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What foods are a must have when road tripping?

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I never eat McDonald's chicken nuggets at home, but for some reason when I am driving on a road trip I must stop and get them to eat while driving. I also must have spray cheese and Bugles in the car.

What are those strange foods you find yourself eating while driving down the open road?

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  1. Well, if I have to bring something with me on a car, then I like to bring something I can eat while driving like beef jerky, granola bars or yogurt, but I don't always bring them.

    As for eating on the road, I like to try different ones when I can. McDonald is a good one, Waffle House is good, White Castle, Cracker and Barrel....etc. I don't usually buy from Fast Food restaurants and then eat while driving.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      I'll also go for the Waffle House as there are none in my area.

      1. re: MacTAC

        Yeah, I try to go to the one I usually not in my area -- like Waffle House. :) Smokey Bones is good too.

        1. re: MacTAC

          Ah, Waffle House. While never my first choice, there HAVE been road trips, where they were the only thing available. Mostly good memories, but rather long ago. As Beverly D'Angelo said, in "Honky Tonk Freeway," "International House of Pancakes is the only constant in my life." Once, it was Waffle House for us. While we always tried for some mom-n-pop diner, even back then, they were too few and far between.

          For us, road trips come all too infrequently, as one cannot get from Phoenix to London in the Landcruiser...


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            We don't have Cracker Barrel in So. Cal., so we stop at them every chance we get on the road (yeah, I'm from the South, so I'm well aware of C.B.'s non-authenticness, but love 'em anyway). A road day with all 3 meals at C.B. is a bonus!

            Mr. Pine loves McD.'s coffee--just the plain ole' cup, not the "cafe" ones. Our last road trip, I had to call a halt to stopping every 2 hours for coffee, or we'd never have arrived at the destination!

            1. re: pine time

              We are from the Deep South, as well, but we once stopped at a Cracker Barrel, and my wife was brought to her knees by the aromas in the entry area, almost caused my wife to go into an arrest, since she has asthma. We have never entered one again, and they are a running joke.


      2. I like to get a sack full of banh mi before heading out. In June/July fresh lichee to get my hands and the steering wheel all sticky. If I'm down South I like to pick up some boiled peanuts and fried pies. If going through Louisiana some hot boudin is a must.

        1 Reply
        1. I used to do a run between Manhasset and Vestal NY and would load up on maki, beef jerky, McNuggets and soda water.

          1. Tacos.

            A good friend and I take a trip every year (from the Bay Area to the Central Coast of CA) just after Christmas, and we look for the most out of the way taqueria we can find (preferably in a neighborhood with all the signs in Spanish. This year was our most successful meal; homemade corn tortillas, and all home-made salsas and pickles. I can still taste it a month later...

            1 Reply
            1. re: kcshigekawa

              While we love Mexican food (from many different regions), we limit that to when we arrive, and not on the road. In my callow youth, it was not always that way.

              We'd stop into a "pizza roll" stand, tank up, then drive for 20 hours, but that was then, and this is now. I do not think there is enough Tagamet on Earth, to allow me to eat one pizza roll, or taco on the road. In 30 years, you will understand.


            2. These days my road trips are mostly within CA or from SD to AZ. I like to bring nuts, sandwiches from a local deli, and mineral water.

              I always bring along dried apricots for the last leg of my trip. You can probably imagine why. Good ol' magnesium.

              In my younger and throwing-caution-to-the-wind days, I'd chomp on turkey Lunchables. The thought of that now is not at all desirable. Funny how our tastes change. Damn good thing too.


              1 Reply
              1. re: globocity

                I'll frequently bring homemade 'lunchables' with me on road trips. With good cheese and lunchmeat, and non-cardboard crackers, it makes a good snack.

              2. I like to munch on road trips but I try not to gain 30lbs, so they tend to be the one time I buy pre-packaged vegetable/dip trays from the produce section of the grocery store. I can usually put the ranch in my cup holder and munch away.

                  1. re: Burghfeeder

                    that *used* to be my must-have road food....til we did a 20-hour drive with a spanking-fresh bag of 'em.


                    I honestly don't know if I could eat them again.

                  2. Chicken nuggets for me too. I did a few trips from CA to CO this past year and McDonald's is the old reliable since there's usually one even in the small towns in Utah. Oh, or Chicken quesadillas dipped in fire sauce from Taco Bell.

                    For snacks I like honey roasted peanuts. I don't buy them anytime except for when roadtripping.

