12 Essential Tips that Make Traveling with Food So Much Easier

Updated: May 07, 2024

Keep dishes safe and sound with these genius tips for traveling with food. Your recipes will stay party-ready well after you leave the house.

You’ve cooked your heart out and made something amazing for the potluck—but here comes the tricky part that people don’t talk about enough: how to get the food there safely. We’ve compiled some of our time-tested tips for traveling with food. They’re perfect to use after making any of our top-rated potluck recipes.

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Slow cooker with bungee cord tied on for safe traveling.
Taste of Home

Keep Your Slow Cooker’s Lid on Tight

Excited to make that slow-cooker dip for the party, but nervous to place it in the passenger seat on the way there? We were, too, until we found this genius trick to keeping the lid on tight: Grab a small bungee cord, hook each end onto the slow cooker’s side handles and then wrap it around (or thread it through) the lid’s top handle. Give it a wiggle to make sure it’s good to go. Slow cookers are one of the best ways to keep food hot while traveling, so grabbing yourself a bungee cord to keep handy is a great idea if you find yourself attending potlucks frequently with a slow cooker in tow.

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Man lining the trunk of a car with shelf liners
Taste of Home

Prevent Food from Sliding in the Back Seat

Collect your yoga mats or extra drawer liners before you place any dishes in your car. Line a trunk, or back seat, with these no-slip materials to keep food from slipping and sliding when you hit the interstate. You can trust your most elaborate layer cakes on this simple setup—but we get it if you want to stick them on a friend’s lap in the front seat just in case.

This trick would also work for suitcases, bags, buckets of toys and other containers you might bring on a road trip. Check out more of our best tips for how to travel with kids.

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DIY carrier for multiple casserole dishes
Taste of Home

Carry Multiple Goodies at Once 

Bringing multiple bakes to the party? Go you! Here’s a great way to carry them all at once and avoid multiple trips to and from the car into the gathering. Grab your cooling rack and a storage bin that’s slightly larger in size. Place one of your dishes on the bottom of the bin, set the cooling rack on top, then set another dish on top. Now you can make a double batch of one of our favorite 13×9 dessert recipes.

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DIY salad kit for make-and-take potlucks
Taste of Home

Make Assembly Easy with a To-Go Salad Kit

Here’s how to make a quick, travel-friendly salad, hassle-free: Prep all of your ingredients separately in reusable containers (we love Stasher silicone storage bags) and place them in a large serving bowl along with a bag of greens, a bottle of dressing and your serving tools. When you’ve reached your destination, simply toss everything together and serve like in these easy-to-use salad kits. This way, your salad won’t get soggy before you get to the party.

Stasher bags are also perfect for holding the best travel snacks, like pretzels or M&Ms.

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Close-up three tasty oatmeal cookies laying at the green checkered textile kitchen towel at wooden surface of bakery, cafe or kitchen table in the morning during the breakfest in cozy atmosphere
Parfenteva Tatiana/Shutterstock

Keep Cookies in Place

Cookies (like these chewy maple cookies) are notorious for sliding off plates. Luckily, there’s a simple fix. Line the plate with a pretty kitchen towel or napkin and place your baked goods on top. Cover with plastic wrap, and your cookies won’t budge—even when you take a corner a little too fast! When it comes to that cookie tray you’re bringing to the holiday gathering, this might be one of the best tips for traveling with food that you keep in your back pocket. 

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Use a dab of frosting to keep a cake in place
Taste of Home

Prevent Cakes from Sliding

Before assembling the cake, place a dab of frosting in the middle of the cake plate—as well as on the cake board, if you are using one. The frosting acts as a glue to prevent the cake from slipping as you decorate, as well as staying put in the car. Psst! Here’s how to frost a cake—the easy and elegant way.

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Fresh cupcakes are on a black pan on the table, cookie sheet, cupcake
Beliakina Ekaterina/Shutterstock

Keep Heavy Bakes in Foil Pans from Caving In

Disposable foil pans are super useful, but they are prone to caving in under heavy bakes. (Case in point: This hefty lasagna recipe.) Instead of risking it, slide a baking sheet underneath the foil pan for extra support.

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Stack of newspapers on table

Give Cold Dishes an Extra Layer of Insulation

News flash: Newspaper makes a great insulator. Next time you need to keep something extra cold, line a cooler with your weekly paper and tuck it around and over your dish. This tip works great for cool, crisp dishes like this colorful spiral pasta salad.

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Reusable plastic container in the larder; Shutterstock ID 114016396

Save Disposable Containers for Future Potlucks

Give tubs, like ones for sour cream, butter, yogurt or salad mix, an extra life! Rinse out used plastic containers and keep them on hand for future leftover duty. Here are more reusable kitchen products that will reduce the amount of waste you create.

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masking tape on kitchen counter
Shutterstock / VH-studio

Keep Lids in Place

Use painter’s tape to keep lids in place. Don’t worry, the tape won’t leave a residue—so there won’t be any marks on Grandma’s vintage baking dish. When you arrive to the party, simply peel it off and serve up one of these vintage recipes

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cake decorating supplies
Reader's Digest

Bring Decorating Tools On the Go to Touch Up Cakes

Worried about transporting your niece’s birthday cake in the backseat? We’ve all been there. Make it a little easier on yourself by throwing your cake decorating tools in an emergency cake tool kit. Fix up smudges or add the final details once you arrive.

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Homemade sauce in jar
The Picture Pantry/Getty Images

Transport Homemade Sauces and Soups Safely

No more sloshing soups and sauces. Know that the best way to transport soup, salsas and other homemade sauces is to pour them in a soup canister, mason jar or large water bottle, and then place in your cupholder for the ride over. If your canister is too large for your cupholder, invest in a cupholder expander.