I tend to over pack snacks and food items for our trips, whether they be by train, plane, or car. I think this stems back to one trip in particular, years ago, when L. was just over a year old. We flew from the States to Athens, Greece, via Berlin. The trip there was fine: we were super-prepared for all eventualities, and had packed lots of munchies and finger foods for L. But something happened on the return--things fell apart in the planning and packing, and I found myself caught woefully unprepared.
There were two reasons for this: one was that when we had made the trip plans back in the spring of that year, Scott hadn't gotten any job offers for that following fall. But joy of joys, shortly after we booked our tickets, he was offered his current position. The only catch: orientation would be in August, when we were still in Greece. As a result, he left Athens early to head back to the U.S. and I was left to fly solo (the horror!) across the Atlantic with a one-year old.
A week before my scheduled flight back to the U.S. with L. he got horribly sick: high fever, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, you name it. My parents and I spent hours in the crowded ER in Athens. L. had vomited all over me early on during our wait, and he clung to me in that desperate way small children who are sick cling, half-asleep and sweaty. There is little that can compare in parenting awfulness as sitting, covered in vomit, with your sick child, in a crowded waiting room in another country, far from home. (Remember when I said traveling with kids was like giving birth? You only remember the good parts? I don't even think about the ER part of that trip anymore, just the memories of little L., standing ankle-deep for the first time in the clean, blue Mediterranean sea, or my grandmother, holding out her hands to him when she saw him for the first time.) But when L. was better, his appetite took some time to charge up again. As a result of all that, and combined with my almost crippling sleep-deprived state, I packed hardly any snacks for the return trip, beyond some cookies, a small container of crackers that he spilled all over the floor right after take-off. Surely they'll have crackers and bread for him on the flight, I thought to myself. Surely...
Surely not, though.
I will not turn this post into a long, drawn out tale of how awful that flight home was, and how the airline didn't have the pre-ordered vegetarian meals ready for us and offered us fish instead which of course neither one of us ate, and how rude and unhelpful the flight attendants were to me, and how many other passengers shot me dagger stares while L. fussed and cried and wriggled for eight hours straight, but I will say that since then I have always over-packed snacks, food, drinks, and anything remotely related to sustenance (I even take a bottle of Pedialyte with us on every trip). I am always desperately afraid we will be caught without.
I've thought carefully about what to bring along for our road trip north next week. In my experience traveling with kids, you have to balance the healthy, filling foods/snacks with a sprinkling of treats. A bag of carrot sticks won't do too much to help you when whining strikes, but a little bag of normally forbidden fruit snacks could be just the thing.
Here are my road trip snack/suggestions:
Carrot sticks and/or celery if your kids like it (mine don't). Crunchy vegetables keep well, and carrot sticks can be used to dip in peanut butter for a small protein boost as well.
Peanut butter + loaf of bread. My T. is a PB & N lover (peanut butter & Nutella) and she'll happily eat one of those sandwiches three times/day if we'd let her. I'm packing an entire loaf of bread, a knife, and a jar of peanut butter for the trip.
Trail Mix. We're bringing two kinds: one with just nuts and dried fruit, and one with chocolate bits mixed in for when the kids (and us grown-ups, too) crave something a little sweeter as a snack. You can make your own, too, by just throwing some of your kids' favorite munchies into a ziploc and shaking it all around.
Apples, bananas, and oranges. These three are, in my opinion, the most portable and travel-friendly of all the fruits. Grapes are okay, but tend to squish unless you pack them in a container. But you can easily throw an orange or banana into a bag and it will keep fine. Apples are pretty hardy, too, and if you have picky kids who won't eat the skin, you can peel and slice beforehand. If you soak the cut apples in ice cold water the night before your trip they will stay fresh longer and won't turn brown. You can, of course, squeeze some orange juice over them, too, and this will also do the trick.
Pretzels. I suspect L. gets car sick and has always felt uneasy when traveling for long periods in the car. Like many kids with sensory issues, he gets overwhelmed by changes in temperature, and the uncomfortable feeling of being out-of-control, strapped into a seat. One thing we discovered years ago were the calming powers of pretzels. We always keep a bag in his backseat, and you can bet we're well stocked for our drive. Pretzels are pretty forgiving snacks and don't crumble or make fingers greasy.
Soy milk boxes (the small lunch box size), or small milk cartons. These are worth the money they cost. If your hotel comes with a refrigerator they are perfect to store for a quick, filling snack in between sight-seeing, or first thing in the morning when your waiting to head out for breakfast. They are also great for the car because they not only quench thirst, but are a filling snack when combined with a muffin or handful of nuts.
Forbidden treats. These can be anything your kids usually don't get at home. My kids think those little pouches of fruit snacks are the best (we never buy them), and I always bring some lollipops along for truly desperate times.
I'm also baking a batch of these muffins, T.'s favorites, and a batch of my standby travel favorites, dried fruit bars. I make these all the time for day-trips and car trips. They keep well, and the dried fruit and wheat germ/flax add a nutritional boost. The last time I made these we headed to the beach for a day trip. We munched the bars on our sandy towels, and washed them down with fizzy lemonade.
Dried Fruit Bars (adapted from here)
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon wheat germ or flax seed
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped dried fruit. I usually use a mix of dried apricots, cherries, and/or plums and raisins. You can also add in chopped walnuts, too, if your kids will eat them.
Mix ingredients into a bowl in the listed order. Add the dried fruit last. Press into a square pan with a lightly greased spatula. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.
I'll be blogging from the road next week. Wish us luck!