Ask the Readers: Food ideas for a road trip?

Cherilyn emailed and asked:

We are planning a 16+ hour road trip in December with three
adults, two kids, and two dogs – yikes! The decreasing gas prices are a
blessing but we would like to save even more by taking most of our own
food. We don't want to have to stop for every meal. Can you give me
some ideas for inexpensive ideas for eating on the road? Ideas beyond
bottled water, beef jerky, and muffins are appreciated since that is
all I can come up with. Thank you! -Cherilyn

I know many of you will probably be doing some traveling to visit family and friends over the next two months so I'd love to hear any and all ideas for road-tripping on the cheap–especially when it comes to food. What are some of your favorite frugal foods to pack and eat on the road? What ideas do you have for keeping food fresh and tasty while traveling? I'm anxious to hear!

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Comments

  1. says

    My husband is a college pastor, and for years, we would take 12-20 students on an 18 hour drive to Florida for Spring Break. Meals were provided by ME!

    The best thing I ever made on the road was a crockpot roast beef. I used an adapter to plug in the crockpot to the lighter, and simmered the roast as we drove down the road. By dinner time, we found a rest area where we could the roast eat outside with salad and rolls. We got many questions and comments from passersby! Just make sure you don’t crock pot something with a lot of liquid that might spill!

  2. Kristine says

    All the ideas mentioned are great! I know this isn’t packable, but we also start collecting restaurant coupons before we leave. We usually eat at least lunch or dinner out of the car and this way we get it cheaper. McD, BK, Subway, IHOP, KFC, Friendly’s are coupons we get regularly in the mail. And for those that have the Entertainment book, there are lots of restaurant coupons in there too!

  3. says

    When we drove to Colorado with my in-laws several years back, my MIL made fried chicken and put it in the cooler for us to eat along the way, served alongside chips/crackers/etc. I recall that it was very tasty cold, and she used dry ice so it stayed cold – never got warm enough to be dangerous.

    Also, instead of packing stuff for sandwhiches – why not plan to stop at a grocery store every few hours in a new town to buy bread, lunchmeat, cheese, etc… so you can stretch your legs and get supplies, that would otherwise take up space in the car?

    And take bottled water for in between stops, then at the store each person can get a drink of their choice for the meal… will help keep kids from drinking (or at least begging for) tons of juice all the way there and back.

    Simple snacks can be packed for the road – granola, nuts, cereal, sliced apples, bananas, granola bars. Just be sure to avoid fruit snacks and other sugary things that will rev up the kids and make them hyper when they are supposed to be sitting still!!!

    When we moved my in-laws to Colorado earlier this year, it took us 2 nights/3 days (from Central Texas)… and we took very few snacks with us. The kids were able to forget about eating because we made sure they had lots of activities – Color Wonder stuff is amazing! – that kept their minds off of food.

    Good luck – and enjoy the trip!

  4. Ellen says

    When we travel we eat breakfast before we go and then have cereal in bags for snacking. We put milk in water bottles so it is less likely to spill. If we stay in a hotel, we are sure to do one with breakfast. Then we packs healthy snacks, sides and beverages. For lunch, we will go through mcdonalds and get .99 cent cheeseburgers for something warm. Then we put our own apples, veggies or what not with it along with beverages. Often for supper,we will do the same thing with something we can grab cheap. That is if we don’t want to deal with a cooler with sandwiches and what not.

  5. says

    I make pb&j sandwiches, cut them in half and fill a lg zip lock bag of those. Then I make good sandwiches or wraps for my husband and I (I’m not a big fan ofthe sandwich so it has to be something good!) we do grapes inthe cooler with the sandwiches and drinks and then I have a basket we keep in the back with zip lock bags full of popcorn, cereals, chips and a few suckers and junk food they like to keep from being asked for something at everystop we make. When we drove from Texas to Disney world my niece made up big envelopes for each kid with a smaller invelope inside to open each time we crossed into a new state. Some with activities, reading, markers, etc… they LOVED it, having something to look forward to was keeping them busy!

