Often when I research things about large families, I come up with tips for families that have only 2-4 children. We are a family of 8 (soon). These travel posts are to help bigger families figure out how to survive days of road travel with minimal tension, whining, and stress. Hope it helps, and happy travels!
Other posts in this travel series:
Special Tips You May Not Know
Keeping the Car Organized
Keeping Kids Occupied
Okay, let's be honest. One of the toughest things about traveling is keeping the kids well fed and happy in the car, but not having to stop every 10 minutes for someone to use the potty. My kids drink a lot. A LOT. They are always thirsty - especially if they're bored in the car. We also have at least one child with an incredibly small bladder. We've been training our kids for quite some time now that when they first feel the urge to go, they actually have about a half hour before they really have to go. That knowledge does help when traveling. Especially in states like Nebraska or New Mexico. There's really nothing for miles and miles and miles ...
However, much as we'd like to postpone potty breaks until they are convenient, we also don't want to deprive our children of fluids. So, we have small water bottles with their names on them. These are metal and have a top that won't spill much even if dumped while open. We fill these in the morning or whenever needed and let the kids have them in the car where they sit. I know some people have the policy of no food or drink in the car, but really, water can't do too much damage. The kids are allowed to drink whenever they want so long as they understand the concept of possibly having to wait up to a half hour to find a restroom. And whenever we do find a restroom, everyone tries to go. Even mom and dad. Otherwise, someone will have to go five minutes after you get on the road again.
Not only do we allow drinks in the car, we also allow snacks. Most of our kids are old enough to clean up after themselves and those that aren't are fed by hand from one of the older kids. We try not to pack really messy snacks and always make sure we have trash recepticles on hand. And it's important to remember to empty the trash every time you stop at a gas station - especially if you have fresh fruit leftovers in the trash!
So here are some ideas for snacks:
Fresh fruit: oranges, grapes, bananas, apples, raisins, craisins ... I'd suggest keeping the grapes in a plastic container with a paper towel on the bottom. Be sure to wash them first! And with the oranges, you'll want to wait and peel them on the day you plan to eat them.
Veggies: carrot sticks, broccoli trees, cherry tomatoes. This all really just depends on what your kids are willing to eat. Celery sticks with peanut butter are also great! And peanut butter now can be bought in little individual packets! Genius!
Snacky stuff: Fruit snacks (gummies in our house), animal crackers, granola bars, cheese or pb filled crackers, pretzels - which are also great for car sickness, mini bagels, goldfish, teddy grahams or graham crackers.
Homemade goodies: Muffins, cookies, homemade granola, trail mix, energy bites.
Spoon foods: pudding, applesauce, jello, yogurt.
One of the favorite things we've done on a long trip is bring special treat bags for each new state we encounter on the way there and the way back. As soon as we cross a state, we all cheer and then everyone gets a treat. It helps to break up the trip and recognize little milestones along the way. These bags have the only candy we allow in the car. Things like smarties, reeses cups, gum (great for states with high elevations), fruit roll ups, etc. Find treats that your kids rarely get and they'll be so excited about each step of the journey.