This is a sponsored post on behalf of Shell, in which I was compensated. All opinions are my own.

I have some version of this conversation with a reader or sponsor at least once a week. “I like that your blog isn't really pretty,” they say. Then they look a bit embarrassed and quickly catch themselves. “I mean, it's not overly-curated. You know, not all polished and Photoshopped like some others.”

I let them ramble on for a second before interjecting. “It's okay, I know what you mean. Sometimes, my family's a hot mess!”

What to Buy at the Gas Station We strive for photos and stories that are impactful, but I also love digging into the unglorified beauty of the in-between moments. The day-to-day experiences that help make people a family and a house a home. Those things that are often perceived as mundane are important and relatable. They're common experiences that can unify people who might not otherwise see themselves in the same community.

You just never know; things as simple and ordinary as stopping to get fuel can be the stuff of our children's memories.

What to Buy at the Gas Station

Our family has the gas station stop down to a science. First, Nate pulls out his trip log. He's a total weirdo, marking down the mileage, fuel cost, location, engine hours, gallons purchased, miles since last oil change and a bunch of other supposedly-relevant information at every single fill-up stop we make. I have no idea why. Truth be told, he's explained the process to me at least ten times but the data is so useless to me it just floats right out the other side of my head.

I ask if anyone needs to pee. Every single time, the boys will tell me they don't and then they'll decide five miles down the road that they actually do. I'll wind up grumbling and contemplating whether or not I can get away with handing them an empty bottle, Dumb and Dumber-style.

Colorado trinkets

But for now, nobody needs to pee so I'm on my own to wander the glorious gas station aisles. We always stop at Shell, so I know I'll find the coolest local things. Today we're in Colorado, and the shelves are lined with tiny hand-carved trinkets, collectibles and sweaters and hats bearing Rocky Mountain insignia.

Colorado shot glasses

I get a shot glass in every new town we visit. It's my weird touristy habit that's stuck around since college, and I plan to create a cool inset shelf in our kitchen to display them all someday. They're not allowed to be used…not that our lives are filled with Friday night ragers nowadays, anyway.

Gas station kids' atlas

I also grab a coloring book or atlas for the kids, lest they get desperate for entertainment and try to drink out of said shot glass.

Coffee Chocolate

The local eats at Shell are what really get me excited. I discovered my favorite coffee chocolate at a station in Colorado on a past trip, and I'm giddy to spot the Boulder artisan's delicacy in a standalone kiosk today.

Colorado Hummus

Moving back through the store, there's a little refrigerated section with hummus, flax chips, soba noodles…all sorts of Colorado farm-to-fork snacks that makes my hippy little heart soar. Nate teases me about this stuff, but I grew up in the Pacific Northwest so buckwheat and goat cheese is like soul food to me. While I'm standing there taking pictures of this spread, a friendly-looking manager asks if I need help. I explain to him that I'm working with Shell and I'm impressed with all the healthy eats he has on-hand, so he dives into a lengthy story about how he met the people who started this particular food brand at a local fair. I make some off-hand reference to the fact that I'm a crunchy-granola-UGG-boots kind of gal while my husband's more of a hamburger-and-fries kinda guy, so he points me to the little deli in the back corner.

Pizza at the gas station

Pizza awaits. Score! With the whole family fed, I won't have to make any other stops or resort to drive-thru.

Firewood at the gas station

I also stock up on s'more fixings and firewood while I'm there. We have tons of wood at home, of course, but it's generally not allowed over state lines so that's something we always get when we reach our destination.

Gas station ATM

And a quick cash stock-up is a necessity, since tips tend to make the world go 'round when we're staying at a hotel. With four kids, a giant truck and valet-only parking options at a lot of places we stay, cash definitely smooths the awkward and painfully-slow transition out of our vehicle.

Gas station pump

Back outside, Nate's taking advantage of our Shell Gold Status for his fill-up. I registered our credit card with the *Fuel Rewards app so we earn 10¢/gal for every $50 spent at participating merchants or up to 20¢/gal for every $50 spent shopping online with participating merchants.

