Summer is here! The kids are out of school, and everyone’s gearing up for some summer fun. For many families, summertime means pool parties, summer camps, popsicles… and lots of summer travel.
While summer travel is a blast, it also usually involves lots of time in the car and numerous pit stops for whatever fast food is off the nearest exit.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with treating yourself and your family to a burger and fries on a road trip. I mean, that’s kind of part of the fun, right?
But if you’re anything like me, you start to feel a little crummy after sitting in the car all day, and you’d prefer if your family mixed in some healthier stuff along with that fast food too.
The thing is, summer travel doesn’t have to be all or nothing – it’s all about balance. So here are the 5 simplest ways to have healthier summer travel – without losing your mind or skimping on any of the fun.
5 Simple Tips for Healthier Summer Travel
Summer travel often means hours of sitting in the car. Try to stop at least every 2 hours to walk and stretch.
If you’re stopping for a quick bite, opt for a restaurant with a play place so the kids can get their legs moving. If you’re stopping to use the restroom, look for rest stops that have an area where everyone can walk around for a few minutes before getting back in the car.
It’s super important to stay hydrated, especially in the summer heat, so make sure everyone drinks plenty of water throughout the day.
TIP: Avoid using plastic water bottles by packing a reusable water bottle for each family member. You can re-fill them when you stop at rest stops or restaurants. (My family LOVES these Hydro Flask bottles. They have options for straw or sport lids – key for avoiding spills – and keep water cold for hours, even in a hot car.)
Avoid Excess Screen Time
It can be easy (and admittedly sometimes necessary) to entertain the kids with phones and iPads, but try borrowing some new children’s music or eBooks to provide some screen-free entertainment on your trip. Audible and your local library are both great places to find cheap or free eBooks that the whole family will enjoy.
Pack Healthy Snacks
Whole grain crackers, trail mix, granola bars, muffins, fruit and veggie pouches, and whole fruits like apples and clementines all make great road trip snacks that are both healthy and easy to pack. If you’re packing a cooler, yogurt tubes, snack-size containers of hummus or guacamole, and cheese sticks are great choices too.
To save some money, buy larger bags of things like pretzels, popcorn, trail mix, and crackers, and portion them into smaller containers or zip lock bags before you leave home. Pre-portioned bags are way more convenient on the go, and by making your own, you can avoid having to pay extra for “snack size” bags at the store.
Packing nourishing snacks will also prevent anyone in the family from getting too hungry between meals. After all, hungry usually leads to cranky, and nobody wants that on vacation!
Make Good Meal Choices
It can be a fun treat to stop for that McGriddle or bacon cheeseburger, but if you’ll need to eat out a lot, try mixing it up with some healthier fast-food options like wraps, salads, grilled chicken nuggets, apple slices, or fruit cups. Choose water over soda, juice and fruit punch. If you’re in need of coffee (who isn’t?), choose a regular coffee or latte rather than those super sweetened coffee drinks.
You can also save some money by packing some of your own meals. Try make-ahead breakfasts like muffins or baked oatmeal to take with you on the road, or bring instant oatmeal packets (simply add water and microwave in your hotel room). Cereal is also a great option – just buy a small container of milk at your hotel.
If you want to pack lunch for your family, try easy options like sandwiches or wraps that you can make ahead of time. Pair them with packable sides like fruit, yogurt, baby carrots, or pretzels.
Lastly, make sure you and everyone in your family are eating what your bodies need. It can be hard to eat mindfully while traveling, but taking time to stop for meals will help. Eat at a table (even if it’s a rest stop picnic table) rather than in the car when possible so that everyone has time to relax and enjoy their meal.
Like I said, it really is all about balance. You don’t have to skip any of the food or fun that your family looks forward to on vacation. But thinking ahead to create easy opportunities for healthier summer travel will leave your family feeling well all summer long.