Packing Food for a 37 Hour Road Trip

Updated on March 15, 2009
A.B. asks from Castella, CA
13 answers

Hi everyone! My husband and I are planning a road trip to Ohio this summer with our kids. I am wanting to pack most of our meals to keep the cost down. Does anyone know what the best way to pack the food is for a 3 1/2 day drive? Also, can I get some meal ideas that would be good for on the road! Thanks for your help!

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answers from San Francisco on

I'm not sure if you're planning to stay at a hotel or camp, but when I was a kid and we traveled from NY to South Dakota, my mom used to freeze chili and beef stew, and then heat them up over a camp stove for dinners (even if we were at a hotel - she'd just set up on the back of our trunk in the parking lot). We'd also have some kind of canned vegetable, and I remember the canned corn not being so bad. She'd just bring pb&j and fruit and crackers for lunches, and those little cereal boxes (which have a lining that can serve as a bowl) for breakfasts. She'd pre-make banana bread and chocolate chip cookies for treats.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

I just did a 4 day car trip and what I packed was:

Box of Raisin bran, plastic bowls and spoons, a couple of quarts of rice milk. If you get the boxed kind, it can stay at room temp for a few days until you are ready to use it. Put it in the chest 6 hrs before use. We would stop at a rest stop and have a snack. We tend to get constipated on road trips with all that sitting. This cereal helps. Also, pack APPLE juice to help with constipation as well... but be careful not to let them have TOO much or you get the opposite effect!

I made homemade breakfast/lunch sandwiches by cubing up some ham (from a whole ham- its the best- not lunchmeat.)
I took a metal ring i use for making hamburger patties, sprayed it with oil, and layed it in a greased fry pan. (you don't have to use a ring) I pour in a layer of scrambled egg and sprinkle in the ham chunks. When one side is done I lift the ring and turn the egg over, slap on a piece of american cheese, and then put it on a split crossoint (I used mini crossoints from costco). Wrap each sandwich separately in foil, and fill up a gallon ziploc bag with them. They can store in the ice chest. When kids are hungry, there are 2 ways to warm them up, one, you just put it (still in foil) under your armpit for 5 minutes. Or two, open up the foil, exposing the top of sandwich , still on the foil, put in on your dash board. The sun will heat it in 3-4 minutes. These are the bomb. Some sandwiches get nasty when they sit already made, but these can last days and still taste ok. Plus all the ingredients in the sandwiches are "stuck" together, meaning less mess in the car. Don't forget to pack baby wipes for the hands.

Cheese: I have tried taking cut cheese for my apples in a ziploc and I always end up throwing it out. it just doesn't store well and gets a nasty taste and texture. Iv'e tried bananas too and on both trips they always get thrown out. They get too brown too quick from being warm. no one eats them.

I like to cut open a FUJI apple into 4 slices down from the top, core it, and then "stick it back together the way it was". Wrap each apple tight in foil. put apples in a ziploc.

We also took tostitos tortilla chips and a small glass jar of store bought guacamole dip.

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answers from San Francisco on

Hi, A.! That sounds like a fun adventure you have planned!!

We do a lot of camping, so I thought that maybe you could take along a camp stove with fuel, and some food you could cook along the way if you were stopping at rest areas, campgrounds, etc. Pasta and jars of sauce are inexpensive and would work well, you also could just pick up some fresh bread wherever you were. TastyBites, the packaged Indian meas are quite good and they don't need to be refrigerated. If you're near a Trader Joe's, they sell them there.

One last idea is to bring along a slow cooker and get an adaptor for the lighter. A friend did this once for a camping trip and it seemed to work well. If you focus on Stew type meals, you can store the raw ingredients (potatoes, onions, carrots, etc.) in the car for longer periods, then just pick up fresh proteins (meat, poultry or tofu) to add when you make the meal.

Best of luck and have a great time!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Dry Ice - you can get it at many grocery stores these days. Wrap it in several layers of newspaper and put it on top of the food (since cold air sinks)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

We used to do 3 week car vacations when I was a child and did almost all meals with groceries (family of 6 plus at least one grandparent). My parents would carry a cooler with milk, some fruit and lunch essentials. Breakfast was cold cereal. Lunch was sandwiches - cold cuts or peanut butter and jelly and we would eat dinner at a local eating establishments to get a flavor of the area - diners, and the like. My cousins did similar vacations, but my aunt took along an electric skillet and made dinner in the motel rooms as well. Hamburger Helper, pancakes, etc. Anything you could make in a skillet. My parents would buy block ice every few days, when we needed more groceries. It lasts longer than cubed and you don't have the burn worry of dry ice and kids. (We make our own before leaving on trips with metal mixing bowls or half gallon juice containers.) We also had a huge water cooler filled every morning with cubed ice that we would drink from when thirsty.

