A Busy Mom's Guide to: Road Trips (Featuring Hungryroot!*)

A Busy Mom's Guide to: Road Trips (Featuring Hungryroot!*) | Writing Between Pauses

Danny and I love taking road trips. It used to be something we really looked forward to, especially when we were first dating and, later, first married. Once Forrest was born, we definitely scaled back on the amount we spend driving every summer--but we still love taking a few road trips every single year!

This year, we’ve already been on quite a few road trips: we’ve been to Sunriver several times and Idaho several times. Coming up this summer, we have plans for a big trip to the coast, as well as some smaller trips to Portland, the coast, and Central Oregon.

By no means am I a road trip expert--but I feel like I do know how to do a road trip with an infant, a toddler, and now a preschooler in a way that keeps me from feeling like I’m absolutely losing it! I want to share all my tips and tricks for a perfect summer trip. At the end of this blog post, I’ll also have a FREE download with packing checklists, memory sheets, and much more to make your road trip go just a little bit smoother. I also have an exclusive deal for some Hungryroot snacks!

Packing for a road trip with a toddler

I’m a consistent overpacker. And honestly, I will defend my overpacking: sometimes, you just need extra stuff, especially with kids. The days of Danny and I breezing into hotels or houses with a bag each, and maybe a cooler, are over. These days, it looks like: a storage bin, a bag, Forrest’s suitcase, my bag, Danny’s bag, my computer bag (gotta work!), my tripod… It’s a bit like a clown car.

I just don’t like having to spend money unnecessarily on trips, especially if we are pinching pennies already. That means, I often try to pack anything I can think we might need in an emergency. For us, that’s extra medications, plus any kids medicine we might need (such as suppositories, cough medicine, Ibuprofen, and band ads), as well as a flashlight, some extra food, and a small stash of water.

Here’s a rundown of what my packing list often looks like:

  • Medications

  • Medicine: kids Ibuprofen, kids suppositories, band aids, antibacterial cream, sanitizer

  • Cleaning wipes*

  • Emergency kit: two gallons of water, extra food, extra clothes, matches, small candle, flare

  • Travel potty if your toddler is younger, recently potty trained, or just prone to accidents

That’s just a few extras I add alongside everything else we’ll need, like clothes, laundry bags, extra bags for souvenirs, our charging cables, and more. You know what you’ll need best on vacation, but it’s important to remember on road trips to prepare for what you think you’ll need. In case of an emergency, I prefer to have everything with me, including extra water and more.

A note on cleaning wipes: I know single use wipes have become increasingly unpopular--and I totally agree! However, if I’m traveling and staying at a hotel, I like to do a quick wipe on everything just for that extra level of clean. It helps me feel more at home and feel much better. I like to use the new Everspring line from Target; these wipes are compostable, cruelty-free, and ammonia free. They come in three scents: Lavender & Bergamot, Lemon & Mint, and Citrus & Basil. I like the Lemon & Mint the best. Even better, they are very affordable. You can find them on Target here.

Hungryroot snacks on a road trip

One thing I also like to make sure I have packed? Plenty of snacks! I get bored when I’m driving, especially during long stretches where there isn’t anywhere to stop. When we go to Idaho, we cut through Bend and Burns to Caldwell. The stretch from Bend to Burns and then Burns to Ontario are absolutely grueling; each leg is only 100 ish miles each, but there is nothing between! Nowhere to stop, nowhere to go to the bathroom, nothing. So, snacks are important.

That’s one of the things I love about Hungryroot! On our most recent trip to Idaho, we took along a big box of Hungryroot snacks: the salted pili nuts, coconut cashew granola, crunchy bean toppers, superfood almond butter, and almond milk maca matcha. These were the perfect snacks to have on the road--much better than my usual Cheez-Its! Not only did we feel better about our snack choices, we avoided that nasty travel stomach that is so common from eating food on the road. Plus, all of these options gave us ways to customize hotel breakfasts: we grabbed a few extra yogurts to eat with the coconut cashew granola. Our hotel had a smoothie bar (!) and we used the almond milk maca matcha in our smoothies. Plus, the almond milk maca matcha made a great drink in the morning to get the day started throughout our trip.

