How to Plan a Road Trip Without Drive-Thrus

These healthy tips help you avoid the draw of the drive-thru—even when you're on the road for hours (or days).

Drive thru fast food restaurantPhoto: Shutterstock/Ministr-84

Road trips can be a bear, especially if you’re traveling with kids. It’s no surprise that the convenience of drive-thrus make them an easy target for long-distance drivers. To resist their golden-arched temptation, all you need to do is plan ahead. These simple tips will make those long road trips go down easier than a 1,200 calorie trip to through the drive-thru.

1. Stay Hydrated

The simplest, yet most effective, tip of all time. Long trips often mean coffee, which in turn means dehydration. Bring a water bottle you can refill at stops.

Plus, drinking hot water has several scientifically-proven health benefits, so consider bringing a thermos!

2. Pack Protein

Protein is a basic building block of the body. It also helps you re-energize, not to mention feel fuller longer. (Fewer stops!)

Luckily, there’s a litany of road trip snacks to help prepare for a road trip. Or there’s always protein-packed gas station foods you can snag on the way. Quinoa keeps well in Tupperware, as do granola bars. If both are too time-consuming to prepare, there are always peanuts and good old beef jerky…which you should definitely buy at the grocery store instead of the gas station (or make it yourself). Your wallet will thank you!

3. Build in Stops

Nowadays, finding rest stops along any given road is easy—most phone GPSs allow you to include them along your route. Experience tells us this is especially important on highways you’re unfamiliar with. Get out, stretch your legs, have a bite to eat and get on your way.

4. Avoid Eating on the Shoulder (If Possible)

The shoulder should only be used in the case of emergency stops. If you need to grab a quick bite or consult your phone, move your vehicle entirely off the road.

5. Bring Calorie-Heavy Meals

Snacks are great, but they won’t satisfy you completely when your tummy starts to rumble. Consider cooking a recipe that’s good hot or cold—a frittata, roast chicken, burritos, etc.—then putting it in a freezer bag in a cooler. That way, when you reach rest stops, you can quickly eat a filling meal and head back on the road without breaking down and getting a sodium-packed cheeseburger and fries.

6. Pack Napkins, Tissues and a Bag

It isn’t good enough to just bring them with you—keep tissues and napkins within reach so if someone spills on their lap or a nose begins to run, you or a co-pilot can take immediate action without distraction. An extra bag for garbage will help cut down on cleanup time at your stops.

7. Bring Spare Equipment

Besides covering the food and snacks, you should probably pack this practical stuff, too. Most people keep a spare tire, but some of the basics tend to be forgotten in the chaos of travel. Consider:

  • Sunglasses
  • Car phone charger
  • First aid kit
  • A change of clothes
  • A blanket, hat, and gloves (in case you break down in cold weather)
  • Spare gasoline
  • A tire pump
  • Flashlights
  • Spare batteries

Once you’ve got these essentials covered, you can focus on packing the sweetest tunes (or even an audiobook or podcast) that help the drive seem to go just a little bit faster.

Pack these foods for your next trip.
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