  6. says

    A cooler is a necessity for a road trip in our family. We usually pack sandwiches, beef jerky, granola bars, fruit, chopped veggies (carrotts, cucumbers, etc.), water, trail mix, pretzels and gum. We’ll eat a sandwich, fruit and veggies at “meal time”, and we eat the rest as “munchy food” for the rest of the trip.

    Our family has done many, many 12+ hour rides. This summer, we did 31 in a straight shot to South Dakota! (YIKES!) But it goes great and the cost of food is very minimal when you pack it yourself.

    Hope you have a great trip!

  7. says

    Ugh! There’s nothing worse than a cooler filled with soggy food from half-melted ice. We learned a long time ago to forego ice altogether. Instead, we freeze about 2/3 of the water bottles and juice boxes we’re taking beforehand. These become the “coolpacks” for the cooler, keeping the other stuff cold. By the time the other 1/3 of the beverages have been consumed, the frozen ones are beginning to thaw.

    This spares us the mess of a soggy cooler, and allows us to pack more food and drinks, since we’re not wasting space on ice or cold packs.

  8. Ramie says

    Having done 2 cross country treks with 3 kids age 5 & under this summer, I’m a pro at this! We spent 2 nights in hotels en route, so ate dinner out both nights, but we did breakfast, lunch and snacks in the car! Breakfast was cereal bars, bananas, milk (boxes from Horizon for single servings), and dry cereal in ziplock baggies. Lunch was PB&J sandwiches, fruit (apples, pears and oranges that we cut/peeled before we left), carrot & celery sticks, juice boxes or water, and graham cracker sticks. Snacks consisted of raisins, goldfish, graham cracker sticks, fruit snacks and fruit. We prepacked it all before leaving..either in ziplock or small bowls with lids. We kept lots of water on hand, and had access to/room for a cooler. It was super easy, and kept us from buying junk food and fast food. HTH and good luck with your trip!

  9. Jewel Cyr says

    We like tortilla roll-ups (tortillas with ham and cheese rolled up), and tortilla rolls (mix picante sauce and cream cheese together and spread onto tortillas, chill and serve). Croissants with ham and cheese.

  10. says

    My comment is not so much about food but about planning the trip in general- some things I’ve found work great when traveling with my kids is to divide the trip into 10 equal parts, then instead of the constant “Are we there yet?” I can update them as to what number we’re on. For example, a 1-hour trip would be divided into 6-minute segments, so after six minutes we’d be at 1, at 12 minutes 2, and so on. It gives younger kids a better grasp of distance and time, so they don’t feel like they’ll be stuck in the car forever.

    Another thing I’ve found helpful is to keep the same schedule as you do at home. On my last long trip (6 hours) I planned the times for every meal and snack, and mapped out locations for rest breaks. I also designated an hour for “quiet time” right after we stopped for lunch, just like we have at home after lunch. I told the kids it was quiet time, and my 2-year-old promptly fell sound asleep while my 4-year-old played with a quiet electronic laptop learning game. I popped in a book on cd to listen to, and I enjoyed the “break” even though I was still driving. When the little one woke up, we were close to our next rest break, which was a fun stop at McDonald’s for milkshakes- a great treat to boost our spirits till the end of the trip.

    A little advance planning and preparation can make your trip fun, and help you to feel in control even when tired and frazzled from a long drive!

  11. says

    We did a 40 hour road trip with a 18 month old and 3 year old this summer. They did great! Besides the portable DVD player, the best thing I did was wrap up their snacks (and some other surprises) as “presents”. An individual snack package of anything becomes more exciting when you have to unwrap it before you eat it!

  12. says

    In case you didn’t get enough ideas here, I did a giveaway asking a similar question and got hundreds of responses! Maybe some of them will help too. You can click on the link to read all the comments. :)

  13. says

    When we travel

    In a bag: bread, pretzels, apples, trail mix/granola
    In a cooler: bananas, other fruit, lunch meat & cheese

    We both get one water bottle and then we buy a couple gallons of water and bring our little funnel and fill up as we go… less plastic waste!

