How To Keep Food Safe for Consumption When Travelling Long Distances by Car

How To Keep Food Safe For Consumption When Travelling Long Distances by Car

During the summer of 2015, an estimated 97% of vacation travelers were expected to pack snacks or a meal for their trip.

If your cold foods aren’t packed properly and kept cool, you and your family could be at risk instead of enjoying a nice meal along the way. You can avoid this problem by learning how to keep food safe for consumption, even as you travel longer distances.

With the right preparation and supplies, you can take your favorite cold and frozen foods along with you to take satisfy grumbling stomachs or cool you down during hot summer months.

Planning Ahead For Your Trip

The first step for safer food while travelling is to plan ahead. You should start planning at least a week in advance. An important step before packing any cold or frozen foods are to ensure the food is already as cold as possible. This allows your food to stay cold longer before dropping to unsafe consumption temperatures.

Pack your foods directly from the refrigerator or freezer. Foods, such as meats, can be packed frozen, to help them stay colder longer. This also helps those foods act as additional ice packs, keeping surrounding food cold too.

Gathering Supplies

You’ll need several things to ensure your food remains cold. The top items you need include:

  • Well insulated cooler or coolers
  • Ice packs or dry ice
  • Freezer bags and/or airtight containers

You’ll discover you have numerous coolers to choose from. Always pick one with a drainage feature if you’re packing your cooler with ice. This allows you to drain melted ice without opening the cooler. Also ensure your cooler has an airtight seal to seal in the cold.

You can use ice packs, gel packs, dry ice or bags of ice to keep the temperature down in your cooler. Larger blocks of ice last longer as they melt slower. You can make your own ice packs or blocks. Plastic bottles, such as soda bottles or milk jugs, works well for homemade ice block packs.

Freezer bags and containers help keep your perishable foods separated from each other. They also seal in cold air from your refrigerator or freezer. If you’re packing your cooler with ice, these bags and containers also keep your food dry.

Keeping Cold On The Go

Once you’re on the road, your ice will start to thaw. This doesn’t mean you can’t refresh it as you travel. Add gas stations or grocery stores to your route to pick up bags of ice along the way. You can place these directly in your cooler or divide the ice into freezer bags to make the ice easier to position around your food.

Make the original ice and cold temperature last as long as possible by opening the cooler as little as possible. If you’re carrying drinks too, place these in a separate cooler to reduce how often the perishable cooler is open.

Following Temperature Rules

You should never let cold foods stay at room temperature over two hours. Anything over this period could result in food poisoning. During hotter months when the temperature’s around 90 F or above, the two hour window changes to one hour or less. While travelling, keep you cold foods at 40 F or colder for safe consumption. Temperatures above this point are considered dangerous, especially when travelling long distances, as the temperature will continue to rise, causing the food to spoil.

Separating Your Food

The majority of your snacks should be non-perishable foods, such as chips or snack bars. Remember, the less you open the cold cooler, the longer your food will stay at the appropriate temperature. When carrying both perishable and non-perishable foods, keep them separated. This will keep your non-perishable foods dry and keep the temperature colder in your perishable cooler.


It’s vital to keep your food safe for consumption whether you’re travelling for an hour or all day. With proper preparation and packing, you can keep your cold and frozen foods cold for your entire trip and enjoy a great meal during your travels or after you arrive at your destination.

Want to learn more about keeping you and your family safe? Let Safety Education Alliance be your guide to keeping you, your children and your aging loved ones safer. 

*image courtesy of Zach Dischner

Safety Education Alliance