This morning we are about to start the third segment of our annual family road trip. Day nine of fourteen days traveling through Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina visiting family and friends.
Over the course of the trip, we will have spent over sixty hours in the car, slept on four different beds, visited in six homes, and hugged the necks of dozens of friends both old and new.
Traveling by yourself can be taxing, but when you add three small children who thrive on routine and familiarity, being on the road for an extended amount of time can be downright difficult.
And yet, for many of us, if we want to see people we love and give our children new experiences, taking kids on road trips is simply a part of life. (And worth it).
We have had a wonderful trip so far and I am so thankful that we have the resources to take the occasional road trip. We started our trip all together (my husband, myself, and our three kids) with a full and fun time in Florida. Then my husband had to return to life and responsibilities, while the kids and I carried on the tour alone.
I want to share with you what has made the biggest difference in helping my kids cope with the stress of traveling. This one habit has benefited us at bedtime, during fun outings in new places, while being buckled up for hours, and with our overall attitudes and behaviors.
Advice you don’t want to miss on your next road trip with kids…
Make it a priority to eat healthy food.
So simple, right?!
Often, when we think of road trips and vacations, we think of gas station snacks, fast food convenience, and indulging in sugary treats. It’s easy and quick and seems like the perfect occasion to enjoy a little (a lot) of junk food.
But even though it may seem counter-intuitive, being on the road is actually one of the most important times to be giving our bodies nourishing foods and limiting the amount of sugar we eat.
Before you stop reading and write this post off as completely unrealistic, let me encourage you that it can be done with minimal hassle and the effects are well worth the effort.
5 things eating healthy on the road does not mean…
1.The food we eat is more important than the people we see.
There are ways to make healthy food decisions and choose nutrition while spending time with people who don’t eat the same way. I will share some of what we have found helpful in an upcoming post.
But the whole reason we are on our road trip is to see friends and family. Obviously they are important.
A road trip like this one provides many opportunities to love people more than food choices, to practice receiving hospitality humbly, and to show true gratitude for people’s generosity. All of which are some of the most important lessons I can teach my children.
2. Everything has to be fresh and organic.
I choose organic when I can afford it and fresh usually tastes best, but neither is crucial to eating healthy food.
There are so many great options for healthy food on the road. I’m excited to share with you what we love (coming soon!).
3. It takes hours before a trip making all homemade snacks.
Spending a lot of time in the kitchen before a trip is not necessary to eating well on the road. Sure, we do have our favorite snack foods and picnic lunch foods I may prepare, but a lot of our travel food is healthy convenience food I picked up at the store (often Costco).
4. Taste is not important.
Um, I’m not going to eat it if it doesn’t taste good and neither are my kids. Healthy does not mean bland or yucky.
5. Treats are bad.
We love our treats and my kids ask for them all the time just like everyone else.
Prioritizing healthy eating on the road simply means we choose real food treats and keep them as special occasions rather than something to be expected after every meal.
5 things eating healthy on the road does mean…
1. Bodies are being replenished with the energy and nutrients they need.
Road trips are exhausting, simply put. We are physically, mentally, and usually emotionally pushed to our limits.
When we were in Florida, we visited a nature park, the beach, and SeaWorld in just three days. Temperatures were high, the sun was out, and a lot of walking was involved.
We didn’t need a bunch of sugar and empty carbs as our primary food. We needed plenty of water, good sources of proteins, and fruits and vegetables that would energize us for more than an hour.
2. Whining and crazy behavior is at a normal level.
Notice I said “normal” level.
No matter how much lettuce my three-year-old eats or how many times my four-year-old chooses an apple as his afternoon snack, whining and energetic behavior will continue to be a part of our days.
I do, however, always see a marked difference in their behavior after they eat foods full of processed sugars and artificial food coloring.
I can help to set my kids up for success and self-control by providing healthy options to eat.
3. Bedtime is a little more manageable.
Putting kids to bed in any bed other than their own, in a strange (to them) room with unusual noises and lights, makes most parents want to pull their hair out. At this point in the day, everyone is soooo tired and mom and dad are looking forward to the first quiet moment of the day.
So when the requests and getting up are unending, so are the prayers for patience and grace.
My husband and I both know quite well that giving our kids sugar before bed means adding an hour to the whole process because they just have such a harder time settling down.
We both observed, though, that we did not have hardly any issues at all when we were on the first leg of our trip. I really think that a large part of this has to do with food.
4. Everyone is more “regular”.
I won’t use a lot of words on this, other than to just say that when you are eating well and not loading up on junk food, your body will continue to do what it should be doing.
For kids on road trips especially, keeping them regular is an important part of keeping them happy.
5. Everyone is less likely to get sick.
A healthy diet helps to make for a strong immune system. Vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, and so on, keep our bodies ready to fight whatever germs we encounter as we travel.
So what now?
Next I will share all about how we prepare before a trip to prioritize healthy eating, what meals look like on the road, and how to buy a “fast food” meal at a grocery store. UPDATE: Check out the how-to companion to this post full of packing lists and meal ideas for eating healthy on the road!