If you’d like to stock up on some healthy snacks before your next road trip, I can’t recommend Hungryroot enough! And even better, you can use the code PAUSETRAVEL to get $25 of your first two boxes (that’s $50 total).

Hungryroot promo code $25 off
How to plan a road trip with a toddler

“But Michelle,” you ask, “how am I supposed to keep a toddler entertained on a road trip?”

You know those two 100-mile stretches between Oregon and Idaho I mentioned? Those are often our hardest on the road. So here are my tips:

  • Play car games. Whenever Forrest starts to get whiny or bored, I say, “I spy something… blue!” And we start a game of I Spy. Or, we’ll play Bingo. Car games seemed so lame to me when I was younger--my parents were not fans--but I totally get them now. This can fill up time and keep your little one from getting too distracted.

  • Get a travel DVD player. LISTEN! I know what I say about screens and we don’t let Forrest have a tablet… but I would literally lose my mind without our travel DVD player. It is perfect for when there is no stop along the way to stretch our legs. Pop in a Daniel Tiger DVD and hit play, then Danny & I can relax. You can find these for really affordable on Amazon and in stores too.

  • Look ahead and plan fun stops. One thing Danny and I do before any road trip is plan somewhere to stop for fun. Whether it’s just a cute shop we see on our route (such as the Crescent General Store after the Willamette Pass) or something bigger (like a rose garden), we try to plan a few short (like 15-20 minutes total!) stops to stretch our legs, let Forrest have a bathroom break, and break up the monotony of the drive.

For me, these things are all part of planning our trip. We aren’t just looking at hotels to stop along the way, but rather activities we can do together. This might include things like stopping at the Mount Shasta viewing area on the way to Disneyland (this feels like a lifetime ago!), going for a walk along the river in Bend on our way to Idaho, and more. If you’re staying a few nights at a hotel on your road trip, you can always look for places to go around it; you’ll have a few hours in the evening, of course, so you can always do some walking (to release pent up energy!) and find somewhere fun to eat.

One important aspect of planning your trip… is planning how you’ll pack your car. Danny and I like to pack the car in a way that makes sense to us, although we used to just throw things in and hope we all made it in one piece! Now, we arrange everything depending on what we know we’ll need throughout the trip. This means, our travel potty is in the back seat, along with some paper towels and a trash bag; our snack bag is within reach; our bag with activities for Fo is right in front of him where Danny or I can reach it. How you arrange your car is totally your preference, but this will save you so much hassle on the road! Basically: organize your car and keep it organized!

Staying in a hotel with a toddler

It goes without saying, but: on vacation, your child just isn’t going to sleep like they do at home. That’s an important expectation to keep if you’re staying at a hotel throughout your trip or just on a few stops on the road. They might get better as time goes on through the trip, but I think it’s so important to keep your expectations quite low when it comes to sleep when you travel!

When we travel, I make sure to bring two things to make it easier on Forrest: his sound machine and one of his blankets. Before, we would bring stuffed animals he had been sleeping with, but Forrest isn’t a lovey kid—he doesn’t have anything he feels particularly attached to. However, having a familiar blanket definitely helps with the sleeping. As well, the sound machine helps all of us sleep, drowns out noise from the rest of the hotel, and reminds him of home. He usually still wakes up at 3am on the dot in hotels, but it could totally be worse.

The sound machine we use is not currently made anymore, but this one is from the same company and looks like it has many similar features.

As I said in the planning section, doing something fun at the hotel when you arrive, even if it is perhaps a little later than usual for your family, can help little ones settle in, burn off some energy after being in the hotel all day, and sleep better. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit the pool to splash & play around before dinner.

  • Walk to dinner! This is a great way to explore the area, find somewhere interesting, and stretch your legs (as well as get some steps in if you, like me, are a slave to your Fitbit)

  • Visit a local attraction for a quick visit. A good option is a rose garden or an art exhibit.

  • Find a local ice cream parlor to take everyone to.

  • Window shop!

Once you’ve made it through the evening, grabbed dinner (I highly recommend getting pizza delivered if you’re absolutely exhausted, which kids also love), and slept (maybe), it’s time to think about breakfast!

