For many families, summer is synonymous with road trips. Regardless of the total miles of pavement, one of the many things to consider is what your family is going to eat while on the road. With the cost of drive-thrus and gas station stops quickly adding up, it’s important to plan ahead, so you’re ready when hunger strikes and you might need to curb the kiddos’ munchies.
I’m sure other families are like ours. Within an hour, my 5-year-old can ask ten times, “I’m hungry. When will we stop to eat?” Knowing his tendency to ask the same question over and over and over … and over again … it’s important for us to have quick accessible snacks in the car, as well as foods we can prepare quickly during a stop.
Last summer, our family spent a week in Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park and meal prep was an essential part of our vacation planning as we stayed in different places every night and didn’t have access to a fridge or cooking appliances. To complicate things more, we flew into Salt Lake City – a 5-hour drive to Grand Teton National Park – and were limited in how much we could bring with us. We had the added challenge of figuring out how we were going to transport three car seats and food supplies, luggage and hiking gear for five people through the SLC airport with three young kids.
We decided that instead of using suitcases, we’d pack all our things into two coolers and bring duffle bags that fold into small pouches to transfer clothes into once we got to our destination and bought groceries. That way, one cooler served as the “fridge” for perishable foods, while the other was our pantry and had our portable butane cookstove, cooking supplies and dried goods.
This method worked out well, and I wish I had thought to do it sooner with all our travels. It was so convenient to just pull out two containers with the things we needed. We were able to have home-cooked meals, and the kids were in better moods because they didn’t have to wait so long to eat after spending so much time in the car.
That got me thinking about how other families do road trip foods and snacks. I wanted to find ways to improve how we do things even more so road trips could run smoother – at least where food is concerned. I don’t think I can control being asked for the 100th time how many more minutes before we get there (in the first hour of 12!!).
Knowing the Hike it Baby community is always a great resource, I wanted to see what other families’ solutions were for road trip food and snack hacks.
We carry snacks that don’t need refrigeration in a box. We keep a cooler with a few drinks and condiments. Then we stop at grocery stores and buy small amounts of deli meat and cheese for sandwiches. For dinners we bring our backpacking stove and boil water for either freeze-dried food or a bath to heat canned soup/pasta. –Nicole Rosenberg
We love our Kleen kanteen and Rtic water bottles. It’s important to me to reduce our environmental impact while traveling, and water bottles are a major potential waste product. We also love the lunchbots containers for packing “lunchables.” Our favorite road and plane snacks are: Bare fruit, Mooncheese, Harvest snap pea crisps, Epic bars, Fresh fruit, Yogurt (best to freeze if taking on plane), Carrots and Fig bars for a treat. –Jordan Else
We also have a kitchen box and cooler with plenty of food and snacks for breakfast and lunch then we enjoy dinner at a restaurant. I normally take deli sandwich/wraps makings, cut up fruits and veggies, jerky, trail mix and the usual snacks like apple sauce packets, fruit leather, raisins, nuts, pretzels, crackers, etc…and lots of water. We also always have peanut butter and honey in our kitchen box bc my Toddler often times decides that is all he will eat and that’s a battle I don’t need to win while we’re traveling long distances. –Joey Kendrick Johnson
We always have to travel with a cooler (insulin). We’ve been doing little mini weekend adventures but the prospect of eating out as a family of 6 gets crazy expensive. I’ve made dinners before we leave ( pasta salad, spaghetti, chicken parm). Anything that can easily be reheated or eaten cold. We also pack snacks, fruits, veggies, pretzels, cheese, yougert and put them in individual bags for easy distribution. Because we’re bringing most of our food and drinks we’ve been able to do so many more trips. –Kayla Klein
Do you have other snack and food hacks during your family travels? Please share with us in the comments below.
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Photos by Vong Hamilton and Jordan Else.