WritersButt Wednesday: Road Trip!!

Happy WritersButt Wednesday. I hope everyone has had a great week.  Today, I promise not to rant at you like I did last week. I totally got that out of my system. That is, until I see something else ridiculous and you know I can’t promise to keep my little soapbox tucked away.  But today we’re going on a road trip! Or at least, we’re going to talk about how to take road trips and not completely sabotage your nutrition along the way.


Summer is the season for road trips. Kids are out of school and grandparents want to see their babies!  Beaches and lakes call out to those sun-worshipping and action-craving families. It’s the time to get away, even if it’s only for a long weekend, from your normal routine and environment. Adventures await us and we have to find them!!

We are a big road trip family.  My husband and I have been taking cross-country road trips since before we were married and our child was a dog.

(Sebastian with our daughter when she was a toddler. Sebastian was our baby before we had babies. 🙂 RIP Saby–we still miss you!)

We lived in San Diego (where I’m from) and his family is in Texas (where I’m now from), so we did that long 20+ hour trek numerous times. After marriage and kids, we started spending our summers in TN at the lake, which is about a 16+ hour trip. We’ve been making that summer trip for over a decade now.

All of this to say that I’m declaring myself — you can’t stop me! — an expert on cross-country road trips.  Over the years, adding in 3 kids, we made a bunch of bad choices, for which we paid in a multitude of stomach issues and headaches. Now I’ve got it down to a science.  I’m going to give you some of my best tips for eating healthy on the road – what to pack in your cooler, what to avoid and one item not to forget, ever!

It’s very easy to head down the ‘snack’ aisle of the grocery store and stock up on chips, cookies, and candy and fill the cooler with soda and juice. STOP! Back away from the crunch-n-munch and Oreos.  Spending a couple of days in the car eating that crap will only make you arrive at your destination bloated, grouchy, sluggish and I guarantee you’ll either be stopped up or racing to the toilet in emergency-mode.  Also, do yourself a favor and skip the fast food joints, or at the very least, choose the best options, like a salad with grilled chicken or perhaps a grilled chicken wrap. There are good choices out there, find them, so when you show up at your destination, you’re ready to get down to the fun instead of being parked on the john.

Here’s what the Calems pack for a two-day road trip:

Hard boiled eggs: I boil (actually I steam my eggs, makes peeling a breeze!) at least a dozen eggs, peel them, pop into a zip-bag. Perfect protein snack. Tip: put a couple paper towels in the bag to soak up any moisture.

Sliced apples: I slice up 6 huge apples. I do this at the last minute to minimize browning. They are great for at least 2 days in a zip-bag.

Sliced cheese: Even though I normally avoid dairy, we always have cheese with our apples on road trips. (I just don’t overdo it so that my stomach won’t hurt.)

Fruit/Veggies: Sometimes we’ve had grapes or strawberries.  And, for a couple years I had a huge bag of veggies with a plastic container of homemade dip or you could have hummus.

Chicken Salad: For the last few years, the favorite ‘meal’ on the road is chicken salad. I usually get canned chicken, (premium chicken breast packed in water – or you could certainly make your own chicken or get a rotisserie one and cut it up yourself)


2-3 large cans of chicken (family of 5 here!)

lots of grapes, cut in half (green or red, your choice)

Slivered almonds that you toast up to yummy goodness!

mayo to your liking – need I say to use full-fat mayo!  🙂

pepper and a little salt

Combine it all.  We use to have this as a sandwich but now I get those cheap plastic containers and make up a few of those so we eat this as a salad. Pack some plastic forks. Eat and discard.

Protein bars: I usually pack some good quality protein bars.

Trail mix: You can buy a premade one or make your own. My grocery store has a great bulk-food section, so I can choose the nuts I like (and avoid raisins which I do not like at all) and I make a big bag of awesome!

We rarely stop at fast food places. For one thing, we have the dog, so we can’t all go into eat anywhere, so I find a rest stop or gas station with a grassy area.  We eat our salad while we take turns running Gia around.

Our ‘treat’ stop is usually Starbucks. Kids get whatever they want and the adults are usually clamoring for espresso, multiple shots!

