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Top Travel Nutrition Tips & Tricks For 'Safecations'

When my neighbor asked her friends on social media about which things they missed most since the pandemic hit the United States, “traveling” made it into the top three of every single person who responded. Now that lockdown restrictions are easing up in several states, many people are seeking to escape from their homes for a change of scenery and a little bit of freedom. But the desire to keep our families safe and to avoid airplane travel, crowded destinations as well as quarantine restrictions has required us to become a little more flexible with our vacation planning.

What is a Safecation?

This is how the idea of “safecations” was born. Shorter, regional mini-getaways, traveling by car or RV, staying in local short-term rentals or on camp grounds. Since April, car and RV rental companies have reported a spike in business unlike any they have ever seen before.

If you are new to traveling this way, camping trips might be a bit daunting to think about. Especially when you are traveling with children, planning, preparing and packing meals in advance can be a challenge. But it can also be a great way to keep everyone happy, nourished, entertained, and to save some money on the road!

How to Prepare Foods for a Getaway

Some foods will stay fresh and safe to eat for a few hours without refrigeration, so they make great travel snack for the first part of your journey and offer an amazing alternative to gas station sandwiches or vending machine products! I like to pack protein rich foods such as cheese, yogurt or hard boiled eggs, combined with healthy carbs like whole grain pita bread, avocado or hummus, and rounded off with some snack veggies and fresh fruits.

How to Pack Food Easily & Healthfully 

- If you have a cooler bag, foods like pasta or lentil salad will also keep fresh until the end of the day. To reduce excess weight and luggage, you can freeze water or juice in zip-lock bags, Tupperware boxes or plastic bottles to make “ice-packs”, and drink them once they have thawed. Just remember to not fill the bottles all the way to the top - water expands when it freezes and would otherwise cause a container to burst!

- For smaller children you can also freeze fruit and vegetable puree pouches like those in our baby food bundle. 

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- They double as mini ice packs until they are semi-frozen and can be enjoyed like a refreshing slushie, or you can wait a couple of hours more and serve them when they are completely defrosted.

- Besides packing plenty of snacks, when traveling with children I always recommend keeping some quick breakfast options handy, like cold cereal, fruit or granola bars. You may be planning on checking out a local bakery or cozy brunch spot nearby, but we know all too well how quickly kids can turn from happy to “hangry” in the mornings - seemingly within a matter of minutes!

Think Shelf Stable When Packing

- Whether you have refrigeration available in your RV or at your destination, and if you will be able to cook or make meals on a campfire will make a big difference in what foods your menu could include on your trip. Regardless of those “modern conveniences”, healthy, shelf stable foods will build a great basis for your travel pantry either way.

- A lot of fruits and vegetables last for several days as long as you leave them whole and only cut them up right before eating. Apples, bananas, grapes, citrus fruits, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery sticks, broccoli, bell peppers and carrots for example do not need refrigeration and make wonderful healthy snacks or small meals.

- If you eat meat, beef jerky and dried sausages like salami and chorizo can last for days without refrigeration and work well as snacks or to add some protein to main meals like pasta dishes, stir fries or soups. Canned tuna is another great protein source that does not require refrigeration or cooking.

- Pesto and salsa are extremely versatile and can be used to flavor a variety of dishes. Shelf stable milk and non-dairy milk alternatives are available in most supermarkets. Keep in mind that, once opened, even these need to be refrigerated, so it may be better to buy smaller containers.

If You're Able to Cook on the Road...

- If you have the opportunity to cook your own meals, you may find yourself using more canned products than you usually do. Canned tomatoes, vegetables, beans and lentils are staples in many travel recipes. Canned fruits can become a nice sweet treat or dessert. When you go shopping to stock up on these foods, pay attention to the ingredient list to avoid too much added salt and sugar. Usually the stores have low sodium and unsweetened versions available as well.

- You may also want to try some pickled and fermented foods which are more nutritious than canned ones, like pickled cucumbers, green beans or beets, and sauerkraut. Fun fact: Sauerkraut has a long history as travel food, having been used traditionally by sailors to prevent scurvy because of its high vitamin C content. It also contains beneficial bacteria that can help with upset “travel tummy."

Local Produce is The Traveling Jackpot 

- However, unless you are actually on a boat or camping out in the middle of nowhere, you may find that you will enjoy exploring local farmer’s markets, grocery stores and farm stands as a way to discover seasonal and regional foods of your travel destination or along the way. If you feel particularly adventurous, and possess the appropriate background knowledge, foraging for fresh foods like mushrooms, berries, nuts and wild greens can provide nourishing and diversified additions to your ingredient list.

How to Minimize Waste on the Road

- You can minimize waste by using leftovers in stews or casseroles, or turning rice and bread into rice pudding and French toast for breakfast the next morning. Speaking of waste; minimizing trash and choosing environmentally friendly packaging is especially important while traveling.

- I have a little bit of an obsession with bento boxes! They come in such cute designs and I can keep foods, snacks and side dishes separate for my picky toddler. They are re-usable and last for years, and stack up nicely to save space when not in use. I also use zip-lock bags multiple times and for all kinds of different purposes.

- For disposable packaging, you can find awesome recycled and compostable sandwich bags and disposable wooden cutlery in many online stores, if needed.

Most of all, Remember To Have Fun!

With all that being said, remember that vacation holidays are supposed to be fun and as stress-free as possible. If it causes you additional pressure or strain, don’t worry if your family’s diet is not perfect every single day and you have to resort to canned ravioli lunches and instant custard desserts on a few occasions. Having a plan and some provisions on hand will allow for some peace of mind and flexibility, which is a great foundation to make your travel experience more enjoyable overall. Have a safe trip!

* Disclaimer: The best foods to travel with can vary depending on the season and each individual’s dietary requirements or restrictions. Before you make any travel plans during the ongoing COVID-19 occurrences in the US, consult the Center for Disease Control’s “Considerations for Travelers” guide and ask your doctor if you have any health questions or concerns *

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