Road Tripping with the Denglers, Part 1

by Elizabeth Dengler

As our family of 4 prepares for a 6,000 mile road trip this summer we’ve found ourselves having to take on additional planning that wasn’t necessary in our previous and half-the-distance road trips. First, we have various state to state reopen orders due to Covid 19, there are still limited supplies of certain items in stores, not to mention closures of restrooms for public use and this year the Sizzler, a kid favorite, is not an option. We will be driving through 21 states in our vehicle. We’ve chosen to drive to see our family instead of fly as originally planned. This means we can maintain ourselves as a single family unit with control on proximity to others, wearing masks, and driving literally puts us in the driver’s seat as we travel in case any unforeseen circumstances arise, we can get home. Since we will be visiting family we will wear masks when we are in public to lessen our chances of contracting and/or spreading this pesky virus. It’s what we are choosing to do and how we feel is best for us to be responsible for our health, our family’s health, and those we may meet along the way.

We are having to manage a lot more, but it isn’t much different than what there is to manage when we go camping. Now, to be clear we aren’t camping on this trip. We looked into RV rentals and that was just beyond what we were willing to spend. We’ll save that money for a trip to Punta Cana, seriously. We also aren’t up for pitching our tent every evening after a long day of driving. We’ve found hotels are reasonable and gas prices are CHEAP! I’ve always been intentional about our hotels having free breakfast. It’s one less meal to manage, it’s included in the price, there are choices we all like (including fresh fruit) and it makes for an easy start to getting on the road. Well, those aren’t widely available anymore. Some hotels are offering a grab-and-go, prepackaged items and since I don’t know what that’s going to look like I’ve gotta plan for it not meeting our needs. Here’s how we’ve broken this down to manage food and a few other necessities on our trip which I hope you will find helpful if you have been thinking about traveling this summer.

Essential item #1: large cooler with ice to prevent food spoilage and keep drinks cold
Essential item #2: food bin with shelf stable foods, paper plates, napkins, utensils
Essential item #3: water, each person has their own container with a couple gallons on reserve
Essential item #4: 2 toilet hygiene kits with toilet paper, baby wipes, soap, and paper towels

Breakfast items we’ll be bringing include: precooked bacon and sausage, hard boiled eggs, morning glory muffins, coffee, half and half, oranges, yogurt
Lunch items: flour tortillas, sliced deli ham, chicken salad, apples, grapes, celery, carrots, cheese sticks
Snacks: Z Bars for kids, Simplyfit and Fiberwise snack bars, beef jerky, applesauce squeeze packs, mixed nuts, wheat thins
Dinner: drive thru, pizza, or restaurant delivery

Here are some items we avoid and what we do instead:
Bananas, they will stink up your vehicle in a quick minute. Hard-boiled eggs are fine only as long as you don’t open the ziplock bag in the car, the minute you do it’s all over. PeeEww. Bread, it squishes way too easily, we use flour tortillas and make sandwich wraps. I don’t like managing garbage so I can’t stand individual condiment packages, now if that’s your jam then go for it. I pack the small jar of squeeze mayo and squeeze mustard instead. We don’t do bags of chips, same reason as bread. Someone won’t pay attention and the next thing you know your chips will be obliterated. However, Pringles work simply because of their container. Avoid individually wrapped cracker packages, bring the boxed crackers and don’t eat them in the car. Cracker crumbs are worse than glitter. Having a Rubbermaid type storage bin, like we do camping, is something that can assist in maintaining the integrity of your food, however due to limited space we are using a large bag that will give my husband more Tetris-ing options for packing therefore the containers the food are in makes a difference on this trip.

I’m a bit of a stickler for keeping the vehicle clean. Here’s some helpful hints that work for us:
We minimize eating in the car. We typically stop at rest areas and parks to eat and to get some exercise. Every gas station we stop at, the kids are responsible for gathering up all the garbage. It’s my job to do the 2nd check behind them and grab all the stuff they didn’t see, which seems like an awful lot more than what they did see. We then each take a wet wipe and wipe down the seats and interior doors. I’m always so curious how when we have nothing sticky in the car the kids’ area still gets sticky. It’s a mystery I’ve yet to solve, so in the meantime wiping down at every fill up gives us the opportunity to keep the yuck factor in check. Things like stickers and slime were banned years ago from the vehicle. Oh, we have glass wipes too because whenever the windows fog up the kids draw all over them, so having full visibility helps with glass wipes. We also roll down windows at stops to air out the vehicle, because let’s be honest 4 of us in a confined space starts to smell and no one can agree on what care freshener we like, so we try to have Mother Nature take care of it for us.

Planning for what we can’t plan for is different than previous trips, too.These past few months have taught us to roll with the punches, be flexible, be compassionate and be in the moment exactly as it is and isn’t. So, part 2 of Road Tripping with the Denglers will be how we are going to do just that and what really is available to travelers as well as what to pack checklists to make for easy overnights and hotel transitions.