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It’s a hot July day and the family is gearing up for a road trip. You want to save money by packing snacks, drinks, and some food. You DON’T want your family to end up with soggy sandwiches or, heaven forbid, food poisoning. How do you go about packing food safely, and where do you begin with finding the best coolers for your family trip?

The Best Coolers For Your Family Trip

Your family is gearing up for your trip! How do you go about packing food safely, and where do you begin with finding the best coolers for your family trip?

Our family has owned the same cooler for about 20 years. Most recently, the cap on the drain plug broke and we didn’t know until our trunk was saturated with melted ice dripping from the cooler. Not fun. Consequently, we are in the market for an updated cooler, and one of the things I learned is that many manufacturers make replacement parts for today’s coolers.

As I have performed my own research on coolers, I wanted to share with you some of my own conclusions about these wonderful products.

1. Yeti really might make one of the best, but that doesn’t mean I have to buy the best.

Yeti makes a phenomenal product backed by lots of great scientific minds, but honestly, when I think about dropping $400 or more on a cooler, I get a brain freeze. So while the product very well may be worth the hype, I’m simply not spending the money.

Most people who buy the high-end coolers desire their ice to stay frozen for a week or more. If you’re willing to re-pack the ice every few days, you can save lots of money by staying away from the high-end “rotomolded” cooler.

Where do you begin with finding the best coolers for your family trip? Click To Tweet

2. Consider purchasing several varying sizes of coolers that fit your different needs.

This isn’t necessary for everyone, but I make this suggestion based on the experience that sometimes we had to dig through the top contents inside a large cooler to reach the bottled water at the bottom, when all my kids wanted was something to drink. We ended up investing in a nice soft side cooler made for drinks.  Another great thing about this cooler is if we don’t fill it up with drinks, we can throw in a few sandwiches and be done with food packaging.

The soft-side cooler we ended up purchasing is Coleman 42 Can Removable Liner Cooler. It comes with durable wheels and a strong handle to help with navigation.  At the size of a small suitcase, we can take this to the beach, or if we are traveling, hop out at the park or a roadside area for a quick bite and be on our way again.

3. If you are purchasing a single cooler to hold all your food, size definitely matters.

Imagine getting ready to pack your food when suddenly you realize the cooler you purchased is too small! Cooler sizes are measured in quarts: one website suggests a 70-quart cooler for a long weekend family trip.

4. You can keep things rolling along pretty well if you invest in a cooler with wheels.

Make sure the wheels will work well on sand if you’re going to the beach. The key is finding a cooler with large wheels.

Several websites recommend this Igloo MaxCold 50 quart cooler with wheels. We are heading to the beach very soon, so I plan on investing in this cooler.

The Absolute Best Coolers For Your Family Trip

How to Pack Your Cooler

Now that you have found some of the best coolers, lets get to other details.

Have you arrived at your picnic destination, only to pull out smushed, soggy sandwiches? We have learned the hard way there’s really a method to packing a cooler so we can enjoy food in the way it’s meant to be eaten.

1. Ice goes on the bottom. Some websites suggest putting dry ice on the bottom, and I think that’s a great idea. You can get dry ice at your local grocery store. For safety’s sake, don’t let little fingers anywhere near the dry ice. Once you’ve placed your dry ice in your cooler, add a piece of cardboard or Styrofoam over it. Then, add a layer of regular ice.

Dry ice is recommended primarily if you want to keep some foods frozen. If you only want to keep things cold but not frozen, you can skip the dry ice and regular ice.

2. Heavy items go on the bottom. Salads, cheeses, and meats go in the middle. Sandwiches go on the top.

3. Place each item in a waterproof container. Rest assured, sandwiches in plastic bags alone will get demolished before you reach your destination.

4. For my own added comfort, I add more ice at the top of my cooler. Some websites say this step isn’t necessary, but as they say, tradition rules: my dad’s dad did it, my dad did it, so I’m doing it.

Finding the best coolers to fit your needs doesn’t have to be hard! Buying a cooler that won’t break the bank, then packing it in a way to enjoy your day, can now be a stress-free process. Happy Picnicking!

Your family is gearing up for your trip! How do you go about packing food safely, and where do you begin with finding the best coolers for your family trip?

Tammy Tilley
Tammy Tilley
Tammy Tilley, mom of two adult children, cares deeply about parenting issues. Although she’s looking in the rearview mirror of her hands-on parenting days, once you’re a parent, you’re always a parent. She enjoys sharing a few memories and a touch of advice about spending energy on the things that matter. Tammy has a BA in English from Anderson University (IN) and a MS in Education from IUPUI.