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Keep food fresh while traveling: 6 summertime tips

food travel
(© Tricky Shark –

Whether you’re planning the next great American road trip with the family or a day in the wilderness with friends, food is an important consideration. People have to eat! The problem is, spending hours and hours away from modern conveniences makes it tough to keep food fresh. Imagine digging into a salad that’s been sitting for a six-hour car ride or trying to enjoy what was ice cream after a hike into the mountains!

Fear not, adventurers! There are plenty of ways to keep food fresh while traveling—whether you’re away from home for four hours or 24 hours. Keep these simple tips in mind and you’ll enjoy fresh food that not only tastes great, it won’t leave you with an upset stomach when it’s time to chow down.

1. Get yourself an insulated food bag

The simplest, most important thing you can do to keep food safe and fresh is to transport it properly. No, that doesn’t mean in a duffle bag filled with ice packs. Get yourself an insulated food bag—something like this top-loading backpack bag from Incredible Bags. Insulation is essential, and it’s the only thing standing between your food and inevitable spoilage. As a bonus tip, get one with a carrying strap, so you don’t jostle food around!

2. Package food accordingly

An insulated food bag will only go so far. Package your foods accordingly to keep them fresh for as long as possible. This means wrapping foods and even using different bags to carry different items. If you pack a tuna sandwich next to some fruit and either one goes bad, that’s it for everything! Use plastic containers, baggies, foil and more to individually package all foods within your insulated food bag.

3. Minimize sun exposure to reduce spoilage

Wrapping food and sealing it tight in an insulated bag is useless if you leave the whole bag in the sun. Consider that a hot car can reach temperatures of more than 100 degrees in under an hour in direct sunlight. Even the best insulated food bag won’t stop spoilage after a couple hours of intense baking. The solution? Keep stored food out of direct sun, in a well-ventilated area. Can’t avoid the sun? Even placing a blanket over the bag can prevent direct sun exposure, reducing heat.

4. Plan your meals

Most people plan their road trip or adventure. They know what time they leave, where they’re going, what they’re doing and when they’re coming back. Shouldn’t meals be part of the planning process? Knowing when you’re going to eat is important—especially if you plan to enjoy fresh food. Plan times to eat that don’t leave your food unattended. For example, if you’re driving eight hours, plant to eat four hours into the drive instead of six. You’re racing against time—not only when it comes to your travel plans, but against food spoilage as well.

5. Be mindful of food you’re transporting

Different foods require different care. It’s fine to leave a can of almonds sitting around in your back seat; it’s not okay to leave an egg salad sandwich in those same conditions! It seems like common sense, but it’s easy to slip your mind. That goes for packing foods into a bag, too. Stacking a bunch of water bottles on top of your sandwiches is definitely going to smush them, which leaves them prone to spoilage sooner. Be mindful of your food and consider how you’re packaging it, packing it and handling it, as well as what conditions are safe vs. unsafe.

6. Disturb food as little as possible

There’s no better analogy than a soda can here. We all know what happens when you shake a carbonated beverage, then try to open it. Consider other types of food, as well. If you rattle things around enough, they’re going to fall apart. The easiest way to keep your food in good condition for the duration of your journey is to treat it gently, with care. From loading it into the car to carrying it to your picnic spot, handle it with finesse and you’ll find yourself enjoying tasty treats in no time at all!

Food is an important part of any summertime trip. Pay attention to how you’re transporting it and you’ll avoid one of the oldest summer travel tropes in the book: food spoiled by the heat. It could be the difference between a delicious meal and one cobbled together from a rest stop vending machine.

augusta free press
augusta free press