How to Travel With Food for the Holidays

A pumpkin pie.

Traveling with food during the holidays can be tricky, especially if you’re driving more than just a few miles down the road. Transporting prepared foods is almost a hazard because you don’t want to spill, crumble, squish, or otherwise ruin them (not to mention your car). Here's some tips to get your pumpkin pie from point A to point B safely this holiday season.

Plan Ahead

When traveling during the holidays, food preparation always begins with planning. If you’re going to be staying at someone else’s house for a few days, then you’ll have plenty of time to prepare the food and cook at their house. As the holiday nears, however, you’ll have to plan when you can use the oven, mixer, utensils, and other appliances—depending on when the other cooks are using them. Plan ahead, bring the raw ingredients, or shop for them yourself; don't expect your host to provide them for you.

Seal and Protect the Baked Goods

The main trick to keeping any food fresh, delicious, and safe is to store it properly. Bake any desserts, breads, muffins, or other such items a day or two before your departure. Protect cakes and pies with aluminum foil over the top if you don’t have a plastic container to store them in during your travels. Other baked goods such as cookies, brownies, and muffins should be wrapped and sealed in gallon-size zipper bags.

Use Aluminum Foil

A food container covered in aluminum foil.

If you’re worried about lids falling off, baked goods getting squished, or containers sliding around in the car, use aluminum foil to protect them. You can wrap aluminum foil around any food that’s already been sealed. Use it to secure lids of containers, create a top (with toothpicks—like a tent) to protect cakes and pies, or place pieces of it between items that you’re storing in the same box or crate. Foil not only stays put better than plastic wrap or slippery container edges, but it also helps add resistance so items don’t go to sliding around on a seat or in a box.

Use Plastic Food Containers

If you have soups, stews, or casseroles that are liquid-y, store them in large and portable bowls, casserole dishes, or soup containers that have seal-able lids. Newer casserole dishes are handy because they come with plastic lids that can pop off and on, unlike glass tops that can fall off and leak all over in the car when you make a turn. For vegetable dishes, sweets, and baked goods, you can also use large plastic seal-able bowls to keep them safe and delicious.

Bring it in a Box

An oversized Christmas present on top of a toy vinatge car in the snow.

When transporting food in a car, it’s important to have a box or small crate to put it all in. This will prevent it from shifting during travel, especially if you fill any extra spaces with a bit of bubble wrap or crumpled paper to hold it in place. Place the heaviest and largest items in the bottom of the box, and the lightest and most fragile food items on top. Placing all of the food inside a box or crate prevents it from shifting, spilling, or getting squished. Secure food you need to bring in a crock pot or other large storage container with aluminum foil around the lid and someone holding it during the car ride.

Create a Space

Make sure there’s room inside the car for the food—don’t just place it in the trunk with all of the luggage. It’s important that the food be supervised at all times in case of a spill or movement while driving. While you may not have room for the prepared food on a seat, you can always try to place in on the floor, between passengers, or in someone’s lap. If you have to put it in the trunk, secure it in boxes (as mentioned above) and drive slower and more carefully than usual.