I’m a cook, which means that I like food. I love buying it, preparing it, smelling it, looking at it, cooking it, plating it, serving it, and eating it, and even cleaning it up. (Probably eating it a little less than the others, otherwise I’d be morbidly obese. But still. Yum.)
When I’m away from home, I like to be able to cook, both for fun and for health reasons. Not many things are more pleasing to me than being hosted and getting to thank my hosts with a meal, or enjoying a familiar dish in an unfamiliar setting.
Planning out what and where you will eat can take some of the stress out of travel, keep you well, and help you stay on budget. Here’s what I do to stay fit, fed, and functional when I travel.
1. The Portable Kitchen. I’ve been everything from vegan to gluten-free at one point in life, so I know how difficult it can be to hunt and gather what your body is used to digesting when traveling. This is why I bring a portable kitchen.
This can mean anything from a bag of paper plates and plasticware to a bin full of pots and pans. I like to travel with a case of ceramic knives, since good knives are pretty crucial to my enjoyment of prepping and cooking. If it’s a road trip, I also bring my favorite pot, pan and lid, drinking straws, a cutting board, my tin of coarse sea salt, and my pepper grinder. If there’s room, I also bring a French press, ground coffee, tea bags, and an electric kettle for heating up hot water. Overkill? Maybe, but I almost always use them when I bring them, and regret it when I don’t. (I also bring a sponge and a small bottle of dish or castille soap for clean-up.)
2. Snacks on the Go. Travel is about half enjoying what you’ve planned, half adjusting to what you didn’t plan. Non-perishable meal bars (Cliff, Atkins, Mojo, LaraBar, homemade granola, etc.) or some fruit and nuts in your purse or carry on bag are good in the event of layovers, car trouble, or good old fashioned sugar crashes. Because no one wants to deal with you at the Avis counter if the last thing you had was a serving of fries and guilt 10 hours ago.
If you like to make your own snacks, here’s a list of my friend Mel Breakdown’s granola bar recipes off of her roller-derby recipe blog, Cooking On Skates.
Gameday Snacks (pictured)
3. Instant Meals. When camping, Husband and I like to get MRE snacks from the Army Navy store (self-heating), instant oatmeal, and soups or ready-made pouches of Indian food (from Trader Joe’s) that heat up with a little hot water. They’re great for hung-over mornings or tired evenings where energy is low, since when camping everything seems to take three times as long to accomplish.
In hotels with a microwave or fridge, you have plenty of options, from soups to instant rice to ramen to Amy’s bowls and burritos. Microwave popcorn is also a fun way to unwind after a long drive; it’s cheap and packs easily. If microwaves aren’t in the room, chances are they have one on site, just call the front desk to ask. Usually they’ll let you use it.
Single-serving boxes of soy or almond milk, juice, even small bottles of wine or beer are good to have along. For some reason, I crave apple juice when camping, and there has been more than one time where I thanked myself profusely for packing little boxes of it. I’ve even seen little drink boxes of wine… perfect for beach blanket time or picnics!
3. Plan Your Meals. Consider planning out your meals for the trip in accordance with what is available at your destination, especially if you don’t have a lot of room to bring food. I use Google maps to find the nearest restaurants or markets that carry foods I eat, or ingredients I can use to make my own meals. Another plus to this is that I get to feel all local and community-minded when browsing the farmer’s or open-air market in a new city. Local Harvest is a pretty good website to use, or you can just use a smart phone to look them up when you get there.