Lifesaver snack: One thing we’ve had from day one and always have is a bag of sunflower seeds still in the shell.  This is a lifesaver for the driver getting a bit sleepy. It takes work to get the seeds out of the shell so it kind of keeps you occupied with something as you drive.  TIP: Transfer the seeds from the package to a zip-bag. I go through a LOT of zip-bags on our trips!  Bigger Tip: Pack some plastic cups to put your shells into!

My extra special tip: Pack booze! Yes, you read that right. If you’re taking a trip that is more than one day, as in, you’re staying in a hotel, pack a bottle of wine and/or a few beers in the cooler so when you finally get to your hotel, after being trapped spending long hours enjoying the company of your family, there’s not much that tastes better and will be more welcome than a drink, a good one!

Now, before ya’ll tell me that booze is not part of a healthy road trip. I disagree. Here on WritersButt Wednesday, we focus on  the mind/body connection and after 14 hours in the car, my mind/sanity needs a drink.

On that note, my one item to pack and not to forget is a bottle/wine opener. This is very important. Forgetting this item will force you to get creative.  On a positive note, there are many things in a hotel room that will open an ice cold corona. Just sayin’!

Now, even though I’m a self-proclaimed expert, I don’t know everything. Stop pretending to be shocked!! I want to know what tips you all have?  Please share any tips in the comments so we can all have fun and nutritious road trips and be ready to hit the ground running when we get to our destination!

Here’s to some fun road trips this summer. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to pack the car and get outta here.


About Ginger Calem

I never met a notebook I didn't want to buy. Pens speak to me. Sticky notes are dear to my heart. Some of my best friends are those clambering in my head trying to get onto the page. And when they have their stories told, and I release them to the world, I hope they'll be your friends too.

Posted on April 25, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. FANTASTIC Ginger. Hubby and I LOVE road trips and one of our biggest issues is the cash (not to mention the unhealthy feelings) that we spend on eating out, fast food, and junk stops. Last year we got into the habit of packing trail mix and fruit, which rocks but your tips and suggestions are AMAZING! We definitely have one road trip planned for this summer so I’ll put ALL this to good use. Woot woot!
    And the wine/beer tip – awesomeness!
    YOU rock girl – tks for this!

  2. Coleen Patrick

    I love road trips! When I was a kid my mom always packed sandwiches, fruit, etc so even though I pack for health and sanity reasons, I also feel nostalgic when I do it. We are the same with Starbucks–it’s the fun stop for us too. But your booze tip is something I never heard or considered–and it really is a great idea! 🙂

    • It’s funny that you mention nostalgic. The apples and cheese came from my dad and his wife from when I was young and we took road trips. I can’t imagine a trip without apples and cheese. Probably why I actually eat cheese, when normally I don’t. They always add in crackers, like wheat thins, which we also did for many years but I did cut those out. Although, sometimes I can’t pass up some cheese-its. I just I have a thing for cheese and driving. haha!

  3. I love road trips and took at least one, usually two every year until I married my husband. He hates riding in a car, sitting in an airplane, sitting on a train, well, you get it. He loves to travel, but hates the getting there part. His idea of getting from place to place is taking the expressway and never stopping til he’s there. Me? I look for back roads, long cuts, scenic drives, stop at all look outs and vista points, you get the idea. But, because he whines, we usually avoid the road trips at all costs. We have traveled up and down the State of California several times, but usually for funerals, weddings, or graduations and on those occasions we get to stop exactly twice on the twelve hour journey for restroom breaks whether we need to go or not. He’s a really fun person to travel with in the car. I miss my road trips!

    Thanks for the snack suggestions. I’m a huge fan of dried fruit and love to take a ziplock baggie full of that. It travels easier than in it’s original form and you don’t need an ice chest. It’s great to take on a airplane too, which is my husband’s preferred method of travel even if we’re only going to San Francisco, which is a two hour car ride. You see what I’m dealing with here? That’s not to say my hubby and I haven’t enjoyed some fun trips, they just revolve around a faster method of travel. Suffice it to say I’ve seen a lot of sky in the nine years we’ve been married.

    I hope you have some fun trips planned this summer!!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  4. You two need to learn how to apparate, a la Harry Potter! 🙂 I’m sorry you’re missing your road trips. You need to find a road trip buddy and have a girls weekend or something.

    What funny is that when we drive, I am a bit of a road warrior. Unlike you, who take back roads and stop and places, I’m on a mission! Kids say they have to go potty, I tell them I’ll be stopping in another 120 miles. ha!

