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Road Trip Tips: Making Hot Meals Without a Kitchen

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On the road, it’s tempting to eat out a lot, but that can take a huge bite out of your travel budget. Staying in accommodation with a kitchen is not always an option and can be pricey. Instead, we’ve found a cheap, easy way to make hot meals on a road trip, even when we don’t have a kitchen.

Our latest road trip was through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Have you been? Stunning locations, but far from everything. Eating in the parks is expensive, couple that with the park’s hotels not allowing cooking in the rooms and not having fridges. That’s okay, our method works even without these conveniences. 

Making Hot Meals Road Trip Pinterest Image

First, You Need an Electric Travel Kettle

Our trip to Yellowstone was a fly and drive vacation, so we had limited luggage allowance. A small travel kettle doesn’t take up as much room as you’d think. Plus, we used the inside of the kettle to bring a small hand towel for wiping the pot after use.

If you’re traveling internationally, make sure your electric kettle works in your destination country. You may need a plug converter, but also a power converter if the voltage differs.

Look for Foods That Cook with Boiling Water

Backpacking meals work fantastically on a road trip. No refrigeration needed. All you do need is hot water, hence the kettle. Pour in the required amount of boiled water in the pouch. Close the pouch to let steam, usually for ten minutes or less. Poof, hot cooked meals for your road trip.

Dehydrated meals may not sound appetizing, but they are surprisingly tasty with a huge variety of choices. Vegetarians even have lots of options. Plus, usually these meals are well balanced with a good amount of protein to keep you going through your hikes.

You can buy backpacking meals from outdoor stores, like Cabellas and REI. Or through Amazon. We look for pouches with two servings and tend to favor the brands GOOD TO-GO and Peak Refuel.

Another option is at the grocery store. Usually in the noodle section, or sometimes in international foods, we really like the brand Annie Chun’s noodle bowls. They don’t have as many varieties, nor as much protein, but they are cheaper than backpacking meals. The Pad Thai and spicy Sweet Chili are delicious. Of course, there’s always the college student favorite, Cup Noodles.

Cook Out of the Car with a Travel Inverter

Years ago, when I was traveling Australia out of my car, my dad gave me a travel inverter. I love this thing so much.

Basically, the car power inverter plugs into your car auxiliary power outlet (aka cigarette lighter) and it has electrical outlets to power your electronics and your kettle.

Not only does it give you electricity on the road, but if you’re traveling internationally, you don’t have to worry about getting a converter for your gear. The inverter will fit plugs and voltage requirements for the country you bought it in.

In Yellowstone, the inverter worked perfectly for making hot meals from any picnic area parking lot.

Extra Comforts

Technically, you could grab some cheap plastic utensils from a fast food stop and eat straight out of the meal pouch. If you prefer something a little sturdier, we have a travel utensil and plate set we carry with us for road trips.

However, in a pinch, the dollar store (or $1.25 store these days) has cheap bowls and utensils that work just as well for the road. It’s also a great spot to pick up a disposable washing sponge and dish soap, if you forget them (like we did on this last trip).

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