Before the back-to-school rush, many families will be making the most of one last summer vacation. In fact, the overall national average of a gallon of gas has dropped 13 cents in the past week, and according to a report from Edmunds.com, about 40 percent of Americans plan to take one last leisure trip before Labor Day, a holiday weekend when some analysts believe gas prices will be at their lowest nationwide.
Whether it’s a road trip across the state, a trip to drop off a student at college, a picnic in the park, or vacation to a tropical island, it's important to be prepared for the last outing of the summer.
AskPatty has been receiving emails all sumer long about foods and products that would be perfect to take along in the car for family road trips. (I'm not kidding, I get e-newsletters several times a week from Skymall.com!) Whether you're looking for something to feed the kids on a lunch break or something to help keep them occupied and comfortable along the way, we've learned about it this summer, and are sharing it with you here. We've even got a few items for traveling pets as well.
Food and Drink:
For a healthy and kid-friendly beverage, Amy & Brian Coconut Juice (www.amyandbriannaturals.com) is a great choice! I don't know about you, but I'd never tried coconut juice before Amy & Brian sent me samples, and I fell in love! Coconut juice is all the rage these days as a great alternative to sodas for kids with no added sugar or preservatives, and even contains natural electrolytes to aid hydration. So pack some in the road trip cooler, turn off the A/C, roll down the windows, and enjoy the light, refreshing goodness of Amy & Brian Coconut Juice!
“We’ve always been a favorite among kids,” says David Hollister, a spokesperson for Amy & Brian Naturals. “We offer all-natural coconut juice that is sourced from fresh young coconuts in Thailand, which are noticeably sweeter than their Brazilian counterparts and found in other coconut beverages.” Kids love the sweet and simple taste, and parents love the price. For only $8/pack of six in three all-natural flavors (original, with pulp, and with lime), Amy & Brian’s Coconut Juice is available in a variety of grocery outlets, is affordably delicious, and refreshingly good for the whole family.
Real McCoy’s Rice Snax offers some delicious and flavorful rice chips and puffs, all of which are gluten-free and non-GMO (the chips are even vegan). They offer several flavors including Hatch Chile, Vermont White Cheddar, and Worcester and Chives. This is another food product I would not have tried if they hadn't sent me samples, but I gotta admit, the Worcester & Chives rice chips with whole grain brown rice kernels were tasty and offered yummy texture for great chewing satisfaction. And the Vermont White Cheddar rice puffs were a nice alternative to the traditional orange cheese puffs that will stain your hands and clothes, or light-colored car interiors. Packaged in larger 6-ounce packages or smaller 1.5-oz bags that are perfect for lunches, shoppers can find the Real McCoy's Rice Snax at grocery stores.
For a healthy snack that seems more like a sinful indulgence, WOATS Oatsnack is not your typical granola. WOATS is actually sweet modern day fusion of wholesome gently baked oats and premium ingredients that kids can enjoy and parents can feel good about. Their mouth-watering flavors and convenient size make them an easy on-the-go solution for when hunger strikes.
Each 10-ounce bag is generously filled with delicious clusters of healthy oats and tantalizing ingredients that satisfy cravings without preservatives or excess fat. My favorite, "Nuts About Berries" pairs handfuls of Southern roasted praline pecans with tangy cranberries for a mix that tastes both sweet and savory. "Peanut Butter Graham Slam" was my next favorite flavor thanks to crisp honey graham crackers and sweet butter toffee peanuts that add protein to this healthy indulgence. If you prefer a sweeter snack, Cookies 'n' Dreams is a sweet treat any child will enjoy, thanks to chunks of chocolate vanilla cream sandwich cookies mixed in with the oats.
WOATS is available in select stores and at Amazon for about $9 per 10-ounce bag.
If you're looking for a super yummy instant breakfast that offers great flavors and awesome chewing satisfaction, then pick up a cup of UmpquaOats.