Like I said, Hungryroot is a great way to augment a potentially lackluster hotel breakfast—if your hotel provides one. It might not, which is totally possible! Hungryroot can help there too. A great option are the Hungryroot oatmeal cups, like the Cherry Chia Maple Oatmeal; you only need to add hot water, so if your room has a coffee maker, you can easily use that to heat water and make oatmeal for everyone.

However, if your hotel does offer breakfast, you can use plenty of Hungryroot options to make it just a little bit better: adding some granola to those little tubs of yogurt makes it much more filling and delicious. Or you can add some granola on top of a waffle or eat with milk and any fruit offered. The hotel breakfast doesn’t have to be sad, cold bagels and bad coffee. A little planning ahead can make it much more filling and healthy for everyone in your family. Don’t forget you can use my code PAUSETRAVEL for $25 off your first TWO boxes of Hungryroot; that is $50 total.

Once you’re ready to head out, check your room for anything left behind and get on with your vacation!

Danny & I enjoy road trips. And even though I’m on record as saying I don’t love traveling, I do love giving Forrest memories that last forever. Road trips can be incredibly intimidating, especially if you’re a new mom or you’re just an anxious person (like me). I hope these tips help you make the most of this summer. And of course, I hope you take the chance to try some delicious Hungryroot snacks & food options to make your summer even better.

As an added bonus, I have an exclusive download just for you! This include itinerary planning for your trip, hotel information sheets, journal pages for your memories, and packing checklists perfect for new moms & experienced moms alike! Click the button below to download.

I’m turning it over to you! What are your big tips for traveling with kids?

Disclaimer: Products for my recent road trip were provided to me by Hungryroot in exchange for mentioning them, as well as a small kickback whenever you use my code. Posts like these have helped me keep Writing Between Pauses going! If you’d like to learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

My 3 Absolute Favorite Masks to Travel With

My 3 Absolute Favorite Masks to Travel With | Writing Between Pauses

I love masks. I don't love traveling. But I do like pampering my skin while I'm traveling. I've always heard that it's great to wear a sheet mask on planes, because it protects your skin from the dry air. Next time I take a plane, I'll definitely be packing a sheet mask to relax with... but for now, I want to share the 3 masks that I always bring for road trips and quick weekend trips to keep my skin looking the best it possibly can (even in adverse conditions, like extreme dry heat). 

If you didn't catch my post last week about keeping your skincare routine while traveling, you can read that here

1. The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Mask

I love the Body Shop's Tea Tree facial cleanser--I use it every single day and it has made a huge difference in my skin. So, when I had a 20% off coupon at Ulta in June, I decided it was time to treat myself to the matching clay mask. Here's what it promises: 

Cool and deeply cleanse your skin with our Tea Tree infused clay mask. Perfect for blemished complexions, the instantly cooling sensation refreshes skin, without over drying. This mask will help to clear impurities while absorbing excess sebum, leaving skin feeling smoother and clearer looking.

If you have a lot of issues with acne, this mask is perfect: it contains tea tree oil, which we know helps with acne, but isn't as tight and drying as many clay masks. I've rocked clay masks before and while they always helped my acne a little bit, they also left my skin feeling very dehydrated--which make texture on other areas of my face (like my forehead) worse. This mask doesn't so that; it feels lovely on, smells great, and has made a huge difference in my skin. The next thing I want to try from this line is the Tea Tree Night Mask

The Body Shop Tea Tree Mask

2. YesTo Coconut 2-Step Lip Kit

I always get chapped lips when I travel, probably because 1) I'm usually drinking less water and 2) I don't have access to my usual glut of lip balms. I'm a firm believer that lip balm just makes dry lips worse, but at this stage in my life, I'm too far gone: save yourselves, I'm addicted to lip balm, I know it's a problem. That being said, this mask is one of my favorites to bring on trips or to pick up while I'm traveling (because it's at almost any Walgreens, CVS, Wal-Mart, or Target). Here's what it does: 

Say Yes To the Coconut 2 Step Mask and going coo coo for coconut, sugar and sodium hyaluronate to plump and smooth lips naturally. Step 1 features a lip scrub to exfoliate and smooth lips, preparing them for plumping. Step 2 includes a lip mask to plump and hydrate lips, making them softer, fuller and more supple.

