Road Tripping: a food survival guide

Every summer my family and I make a trip back to my hometown to hang out with family, reconnect with friends, and generally put our feet up and relax. While we’ve usually flown in the past, we’re now shifting towards driving as it lets us set our own pace and save a bit of money. But a 14-19 hour drive? Well, that’s painful no matter what. But we’ve found that the right food makes everything a little better.

Bring your own food

Like many people, I enjoy fast food probably a little more than I should. But on a recent trip I discovered that even I have my limits. Three fast-food meals was just too much. Now we pack a cooler of food. It affords us some flexibility, affordability, and a much higher quality meal. We never had trouble finding a park, highway rest stop or coffee shop to stop at.

But what meals should I bring?

What you bring with you depends, of course, on what you and your family like to eat. We found it easiest to bring a small cooler with an ice-pack and easy sandwich ingredients and sides that we could assemble when we stopped:

  • our favourite sandwich fixings: bread (or buns or pita), cold meat, hummus or mustard, pre-sliced cheese, cucumbers, bell peppers.
  • food that’s a bit too messy for inside the car, but is perfect when having a picnic:
    • in season fruit,
    • rice cakes and baby carrots with hummus,
    • juice boxes or pop when you need a break from drinking water.
My road trip does not look like this!

And for snacks?

Snacks are harder to sort out than meals. You don’t want anything greasy, messy, or too salty. We generally pack some combination of the following:

  • goldfish crackers,
  • soda crackers (excellent for warding off carsickness),
  • raisins/craisins,
  • small crustless peanut butter (or alternative) sandwiches,
  • plain almonds,
  • granola bars, and
  • apples.

To keep things tidy we pack kid snacks in small ziploc bags, keep a shopping bag to use as a garbage bag, and do a quick tidy of the car at every stop.

What else should I bring?

We’re big water drinkers, so I always pack one reusable water bottle per person (I love this one for adults and this one for kids). For clean-up I always include a pack of baby wipes, a roll of paper towel, and some hand sanitizer. A few empty grocery bags make it easy to get rid of garbage along the way. While we can usually find a picnic table to eat at, a plastic backed picnic blanket is great in a pinch.

A pocket knife is useful for cutting up fruit and cheese, and a couple of plastic plates make eating a bit neater.

Our favourite cooler is a fabric one with a hard liner (easier to clean!). Paired with an ice-pack it’ll keep food cold all day. But, if you need to keep food cooler longer, you can always use a plug-in cooler.


Safe travels, wherever your journeys make take you!




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