                    1. I'll often drive while eating McDonald's or Burger King regular hamburgers. (The small ones, not the big drippy ones.)

                      Like JMF, I'd go for a sack of banh mi if it were available here.

                      1. I confess, I'm a don't eat in my car freak. But I will eat in my car, because I'm very tidy. Candy and water are ok. Mostly skittles. Or if it breakfast, juice and a granola.
                        To try to explain myself, my car (upgrade) was a gift from mr. gator after I had the living crud scared out of me in an accident, and I want it to stay as clean as it can.
                        I hope there's another no food in the car freak like me out there!!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: alliegator

                          I am not but I use to know someone that is. She even told me that she refused to even have water or soda in her car. Any time she goes to buy takeout, it has to go in the trunk. Doesn't even want the new car smell to go away.

                          1. re: alliegator


                            We are like you. Very few items consumed in the vehicles - very few.

                            I also like to dine locally, so there are seldom any fast-food stops (harder, and harder to do), and NEVER in the vehicle. I also like to stretch my legs and visit the facilities about every 12 hours, if the fuel holds out that long. Wife hops out at every fuel stop though.


                          2. A bucket of KFC and a towel for a bib. A small cooler in the back seat carries soda and ice.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                              One of our annual road trips is from Boston to the Outer Banks, and we use a beach towel for our bibs. This year I made a trip to Ohio in the Fall, and brought along two beach towels for our bibs. After I got home, they remained folded in my back seat for a few weeks- until one of the kids told me it was a bit late in the year to have the beach towels in the car.

                            2. Must have water, mints and grapes in the car. Stopping at rest areas we get Roy Rogers fried chicken ( thighs only).

                              2 Replies
                                1. re: kengk

                                  Crazy how much they charge you for a "special order"- but worth it. If I am going to eat fast food- while driving for 11+ hours- with a beach towel on my lap- I might as well make it as enjoyable as I can!

                              1. I am almost embarrassed to admit this...but Taco Bell. Weird because we never touch the stuff at home. For some reason we find ourselves at a drivethrough whenever we are on the road for 6 hours or more.

                                1. On a drive from Bal Harbour FL straight through to Philadelphia, way back in college years and there were 4 of us, I stopped at McD's for 50 cheeseburgers to go. And a small coke.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Not four fried chickens and a coke?

                                    1. re: Violatp

                                      Road trips in Mexico include roast chickens and a kilo of tortillas. And more recently, beer in the car is a no-no.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        As there are always gallos roaming loose, I will stop, grab one, and defeather it, then place it above the exhaust manifold in aluminum foil. Makes a great meal, later on - except for the aroma of Pemex.


                                            1. re: Violatp

                                              I couldn't let you drop a line like that out and leave it laying there untouched. :)

                                      2. If we leave at butt crack'o dawn, I MUST stop at Mickey D's and get a sausage n egg mcmuffin. I don't buy them unless I'm traveling. With coffee and hash brown, natch.

                                        1. Our road trips to Mexico always go like this- stop at a McD's for sausage egg mcmuffins at the start around 0900, drive for three hours to Why, AZ, get a big bag of chicharrones to eat while we drive through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, stop in Sonoyta at the taco trailer in front of Vasquez market and load up on fabulous tacos and get a case of Coronas, eat tacos and when we get out of town we open Coronas and drink them, and when they're empty we blow into the bottles to make the bottle whistle noise while we're driving to Penasco.

                                          1. For me, it is pancakes for breakfast in a diner, or truck stop - along with usually pretty bad coffee.

                                            We are pretty adamant about not eating much in the car, beyond water, but have been known to grab a bag of cashews, or even those little peanut butter crackers. Otherwise, we get out of the vehicle to dine on anything else.


                                            1. not exactly strange, but road food usually includes: grapes, potato chips, bottled water (usually drink only tap!), coffee, pepperoni sticks

                                              1. The past few road trips we took either homemade granola bars or banana bread to eat in the car and for late night snacks in the hotel room. I may go for cookies this time, they're not so crumbly.
                                                For years, I had to stop at McDonald's for a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit before heading out of town, but these days I have limited myself to one 32oz half-ice caffeine free Diet Coke from the fountain at the filling station.
                                                On our way out, we drive till lunchtime with just a pit stop or two. Coming home, though, the last leg of vacation, we will treat ourselves to a good old fashioned breakfast at some local diner or family restaurant.