I'm a huge fan of YesTo products; they are one of the handful of truly cruelty free drugstore brands out there and their masks have always worked for me. While this mask does contain coconut oil, it's not a face mask; it's a lip mask, so I don't have to worry about the oil clogging my pores. (Reminder: coconut oil is horrible to put on your face. Scalp and hair? Ok. Lips? Ok. Face? If you're acne prone, absolutely never.) 

3. Oh K! Korean Multi-Step Charcoal Mask 

The Oh K! masks are a Korean brand that you can find at CVS and Walgreens. They're super cute, which great packaging, and this one is one of my favorites. If you're going on a short trip, perhaps just overnight, it's a great one to bring along because it condenses your routine into one mask. It includes a cleanser, a mask, and a moisturizing serum, so you're all set. Here's what it promises: 

Charcoal acts as a magnet to extract dirt from the skin and this multi-step mask offers a complete cleansing regime: deep clean wash, charcoal fiber mask to remove impurities and a moisturizing serum. Fiber masks are super nourishing, the sheet acts as a barrier to prevent the formula evaporating so skin can absorb 3 x more than a liquid mask.

Those are powerful promises! This mask includes one of my absolute favorite serums: the moisturizing serum seriously was so amazing, I tried to see if Oh K! sells is alone. It doesn't appear they do, so I do one of these masks every month (they're a little spendier than the average sheet mask) just to use that dang serum! Cute, compact, and effective, it really doesn't get better than that. 

Everything You Need for Disneyland with a Toddler (& Nothing You Don't)

packing for disneyland with toddler

Earlier this week, I shared my three tips for making Disneyland with a toddler just a little more enjoyable. (At least, what I will remember for next time! You live and learn, after all.) Now, it's time to talk about what, exactly, you should pack. 

When we first started planning our trip, I downloaded every Disneyland packing list I could find. I devoured packing lists. I read blog post after blog post. I made lists. I bought clear plastic containers at Wal-Mart to pack snacks and more in. I organized and fretted and bought extras. 

Here's the truth: we didn't touch maybe 75% of what I packed. It was just extra. Totally useless. We didn't need it. Maybe in an emergency, we would have needed it, but realistically, in the park, I wouldn't have access to my two plastic tote bins of medical supplies, band aids, life vests, and more. I would only have what was in my very stylish fanny pack and the stroller. 

This leads me to a very stark reality: everyone overpacks for Disneyland. We all do it. Realistically, if you go in the summer (and, if you can, do try to avoid it), it's going to be too hot to wear anything cute and you're going to sweat all over it anyway. Even more realistically, bags get searched going into the park area, so the more bags you have, the more you get searched. 

While going through security one day, the guard complimented me on the fact that I only had my fanny pack and Forrest's small backpack (which is actually a leash, but we'll get to that); little did he know that, originally, I had planned on bringing a cooler, a backpack, and way more crap... only to narrow it down after one very long day. 

The truth is, Disney makes everything available to you. At a price, of course. But what you gain is the ability to spend less time dealing with all the stuff you brought into the parks and more time just enjoying life there. 

With that in mind, this is my list of the essentials you need for Disneyland. 

  • Water. If you're driving, buy a Costco pack before you head down. If you fly, get an Uber to Costco in Anaheim and buy a pack there. Put as many bottles in the fridge as will fit.
  • 1 small bag. I'm talking small here. I bought this fanny pack (or bum bag, if you're British and think I'm very gross) before we left and I don't regret it. I looked extremely frumpy, but I was hands free. It had enough room to hold my ticket, my debit card and license, my cash, sunscreen, lip balm, and a few extra hair ties. I can also use it for hiking in the future.  
  • Sunscreen. Seriously. Just buy 3-4 bottles of sunscreen and take at least one in the park every day. I saw so many sunburned children and it broke my heart. Reapply every 90 minutes. 
  • Two snacks. Not a box of snacks. Not every snack ever. TWO SNACKS. Every day in the park, I packed my son a fig bar (his favorite) and a packet of applesauce. He always ate both, plus other snacks that we bought ourselves. 
  • For younger children: a bottle & formula; a water cup; diapers; and a pack of wipes. I bought travel packs of wipes to keep in Forrest's backpack, which we used as our "diaper bag." 
  • A "safety harness." Some people let their young toddlers run freely in the park because, ultimately, it is safe. However, Forrest is a runner and if I set him down, he would be halfway across the state if I let him. This is why we use a leash. This is the one we have. It gave Forrest some freedom in the park, without me having a panic attack that he was running straight at a pretzel cart. 

