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Planning Food for a Road Trip: 6 Tips

If the mere thought of planning food for a road trip stresses you out, you’re not alone. Travel is challenging enough without adding meal planning to the mix. But what if putting together snacks and refreshments was easy? Well, with these tips, it can be!

Stay healthy and happy on the road by eating well, wherever you go. Whether you wish to pack snacks or full meals, here’s how to take the simple approach to food on the go. 

1. Pack Portable Snacks 

The easiest way to keep yourself — and your road trip buddies — from a grumbling stomach and sour mood is to pack portable snacks. Think easy, non-perishable finger foods like pretzels, muffins, dry cereal, nuts, dried fruit, jerky, veggie chips and fresh fruits like grapes and apples. 

These items don’t require refrigeration, so you can easily wrap and pack them in a bookbag or center console. Plus, they’re relatively healthy considering your alternative: fast food. If you have room for a cooler, you can bring cold-cut sandwiches, cheese, hummus, pre-sliced fruit, raw veggies and dip. Pack them in individual containers or go bento box style to create well-rounded snack trays for each person.

2. Plan Make-Ahead Meals

Of course, you’ll want to prep a few make-ahead meals, too. After all, snacking all day doesn’t replace breakfast, lunch or dinner, so you’ll still have to plan for these meals. Depending on how long you’ll be on the road, it’s probably infeasible to make every single one. Instead, prepare and pack a few and eat out the rest of the time. You’re on vacation, remember? It’s ok to treat yourself a little. 

Boost your mood — and your health — by prepping nutritious make-ahead meals for your family. If you don’t mind bringing a cooler, prep perishables like pasta salad, turkey wraps, salad in a jar and other cold grab-and-go meals. Otherwise, non-perishables like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pop tarts, biscuits and other items may suffice for a day or so. 

3. Make Healthier Fast Food Stops

Odds are you’ll make a stop or two along the way, regardless of how much food you pack. When you do, make the healthiest choice possible by picking a fast-food chain like Taco Bell or Panera. Even Subway and Wendy’s can serve as healthier alternatives to places like McDonald’s and Burger King. As long as you stick to lighter fare like grilled chicken sandwiches, salads and wraps, you can still keep your salt, fat and sugar intake to a minimum. 

4. Add Mealtime to the Itinerary

Whether you pack your own food or hit a few fast-food joints along the way, remember to add mealtimes to your travel itinerary. Otherwise, you might put the pedal to the metal and never stop at all. You and your passengers need sustenance and rest, however little you can spare time for, so remember to stop and eat together every few hours. 

Pull off at a roadside rest area and enjoy your pre-packed meal at a picnic table. Stop at a fast-food restaurant but get out to order and stretch your legs. You can even enjoy a meal or two inside your RV or on the tailgate if you’re in the middle of nowhere. Wherever you stop to eat, remember to factor it into your plans so you still reach your destination on time. 

5. Bring the Right Gear

Whether you’re traveling with family or friends, bringing the right gear is essential for enjoying meals on the go. Of course, paper plates, plastic cutlery and reusable mugs or cups are a must. A covered car trashcan, refillable water bottles and extra napkins and trash bags may also come in handy. 

If you’re planning to pack perishables like meat and cheese, save room for a cooler and remember to pick up ice before you get on the highway. You might even keep a second one filled with canned or bottled drinks to quench your thirst. Just factor in a few extra pit stops if you do. 

6. Don’t Forget Dessert!

Ok, you’ve been on the road for hours. The kids have been pretty good. It’s time to give in and let everyone have a sweet treat. What do you reach for? Not those extra-chewy gummy worms or the chips that stink up the car. No, you deserve something extra special on such a long trip, so don’t forget to prep and pack a tasty dessert. 

Make homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and chocolate chips or take a few extra minutes to make no-bake energy bites or peanut butter cookies. These delicious treats are easy to make, delicious and chock full of protein to keep you full between meals. Make a few batches or mix and match desserts if you plan on driving a few days straight. 

Keep Planning Food for a Road Trip Simple

When you start to feel overwhelmed, take a breather and remember to keep things simple. You don’t have to plan or prep three courses a day. You don’t even have to prep snacks if you don’t want to. Simply purchase pre-packaged healthy snacks and stock up on bottled water. See? Easy as pie. 

If you have time, go the extra mile and toss in a jar of peanut butter or a few extra treats. Work with what you have and keep things simple. Most importantly, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride — and all that delicious food!

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