This summer feels like it has flown by. I think this year has gone especially fast because of all of the traveling we have been doing. Our family is spread out over a few states, and several hours of driving. As nice as it is to visit the people that we love, the traveling can really be difficult, especially with dietary restrictions. We have not yet flown since eliminating dairy and soy, but we have taken several road trips and have learned some tips that can make traveling a little bit easier.
Prepare and pack as much as possible: This might sound obvious, but you have to put a lot more thought into road trip preparation when you have dietary restrictions; you can’t just stop anywhere and pick something off of a fast food menu. Try to anticipate what snacks and meals you will need while on the road, and pack accordingly.
- One option for meals is to pack meals that do not need to be heated. Several times, we have cooked rosemary chicken in advance and had it cold over a salad (we always pack a cooler). This is very easy in terms of preparation, and can be made ahead of time to avoid adding the chaos of trying to get out the door. The disadvantage of a salad is that it’s not good “on the go” food. This has been difficult a few times as it has caused us to take a longer stop than we intended. Sandwiches could be an option that would be easier and quicker to eat on the road. Things like tuna salad and cold cuts can easily be made dairy and soy free as long as you use the right, and highest quality ingredients.
- The second meal option is to bring warm food, like leftovers, in a thermos. We did this once, and it was actually a nice change that worked out well. Nice double walled thermoses are pretty easy to find, and can keep food hot for about six hours, or even longer. This has the same disadvantages of a salad, but I feel like you can get a lot more variety this way. The big thing with non-finger-foods is to remember silverware. I think it took us a full year of doing this to stop forgetting silverware. Thankfully, we were able to pick up some plastic forks when we got gas, but it delayed our ability to eat when we needed it.
- For snacks, I think the most important thing to think about it what you and your family might be craving while on the road. For me, I think I crave salty and sweet snacks equally, so I always make sure to have both on hand. If you are like me, you will want to make sure you bring chocolate with you; it’s not terribly hard to find hard candy and fruit flavored sweets at convenience stores (depending on the severity of your sensitivity or allergy), but chocolate is almost impossible to find in normal stores. I also bring several store-bought snacks that work for my family, like chips, crackers, cookies, popcorns, etc. If you are looking for ideas, check out my posts about snacks here and here.
Bring Kid Friendly Food (if needed)
- When traveling with children, you have an entirely different set of needs to accommodate. When Sweet Girl was an infant and breastfed, we always made sure to have a bottle or two of pumped milk with us in case she couldn’t wait until we got to a stop. This of course also meant that I needed to be prepared with my pump and car adapter. Now, our travel plans pretty much center around a toddler, so we put a lot of thought into what her needs on the road will be. This includes meals just like for my husband and I, but we also need to think about foods she can eat on the road, because she cannot always wait for a planned stop like we can. For her age, this means thinking about foods that are not a choking hazard. The best thing for us has been baby food pouches. If you are not familiar with these, they are pureed mixtures that are put into a pouch that kids can drink out of a spout. We get the organic kind that are just fruit and veggies, and occasionally some grains. If you go this route, make sure to read ingredients. They vary widely and some are yogurt based. These are great because Sweet Girl can feed herself in her car seat. We will also give her small pieces of finger food if we need to, but try to stick with the pouches while we are moving. The needs of kids you are traveling with are likely very different than ours, so I probably can’t help with specific tips. The important thing is to make sure you think though and prepare for whatever their needs are.
Know where you can stop
- Unfortunately, sometimes fast food is a necessary evil on road trips. If you hit delays, or aren’t able to bring meals with you, you may have no choice but to buy food at a convenience store or restaurant. I have provided some information about chain restaurants in my post about dining out, but most of those places will require a lengthy stop. There are several places to do offer call-ahead ordering where you can just pull in and have it brought to the car. If you can figure out when you are about 15 minutes away from one of these places, calling an order in might be a good option. Otherwise, do some research ahead of time and find out which fast food chains have menu items that you can have. Many fast food chains, have surprisingly good allergen menus. I recommend perusing them and keeping a list of foods that you can have if needed. If your route is unfamiliar, make sure that you also note locations along the way so that you know when and where stops are feasible. This also goes for common store-bought snacks. If fast food isn’t an option, you may need to buy snacks along the way. Usually, convenience stores have bags of nuts and seeds that should be safe. Depending on your specific needs, there may be other snacks that you can buy, too. Again, doing some research ahead of time will make it a lot easier if you do have a need to buy food along the way.
Think about the return trip. This is probably the part of road trips that has been the most difficult for us. It’s easy to plan for the first leg of a trip, when you can buy or cook whatever you need. On the return trip, however, you aren’t in your own kitchen, and you may not have the same shopping options that you are used to. We almost always end up stopping somewhere due to lack of planning. Again, I think there are a few options here:
- If your trip is short enough, you can pack perishable items that will help on your return trip. For example, if you bring a loaf of bread, peanut butter, and jelly, you can make sandwiches for the way back. Obviously, if your trip is too long or if you do not have a refrigerator available, food will go bad before you can use it, so make sure to keep shelf life in mind.
- Depending on what accommodations are available to you during your travels, you may be able to bring home cooked food. If you have a kitchen available to you, plan to cook something specifically for your return trip, or cook extra any time that you cook so that you have leftovers. If you are staying with family, take advantage of any leftovers or other food that they can offer,
- Again, you can use the option of stopping and buying food, but this requires preparation. Even if you don’t plan to stop, I recommend at least knowing your options.
You will, of course, need to find what works for you and our family, but hopefully these tips will help you next time you take a road trip. Please share any other tips that you have, too!