That's it. That's all you need. I know, right? Michelle, where's the Motrin? What about the band aids? A first aid kit? Ponchos? Jackets? Changes of clothes? Girl, leave that in the hotel room. If you really need it, you can go get it. If it's urgent, Disneyland does have first aid centers where you can get band aids. If you have small children, they have fully stocked changing rooms in the Baby Care Center on Main Street USA. You don't need to bring your whole kitchen in the park. 

The One Thing Lego Does Wrong: Legoland

Your eyes aren't deceiving you: the holiday decorations at Legoland overlap the sign. Really.

Your eyes aren't deceiving you: the holiday decorations at Legoland overlap the sign. Really.

Shortly after my nephew, Mason, age 3, exited a simple helicopter ride at Legoland California, my sister sat down on the bench beside my mother and said, "These rides are kind of lame." 

Thank God she said it, I thought with a sigh. I didn't want to be the lame aunt that proclaimed Legoland a massive failure. I was glad I wasn't alone. 

My husband and I, in our 20s and with no kids, had walked through the entirety of Legoland in less than an hour. We'd then eaten an overpriced sandwich and stared at each other for twenty minutes, neither of us wanting to say what we felt: Legoland, despite our love of legos, was horrifyingly lame.

Barely an hour and a half into the park and my oldest nephew, Chase, age 5, asked if they could go to the aquarium soon. When a 5-year-old gets bored of Lego-themed rides, you know something is wrong. 

I say all of this with one important disclaimer: I love Disneyland. I've always loved Disneyland. Disneyland, to me, is a great park because it appeals to both adults and children; the focus isn't entirely on shopping; and while tickets are expensive, everything in the park is included with admission (except food and souvenirs). 

I knew something was up with Legoland when we immediately had to pay $15 for parking. Upon entry into the park, I was struck by how small and enclosed the entry area is; there is a gift shop and a food shop to the left and a bigger gift shop to the right. This would set the overwhelming trend of the park: gift shops outnumber rides by about 10 to 1. I'm not kidding. Every single ride Danny and I fit on (because we only fit on maybe 5 rides in the entire park) ended in a gift shop. 

Danny and I walked through Miniland, considered the "heart" of the park. Sure, ok: it's cute. A tiny replica of the world, basically, complete with Las Vegas, New Orleans, Paris, and more. However, the entire place felt dirty. Many of the buildings needed a good cleaning; there was still trash on the ground from the day before; and there was even trash in some of the Miniland places. Oh and there was nothing to do. Miniland is interactive only in bits: you can press a button and make pigs in a farm tilt their head; another button and chickens move jerkily on a green patch. In another area, a button starts a short water fountain. Cute, but... really? Then, the kicker: Danny and I found a lizard trapped in the Grand Central Station replica. We tried to find an exit to coax it out, but we couldn't locate one. I felt so bad for it. 

I hope someone helped this poor lizard. 

I hope someone helped this poor lizard. 

One characteristic of Disney is that you are 1. never more than 10 steps from a trashcan and 2. never more than 10 steps from a Disney employee. The same is not true of Legoland. Aside from the ride operators, there are hardly any employees in the park to answer questions or help with directions. 

Another issue with Legoland is some of the rides and games cost extra. The only truly interactive feature in Miniland is a feature where you can drive a Lego boat through a marina -- but it costs $5 for 5 minutes. Throughout the park, you can play carnival games to win prizes -- but they cost $10. Even the pictures they take on rides are displayed on TVs across a counter, so unlike at Disneyland where you can just take a photo of your picture, you have to buy it to see it!

Danny, my mom, and I left after barely two hours. We agreed that it was a waste of money. The entire park felt like a county fair with a few vaguely Lego-related decorations added. Most of the rides had nothing to do with Lego. For about $79 a ticket, that's pretty ridiculous.