  14. says

    Great ideas. May I add some of my mom’s classics she used back in the 60’s before all this prepackaged junk food was available: hard cooked eggs which she pre-peeled (I think); steak which she marinated, grilled, cubed, and chilled ahead of time; grapes; dried fruits of all sorts; cherry tomatoes; cucumber spears; canned asparagus spears; cheese cubes; canned bread; jar cheese. Once she made meat pastries, but they turned out to be too crumbly. Yummy, but too messy to repeat.
    These are the ones I remember. We took several cross country trips, driving NONSTOP (except for gas) from the left coast to the right coast and back again. Way back when, it took 52 hours to make the trip. No restaurants, no motels, no parks; just gas stations. And everything we ate was in the car before we left the driveway. We ate the fresher stuff first, then moved to the canned and packaged as the trip went on.

  15. says

    I can see that most of my ideas have been used!
    We love to freeze Gogurts, which you can buy at Costco. I also bring cheese sticks & lots of fruit like grapes, apples, strawberries, etc. Sometimes you can buy prepackaged and pre-cut apples at Costco or Publix, and those are a nice luxury when traveling. Raisins work well. I also buy a big container of goldfish & make individual bags for each child. Wheat thins, cheerios, fruit loops, Pirates booty, etc also work well in individual bags. I fill a water bottle for each child but also pack milk, bottled water, and juice boxes. Have fun!

  16. Melissa says

    PB&J works great! You could either take jelly in a cooler, or use leftover jelly packets from restaurants.
    Depending on how messy your family is, you also might be able to have chicken or tuna from a can or pouch. If you get really ambitious, you could make your own chicken/tuna salad on the road with mayo from the cooler.
    And if you do stop and eat out, another good option we have found is Little Caesar’s. A lot of the stores have large “hot & ready” pizzas (usually cheese, pepperoni, or sausage) for just $5.

  17. says

    My husband and I went on a trip to Colorado for our one year anniversary. While we were gone we paid for one meal out – a dinner on our anniversary. While we were on the road we munched on popcorn popper popcorn, crackers, pretzels, rolls, muffins, etc that I had made ahead of time and put in large ziploc bags. We also packed a cooler with frozen water bottles and all the makings for sandwiches: meats, cheese, bread, etc. I also packed fruit, veggies, and cookies.

    While we were traveling we simply pulled off at a rest stop and assembled our lunches. Sometimes we turned it into a picnic and sometimes we jumped right back on the road.

    While we were in Colorado we ate casseroles that I had prepared, frozen, and packed in the cooler. We saved sooooo much money traveling that way!

  18. Rochelle Wilkerson says

    I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for the awesome suggestions! I always pack coolers for road trips now I have alot more suggestions.

    And an amen to the person who said be safe rather than convenient. A crockpot may be a good idea but I would hate to get into a wreck with it.

  19. Donna says

    We often eat in the van, even around town. We have 6 children and one that we babysit. Being a homeschooling family, that makes for 7 children on our weekly PT/OT/Speech days.

    I had a large picnic basket that I kept stocked with various chips, crackers, and jerky, but recently switched to a Rubbermaid box. This is working much better! The cooler can sit on top of the box of food in between the driver and passenger (food and drink server). I don’t worry about healthy food, I think more about ease and what the children like. We often turn our therapy days into errand, library, and park days, so I try to keep the troops happy foodwise.

    That said, I’ve also tried other foods on longer trips. There’s the standard chips and crackers. I’ve also taken rice krispie treats (just made some this morning to have on hand tomorrow!), various muffins (you can use your biscuit dough and add lots of real bacon bits – my family really likes these since they’re bacon lovers), egg salad rollups made with flour tortillas, Pizza Rolls (bought on sale with a coupon! I cook them before leaving, wrap them in foil, and store them on the dash in the sun to keep slightly warm), pigs in a blanket (little sausages rolled in crescent rolls -bought on sale with a coupon!- (I cut each crescent roll into thirds and wrap one third around each sausage), and fried chicken. I keep candy (bought on sale at CVS or WG) around to pass out for good shoppers or travelers. We often buy doughnuts to eat for breakfast when starting on a roadtrip.

    My children (ages 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 13) each pack their own backpack of toys and books they want for entertainment and I pack things to listen to like the newest Adventures in Odyssey, Down Gilead Lane, or something I’ve downloaded from http://www.homeschoolfreebieoftheday.com.