    We’ll be returning to TN again this summer. We always look forward to that trip like it’s a lifeline!

  5. I learned your tips years ago of course and have used whatever ones my family doesn’t fight me on. The last few years, I’ve just done my healthier road tripping ways and left the family to be stubborn and feel like crap. I change up the chicken salad all the time. It depends on my mood. This week I’ve made it with pistachios and added hard boiled eggs as well. My spices change too, this week was beumaund and dill in addition to S&P of course ;o)

  6. I love road trips. I try to pack healthy, but it depends on how much time I have because I’m always running behind.

    • Oh, I totally get that, Julie. I have to plan ahead a bit and I do a lot of this last minute. We also leave for our trips well before dawn … another road trip strategy … so I’m usually doing all the apple slicing and cooler assembling about 3-4 am. *yawn*

  7. I miss road trips. now that i’m single they’re not nearly so much fun. I always pack food. and if I stay in a hotel (like RT Convention) I have breakfast food in my room, so I know I will have one meal that is healthy and handy.

    • You are right on with the breakfast food! I do that for conferences too. I always bring protein bars, nuts, etc. Normally a little healthy nibble with my coffee and I’m good to go until lunch!

  8. Great tips- we are taking the work kids to San Diego in June and being veggie and gluten free I have to pack my own food. Veggies, fruits, and trail mix are staples. Unfortunatly eggs make my tummy hurt so I can’t take those.
    I have added writing one good thing about ym body and my mind every day with my 5 things I’m grateful for and I’ve noticed less negative self talk 🙂

    • Being gluten free you know all about meal planning, especially on the road. Hey, I’m from San Diego! What are you planning to do? I hope the zoo is on the agenda because there is NO better zoo anywhere!! Interesting about the eggs. You know, I believe I have a bit of a sensitivity to eggs as well, but mine is controlled as long as the eggs are cooked well. For instance, fried eggs, I have to pop the yolk and let it harden before I eat it.

      I’m so SO proud of you that you’ve been writing down a gratitude about your body and mind every day. Way to go!!! Honestly, that is really wonderful. In fact, wouldn’t be a bad thing to blog about. Share your experience and get others on board! 😉

      • I’m not in charge of travel plans- I know we’ll take the kids tot he beach. Seeing the joy on their faces is worth the 6 hour drive with 10 kids in a van. I think I heard something about LEGO land- which I don’t care much about. My vacation duty is standing in the ocean for hours to watch children- other people plan. 🙂
        I just might do a blog post- I think I might wait a few more weeks to get a stronger picture of how it effects me.

  9. My husband likes to do a road trip a couple of times a year, but now that the kids are grown, we don’t pack snacks anymore. We usually just stop for a sandwich and salad. For hiking, though, we always take snacks, so these are great ideas. Thanks, Ginger!

    • With just the two of you, it probably is nice to sit down outside of the car and have a little lunch. With my crew of 5, it becomes an ordeal and expensive. haha! Oh yes, great stuff for hiking. Also, I neglected to say good quality jerky is a great protein snack as well and would be great for hikes.

  10. Pack booze. Snort! Awesome.

  11. Thank you so much for this post! I’m going to have to print it out and save if for this summer when I move. We are already planning the road trip and I was starting to worry about food. I can’t eat wheat, so that cuts out pretty much all fast food and gas station “restaurants”. I definitely love stopping at Starbucks along the way, though. I love coffee!

    • Yay, another coffee-lover! For you not being able to eat wheat, packing your own food is that much more important. Man, with all your working out and healthy eating, you’ll hit Miami in prime bikini-shape! Go Emma!!

  12. I’m a big fan of carrot sticks on a road trip. There’s something very satisfying about the crunch. My husband and I also try to aim for Subway since they allow for healthier options, but I will admit to giving in to the fast food temptation more often than we should while traveling.

    • I love carrots too. I especially love celery and another crispy veggie that I recently fell in love with is Jicama. (tastes great dipped in salsa!) I do Subway salads and make them load up the bowl with all their veggie toppings. YUM!

  13. Shannon Esposito

    Great suggestions! This is one of the things I’m worried about as we plan our Grand Canyon trip this summer. We’ll be in the car for hours, plus on trails, camping, etc. I know we won’t be able to sustain the energy needed if we live off junk food. Oh, and can you take a bottle opener on an airplane? hmmm

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