From Florida to Maine, California to Washington, and one coast to the other, I’ve traveled all around America. It all started when I got the bright idea to quit my job, pack up my car, and begin a rambling journey that lead me to land in North Carolina for a few years. Eager to explore, I took advantage of my new situation and infiltrated as many states as possible. I was fortunate enough to experience the autumn foliage of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the best lobster rolls in Maine, phenomenal pizza in Connecticut, more breweries than I could imagine, and far too many picturesque landscapes to name.
On the move again, the love of being on the road has struck me once more, but not without one frustration: food. Dietary needs, food convenience, and the lack of a kitchen, these can all be problematic when setting out on a long road trip. Thankfully, in my travels I’ve picked up on a few things that have kept frustration at bay when hunger strikes. Whether you’re about to embark on a long journey or are taking a short trip, here are a few food tips to help you along the way.
1. Keep the cooler and snack bag in easy access.
When hunger strikes on the road and you start to feel your blood sugar drop, you want food, fast. Nothing is worse than having to pull over, if you even can, and dig out snacks. It may sound obvious, but keep the snack bag within arms reach along the cooler, too.
It’s insane how easy it is for things to get buried when you’re on the road. Weather, time, and varying other factors can cause packing up the car to become not so tidy of an arrangement. That’s why it’s a necessity to make the road snacks accessible. And that means the cooler, too! Take it from me, leaving the cooler out of hands reach can become a problem.
I crave whole foods like my prepped fresh veggies and hummus. When they’re stashed away and unreachable, I have to resort to satisfying my hunger with potato chips or other packaged goods. Maintaining healthy eating habits on the road is already enough of a challenge. With a little more care, gorging on potato chips can be avoided by packing snacks of the healthy variety within arms reach.
2. Speaking of snacks, fresh fruit and nuts are your friend.
I need healthy road trip snacks. Stopping for fast food or filling up on gas station snacks are not an option in my book – even though not everyone in the car feels the same. This means I need to be cautious of what I have on hand. In order to keep energy levels happy and the body healthy, I’ve found that a combination of whole fruits like apples and oranges along with nuts are a road trip powerhouse. The protein of nuts will keep you fueled, while all the vitamins from whole fruits will make you feel good. The fact that both of these require no cooler space and can be kept in the snack bag as an alternative to munching endlessly on chips is an added bonus.
Another reason I like to keep this duo on hand is stress. No matter what you’re doing, who you’re with, or how exhilarated you may be about your trip, traveling stress is inevitable. Traveling stress can cause the body to break down easier when not properly fueled. Keep these two healthy snacks on hand and your immune system along with energy levels will have a fighting chance.
3. Bad weather? Peanut butter, avocados, and crackers can save breakfast.
I live for camping. Rain, wind, or snow – believe me, we’ve had plenty of the latter on our most recent Washington trip – it’s my main form of travel. Waking up to a spectacular view accompanied by a warm cup of Yerba Mate and a breakfast burrito cooked over the camping stove after we pulled off some forest road to bust a camp, as my boyfriend calls it, is what camping is all about. Sadly, the weather doesn’t always allow for that warm cup of mate and a breakfast burrito. That presents a problem, especially if you’re trying to keep my boyfriend fed.
Whether or not you’re a morning person, waiting hours to eat after you’ve hit the road can easily cause energy levels to crash. That’s when I realized peanut butter, avocados, and crackers are a great idea as a breakfast alternative. Spread either peanut butter or avocado, or both, on flatbread crackers or healthy crackers, and you have a quick fix breakfast that will keep you fueled until lunchtime.
4. Stop whenever and wherever you can fill up on water.
I can’t stress this enough: Take advantage of every free water source you can! Visitor centers, state parks, rest stops, and drinking fountains everywhere are your friend. Water runs out fast on a road trip. Buying up water bottles adds up, not too mention is a waste. There is free water all around, you just have to know where to look and remember to stock up.
Don’t think because you have a campsite or are staying at a hotel that you can have access to water. On a recent trip to Whidbey Island, Wash., we got to the state park campsite we found out there was no water at our campsite. It wasn’t just the campsite that was out, the whole town was down. I was kicking myself for breaking my own “fill up your water” rule. Pipes freeze, pipes burst, and water gets contaminated. You may not expect it, but it happens. So fill up your water. Especially because you never know if or where you’ll get stranded.
5. Shove extra napkins in the glove box.
I don’t know about you, but eating in the car gets messy – especially if you’re the driver. Paper towel rolls are great, but whenever you need them, they seem to be buried in the most unlikely place. That’s why I stash napkins in the glove box.
Like the old ladies that steal Sweet n’ Low packets, I steal extra napkins and keep them in the car. It may sound like obvious advice, but once again it’s one of those things that if you don’t think about it, you’ll be wishing you had.
6. Insulated growlers are a must.
I love insulated growlers. I also love beer. But my beer growlers never get filled up with beer on road trips, they get filled up with all the other liquids. Water, soup, coffee, tea, anything that can keep cool or warm goes into the insulated growlers. Why? Why not!
I don’t know about you, but when I’m on the road, I don’t have time to prep every morning – nor do I want to. Thanks to insulated growlers, food and drinks can be kept warm for about 12 hours. That means when you’re making soup the night before, pour it into your growler and you’ve got lunch. Or brew a big batch of coffee and all you have to do is heat, requiring minimal effort and time. Take advantage of your growlers because you never know what tomorrow brings.
7. Food prep is the key to success.
If there was one piece of advice you should take away more than the rest, it’s to do your food prep! I can’t stress this enough. No prep usually results in dollars wasted on some terrible meal at a random restaurant because you were hungry or eating unhealthy food because it was convenient.
Taking the time to prep healthy road trip foods like hummus and veggies, sandwiches, lentil salad, homemade granola bars, hard boiled eggs, or whatever it is you can keep on hand and eat with a fork will keep you satisfied when hunger strikes. It will also save you money and prevent anyone form getting hangry.
Got any road trip food advice? Let us know!