    For drinks, we use canned drinks bought on a deal at CVS or WG. Each person drinks from some kind of a cup with a lid. Carbonated drinks and sippy cups don’t work well together, but do when you take off the valve. The down side to that is you have to remind the child that if they turn the cup over, it WILL spill out. That’s why I have non-carbonated drinks available for people ages 3 and under.

    We have a couple of frisbees that we use as plates – great for the smallest people. We also have some brightly colored plastic trays (think of lunchroom trays) that I found at the Dollar Tree a few years back that we use. We carry along a roll of paper towels. Someone recommended to me a few months ago to carry along a hand towel for each person to lay across their lap to catch crumbs and the edges can double as a napkin. Great idea when I remember!

    The passenger (server) just tells what’s available and the children say what they want. We serve the youngest first and work our way up.

    I try to remember to have light sticks around for night trips. If we’re traveling and will get home around bedtime or later, we stop along the way and change the little ones into pajamas, then pass out the lightsticks. The children really enjoy them as this is the only time they have them.

    For people with small children, you might like this idea. I keep an old diaper box in the back of our van. It contains extra diapers/pullups, wipes, emergency change of clothes for small people, a very simple potty (Bjorn, I think), a roll of toliet paper, and plastic bags (saved from CVS and WG, of course!) This way, I can avoid using a dirty public restroom with little people. I don’t mind cleaning out the potty (pour out the urine on nearby grass, then wipe clean with the TP, followed by the baby wipes, placing the used paper and wipes into a plastic bag which is then thrown into the nearest trash) and the back of the van provides plenty of space for changing diapers. (We drive a 15 passenger size van, so this won’t work for everyone.)

  20. Wendy Johnson says

    This is a hint for how to serve the food. Buy some rectangular or square reusable containers. I especially like the 5×8 size. Don’t store the food in them–just use them for plates. You can fit a sandwich and chips in them. Since it is a container with sides, food can’t slide off like it would a paper plate.

    They work great for my toddler and preschooler. This also works well for serving fast food too. We tend to buy the 20 piece chicken nuggets and a large fry and that feeds our family of 4. We just divvy it up in the containers that I bring.

    I also bring along some of the smaller 1 cup size containers–they are great for divvying up snacks and are easier for little ones to eat out of (for my kids, ziploc bags usually mean big messes). Also, a side note on breastfeeding. I pump while riding in the passenger side. I simply cover myself with a blanket. Then I can crawl back in the backseat and give her a bottle while she is strapped in her car seat.

  21. Elizabeth says

    I love to make Sausage Balls (my kids love them!). They are super easy, can be made a month in advance if you freeze them, & travel well! Here’s the recipe:

    1 lb. sausage
    1 package shredded cheddar cheese
    3 cups Bisquick

    With the sausage at room temperature, add the cheese & Bisquick in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix together well. And yes, your hands are the easiest, fastest way of doing it. Form 1 inch balls & place on an ungreased cookie sheet (I love to use my silicon mat for these!). Bake at 350 degrees until browned (usually about 30 minutes. You can immediately eat, freeze, or refridgerate them.

  22. Amyshopper says

    smuckers makes uncrustables and those are great for a quick lunch! You can have them frozen ahead of time before you leave and they should be thawed and ready to go when you need them. They come in PB and honey, PB and grape jelly, PB and strawberry, and Grilled cheese. It’s a quick easy lunch on the go!

  23. says

    You can get the plug in coolers now that will keep items cold. I like using vacuum bags (the heavier kind, not the ziploc ones) and making a meal, then freezing it and laying it flat in the cooler. Stack them with many other frozen meals that way, and they’ll keep themselves cold. You can reheat them in the microwave in the bag or even boil them that way in the bag. (Just not in the oven.) So your pre-make list can be almost endless–fajitas are good, as is spaghetti or pasta, meatloaf, chicken, stews, almost anything you can freeze, you can do this with! Put those on the bottom, cover with a layer of ice or of cold packs (I’ve found freezer cold packs stay cold longer than ice) and then put drinks and snacks on top. BTW, a full cooler stays cold longer than one that’s half full. If you’ll be staying in a place with a freezer, one trick is to take half gallon jugs offrozen milk and as you drink them, empty them, fill with water and freeze overnight, putting it back into the cooler during the day. It will keep the cooler colder longer!