The first thing you'll notice is their ingredient list doesn’t say “oats,” it says “groats!” No, that’s not a typo. Groats are the whole hulled grain and include the cereal germ and fiber-rich bran portion as well as the endosperm, which is the usual product of milling. What does that mean? UmpquaOats are made with a larger, thicker, unbleached, whole oat that's not processed into “instant” oats. Bottom line? This oatmeal is not soft and mushy! Like the chefs say, it’s “al dente!”
They also have delicious flavors never seen before in oatmeal, and most of their flavors are made with all natural ingredients. They say they add no colorings, preservatives, or fillers, just good quality fruits, nuts, and other mix-ins.
I have usually found them at specialty coffee shops but they're also sold at grocery stores like Albertsons, Lucky, Gelsons, and Whole Foods, priced around $3.50 per serving. These are ideal to have in the car for roadtrips because all you need is hot water to feed your family a tasty, warm breakfast on the go.
Items to Help You Travel in Comfort and Safety
Passengers can cuddle into this inflatable pillow for comfy rest during travel thanks to a unique shape that tethers to your body or to the seat in planes, cars, buses, or trains to support the head, neck and upper body. This lets travelers sleep soundly and comfortably while sitting upright.
The TravelRest travel pillow inflates easily to its full length of 26 inches and deflates into a 2"x 9" bundle for storage; it's also available in a variety of colors so the kids won't get their pillows confused. $29.99
This durable three-section trunk organizer has space for a removable Thermal Shield insulated cooler, and a mesh pocket for maps etc. It's great for keeping sports gear, cleaning supplies, and groceries organized and separated from all the other stuff rolling around in your trunk. Foldable when not in use to maintain trunk space, and designed in the USA from 600D polycanvas, the set boasts a lifetime warranty. Item dimensions: 12"x 23" x 14" Folded 12" x 14" x 3". $51
Conveniently mount your smartphone or mini tablet to the dashboard or windshield of your car with only one hand! Its rotating clip holder was designed for one-hand mounting and operation for safety and versatility to help keep your smart phone within view for easy navigation and hands-free voice operation with easy angle adjustments, and horizontal or vertical orientation.
The Neo Grab phone holder promises to be the ultimate cradle for your portable electronic devices. Because it fits devices with LCD screens up to 6-inches, you can use the NEO GRAB for smartphones, GPS devices, and mini tablets, even in a case! Besides making your portable device handsfree in the car, Skymall says it's an ideal household accessory for the kitchen, office, bathroom, bedroom, garage, work, etc. because its non-slip grip pads hold the device securely, and can rotate 360 degrees. Made of high-impact plastic, its powerful suction cup adhesive easily attaches to any smooth, non-porous surface like glass, drywall, plastic, wood, and metal. $34.99
If you've got kids, then you know what can happen when crayons get left behind in a hot car. If you've got an iPad or other tablet, your kids can stay creative while traveling without the danger of melted crayons thanks to this digital paintbrush/stylus from Hammacher Schlemmer that allows you to create works of art on a tablet computer or smartphone. The paintbrush uses patent-pending synthetic hairs infused with conductive properties, designed with the same taper, flexibility, and strength as traditional bristles, resulting in the same feel and authentic strokes. Identical in size and weight to typical painting implements, the iPad paintbrush simulates painting in acrylic, watercolor, or charcoal media using Apple and Android apps such as PIcsArt, ASKetch, and Brushes.
The other end of the brush has a rubber stylus that enables sketching or handwriting. Made from brass with chrome plating and a soft rubber grip for optimal control, Skymall says the portable paintbrush is ompatible with all devices with capacitive touchscreens including iPhone, Kindle Fire, Nexus, Samsung Tablet, and more. $49.95
Carrying a package of wet wipes in the car can be bulky and they usually end up drying out before youv'e had a chance to use them, so keep these CommuteMate InstaCloths on hand for quick cleanups.
