Wow your installation with these 7 easy trunk-or-treat ideas


(Photo: Beth Teutschmann, Unsplash)

Autumn is my favorite season. I love when the weather turns crisp, the leaves start to change, and I get to trade in my tank tops for sweaters and boots. Add a sprinkle of pumpkin spice flavor to everything, and this woman is a very happy camper.

So, naturally, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays–and nothing beats Halloween on a military base. It’s like something out of the 1950s. Hordes of children dressed in colorful costumes run amok, bouncing from house to house collecting candy, while their parents trail after them chatting with friends and sipping an adult cider or two. It’s always a safe place to take the kids out to enjoy the festivities of the season and one of the best on-base events has to be our annual trunk-or-treat.

As much as I love it though, I don’t always have the time to dress up my vehicle the way I’d like. Some people go all out, turning their pickup truck into a pirate ship complete with a plank to walk, but more often than not, I end up skipping out because something else in my life always seems to take precedence.

So, for all of you, who (like me), want to participate in the fun but find yourself pressed for time, I’ve compiled a list of seven easy trunk-or-treat ideas that don’t require too much time, money, or effort:

1. Donut Shop

Paint a dozen small pumpkins to look like donuts–pink icing with sprinkles a la Homer Simpson is my favorite, but be as creative as you like. Then, use empty cardboard boxes to create height in the back or your SUV or minivan, and drape the boxes with a cheap white table cloth (I shop for these in the birthday section of my local dollar store). Next, display the pumpkin donuts as though they’re in a baker’s case. If you have time, make a sign for your donut shop to pin above the pumpkins. Wear an apron and a chef’s hat to complete your look.

If you want to go the extra mile, have trick-or-treaters play the “donut-on-a-string game.” To play, tie cooking twine through the center of two donuts. Then, tie the free end of the twine through the handle on the back of your open SUV or minivan trunk so that two donuts are dangling from strings next to each other at kiddo-mouth height. Have two players start at the same time, and race to eat the donut off the string. When a winner’s been crowned, tie two new strings and donuts up and repeat.

2. Pirate’s Treasure Chest

This one is for those of us who have zero time and a sedan with a separate trunk. Start by stringing up skull and cross bone flags/pennants across the top of your trunk (this year, I found these at my local dollar store). Next, fill your trunk with chocolate coins and other candy. Then, place a skeleton and a “treasure chest” in the center of the trunk. The chest can be anything from a decorative wooden box you have around the house to a wrapped cardboard box. Fill the chest with Mardi Gras beads and your little one’s dress-up tiara’s and jewels. Don’t forget to wear your best bandana and eye patch and crack lots of pirate jokes!

If you have time to make a game, go for the Captain Hook Ring Toss. First, glue plastic hook hands (these can be purchased on Amazon or at a Halloween costume store) on a large piece of painted or decorated cardboard. Then, make rings our of lengths of lengths of rope taped together at the ends. Prop up the cardboard inside the trunk of the car so it won’t fall, and have the trick-or-treaters toss rings around the hooks.

3. Jaws

This one also takes very little effort and is compatible with any type of vehicle. Start by cutting large triangles out of cardboard to make the teeth. Next, paint them white and color some of the tips red to make the teeth look bloody. Then, tape the teeth on the top and bottom of your open trunk. Use a red tablecloth (dollar store again!) to line the inside of your trunk, making it resemble the inside of a giant shark’s mouth. If you have one (or can borrow one), place a surfboard in the open mouth of your trunk to make it look like Jaws has eaten a surfer. If you want wear a costume that goes with your theme, dress up like a lifeguard.

4. Pumpkin Patch Put-Put

This one is for the golf fans among us. Start by carving out jack-o-lanterns with mouths that open all the way to the ground. Lay some AstroTurf on the ground (or a green table cloth from the dollar store will also work if you tape it down), and place the pumpkins at various places on the turf. Then, fill your trunk with pumpkins painted and dressed to look like golfers (or golf fans!). To finish it off, let the littles practice their putting. If your child has a kid’s golf club and whiffle balls, that works best, but a normal putter and golf ball will work too. Wear your best golf garb to complete your display.

5. Graveyard

Start with a green dollar store tablecloth to use as grass for a backdrop and lay it in the back of your car. Next, use cardboard to create your own headstones for a graveyard. Cut them out in various shapes, paint them gray, and add funny names and epithets with a large black marker (e.g. “Here lies Tom: The shell is here but the nut is gone.”). Use a long, thin cardboard box, or a crate if you have one, to create an open coffin full of candy. If you really want to up your game, use a large piece of cardboard and cut out the center to create a headstone that acts as a photo-op. Skeletons and ghosts are both great costumes to pair with this one!

Fortune Teller’s Tent

Start with red, blue, and yellow tablecloths from the dollar store to use as a background for the fortune teller’s tent. From the top of your open trunk, string twinkle lights and a paper lantern to act as a focal point for the tent’s “ceiling”. Then, cover the ground in rugs (these can be real if you have some you don’t mind using outside, or more dollar store tablecloths that you tape in place) and place a card table and two chairs on them. Cover the card table in more colorful cloths and put on your best fortune teller costume. You can read tarot cards, palms, tea leaves, or a crystal ball depending on what you have at home for props. If you don’t have anything that will work, and you’re not so sure about palm-reading, make old-school “fortune tellers” out of paper and use those! (Full disclosure, my friend and I are using a variation on this theme to create Professor Trewlaney’s Divination Classroom from Harry Potter this year.)

Hay Ride

If you happen to have a pickup truck and absolutely no time to plan and execute something elaborate but still want to participate, this one is perfect for you. Fill the bed of the pickup with hay bales and pumpkins. If you have time, carve the pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns. If not, paint on some friendly faces with colored Sharpies. Add a dollar store scarecrow and cover him with crows snipped from black construction paper. Put on your best pair of overalls, braid your hair, and voila: Trunk-or-treat fun in less than an hour.

By Liesel Kershul