Monday, July 23, 2012

Pre-Roadtrip Checklist

Don't Forget to Tell Your Bank

This way you don't wind up with your cards not working because the bank is trying to help and shut down your card for security reasons (or in my case, because there was a security breach days before I left and they sent a new card by snail male and gave everyone three days to use their old cards and then automatically shut everyone down without a phone call).  These measures are in place for your security but can really pose a problem for you while you are on the road if you don't plan ahead.

Pre-Trip Inspection at your local mechanics

Your service manager can check fluid levels, tire pressure and other basics just to be sure your car is in safe condition for driving over the long distance AND that it is running as efficiently as possible which will save you money on gas mileage.

Emergency Kit for the Car

Make sure you have your star wrench, jack, spare tire, and jumper cables as well as a flashlight, small pressure gage, emergency yield sign or flares and a patch kit so that should you have a flat, dead battery or get in an accident you have what you need to get moving again.  Should you need a tow or additional help, make sure your AAA membership is up to date.

Emergency Kit for the People

Of course "minor emergencies" can happen along the roadway too.  If you are prepared, most of these kinds of emergencies can hopefully remain minor.  Keep some food and bottled water in the trunk  along with a well-stocked First Aid Kit.  Such kits can be purchased premade but here is a checklist to help you create your own if you wish.

You also won't want to forget your cel phone and its car charger, but for safety's sake, please only use it when you are pulled over and hands free. 

Travel Bucket and Entertainment

A travel bucket will help keep the kids entertained and cut down on sibling (or friend) rivalries.  Fill yours with a few old favorites and a new surprise.  Books, toys and travel games should all go into the travel bucket a few more new "surprises" stashed in the glove compartment to add to the mix before the fighting begins, but as it appears the kids are getting desperate.  Here is a link to my original article about travel buckets how to make them and what to put into them.
I haven't used a lot of technological gadgets for road trips in the past years, but we are adding a DS to the mix this year as well as my ipod instead of CD's (we got an adapter for the car this month).  If you would like to incorporate technology into your bag of tricks to keep your kids entertained, this blogger has some great information for you.

Travel Comfort

If you have a child still at that age where they throw things, try Nini Bungees to help you find all the toys, sippy cups and pacifiers that get dropped (or tossed).

If you expect your child to sleep along the way, make sure to make or obtain a Seatbelt Snoozer.
Make sure to bring a favorite blanket or throw for those sleepy moments too.

Even if they are done with diapers, wipes are a great item to have along to wipe any mess up, cool hot faces, and to dry-wash hands after a stop for gas.
DON'T FORGET to hang a trash bag where your kids can use it!  I have one designed for cars I hang on the headrest of the passenger side bucket seat that I line with plastic grocery bags.  I nest about ten grocery bags together and anytime we stop, I pull out the inner most bag and trash.  The next bag is already there and ready to go.  It just keeps things cleaner, less cluttered and more comfortable.

Food Safety and Convenience Considerations:

Of course you can't forget their little tummies (or yours because a well fed and hydrated parent makes for a safer, more alert and more patient driver).
If you will bring meats or dairy (or anything else you would like to make sure to keep cool for that matter), here are two GREAT ideas to help keep the cooler cold without hogging up space with dripping ice. 
  • Freeze Green Grapes the night before you leave.  They will act as ice would (until you eat them) and they are a fabulous snack to have, frozen or thawed.
  • Freeze wet, but not dripping, sponges.  Even if a hole gets poked in the sandwich bag you put the sponge in, you won't wind up with drips and spills.  This avoids the wet mess of loose ice and sponges are a lot less expensive than the cooler bags you can buy for this purpose (which still drip if punctured).

If I'm traveling without my hubby, I keep the cooler on the floor in the front seat for easy access.  When he is with us, we actually squish it into the "hump" between the seats.  It keeps the cooler out of the sun, out of the way, but within easy reach so we aren't pulling over for every little tummy rumble. 
In this picture you can see the frozen grapes and frozen sponge (in a sandwich bag) that will keep everything that needs to stay cool, cool.  You can also see the assortment of things we might bring thought the sandwiches and baked goods for breakfasts are missing from the photo.
If you don't already have a soft cooler with additional pockets, I highly recommend splurging and purchasing one.  They come in medium sizes that are not terribly expensive and work perfectly for the car (the one above was $20 and works perfectly for two of us for a three day trip).