With all those rewards, we're saving when we dine out on-the-road or gear up at home. We get even more savings by making sure the credit card we registered with the program also gives us rewards through our bank on top of the Gold Status rewards. When you travel as much as we do, you're always on the lookout for ways to cut cost and stretch that dollar!

Instant Gold Rewards at the pump

We also got a 5¢/gal savings on our first 20 gallons for being “Gold Status” with the Fuel Rewards program. That reward is good for six months from your sign up date and sticks around since we filled up six times within three months. I've noticed Shell pushing the program on all the pumps we stop at, which is great to see. It's a phenomenal deal, and I hope a ton of travelers take advantage of it! Make sure you take advantage of the Fuel Rewards savings by signing up here. It's fast and free!

Plus, once you’re signed up, you can send your referral link to friends and family so they can join the Fuel Rewards program. The first time a friend uses the program by earning a reward or using their card at a participating Shell station, you will instantly earn 25¢/gal. And there's no limit to how many friends you invite or how many times you earn.

What to Buy at the Gas Station

All fueled up, fed and armed with entertaining new trinkets, we're ready to continue our journey through the jagged, craggy slopes of Colorado.

Things you never would have thought to stock up on at a gas station on a road trip

What do you buy at gas stations when you stop on a road trip?

*Restrictions apply. To qualify for the Gold/Silver Status offers, you must be a Fuel Rewards® member and swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID when you fuel at a participating Shell station. With Gold Status, you will receive 5¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings on every fill-up. The 5¢/gal reward for Gold Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. If you are an existing Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status from 6/5/2017 through 12/31/17, the “Existing Member Introductory Period”. If you are a new Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status for the initial month you join through the last day of the month, 6 full calendar months later, the “New Member Introductory Period”. The last 3 months of the Existing Member Introductory Period or the New Member Introductory Period (collectively the “Introductory Period”) is the “Qualification Period”. You will retain your Gold Status during the Qualification Period, but you must make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to qualify for Gold Status for the next 3 months, the “Benefit Period”. During the Benefit Period, you must continue to make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to maintain your Gold Status for the next 3-month Benefit Period. A qualifying fuel purchase is any fuel purchase at a participating Shell station in which you swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID and fill up with at least 5-gallons of any grade of fuel. For example, if you are a new Fuel Rewards® member and register on 6/15/2017, you will receive Gold Status through the New Member Introductory Period (i.e., 12/31/2017). You will need to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the Qualification Period (i.e., 10/1/2017 and 12/31/2017) to maintain Gold Status during the Benefit Period (i.e., from 1/1/2018 to 3/31/2018). Thereafter, if you continue to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the successive 3 consecutive month Benefit Periods, you will retain your Gold Status. If you do not maintain your Gold Status, you will receive Silver Status. With Silver Status, you will receive 3¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings. The 3¢/gal reward for Silver Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. Redeem Fuel Rewards® savings with your Fuel Rewards® card or Alt ID at participating Shell stations. Fuel Rewards® savings are limited to 20 gallons of fuel per purchase, per vehicle, or fraud limits placed by Shell and/or limits placed on your financial card by your financial institution, each of which may be lower. Fuel Rewards® savings must be redeemed in a single transaction. Once you begin to dispense fuel using your Fuel Rewards® savings, you must dispense to the 20-gallon limit or you forfeit any remaining discounted gallons of fuel. For example, if you only pump fifteen (15) gallons of fuel, you would abandon the remaining five (5) gallons of discounted fuel. If you have a rewards balance greater than the current per-gallon price of fuel, the price will roll down to the maximum capability of the fuel equipment, and your remaining rewards will be saved for a future fuel purchase. Dispenser may require a price of up to 10.9¢/gal. It may not be possible to combine multiple discounts and/or rewards in a single transaction. For purchases of $75 or more, please go inside to pay. Unbranded diesel and alternative fuels may not be eligible. The Fuel Rewards® program is owned and operated by Excentus Corporation. Offer may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice. Not valid where prohibited by law. Please see fuelrewards.com for complete Fuel Rewards® program details and Terms and Conditions. Other restrictions may apply. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. To learn more, visit fuelrewards.com/gold or call (888) 603-0473.

Things you never would have thought to stock up on at a gas station on a road trip.