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family eating on road trip

Road Trip Food Ideas: Tips For Take Along Food

Whether you plan to travel by car, plane, train or bus, taking along your own meals or snacks makes traveling go more smoothly. This is especially true when you are traveling with children.

family road trip

Whether you plan to travel by car, plane, train or bus, taking along your own meals or snacks makes traveling go more smoothly. This is especially true when you are traveling with children.

When my boys were ages 7 and 11 we decided to take a two-week road trip. I was a bit apprehensive about spending hours in the car with two rambunctious boys. So, I decided I needed to be prepared with lots of fun activities they could do while riding along. I packed a backpack for each filled with games, toys, books and other surprises. I also knew that I would need to have plenty of snacks as well. And, I wanted to be able to eat our breakfast and lunch when we wanted without having to go into a restaurant. Here are some tips I used for packing food when traveling:

General Tips for Good Road Trip Foods:

Be sure to use a cooler for foods that need to be kept cool.  For short trips or only a few refrigerated items, try using an insulated cooler bag or lunch box.

portable coolers

Bring along a box of large re-sealable plastic freezer bags for ice to keep the food in the cooler cold.  Ice is free at most hotels/motels or it can be purchased at most gas stations. Place the ice in the large freezer bags, seal tightly, and you have created re-fillable cold packs. I often use two bags to create a “double bag” to help prevent any water from leaking as the ice melts. Use as many “ice bags” as needed to keep the food cold.  The cooler temperature should be kept at or below 40°F. Large coolers will take multiple “ice bags.” Replace the ice as often as needed.

ice bags

A heavy-duty box with a removable lid or a sturdy plastic container works well for non-refrigerated foods. I like to use copy paper boxes. (Strategically pack your car so that the food containers are easily and quickly accessible. For our trip we used a large cooler we kept handy in the very back of our SUV. All we had to do was open the back door to access the cooler. I also had a small cooler in the back seat with juice boxes, water and some fruit so we could get to it while on the road.

If you are traveling for multiple days, plan to stop at a grocery store along the way to re-supply.

Don’t forget to pack paper items like napkins, plates, bowls and cups, and disposable utensils. Bring a few garbage bags along for easy clean-up and a plastic tablecloth comes in handy to cover dirty picnic tables.

paper plates and utensils

A few kitchen tools will be helpful as well, such as a paring knife and table knife or spreader.

Have a travel mug with a lid for each family member. Or, there are many options of drinking containers with lids from sippy cups to water bottles. Lids help prevent spills.

water bottles and cups

Be sure to bring anti-bacterial moistened wipes for clean-up and hand sanitizer, too. I also include a small bottle of dish detergent, a dish cloth and dish towel for washing up in rest areas.

Road Trip Foods for Breakfast:

Fresh fruit such as bananas, grapes and oranges

Yogurt with granola or other cereals to stir in

Cereal bars

Dry cereal with milk on the side. Kids can eat the cereal with their fingers and then drink the milk.

Homemade quick breads such as banana bread or pumpkin bread. Bake, slice and freeze prior to the trip. Store in the cooler. The bread will defrost and because it’s already sliced will be easy to serve. Try making Chocolate Chip Banana Mini Loaves.

banana bread

Road Trip foods for Snacks:

Snack mix recipes are easy to make and travel well. Pre-portion into individual servings in small plastic food bags.

Prepare baby carrots and other cut-up veggies. Prepare at home and package in plastic food bags.

Bake your favorite cookie and package in re-sealable containers. I like to pack about a dozen per container so not all of the cookies are eaten in one sitting. I bring out one package at a time.

Bring easy-to-eat fruit such as bananas, grapes and apples. If the fruit won’t be peeled be sure to wash it at home.

Nuts and dried fruit.

Prepare individual servings of crackers and cheese at home by placing a few crackers in a small re-sealable plastic food bag, cut cheese into bite size pieces and wrap in plastic food wrap then place in the bag with the crackers.


Road Trip Foods for Lunch:

everything packed

· Prepare sandwiches and wrap individually in plastic food wrap. Don’t include wet ingredients on your sandwiches, like tomato slices or pickles; instead bring a small container of these additions to add when you are ready to eat. That way your sandwiches won’t get soggy.

Pack sandwich fixings so everyone can make their own. Sliced sandwich meats (available in re-sealable containers), sliced cheese, lettuce, sliced tomato, pickle slices, etc. Don’t forget a jar of peanut butter! Bring a variety of bread or sandwich buns. Squeeze bottles of mustard and mayo mean no knife or spreader is needed.

Many of the snack ideas above make great lunch additions too!

Single-serve bags of chips or pretzels

Bring out one of your home-baked cookies packages for dessert

It’s easy to turn your favorite foods into road trip foods when traveling. All it takes is a little planning and a few careful choices.  Try some of the tips provided above as you lay out your strategy for snacks and meals to take on your next trip. Happy trails!

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