    Oh, I also put all the ingredients for a meal into one ziploc bag. So for a fajita meal, I’ll have the meat and veggies cooked and frozen in one vaccuum bag, then slide it into a gallon ziploc with a package of tortillas, maybe a bag of shredded cheese and a ziploc full of salsa for an extra topping. I love to use black beans on the road–not as gassy as refried beans, lower fat and a heck of a lot more protein! They’re also much more flavorful and very easy to mash!

  24. says

    We just did the 16+ hour road trip thing last month. We drove straight from Minnesota to Ohio, only stopping to gas up and a 2-hour car nap! I would say we saved money by not utilizing a hotel but we were pulling a U-Haul trailer which made our gas economy 12 miles to the gallon! Yeah. Thank the Lord for lower prices or I don’t know what we would have done!

    Anyway, we weren’t super cheap-o about food. $5 footlongs from Subway: eat half for lunch, half for dinner), some Walmart snacky stuff (since we didn’t want to buy expensive gas station snacks!), and drank out of our large reusable water bottles.

    Although, growing up we took a LOT of road trips. We drove (from Minnesota) to Texas, to Florida, to Maine even! All I remember is the big cooler in between my brother and myself (to keep us from picking on each other) full of not much more than cheap white bread and and a big jar of peanut butter! I can’t believe I love PB as much as I still do because we ate SO MANY PB sandwiches on road trips! Quite the extreme frugal way to do travel food, but certainly not very nutritious! That’s the 80s and early 90s for you! I also remember my parents packing an electric griddle so we could cook canned stews and veggies (again, not very nutritious, but at least vacation was a couple weeks out of the year at most. And we never graduated beyond Motel 6 or Super 8 but if there was a pool, we kids couldn’t have cared!

    Needless to say, I’m sure there are better ways to feed a road-tripping family than PB sandwiches and Dinty Moore!

    One more thing, if eating out is the option of the day and you have young children, choose Cracker Barrel! The food is cheap and the service is quick. I used to nanny for a couple who had a VERY busy 1 year old, and we kept driving between their temp house in Maryland and their permanent house in North Carolina so we had to pick something where the little one could run around and stretch her legs. Cracker Barrel was perfect because we’d hook the baby harness onto her and she loved walking around the gift shop while we waited for our food. In and out!

  25. says

    Edamames are super easy and fun to eat (put the pod in your mouth and slide it out between your upper and lower teeth). They’re yummy cold, hot, or room temp… just cook ahead of time (or buy already cooked ones), sprinkle with coarse salt, and go.

    I try to package things per person and per meal. In other words, I have ziplocks inside ziplocks so all I have to do is grab one big bag out for each meal (then each persons things are portioned out in smaller baggies with their names on them). I don’t typically make sandwiches ahead (unless we’re eating them at the next meal) only b/c don’t like “soggy” anything.

    My kids love those little individual water flavoring packets…so we’ll pack jugs of water, cups, and some of those flavorings. One “individual” packet is enough for all 6 of us (strong stuff).

    I also pack a plastic tablecloth b/c invariably there is bird ick on picnic tables in parks and rest areas. Just be sure to fold it so the underside never touches the top of the tablecloth.

    I like to make a pasta dish (wheat penne, pesto, sundried tomatoes, white beans, and asparagus or whatever veggie you like). It’s good cold, hot, or room temp and packs easily into a big ziplock.

    Have a great trip!

  26. says

    Fruits and vegetable are excellent for snacking. I have also taken a cooler and put things like pasta salad, cold cuts, tuna salad and macaroni and cheese in. As long as you have a large cooler you should be able to take anything!

  27. says

    I never bring anything with kids that can turn into a crummy mess (i.e. muffins). A large soft-side cooler has been our best friend on roadtrips. I usually pack all the food ahead of time in baggies (worth the expense) so we don’t have to pass around large bags or fight over who gets to hold something. Cheese, crackers, and summer sausage is great because you don’t have to refrigerate the meat. I always make home-mixed trail mix from whatever cereals I have on hand, a few chocolate chips, pretzels, and nuts (if I found them cheap). Another great standby are apples and carrot sticks (bananas can get squashed too easily). I usually pack store-bought cookies like Oreos (love the Aldi brand) because they, again, are less crummy than homemade varieties. God speed in your travels!

