People who claim that travelling is more about the journey than the destination have one thing in common: they’re not hangry. Enjoy your travels with fewer stops using these tips for packing the perfect road trip cooler — the one that helps you stave off snack attacks so you can enjoy a delicious trip.
Tip: Freeze water bottles and juice boxes for drinks that double as ice packs.
Once the frozen drinks thaw a little, you’ll have refreshing treats worth their weight in cooling energy. For maximum savings and nutrition, pack reusable water bottles with your favourite smoothie recipe and freeze it the night before your trip.
Whether you pack store-bought drinks or make your own lemonade, juice or smoothies, be sure to leave a few unfrozen — ideally grouped to one side of the cooler — so your car crew can hydrate whenever they need.
Frozen treats can work as snacks, too. Toss your favourite frozen fruits into a container full of yogurt for a quick and refreshing dairy treat that will keep all day in the cooler.
Get the recipe for Watermelon Lemonade.
Tip: Pack frozen drinks and heavy freezer packs on the bottom, and toss a few light frozen gel packs on the top.
Pack your cooler like this: heavy stuff on the bottom, sturdily packaged items like jars and plastic containers in the middle, and anything that shouldn’t be squished or bruised (bread, sandwiches, fruits and veggies) on top. Toss a few light gel packs on top of it all, and maintain the cooler’s temperature by opening it as little as possible.
Foods that bruise easily fare best at the top, but more importantly, you’ll have the healthiest option at first reach whenever you search the cooler for a quick snack.
Tip: Jarred salads are perfectly portable and make delicious travel meals.
You’ll likely want to pull over to enjoy your salads safely, but layered mason jar salads rival the flavours at any roadside fast food chain or gas station diner. Whatever you put in your jars, pack the dressing first, then add in order of weight, with the heaviest ingredients at the bottom: pasta or grains first, then proteins, then chopped veggies and lettuces or sprouts. Shake to mix when you’re ready to eat.
Get the recipe for Stacked Salad Niçoise.
Tip: Keep your cooler within reach during the drive.
As long as you’ve got a passenger capable of reaching in to dole out treats, you can fend off hanger without having to stop. If you’ve got little ones in the back with the cooler, and don’t trust them to keep it closed, consider putting them in charge of a secondary bag filled with non-perishables treats like granola bars, crackers, energy balls and sturdier, whole fruits like bananas and apples.
Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Granola Bars.
Tip: Don’t forget utensils and napkins.
Hand sanitizer, wet wipes or a wet washcloth packed in a plastic baggie will ensure clean hands before and after meals. Keep these items in or near the cooler and store utensils in a separate bag. If you’re including a knife or scissors in your kit, wrap them in a tea towel and secure with elastic bands to prevent unwanted pokings.
Looking for car snack ideas? Try one of our 18 Best Foods to Pack for a Road Trip.