Such coolers have multiple pockets and some even have options where one area is for items that you want to keep with the "ice" and there is another separate pouch nearby for keeping things cool but not quite as cold.  This is a great place for stashing fruits and veggies as well as chocolate or those yogurt covered raisins and trail mix that includes m&m's or chocolate chips.  Ours also has outer pockets the chips and crackers and things can go in so much of the food is together, but not ALL refrigerated. 

Here are two links that list food safety considerations for when you pack foods: My Recipes Packing Your Cooler and Picnic Safety.


My favorite packaging invention is used for packaging foods like Gogo Squeeze and Buddy Fruits that come in the nice little pouches the kids squeeze to eat.  These are great because the food inside is yummy, they are easy to pack, pre-portioned, and the left over trash is slim and doesn't require a lot of space (which is better for the environment too).  However, unlike "Go-gurt" they don't just squeeze out so easily that when you pick up the package food comes flying out of it leaving you with a huge mess (As a preschool teacher I cringed when I saw go-gurts in my kid's lunches - it was less messy to squirt it into a paper bowl and give them a spoon with which to eat their yogurt).

Other standards could include:
  • Presliced fruits such as melons and apple wedges (spray apples with a little lemon juice).
  • Preshelled pistachios mixed with craisins
  • Sweet Peas still in the pod
  • carrot sticks with a tiny Tupperware of peanut butter for dipping.
  • Peanut drizzled popcorn (or other fancy popcorn that makes it yummy even if it is "stale" like caramel or chocolate).  or flavored mini rice cakes.
  • Many people recommend pre-shelled, hard boiled eggs.  We're not big eaters of hard-boiled eggs and I don't like the resulting whoopee cushion sounds and accompanying smell a few hours after eating these eggs.  If you don't have this problem, enjoy your eggs, if you are like me you might bring a protein shake for each of us for each day we will be traveling instead.
  • Dry cereal favorites, pretzels, goldfish crackers or chips (proportioned is a good plan for avoiding mindless munching AND fights between siblings/travelers).
  • Clif Kid bars and fruit ropes (only one per kid, per day - especially if you also do the shake or egg)
  • A special treat as a surprise such as astronaut ice cream, something to make them laugh (or gross them out) like chocolate covered grasshoppers, or a food they love but don't get very often.
  • A special treat for you.  If you go all healthy all the way, it is more likely you'll find yourself pulling through the drive-thru more than you had intended. 


For Breakfasts:  Pre-made favorite muffins (I bring, zucchini, carrot or bran muffins), scones and/or croissants.  As a special treat I also do Nutella pockets (essentially chocolate croissants).  Save the scones for the last day because they hold out the longest and then pull in somewhere and get hot cocoa (or chocolate milk in the hot months) to dip the scone in (or chase it with) as a special treat.  Eat these with some type of fruit you've packed and a protein shake or squeeze bag treat that contains yogurt.
For Lunches and Dinners: Sandwiches, cold pizza, or cold fried chicken fingers (or other boneless cut) - just make sure you hand out the wipes ahead of time and have plates and a veggie with peanut butter for dipping such as celery or carrots with a handful of pretzels or chips and a few slices of cucumber or melon.
Eat one fast food meal.  You are on vacation after all right?  For ideas to make healthy choices in the drive through, check out the book and website, "Eat This Not That" by David Zinczenko. 


I try to have us do the eating in the car.  That way stops can be about having a chance to move around instead of becoming an opportunity to sit some more.  Plan ahead and choose a few parks along the way where you can stop for 30-40 minutes and bring a ball to toss around or a similar favorite for out doors.  Every one will stay in a much better mood this way (though I'm not guaranteeing complete harmony).
If you want to take advantage of your drive and are willing and able to make the trip a bit longer, you can use our national parks as places to stop, go for a short hike and see the visitors center and then grab a camping site or hotel room to crash before starting off in the car again the next day.  Or you can stop in the major cities along the way and take advantage of one of the city museums, landmarks or events before crashing for the night and heading off again the next day. 

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