  28. Rachel says

    Pack instant oatmeal packets, and a several thermos’ of hot water- you can add all sorts of dried fruits and nuts to basic instant oatmeal- making it a nice portable hot meal any time of the day- plenty of fiber, protein in nuts.

    Or- we are a PB&J family- you don’t really need it cold and the kids love it! Fresh fruit along side it makes it a healthy fast food alternative.

    Instant soup packets work well with the above mentioned hot water trick too.

  29. Rina says

    A slightly different take on things, and maybe a different way of looking at things. Check out the ideas encompassed in bento boxes. These two websites give you lots of ideas that you could adapt to 5 people. Checkout justbento.com and lunchinabox.net. There’s a lot of possibility here.

    Another consideration for this when travelling in December, depending on where you are, is the possible to need to plan where you stop. Certainly in many areas of the country, just pulling over for a picnic, will not be as pleasant as it would have been in PA today.

    Good luck!

  30. says

    I TOTALLY second poster Rachel’s idea about oatmeal packets and a thermos of hot water. We didn’t plan on this, but last winter when I found out my dad had cancer we flew home and kept a stash of packets in the backpack I carried. The waiting room on my dad’s floor had paper cups and a microwave, and that’s all we really needed! Got to spend a lot more quantity time with my dad because I didn’t have to leave his room every few hours to find something to eat!

  31. says

    Yogos are a good snack for the kids. We also bring sliced strawberries and blueberries as they are easy to eat and not too messy,and, of course, sammys! NO DRINKING BOXES…I have learned this the hard way:)

  32. DeeDee says

    I would recommend purchasing a lunchbox cooker, they plug into your cigarette adapter and hold a container the size of a small bread pan. Here is a link to see them and also a variety of other 12 volt items you can cook with in your car including a microwave, crock pot, sandwich maker, and many more. The lunchbox cookers work extremely well in holding stew, then wedge rolls, on top, that have been wrapped in foil (inside the lid portion is hollow). I have also cooked meatloaf and reheated lasagna using these.

    http://www.roadtrucker.com/12-volt-cooking/12-volt-cooking.htm

    These are great as we get tired of cold food, and who doesn’t like something warm to eat in the middle of winter! I always carry a small bag with paper plates, utensils, cups, napkins, can opener and condiments.
    We also do the traditional car food such as sandwiches, snack type items, drinks, and we love the boxed donuts as one pack will last us several days. We frequently bring a thermos and packs of cocoa and apple cider. I find that most rest stops will not charge you for hot water.

    Pets do well on road trips, besides feeding them there treats and dog food we also share some human food. They are ok to eat veggies such as carrots, celery, cabbage, and fruits like apples, bananas, and berries.

    DeeDee http://www.small-budget.blogspot.com/

  33. says

    Toasted almonds. Toast the almonds in a pan (ungreased) for a minute or two on medium-high, until they become medium dark brown. Remove the almonds. Then add a couple tablespoons of sugar and some oil in the pan and then add the almonds back into the pain and let it caramelize. (Again, it only takes seconds, so just watch it closely). Stir constantly. After, mix with sugar, cumin, cinnamon, salt (you can also add cayenne) and grated ginger (or do a variation). The nuts are delicious and a reasonably healthy snack, depending on how much sugar you add! They keep for about a week. And much cheaper than filling up on chips or store bought toasted almonds or even peanuts. You can also make your own trail mix with toasted almonds, pretzels, raisins/dried cranberries, etc.

  34. Sharyn says

    I also like the mix-ins for the water bottles. I get a box 10 sugar-free lemonade packets for $1.00 at the Dollar Tree. I also take Liptons “Cold Brew” tea bags and artificial sweetner to make tea in a Nalgene water bottle. I also like the single-serve pudding mixes (just add milk.) I use empty yogurt and cottage cheese containers as bowls/food containers.

    I also take hand wipes for when soap and water aren’t available. Also take grocery bags to use as trash bags.