I updated it with my kids and make homemade lunch-ables with cheese and salami, or little bagels. Think fun finger food that doesn't make a mess or crumb dropping in the car. My husband is even more of a "road warrior" when we drive somewhere. It's "let's get there as soon as we can and only stop for gas and to pee"

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answers from San Francisco on

Hello A.: We have made many trips across country over the years. The worst experiance we had was trying to do food while someone was driving believe me it is well worth the few minuets it takes to stop and do lunch or food in a park or even parking lot! We kept a cooler in the back of our van that held sandwhich makings, chicken, or easy canned meals, or breakfast foods that could be heated in a hotel microwave. We kept a bag of snacks mainly dehydrated fruit and vegetables and games between the seats and plenty of water,& juice in a cooler up front. I learned that even the youngeast child would be entertained for hours with me or their father reading to them on the trip and we found that huck finn and nancy drew were great adventure stories as well as information about the area we were going to, or Elmo and big bird stories that we make up as we went along.
Good luck in your adventure Take lots of pictures ! glenda



answers from Redding on

Asceptic packages of milk and juice from Costco/Trader Joe's, dried fruit/freeze dried fruit and/or trail mix, peanut or other nut butter and bread for sandwiches, granola or granola bars/energy bars, snapea crisps (sort of a veggie when you are on the road), yogurt in a cooler, bananas, apples, string cheese, cut up celery, carrots, red pepper, jicima and/or cauliflower travels for a day or two well in a cooler. Water. We haven't been on a 37-hour trip, but we drive on vacation and snack a lot in our motel room on vacations to save money.

Hope this helps.



answers from San Francisco on

I recommend canned foods, so you don't have to worry about things melting or going bad. That's what we've always done for camping trips. Things like: soup, chili, stew, spaghettios (for the kids), canned fruit. Just remember to bring a can opener and microwaveable bowls (or a pot if you are going to cook over a campfire or portable stove). Also, there are also lots of hand packaged foods that are intended to be microwaved and eaten in the packaging that they come in.



answers from Chico on

Keep in mind that you can also stop to buy the more perishable things (like milk) on the way at convenience and grocery stores. Also, you can freeze grapes or strawberries to use as ice and then eat when they thaw.



answers from Sacramento on

I was going to suggest freezing stuff or using dry ice, and I see others have already suggested that. I saw the other good suggestions about cargo and splitting the food stuffs.

My only other suggestion would be to drive as much as possible while the children are sleeping. It will make your life easier. My husband and I traveled from No. Ca to Eastern Washington a two winters ago with our 2 year old and two dogs. While our son was awake, we had to stop frequently to let him get out and walk around. We made the best time during sleep time.

Good Luck



answers from San Francisco on

I just took a 4 hour road trip with my 20 month old and I cute up lunch meat and cheese and gave her that. It filled her up for her nap on the road and it wasn't too messy.
Enjoy your trip =O)



answers from San Francisco on

There are four kids in my family and my parents always cut costs on road trips by buying a big loaf of french bread, some cheese and some salami and they would just break-up the bread with their hands and pass back big pieces of cheese and salami. My husband and I like to do the same except we might b-b-q a tri-tip the night before and take that with us in the cooler too. It is great cold with bread and cheese. Yummy!



answers from Washington DC on

I haven't done a roadtrip this long with kids, but I have driven cross country a couple of times. What, how and how much you can take food with you will depend on how much cargo room you'll have after bags and passengers.

My suggestion would be to pack food in a few containers rather than stacking everything into one huge cooler. One box or bag for non-perishables (bread, peanut butter, crackers, cereal, chips, apples, bananas, oranges). A larger cooler (with ice you change every day) that can stay in the back with your supply of sandwich meat, sliced cheese, milk, jelly) and a small cooler you can bring up front with you to put just the food you'll want for each leg of the trip.

If you don't have enough cargo space, you can also just do the small upfront cooler and the bag and then just make a stop at a grocery store each morning for a small package of whatever sandwhich meat etc.

Hope this helps

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