Road trips are often romanticized, and rightfully so. Hitting the open road is the ultimate vacation from ordinary daily life, exposing you to new sights and cultures while forging lasting relationships with those in your traveling party. Getting the logistical details right before departure can make all the difference in how smoothly the journey goes. What food to pack for a long vacation in a car is near the top of that list.
Part of the fun of a road trip is snacking along the way. It breaks the monotony of endless miles and provides a diversion for young children. As tempting as it may be to provide normally forbidden junk food, an enclosed vehicle is not the place to create sugar highs and lows. Avoid candy and fat-laden foods that cause bloating and irritation without the ability to work it off with exercise. Opt for granola bars, cheese sticks, naturally sweetened fruit snacks, pretzels, popcorn, rice cakes, crackers, nuts and fresh fruit. Veggie sticks such as carrots and celery are an excellent choice for snacking and for encouraging proper digestion while sitting for long periods of time. You want happy campers, so feed them healthy snacks.
Experiencing local cuisine is one of the memorable parts of a road trip, so stop at small cafes and roadside diners serving regional cuisine if at all possible. There will be times when this is not feasible, so have simple meals in the car for lunch while driving or for stopping at picnic sites along the way. Sandwiches and wraps are an easy and healthy solution. If you choose cold cuts or fresh meat, keep them cold at all times and consume within one day. Opt for peanut butter if possible. Wrap sandwiches in plastic and save condiments for spreading immediately prior to eating so that sandwiches will not get soggy. Avoid foods with strong smells.
Water is the drink of choice on road trips as it quenches the thirst, cleanses the system and keeps you hydrated on hot days. Purchase individual water bottles in bulk ahead of time in order to avoid excessively high prices at convenience stores along the way. For some variety, pack juice boxes and bottles of flavored herbal iced tea. Keep the driver in mind and throw in some energy drinks or coffee drinks to help with alertness. Warm liquids can be soothing for passengers who want to sleep, so bring along a thermos for hot cocoa and tea.
An ice chest is an essential piece of equipment for any road trip. Choose a chest with an easily accessible spout for emptying water as the ice melts. Consider purchasing refreezable gel ice packs as an alternative to real ice. Large ice chests are tempting but take up too much space and encourage excessive amounts of food, which can go bad if not consumed with a couple of days. Opt for a smaller, durable chest that is easily carried indoors and refilled with fresh items as the trip progresses. Collapsible ice chests offer the most flexibility as the journey draws to a close. Remember to pack trash bags and disposable utensils. Place snacks in small, resealable plastic bags for easy access and portion control.