  35. Michelle Z. says

    The only thing I can think of (that I didn’t see mentioned already) is to get little packets of ketchup, mayo, mustard, etc. I just go to my local deli and ask if I can buy some. They either give me a bunch for free or charge me $1 for a handful. It is soooo much easier than packing entire jars of condiments.

  36. says

    We take tortillas and a jar of peanutbutter, slap together peanutbutter wraps as needed. Also, quartered oranges/apples in a ziploc. String cheese. Granola bars. We try to keep healthier snacks on hand while traveling.

  37. says

    I love to “be on the road” with the family. There are some great food tips already, so I’ll tell you what works well for me in terms of planning.

    We always travel with a 5 gallon jug of ice water and cups from home. Other than the coffee (see below) it’s all we have to drink.

    I make out a rough outline of a menu, and then I run through it completely in my head. For example, PB and J sandwiches will need the P and the J, and two disposable knives (with back ups) plus the bread, and sturdy plates, napkins and wipes, a flat surface, a trashbag, etc.

    I find that running everything through in my head in advance leaves us very well prepared.

    One more thing. We have a bit of an iced coffee adiction, and surprisingly it isn’t available all over the country. We discovered that we could stop at a gas station or truck stop and buy one small hot coffee and ask for a very large cup filled with ice to pour it over. The ice coffee is far less expensive this way, and the gas station coffee is usually strong enough that it turns out just perfect.

    Have a great road trip!

  38. Sarah says

    In September we made an 18-hour trip. Here is what we did: We took a cooler with us. For breakfast we had: Homemade Breakfast Hot Pockets. (we stopped at a gas station to heat them up) For lunch, we had Sub Sandwiches. We also had lots of snacks: fruit, vegies, chips, crackers, cheese sticks and gallon size bottles of water. Everyone of us (4-in-all) had our own water bottles, so if we needed more water when we stopped to fill up with gas, we just filled up our water bottles. Hope this helps :)

  39. Naomi says

    One thing we always did for the second day in the car, since sandwiches and things were always soggy –

    we filled a gallon-size ziplock bag with whole hard boiled eggs, salt, and a pile of mayonnaise. We could keep the bag sealed and dry in the cooler and then for the second day’s lunch, pull it out, snip the corner off with a scissors and squirt it onto bread. It was low mess and could be thrown away immediately after. This saves knives and mixing trouble and gives you fresh food the second day.

    For the second day’s dinner, we would bring cooked chicken, a big bag of lettuce, croutons and stuff and make giant chicken salads, coupled with banana bread or something.

    Delicious and nutritious, even the second day of a trip.

  40. katie says

    a couple things we did growing up (imagine those 20 hour road trips with 12 kids!) we would bring a block of cheese and a knife and my mom would either make rolls ahead of time or we would stop and pick up a couple of those cheap french bread loaves on markdown at walmart. we would have plain cheese sandwiches–on homemade rolls its amazing how good those are!

    for a special treat she would make biscuits in 9×13 pans just before we left with cinnamon and raisins and glaze over the top (like the ones at hardees!) and we would have those for breakfast in the car. Yum!

  41. says

    A friend of mine always fries a bunch of chicken (especially drumsticks for the kids) and sticks it in baggies in a cooler. I am not a huge fan of fried chicken, but her family loves it. We always take string cheese, almonds and peanuts, apples, rolls or wraps and lunch meat, carrot sticks, celery, and cucumbers.

  42. says

    I know this is a bit late, but I wanted to say that we do the opposite of most people here. I agree with stopping for one meal, but unless you are stopping at a place where kids eat dinner for free, lunch is the cheaper than dinner. The kids are thankful for the stop to stretch their legs and run around and it does wear them out. When we get to the hotel, which is ALWAYS exciting for the kids, beloved drives to the nearest grocery store and picks up ingredients for dinner. The kids have fun running around the room (always ask for the FIRST floor when you have kids) watching the Food Network or Discovery Channel (we do not get cable at home so this is a treat for them). They wear themselves out so by the time Daddy gets back, dinner is heated in the microwave and eaten, they are ready for BED. :)
    We get a room which has a fridge, so the extras hubby bought for the next day can be kept cold till the next day. We also get a hotel with continental breakfast and we fill up. We eat RIGHT before we leave (and after bathroom breaks of course).
    We also do the goodie bag (mentioned above) with $1 store non-food items as well as snacks (I totally agree with the plastic ziploc baggies – SO worth it for trips).
    Also, while staying in the hotel room for the week, we will use the coffee pot a LOT for meals. There is a book out there which talks about it. :) Things like spaghetti!!

