This weekend, as I stared beyond the dashboard and toward the flat, open road, I realized that my family has spent 113 days traveling this year. Strung together, that's a little over 3 ½ months. (Yes, I'm exhausted - we all are.) Business trips, speaking engagements, conferences and farm tours comprise the bulk of that time - though we always take a few extra days on business trips to visit family, cultural centers and museums.
Friends used to joke: "Oh! You've been home a whole week now. Isn't it time for you to leave again?" And when we answered, "Yes." one times too many, they stopped asking altogether.
This weekend we hopped from farm to farm, photographing sustainable agricultural productions and interviewing artisan food producers. We looked forward to returning, resting and working for the week at home - where we should be. We really looked forward to a week at home.
And, tired as I am, writing this from yet another hotel room, I thought I'd share with you a few tips that help us to keep things real while traveling. I hope it helps your family, whether you're away from home for just a weekend or much, much longer.
Stock up before you go.
Before we head away - whether for a short or long trip - I always stock up on simple, nutrient-dense foods that can make a meal in a pinch: fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, boiled eggs, homemade beef jerky, home-cured salmon roe, homemade fruit leathers, raw milk cheese, good quality butter and a jar of homemade sour pickles or kimchi. I also keep homemade bouillon and dehydrated vegetables on hand for quick and easy soups that need only hot water. I also purchase quite a bit of ghee - a shelf-stable clarified butter that is rich in fat-soluble vitamins. You can find it in some well-stocked health food stores as well as online (see sources). If you fly, many of these smaller items can be taken past security and onto airplanes.
When we don't have time to cook extra for the trip before we leave, I'll often pick up a few supplemental items from Wise Choice Market (disclosure: they're also a former client). This means we have ready-made bone broth, soups made with bone broth, and soaked granola ready to go when we're traveling. The cost is pricier than making it home, but comparable to eating our, and the quality is better than you'll find at many restaurants on the road.
Book kitchenettes when you can.
We always try to book kitchenettes when we travel. Yes, they're more expensive - at least initially, but the extra money we spend on lodging is money we don't spend eating out. Instead, we can support local markets, bring good food from home and cook solid, satisfying meals from wholesome ingredients. In the end and despite the added cost of lodging, I think we save money.
Shop farmers markets.
Plan to shop farmers markets while you're away - you won't have to bring quite as much food from home, and you can ensure that your family receives fresh, organic foods even on the road. Most states offer lists of local farmers markets - and the better farmers market organizations allow you to search for not only location and time, but size of market and what's for sale. The USDA also offers a searchable farmers market database.
Be careful though - not all "farmers markets" are farmers markets. Recently, on a trip to Denver, we searched for a farmers market, found one listed on the state's database and discovered that the market didn't feature one farmer. Not one.
Shop natural foods grocers.
Plan to shop natural foods stores as well. If farmers markets do not operate when you'll be traveling as is often the case outside of summer, you can support the health food store local to your destination. A quick google search can help to narrow down independently owned stores and co-ops, while stores like Whole Foods Market are available throughout the country. Further, many health food stores also offer delis and prepared foods - which can supply you with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
There's been many an evening when my family has picked up frozen dinners at the local health food store and microwaved them in the hotel room instead of spending even more money at restaurants that serve only poorly cooked foods from poor quality ingredients. If you're going to have to settle for a microwaved meal, it may as well be organic.
Travel with a cooler.
Of course, if you'll be visiting farmers markets and natural foods grocers, it's wise to travel with a cooler so you can properly store what you pick up. (Check out our farmers market tips here). Don't forget the bags of ice.
Skip the breakfast buffets.
Many hotels and motels along the highway offer breakfast buffets: yogurt (made with dyes and HFCS), waffles, reconstituted eggs and sausages made with sketchy meat and loads of fillers. Even when we stay in these hotels and motels (which are often the most affordable choices), we always skip the provided breakfast and, instead, eat fresh fruit with plain organic yogurt bought from the health food store. It may cost a few extra dollars per day for our family, but, for us, it's worth it to consume better quality foods.
Travel with a water filter.
On extended trips, longer than a week, we also travel with a smaller version of our Berkey water filter (you can find them online) which is a gravitational based filtration system that breaks down easily, requires no electricity, and can sit on a countertop, picnic table, or the desk in your hotel room. This way we can be sure our water is clean on the road.
Rely heavily on TripAdvisor (they have a great app for iPhones and iPads). Not only can you see what restaurants are closest to you, but which have the best ratings - giving you guidance on where to eat. Follow this up with a cross-reference on google to check out the menu, and see where they're sourcing their foods (if it's disclosed at all). Using this app, we're able to find good, affordable restaurants using good quality ingredients when we're on the road.
Use the Renegade Guide to Dining Out.
The Renegade Guide to Dining Out, is a digital guide that helps you to make better choices when eating out. And while home cooked food is nearly always best, there's something to be said for the enjoyment of a good meal at a good restaurant. And, often, when you're on an extended road trip or are away from home you simply have no choice. Maybe there's no kitchenette? Maybe there's no time?
The Renegade Guide to Dining Out covers what you need to know about eating out while still making the best choices: finding good restaurants, starting a conversation with the waitstaff about sourcing ingredients, and making good choices whether it's a fancy farm-t0-table restaurant, a road stop diner or even a fast food joint.
Plan to picnic.
Pack a blanket, reusable plates and flatware so that you can pull over at any time to picnic at a rest area or quiet spot along the road. We spend a lot of time picnicking on long road trips - it keeps us focused on our time, outside quite a bit and nourished with good, homemade foods.
Don't forget your whole food supplements.
We're also very careful to bring our favorite whole food supplements on the road with us. Supplements like cod liver oil, high vitamin butter oil, dessicated liver and food-based vitamin C, and a therapeutic grade probiotic offer a bit of an insurance policy when we're on the road and when, despite our best efforts, our diet is likely to be compromised.
When nourishing my family, I tend to shy away from commercially produced multivitamins which often contain synthetic vitamins. Instead, I choose to supplement our diet with concentrated whole foods so that not only do we benefit from naturally occurring vitamins, but the natural complement of other components of the food that may be otherwise missing in synthetic vitamin supplements. I typically buy my whole foods supplements online (see sources).
Do the best you can with what you have.
Lastly, it's important to the best you can with what you have. Whether you're at home, or on the road, there's always compromises. Do the best with what you can. If you're gone for an extended time, there will be a time where it is not convenient to pack a picnic, when your store of homemade goodies is bound to run our and when there's no farmers market or natural foods store for hundreds of miles. In the end, you still have to eat. Do the best with what's available.
This post contains affiliate links and links to former clients.