Here is some clutch advice for road tripping 25+ hours with a 1 year-old with multiple food allergies, a 2 year-old and a Husband (HAHA!). Okay, maybe “advice” is the wrong word…these are just things that worked for us and (fingers crossed!) if we get to take a road trip again in the near future, this is what we will hit “repeat” on for the next time around.
Traveling with our own high chair. Because our 1 year old is severely allergic to peanuts (and other foods), the only way to do restaurants is to bring in our own high chair. We use an extremely portable one from IKEA (only $19). We brought it along with us on our road trip to FL (how many high chairs can brag about that?!) and it was by far one of the most important items we packed. We not only used it at restaurants, but also for meals in our condo and for picnics at the beach. Bringing it to the beach was an unexpected luxury. Of course, if it was a hike to get to the beach, we didn’t bring it, but when we parked close, it was definitely nice having it. We were able to let our littlest guy munch on some snacks in his high chair while our 2 year old stood next to him throwing seashells into the ocean. It was a great way for my Hubby and I to be hands free but also keep our youngest off the ground and not putting sand in his mouth. SCORE!
Whole Foods. As often as we could, when we were planning a meal stop while on the road, we tried to work it around a Whole Foods. It didn’t always work, but when it did, it was great. It meant Simon (2) was guaranteed to chow down like crazy and fill up his belly with wholesome food, which meant no “More yum-yums, Momma?” five minutes after leaving. It also meant the Hubby and I could enjoy a great meal and not sit in the car for the next few hours feeling ‘blaaaaah’ from a fast food joint. It took a little bit of coordination to get everyone set up with their food with one of us holding the one year old and a diaper bag, and the other one of us holding/corralling the 2 year year old, the cooler, and high chair…all while making 3 plates of food. But, by our 2nd meal stop, we had a system down. The four of us would head into the Whole Foods and grab food from the buffet/pizza/deli/grocery area for myself, Hubby & Simon (2). We’d pay for the food and then the two boys and I would get settled at one of the tables and I’d wipe it down quick while my Hubby ran to the car to grab Neal’s (1) high chair and food cooler from the car. We’d eat our meal in the table area and afterward, if we were getting low on allergy-friendly food in the cooler for Neal, one of us would grab a few things from the grocery area after we finished eating.
Grocery Stores are Bomb.com. When we are on vacation, we always try to get most of our food from grocery stores instead of eating each meal at a different restaurant. The Hubby and I both tire easily of eating out so we try save that for fun restaurants once we reach our destination. Shopping at the grocery store not only saves money, but also offers more healthier food choices. If a Whole Foods was not near us when we were getting ready to stop, our next choice was to find another type of grocery store to eat at. Better yet, was choosing the same chain we shop at when we are at home, which for us was Trader Joes. We know their products and which ones are safe for our food allergy kiddo, which meant we didn’t have to spend 27 hours in the grocery store reading labels. The downside of Trader Joes is that it they don’t have a table area, but we did end up enjoying our lunch on the bench on the sidewalk in front of the store (high chair and all). We got a lot of sweet smiles and one gentlemen insisted that we give him our phone so he could take a picture of us because we were “making a great memory”. I thought it was an odd moment for a picture but I have to admit, when I look at that picture on my phone I can’t help but smile thinking about how blessed we are that this picture is our “normal”.
We tried not to eat junk on the road. We tried to eat well while we were on the road so that we could treat ourselves guilt-free as needed once we arrived at our destination. More importantly, we didn’t want that BLAH, sluggish feeling we get when we eat junk. We knew we couldn’t be feeling sluggish when we had a couple of days of driving ahead of us. On our prior road trips, our go-to car snacks would include cut up veggies, string cheese, nuts, bananas and homemade granola. But, with a kiddo with multiple food allergies and not wanting any of those allergens in the car, all of those previously mentioned car snacks were a no-go other than the veggies. So, we had to get a little more creative this time around. However, getting more creative in this area is on my list to “do better” for our next road trip.
The bulk of our driving was at night. When we mention that we drove to Florida instead of flew, we usually get some version of, “you guys are crazy!” It always makes me smile because crazy we may be, but life needs a bit a crazy. But truly, our secret (that we share) is that it didn’t FEEL crazy because we did most of our driving during the night. Both of our kids nap on a schedule and have a pretty good daily routine down, which includes being in bed by 8pm. Picture being in a car with your Hubby, one year old and two year old. The one year old is getting stir crazy and the two year old is yelling for his water bottle that he dropped down the seat (furthest from me and out of reach). I am singing the “wheels on the bus” for the 1348 time to soothe the 1 year old hoping he forgets he is still strapped in his car seat until we can reach a legit place to stop. The two year old is alternating between “WAAAAATER” (that I can’t reach), “Stop it, Momma!” because he is tired of hearing me sing and “Momma and Daddy sing??” because he wants both of us to do a duet of Wheels on the bus. When you read that, you may have felt a migraine coming on. But, now picture this: The clock on the dash strucks 8:01, it’s dark outside and all goes silent except for one of the kiddo’s soft snoring. Everything is calm, peaceful. I have the luxury of chatting with my Special Someone without interruption, watching Netflix on my phone with ear buds or just sitting and enjoying the silence. Wouldn’t you want to keep driving too? And that, we did. Now of course we had to do some “work” during the day to keep them on their sleep schedule. My Hubby did most of the driving during the night, with me driving for an hour or two at a time to give him a nap. For the most part, I remained his co-pilot and was in charge of entertainment for the boys, which of course I excelled. The second night, we did get a hotel so that we weren’t completely drained upon our arrival at our destination.
We didn’t push the miles during the daytime. We got significantly less miles in during the day. Any hours we did get in coincided with their nap schedules so that the day felt as “normal” as possible.
Here is what a typical full day on the road looked like. We chose our stops as we went but, by working around their sleep schedules, it did fall in line with their usual routine.
6:30am- 8am: The boys woke up and we stopped for breakfast. After eating, we loaded back up the car, changed their diapers and got them dressed, let the boys burn a little energy and then we got back on the road.
8am-10:30am: Drive time. 1 year-old gets his morning nap in during the drive.
10:30am-12:30pm: Find a park area (if weather cooperates) or a mall that we can walk around in to stretch legs and burn some energy. Then headed somewhere for lunch.
1pm-5pm: Drive time. The bulk of this time was taken up by the boys’ afternoon nap, but one of them would usually get antsy at some point during this drive-time so we would stop for a quick 15 minutes and load up on gas.
5pm – 7:30pm – We stopped at a mall or somewhere the boys could stretch their legs and burn some energy for a couple hours. Then, we either brought in the high chair and cooler if we were eating at the mall, or headed to a nearby Whole Foods for dinner.
7:30P – Through the Night: Drive time. The boys were out for the night by 8pm. Our 1 year-old did wake up during the night so we made a quick stop and reloaded on coffee/gas.
Read here for how we prepped our condo rental at our final desitination to keep our toddler with food allergies safe.