InstaCloth is a tablet that converts from a tablet to cloth in seconds. This is a go-anywhere-use anytime product that will fit in your vehicle's glove box, toolbox, baby bag, carry-on, briefcase, workshop and everywhere else. Comes with 32 tablets for $14.95.
Sometimes you just gotta go, and if you're like me, you can't stand smelly dirty public restrooms: In that case you should check out the "GoGirl" female urination device that allows women to urinate while standing up.
That's why I keep one of these in the glovebox of my car, to have wherever my travels take me. Trust me, it's so much easier to use than a paper cup in an emergency!!!
The GoGirl is neat, discreet, and hygienic. And it's the perfect alternative to crowded, disgusting, distant, or non-existent public bathrooms. "Women have been faced with the challenge of unfit or nonexistent restrooms for quite some time," says Sarah Dillon, president and founder of GoGirl. "GoGirl is the perfect solution to any bathroom emergency a woman can face. For campers, there are no more soiled clothing or shoes; for travelers, there's no more worrying about what kind of bathroom you'll find or if you find one at all. Even if you just want to avoid germs in places like gas stations and shopping malls, there's a use for GoGirl in almost any situation."
This is a great product for parents with small children with small bladders, or who tend to get car sick when traveling. TravelJohn is a safe hygienic and civilized solution for when you have an emergency bathroom need but there isn't one around for miles (like stuck in traffic on the freeway! :) The key to their products' success is in their proprietary LIQSORB® super absorbent polymer pouch. This patented technology transforms liquids into a gel form that not only eliminates offensive odors but is completely biodegradable. It absorbs, deodorizes and disinfects instantly, leaving behind a spill-proof package that can be disposed of in any trash can.
At TravelJohn, they've envisioned a world where no "accidents" ruin the journey and everyone from mom and dad to junior and grandma can enjoy the ride. Smaller collection bags can be used for vomit or urine, but they've even got a larger sized product that can be used for solid waste collection. They have a line called the TravelJohn Jr. that is specifically designed for kids!!
Their products can be found at stores like PepBoys for $5 to $30, or check out the entire TravelJohn product line here at Amazon.
Travel Tips for your Pets
This cute little waterproof, easy-to-clean container from Mini Cooper makes pet meals on the go a snap thanks to separate compartments for food and water, and then collapses into a handy zip storage case with rugged leather exterior. $25
Americans love to drive their animal friends with them about town. Now that dogs fit in purses, pigs act like dogs, and even cats are learning to love the leash, there’s no reason to leave the family favorite at home. Our friend James Hamel has recently assembled a collection of Five Car Safety Devices for Pets, with great items meant to keep your pets safe on the road.
Whether you want to carry your furry friend in a crate, harness, or separate the cargo area of an SUV into a giant dog crate, our pets are family. We believe it's imperative that your pet is properly protected, just as you’d make sure your kid is buckled up in the backseat. Pricing ranges depending on the restraint system.
Canine Covers have been making car seat and cargo covers since 1998 and provide the most comfortable way for your dog to ride in style while protecting vehicle seating surfaces, floor, seatback and cargo areas from pet hair, scuffing and “accidents”. They can make a custom pet pad for your car and also offer an entire stock of already-made ones that will fit most any bucket and bench seats. Perfectly tailored from a variety of fabric colors and patterns to fit the contours of your car, SUV, or pickup, Canine Covers can even accommodate a split seatback with a hook and loop closure seam. Seat belt openings allow use of a canine travel restraints or easy use by two-legged passengers as well. Pricing is determined by vehicle and application.
Summertime road trips can be great fun—there’s nothing better than watching the countryside pass by as you leave your home, daily life, and troubles behind. But do you know what to do if your car does something "strange" along the way?
We've shared a handy cheat sheet with our friends at Women & Co on when to pull over—and how to help prevent an emergency when you’re on the road. Take a look so you'll know to do if you suspect that you might be experiencing car trouble during your travels.