Who doesn’t love Halloween? You get to play pretend by dressing up in a costume—princess anyone? Or are you more the devil type? And you get candy…lots of candy. Things like candy corn, Hershey’s Kisses, Butterfingers, Smarties…oh yes, bring it on. But it’s not all about candy, ghosts, princesses, pumpkins and scary politicians. It’s also about traditions. I grew up with door to door trick-or-treating. My kids grew up with a combination of that and fall festivals. But now there’s a new tradition, Trunk-or-Treat.


Who doesn’t have a skeleton pirate in their car? Photo: Jennifer Acocella

Halloween in the Good Old Days – Taking it to the Streets

Back in the 1960s when I was a little one (yes, that long ago) Halloween was celebrated pretty much the same in every suburban neighborhood. We dressed up in a dime store costume (anyone remember Woolworth’s?) or a lovingly homemade costume if mom was so inclined. We took the biggest bags we could manage to carry, went door to door in our neighborhoods, rang the doorbell shouting “Trick or Treat,” then moved on to the next house. And we often starting sampling the candy before we returned home. Rain or shine, we were going after that candy. But we never considered looking for that candy in the trunk of a car.


Taking the party to the trunk. Photo: Jennifer Acocella

Halloween in the 21st Century – Taking it to the Trunk

Today, there’s a new Halloween activity: trunk-or-treat. It’s basically Halloween tailgating with a cool name. Participants decorate their car trunk, back of the minivan, SUV, even the back of the pick-up truck with a theme and fill it with Halloween treats.

As a southern-born college football fan, the tailgating concept is something I’m well acquainted with, but the idea of Halloween tailgating never occurred to me. Good thing the world isn’t waiting for me to come up with creative trick-or-treat alternatives.

Like many things, no one really knows how the idea of trunk-or-treating got started, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s an innovative, fun, and safe alternative to traditional trick-or-treating. Or in some cases, it’s just an extra event for celebrating Halloween.


Trick-or-treating isn't the only game in town for Halloween these days. Check out one of the coolest Halloween tailgating parties around: Trunk-or-Treat.

How Does Trunk-or-Treat work?

Trunk-or-treat can be loosely organized events where one neighbor suggest to a few friends and neighbors, “Let’s have a Halloween tailgate party in the Target parking lot.”  Some are a much bigger production with businesses, churches, schools or even towns organizing a structured event.

Basically, participants decorate the trunks of their cars with a theme and stock the trunk with candy. Then the vehicles are lined up at a business, church, school or other public area and kids go trunk to trunk picking up the treats.

St. Luke and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and Preschool in St Cloud, Florida hosts a trunk-or-treat every year. Father Rob explains how it works, “We typically ask parents to register their cars ahead of time so that we can plan ahead. It’s fun to see all the themes and some parents really go all out. In our case, we’ve turned the trunk-or-treat event into a Fall Festival with games, food and a prize for the best decorated trunk.” The event gives the church an opportunity to interact with members of the community.


Vintage Trunk-or-Treat. Photo: Mary Moore, RetroTravelingMom

We’ve Been There: What TravelingMoms have to say about Trunk or Treat

Since trunk-or-treating was a new concept for me, I checked with some of our TravelingMoms to get the scoop on this Halloween tailgating fad. Here’s what they had to say:

Mary Moore, Retro TravelingMom, participated in a trunk-or-treat with a vintage car theme—appropriate for the Retro Traveling Mom and also incredibly cool.

Nasreen Stump, Road Warrior TravelingMom, has spent several Halloweens traveling on the road with her son. She looked up church trunk or treat events so he could still dress up. Her tip is, “They tend to work best with two adults. That way one person gives out candy and one takes the kids around.”

Amanda Topinka, Kid at Heart TravelingMom, is skipping trick-or-treat at Grandma’s to attend the local Methodist Church Trunk-or-Treat this Halloween. “This local small-town event is a HIT where I live.” The event starts with a chili and cinnamon roll dinner, followed by the Trunk-or-Treat, hayrack rides, cupcake walk and more. And, the church will be collecting donations for its Christmas Adopt-a-Family initiative.

Sarah Gilliland, Twins TravelingMom, turned her SUV into a beach party for her community trunk-or-treat.

And I consulted with my 5 year old grandson for his thoughts on the difference between trick-or-treating and a trunk-or-treat. To be honest, I expected an adorably insightful response. Instead I got this, “GiGi, the difference is you get candy out of a car.” So much for interviewing a 5 year old.

Trick-or-treating isn't the only game in town for Halloween these days. Check out one of the coolest Halloween tailgating parties around: Trunk-or-Treat.

It’s a trunk-or-treat beach party. Photo: Sarah Gilliand, Twins TravelingMom

Traditional or Innovative, City or Country: Halloween traditions live on

Whatever your Halloween celebration style, one thing is for sure, kids love this holiday. A few years ago just two days after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York City, we assumed Halloween would be cancelled. Not a chance. Countless businesses opened their doors to hand out candy to hordes of little devils, ghosts, Disney characters and more. I remember walking through the Upper West Side as delighted costumed characters ran in and out of the stores collecting treats.

And if I had known about Trunk-or-Treat then, I would have hailed a taxi cab, loaded the trunk with candy and joined in the fun.

Interested in organizing a trunk-or-treat?

Our partner, SheBuysCars, gave us some tips on organizing a trunk-or-treat in your community. You’ll find those tips here.

And, of course, safety is the number one priority every Halloween whether your kids are trick-or-treating or at a trunk-or-treat event. You’ll find important Halloween safety tips here.