Trunk or Treat is a Halloween event that is often church- or community-sponsored. People gather and park their cars in a large parking lot. They open their trunks, or the backs of their vehicles, and decorate them. Then they pass out candy from their trunks. The event provides a safe family environment for trick or treaters.

When it comes to decorating your vehicle there are the obvious choices, like decorating for Halloween, using pumpkins, spider webbing, spiders, brooms, bats, cauldrons, scary stuff...

NOTE: Some church-sponsored trunk or treat events ask that participants not use scary items, like blood, bats, witches, spiders, monsters, or gore. It's a good idea anyway because so many of your trick or treaters will be preschoolers and toddlers.

The best way to plan your trunk is to pick a theme. Think of it like dressing yourself in a costume. Sometimes you pick a theme and throw things together. Some of the trunks that stand out in my mind from last year were:

An SUV which was '70's themed. They threw down some shag, hung a disco ball and parked close to the church so they could run an extension cord to a light ball. The people wore 'fro wigs and tie dye. It was pretty funny. So you could do 50's, 60's or 80's too.

One lady was Mother Goose and had a few little settings around the trunk representing different nursery rhymes. 

You can dress as a clown and fill your trunk with balloons.

Another one was a zookeeper who had lots of stuffed animals set about.

One acted like their trunk was the back of a boat. They had fishing poles for hooking the candy. (I actually recommend against activities like this because they hold up the line pretty badly)

Other ideas:
Beach or Luau theme. Open up the back of the vehicle, hang some towels and set up a boogie board against the door, set out beach chairs, use an umbrella. There are tons of things you could do with this. I told a friend she should wear her bathing suit over her clothes. I think the kids would think that's a riot. She doesn't want to, but someone should do it.

NASCAR Theme - Display all your souvenirs
Harvest Theme 
Sports Theme (pick a sport) - Team displays are popular
Popular Kid's Themes: Sesame StreetDora the ExplorerVeggie TalesBackyardigans (If you have kids and they're into a particular character you can use their stuff. Other kids will love it)
Animal Themes - Stuffed animals count.
Movie Themes (Keep the kids in mind though)
Western Theme
Camping Out theme
Christmas (or other holiday) Theme
Gone Fishing Theme
Pirate Theme 

Don't forget about a costume for yourself. The best and most interesting trunks have their owners dressed to match the theme. 

Links with more information and ideas:
Trunk or Treat a Growing Halloween Trend (Pioneer Press)
Trunt or Treat: Halloween Tailgating Grows (New York Times)
15 Thrifty Trunk or Treat Decorating Ideas
Trunk or Treat Ideas
120 Creative Trunk or Treat Ideas

Additional notes: 
If you are organizing a trunk or treat there are a few things to keep in mind. Once word gets out that you're having a Trunk or Treat you may get more people than you anticipate, especially if you make your event an annual one. It's a good idea to solicit donations of candy before the event. Most "trunkers" will bring some, but it will most likely not be enough. If you're representing a sponsoring civic organization you might hit up your members or local businesses for donations. In a church you might ask your members to bring in candy. During this church's trunk or treat they send out youth group members with wagons full of candy to check on the trunkers and restock them if necessary. Many trunk or treat events offer a prize for the best trunk. You can solicit donations for prizes too.

It's a good idea to offer hot dogs, chips, and soft drinks at your event. One idea from our guestbook is to serve cider, donuts, hot cocoa, and coffee. You'll sell some to your "trunkers," as well as to families coming through. It's an especially good idea if your sponsoring group is a church hoping to witness to new families. The food encourages people to linger. Games can also add to the spirit of fun. Bobbing for apples is a popular game to offer. Another guestbook commenter's church offers a petting zoo, jumper, games, and puppet show.

Piping in Halloween themed music to the parking lot can add to the festive atmosphere.

If your church is considering a Trunk or Treat as an outreach program, don't miss the opportunity to let people know what's going on in your church. The First Church of the Nazarene took the opportunity to distribute brochures for a Christmas outreach project they support, Operation Christmas Child. Some pieces of candy were distributed with a message or scripture attached. Still another piece of candy we found in our bag included an invitation to the 4 and 5 year-olds room on Sunday to pick up an additional treat. They treated everyone wonderfully and were very welcoming; it was a great incentive to worship there. 

I've been asked how you can turn a Trunk or Treat into a fundraising opportunity for your organization. The simple truth is that I haven't heard of an organization doing this successfully. If your organization has done this and it was a success I'd love to hear about it so I can share it with folks here. (UPDATE: A kind reader submitted her experience using a trunk or treat as a fundraiser. You can read how she does it here.)
Effort has been made to remove any personal information from these photos.
Copyright 2006-2017. All rights reserved. 

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How this web site came about:
On my personal blog I blogged several years ago about attending a Trunk or Treat at a church that my relatives attend. That one post got a remarkable number of hits from Google and other search engines. When I did searches myself I realized that there was nearly nothing out there about trunk or treating, especially with pictures to help people with ideas. So I expanded upon the blog post, added more pictures, and created this page purely for informational purposes.

I do not attend the church where this Trunk of Treat takes place. I do not know the people in the photos. They are anonymous to me. I posted these pictures because I was so impressed with the creativity of the trunks. I took great care to remove license plates numbers and any other personal information.This site is intended purely as a service to those interested in trunk or treating ideas.

Even though we are planning to attend a trunk or treat and I should be able to take more pictures this year I would still like to receive pictures from readers. Send me a picture of your trunk and I will be glad to post it, provided it's a good picture :)

Contact me

Thank you to those who have left comments in the Guest Book! It's gratifying to know that people are finding useful information here. Plus, they're leaving great ideas there!
2009 Photos
Photos Submitted by Site Visitors
2006 Photos
Shawna, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Steve in NJ raises the bar with these photos of trunks his family has done.
In the mausoleum photos you can see the outline of their vehicle through the open doors. Steve says, "A few of us go all out in there creatively." No argument here!
Photo courtesy B. Duncan who writes, "My little boy is a Thomas the Train fan so we decided to go with that theme. We created this out of some old plywood and a 55 gallon barrel. We cut a hole for the mouth of Thomas and put our bags of treats in there."
Photo courtesy Shawna of Cuyahoga Falls, OH, who writes, "I looked at our car and saw a dragon. So I did a medieval theme. I was the Queen,my husband was a knight, and my daughters were the court jester and pink dragon. We had a smoke machine in the trunk and we won the best display of the night!"
Submitted by Becky Nzeocha
Submitted by Becky Nzeocha
Submitted by Becky Nzeocha
Submitted by Becky Nzeocha
Submitted by Becky Nzeocha
This Rain Forest trunk won First prize. Submitted by Jayne Todd.
This Rain Forest trunk won First prize. Submitted by Jayne Todd.
This Rain Forest trunk won First prize. Submitted by Jayne Todd.
Uncaptioned photos below show excellent ideas from the Harrisonburg First Church of the Nazarene in Virginia.
This 2010 photo shows the event in full swing at the church.
2007 Photos
2011 - 2105 Photos
2015 Photos
2010 Photos