slices
- Peanut butter and pumpkin butter sandwich. I use sprouted grain bread, peanut butter ground from organic nuts at our co-op, and pumpkin butter - it has much less sugar than jelly or jams.
- O’s. Oh yea, the big P as in processed. For the most part I stay away from processed foods but these little gems are my downfall. You notice how there is this big long paragraph explaining myself? Anyway, I’ve been feeding Skyla these since she was one or so and she had her first hippie Cheerio (as in the organic version of the big brand, but don’t we all still call them Cheerios? It’s kind of like Kleenex and Coke and Q-tips and Scotch tape). Actually, I know the first date of the beginning of my downfall into processism because I have a picture of it…yep, it was just a month after her first birthday. The event was actually pretty funny because she didn’t know she was supposed to eat it and kept playing with it. Then another friend turned me on to Happy Baby Organic Puffs that are made with spinach and kale and little or no sugar so at least you feel a little better about feeding them junk food. I mostly give her these on road trips or if I’m in a meeting and need her to be happy for a while. Around this house we call them either Baby Crack or The-Letter-That-Comes-After-N.
- Quesadilla from sprouted grain tortilla, raw cheddar cheese, and salsa. I cut the folded over and pan-fried tortilla into about 4 pieces. It takes her forever to eat one of these pieces!
By the way, I pack most of our food in small glass bowls with lids. The brand I have is Libbey and you can often find them at one of those discount stores like Marshalls or Ross. These bowls fit snugly into the cup holder of Skyla’s car seat and the serving size is great.
Skyla and I have pretty extensive conversations about the present and the future. I think its really important to explain where we are going, who we are going to see, what we are going to do so that she is prepared for the onslaught of hellos and hootin’ and hollerin’ that can happen when you arrive somewhere. And it always amazes me how much she retains. We left on our road trip just before the sun rose so as we were driving and the sun was rising I told her about dawn and how the earth goes around (I know she’s only two but the little ones will surprise you). Now weeks later she brings up how we drove at dawn and another name for dawn is sunrise.
Not only does good music help your mood and make your trip go faster, it also entertains kids like nothing else. We sing songs — all the usual suspects like I’m a Little Teapot, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and The More We Get Together. I updated the latter one to include verses like The More We Hike Together, The More We Camp Together, The More We Canoe Together, etc etc. There are also a few Jimmy Buffett songs that I have been signing to her since she was a newborn. Boy was she surprised to find out that Jimmy knows how to sing momma’s Back Song (Tin Cup Chalise), Some of Us Sailors (Treat Her Like a Lady), and Mother Ocean Song (Pirate Looks at Forty)!
In addition to Buffett, folk and bluegrass music, and The Dead, we also listen to some “kids music.” Skyla’s absolute favorite CD is one my mom picked up from a vendor on her Town Square. Its personalized so all the songs have her name in it. I have honestly heard this CD at least 35 times and I still like it so that says something. I just tracked down the cover, its called PlayNames Everyday and here is a link to the couple’s website where you can listen to a sample of the songs too.
We only got off the Interstate twice during the whole trip, each way that is.
Our first stop was at a bookstore after about 3.5 hours of driving. We walked around looking at books and toys, changed the diaper and went to bathroom, and I got a coffee at the built-in coffee shop. Bookstores are great rest areas because there is much to see and do, they are calm environments, have clean bathrooms (especially compared to gas stations), good coffee, and you can buy a new book for your toddler as entertainment for the next leg if you want. Books as road trip presents are not a bad thing in my mind. We had a wonderful 45 minute stop for about $3. We got gas on the way back to the Interstate.
Our second stop was at a Cracker Barrel. You know that little store they have in there? Its great for letting your youngun tool around and look at things. Perhaps not everyone can do this with their toddler but Skyla is a very calm kid and likes to look at things, stack them or organize them, and understands that things we look at in the store stay in the store because that’s where they belong. Again with the clean bathrooms and they even have lotion testers in the store for after you wash your hands. The employees are all very nice too. I did buy her something in the store, which is something I’ve never done before. It was a little plastic made in China doll unlike anything she has at home, maybe that was why she was so intrigued, ha ha ha. Anyway, it came with a brush and dog and she probably spent 10 minutes with these dolls arranging them together in their boxes. But more importantly, the one she picked out as her favorite was the one I liked too, just kidding…sorta. The doll’s name is now Cracker Barrel and a month later she still loves to play with her. A 30 minute stop for $4 and we got gas on the way back to the ramp.
These breaks were so successful I used the same technique for the way home. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel again, this time I got a coffee and she got nothing. The coffee was actually good! Our second stop was at an old outlet mall where I got a pair of $20 much-needed jeans. I weigh the same as I did before pregnancy (and I’m nursing too — those girls have to weigh at least an extra 1/2 pound right?) but yet I can’t fit into my old jeans. I’m not going to go off on a tangent here about body changing but suffice it to say I was down to 2 pairs of jeans and one of them was developing more and more holes. So that was a little more expensive of a stop but it was a great way to get a change of scenery. Rest areas are also great places if you can find the ones that aren’t directly on the Interstate and have a little more space to run around. We’ve done that on past trips and ate a picnic lunch and walked around in the pine trees learning about needles and pine cones.