                                                1. the really terrible egg salad or tuna salad sandwiches brown bag makes for gas stations

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Kalivs

                                                    And on the way to SF from LA or back, my family always stopped at Harris Ranch. To appreciate how weird this is you need to know that my family was vegetarian and we all got the cheese enchiladas.

                                                  2. My first requirement of food when road tripping is, look for something I can't get at home. I look for local specialties if possible. Most of my road trips these days are along familiar routes to familiar destinations and I know before I set out what's available along the way and at the other end, and I know my options - mostly bbq shacks, kolache shops, smokehouses, etc.

                                                    I don't carry snacks in the car. I much prefer to get out, take a break and go in some place. I don't have a rule about not eating in the car, as some places are take-out only, but not while driving. I always have snack food around the house and consume far too much of it for my own good, but on the road, I'm very happy to get away from it. And I haven't starved to death yet from lack of snacking while traveling.

                                                    If I'm going someplace unfamiliar along unfamiliar routes, I'll try to do some research ahead of time; otherwise, I'll look for something that looks local and good. A local or regional chain I'm not familiar with is okay and I love old-fashioned small town hamburger stands or fried chicken shacks in towns not big enough to sport a McD or KFC, etc. but a national chain or store bought snack from a gas station or convenience store is the last option.

                                                    1. nothing strange but popcorn and gas station coffee with bad creamer, the flavored kind. i usually scoff at bad flavored creamer but not on the road. love making a combo of vanilla and hazelnut.

                                                      popcorn is a good snack on the road and in the car. can get slightly messy but easy to eat while driving and not as fattening as nuts.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: trolley

                                                        Popcorn is a great idea, I'm going to start doing that!

                                                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                          i got the popcorn tip from my friends' grandmother. she used to drive by herself from Florida to NJ often and she said it was a good way to stay alert. plus, it's not as greasy and fattening as nuts so it was easy to eat more often at intervals while driving alone.

                                                      2. Ok, my chow hound card is pulled out, and I'm ready to hand it over, but for me it's funyuns. We used to live in Scottsdale, and drive to Pasadena to visit family. My (new) husband bought a bag of funyuns, and I reluctantly tried them. Fell in love with them. I can still remember top down, music blaring, kid free care free drives, and that's what they signify to me 15 years later. Oh and for the record, out of the car, I find them kind of gross

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: sunangelmb

                                                          It's okay. When my sister and I used to take road trips to visit our parents, we'd stock up first on baked Cheetos and Yoo Hoo.
                                                          DH thinks that is just wrong in so many ways. ;-)

                                                        2. Rold Gold honey wheat pretzels, tuna/cracker kits, baby carrots & apples, Greek yogurt (I bring a little mini cooler), sparkling waters

                                                          Pancakes from diners, most definitely.

                                                          I used to do the McD's sausage/biscuit things with orange juice for the early mornings, but it's way too rich for me in the morning nowadays, as tasty as they can be.

                                                          1. Nabisco makes "Fresh Stacks" which are handy to keep in the car and snack on while driving.


                                                            1. I like to have dried fruit (unsweetened dried mango from TJ's is a fave), peanut butter filled pretzels (also from TJ's), almond butter and apples.

                                                              1. As a child it was always a bag if Hostess Sweet Sixteen powdered donuts and on to feul up for the trip. Now I prefer boiled peanuts or sunflower seeds and diet Dr Pepper. And if the trip merits I like to stop at some diner or a mom and pop place to eat. Otherwise its skittles or twizzlers when the gas stop comes around

                                                                1. Love me road trips all over the globe and I do a lot of SD to PHX and that requires a large fresh brewed ice tea, In and Out or Arbys for the turkey Reuben in Yuma..
                                                                  Date shake with some medjools dates to munch on.
                                                                  If its summer and 120 degrees, a cherry cola slurpee.
                                                                  PHX has Quick Trips are great for brewed tea or a Dr. pepper..
                                                                  Jersey Mike's or a Carolinas stop for that divey Cheesy Mex fix.
                                                                  Mexico, love drinking Pacificos or Tecate stubbies and hit up all the mariscos stands..

                                                                  There is nothing like a hot out of the fryer filet of fish with extra tartar and a small fries squished together with the burn of a Dr. Pepper.

                                                                  1. and yet if you set down a plate of most of this when we were sitting anywhere but a car, we'd turn up our noses....ain't it strange?!

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      Sort of like hot dogs, which are said to taste good anywhere but home.

                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                        no -- I won't eat a hot dog unless I'm nearly ready to faint and there's absolutely nothing else available.

                                                                      2. Fried chicken gizzards