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A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

Tampere, Finland
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A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

So, the road trip travel plan itself for next summer is already pretty well underway. It's going to be California, Utah, Arizona, Nevada. Lots of national parks (Yosemite, Grand Canyon & so on), a little bit of the big cities (1 night LA so that we can see the Hollywood sign and get out basically and so forth).

But, in all honesty I've never done a real road trip in my life. One really practical question related to that: how is eating for instance a lunch "typically" handled on a road trip? Is it kind of skipped and just eating bananas and other stuff in the car while driving? Or is it really necessary to plan the daily driving not only for getting from yesterday's location to the new location, but also so that you have a plan that in 3 hours after leaving you'll hit small city X and find a diner there to have a lunch? The feeling I get out of that that the trip is in that case very very pre-designed and having your schedules 3 hours off for whatever reason is already a very big deal. Or is it just simply so that there are enough locations here and there in the Southwest to decide on the fly that "let's visit that next town to grab something to eat"? Thoughts? Comments?

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Wednesbury, UK
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1. Re: A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

I have to say on all the many road trips I have done I have never ever planned any of them around a lunch stop.

I might get something on the move, I might eat what I've got with me, I might stop in a town, I might skip it all together.

It's really not something I have ever concerned myself with too much and I've survived so far!

Wednesbury, UK
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2. Re: A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

Many here swear by a cooler as an essential road trip accessory. Not me really, although we do have a small cool bag thing, but it would allow you to keep a sandwich and drinks cool............or pilfer things from the motel breakfast for later! 😉

I have kept slices of last night's pizza before now in it for an on the move or al fresco snack with a view if we are somewhere remote.

Edited: 3:34 am, November 13, 2017
Ohio
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3. Re: A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

We never plan around lunch. Truth be told, we don't plan around dinner either :) Just doesn't matter to us.

A cooler is good- we generally have cold water in the car. We have a bag of "car snacks" which will include some cookies, granola bars, almonds, pretzels... but we also carry peanut butter and honey and bread. No need to keep it cool so we like that. We are often out hiking so the peanut butter and honey is great for that too. On our road trips we're often on roads without places to eat. We do stop at fast food places too- just eat on the road- when traveling highways.

We just grab something to eat for dinner wherever we are and lunch is just not important and done on the fly :)

Chapel Hill, North...
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4. Re: A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

We don't plan around lunch either, but do like to have a small cooler and a bag of snacks. Apples, peanuts, granola bars, chips/crisps, maybe some hummus and baby carrots for something fresher. I can last for awhile on that if a lunch spot doesn't appear.

Greater Sydney...
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5. Re: A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

We have just done a 3,300km trip in SW western Australia, and the best lunch we had was in some small town with fresh bread rolls, ham and coleslaw from a supermarket prepared and consumed at a park bench, totally unplanned.

Edited: 8:09 am, November 13, 2017
Santa Fe, New Mexico
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6. Re: A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

Welcome to TA ...Should your be lodging based tour ... Select a motel brand that offers a hot(usually egg) breakfast buffet. Eat well & perhaps make a sandwich or two to carry along & snack on. Should you be equipped to camp in the Parks ... You will have all needed to prepare "real" meals. If, a larger town is along the route ... About mid afternoon, I select a "Chinese" or other all-one-can-eat, buffet. I then, do tea & some fruit when "going into camp" for the night ... Happy trails ... carracar

Washington State
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7. Re: A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

Hi, and welcome to TripAdvisor forums

If you're traveling with (hungry) children, then lunch is important. We usually looked for someplace where the kids could run around while we prepared sandwiches from the cooler. City parks were better than Rest Stops.

Sometimes we spent time walking around that town a bit, getting a feel for the place. It usually wasn't a destination we had chosen, but it was a nice addition to the overall trip.

We made one long cross-country drive with most of our stops planned at zoos. We had an annual membership at our home zoo, so all the stops were free. We'd visit the local zoo for an hour or two or three, have a picnic, then drive on.

As you can tell, our "travel style" does not include sitting down in a restaurant after sitting in the car for a long time. But some folks prefer to eat out.

And when we spent time in our chosen destinations, we also ate lots of picnics.

Now as a family of adults, our travels are similar but don't include city parks for swings & climbing equipment. :)

Who is in your travel group? How important is eating?

.

Tip unrelated to food ... do you know about the America the Beautiful federal lands pass? It's $80 and can be purchased at your first National Park.

Another tip ... do you know about the Top Questions on the right side of each city/destination forum page? You need to be on the full TA website. The tips will almost turn you into a 'local' for that destination. Sometimes the tips include lodging ideas (you MUST have lodging reservations for a summer trip), sometimes activity ideas (get Alcatraz tickets 90 days in advance, hike up the Mist Trail and down the John Muir trail in Yosemite), and sometimes have trip reports from a variety of travelers.

Chicago's North...
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8. Re: A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

as you can see, the general consensus is basically to "wing-it".... some days, a picnic lunch is the best option... other days, maybe when you're trying to make time, snacks in the car are the way to go... other days, a restaurant/fast food joint is the way to go... maybe you're in a cool little town and you wanna check out the local diner....

personally, i'm a cooler guy.... you can get a cheap foam cooler for 7-8 bucks at the grocery store.... we do a lot of picnic lunches.... buying food at the grocery store is usually MUCH cheaper than eating out every day.... bring snacks in the car too.... agree with staying at motels that have buffet breakfasts..... for us, "zip-loc" bags are a MUST.... not only can you pack your food in them, they work well for packing ice for that cheap foam cooler.... get the ice at the hotels/motels... also, it really helps if the hotels have fridges and microwaves in the room----fairly common in the USA these days.....

stick to the budget stores like ALDI, pick n save, target, save a lot, wal-mart (i HATE wal-mart, but i digress).... do some google research to find the budget stores... whole foods, kroger, safeway are rip-offs, so try to avoid them....

hope this helps and happy trails!

Edited: 9:37 am, November 13, 2017
Pennsylvania
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9. Re: A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

I’ll second (or third) the cooler suggestion. Our first stop on a road trip vacation is a grocery store where we buy what we need for breakfast (cereal, donuts, granola bars) and lunch (cold cuts, PB&J, bread, snacks, etc). We keep enough for at least a few days at a time, and then refill as we find places along the road. There isn’t much you will need to keep cold, and you can refill the cooler with ice each night and morning at your hotel.

When we’re traveling, we try to purchase just one meal a day. If we see a place for lunch, we’ll take it and eat our cooler food for dinner. Or, we’ll eat the cooler food for lunch and buy dinner at our destination for the night.

Point is, if you have your own food, you can be more flexible on your daily travel plans and save some money as well.

Massachusetts
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10. Re: A practical question: how to organize eating on a road trip

A cooler is the best idea. If you prefer fruit or other snacks to sandwiches, a cooler still lets you have cold drinks and things that do better in cool temperatures than in warn ones.

I'll pre-make sandwiches in the morning before heading out, but my wife likes to make them when we stop. There are some nice rest areas in places that include picnic tables in shady spots, but if we're off-highway, we'll just find a nice place to pull off the road (we look for riversides) and we have a couple of folding chairs and a table ready.

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