  43. says

    In the comments, Lara mentioned Fridge-to-go and I have been researching it and it looks WONDERFUL!!! I am curious where she got hers (as it seems that they are only sold in NY). Could you ask her or put her in contact with me about how I can get one?!?! It looks PERFECT for our needs as we have a son who is on a VERY strict diet. Thanks, Paula

  44. says

    I see many good suggestions up above. Here are mine:

    1. Hard boiled eggs are a great suggestion and, if not peeled, can last 4 hours (and sometimes more) if it is not too hot in your vehicle.

    2. Fruit

    3. Keep several trash cans/bags available to prevent too much mess. You could even have a contest to see which child keeps their seat cleanest. That always works with mine.

    4. Driving overnight works for us if there will be opportunity to rest up when we get to our destination. We like to leave a little before the kids’ bedtime for the kids. This limits the need for food and pottying (a big issue for our 5 children between the ages of 10 months and 8 years) for the kids and may prevent restlessness. Of course, the drivers may need caffeine or music to stay awake. Some children do not sleep well in the car, and some drivers are better at getting up early than staying up late, so this idea is not for everyone.

    5. If you plan to stop for meals, drive a car, and it is cold enough outside, you can keep your main meals in the trunk. Keep snacks at hand while the meals stay nice and cold.

    6. Sunflower seeds, M&Ms, and raisins are good for keeping the driver awake if you eat them one by one and savor them instead of eating them by the handful. If your sunflower seeds have shells, removing the shells with your teeth help keep you awake. We usually make a homemade chex mix or muddy buddies (see chex site) for our trips.

    7. I 2nd the homemade food idea!

    8. Other non-perishable ideas are kool-aid (in a plastic juice jar with lid), dry cereal, peanut butter crackers/sanwiches, homemade biscuits with bacon or jerky, fruit strips, carrots, nuts, and granola bars.

    Hope this is helpful and not totally redundant, as I read about a third of the comments and then just skimmed from there. :)

  45. says

    I posted here and the comment did not show up. Maybe I did something wrong, or maybe I didn’t wait long enough for it to appear. Fortunately I copied it before posting! I hope this is not a repeat comment b/c it was a long one. :-| Please forgive me if so. Here goes!

    I see many good suggestions up above. Here are mine:

    1. Hard boiled eggs are a great suggestion and, if not peeled, can last 4 hours (and sometimes more) if it is not too hot in your vehicle.

    2. Fruit

    3. Keep several trash cans/bags available to prevent too much mess. You could even have a contest to see which child keeps their seat cleanest. That always works with mine.

    4. Driving overnight works for us if there will be opportunity to rest up when we get to our destination. We like to leave a little before the kids’ bedtime for the kids. This limits the need for food and pottying (a big issue for our 5 children between the ages of 10 months and 8 years) for the kids and may prevent restlessness. Of course, the drivers may need caffeine or music to stay awake. Some children do not sleep well in the car, and some drivers are better at getting up early than staying up late, so this idea is not for everyone.

    5. If you plan to stop for meals, drive a car, and it is cold enough outside, you can keep your main meals in the trunk. Keep snacks at hand while the meals stay nice and cold.

    6. Sunflower seeds, M&Ms, and raisins are good for keeping the driver awake if you eat them one by one and savor them instead of eating them by the handful. If your sunflower seeds have shells, removing the shells with your teeth help keep you awake. We usually make a homemade chex mix or muddy buddies (see chex site) for our trips.

    7. I 2nd the homemade food idea!

    8. Other non-perishable ideas are kool-aid (in a plastic juice jar with lid), dry cereal, peanut butter crackers/sanwiches, homemade biscuits with bacon or jerky, fruit strips, carrots, nuts, and granola bars.

    Hope this is helpful and not totally redundant, as I read about a third of the comments and then just skimmed from there. :)