Over the river and through the woods? These days, it’s usually more like “over the interstate and through the traffic.” But no matter where grandma or Aunt Linda or your BFF live, chances are good you’ll be heading to someone else’s house for some holiday cheer and likely bringing refreshments with you. Here are some hacks that’ll help you safely transport holiday food and drinks in your sleigh.

1. Keep foods at the right temperature

The last thing you want to deal with is food poisoning, so it’s important to transport foods so they’re safe to eat at the other end. That means keeping foods chilled adequately. Whether you use an ice chest or gel packs, keep cold food below 40 degrees and frozen food frozen the whole way. Hot food should be kept at or above 140 degrees. If you want to serve it piping hot, you can warm it back up when you arrive at your destination. 

For more on the food safety “danger zone” where bacteria can grow, check out this chart from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

2. Minimize spillage

Of course, you also want your items to arrive in one piece. If you’re not sure if the lids are tight enough, add electrical tape to make sure they stay fastened. It’s also smart to double bag items just in case or wrap them in a towel, which’ll help keep foods warm and also absorb any spillage. Another brilliant idea is a laundry basket with some gripper drawer liner to keep objects like large casserole dishes or pie tins secure.

As for where they ride, the floor of the back seat is probably safest so they don’t fly off the seat. Even better is if your delicate pies or trifles ride are cradled in the arms and laps of passengers — but avoid holding any hot dishes.

3. Plate your food there

If your dish isn’t “all in one,” like a casserole or a pie, remember that it’s typically easier to assemble the items once you arrive. If you’re making a cheese and meat board, slice the meat and cheese and put it in a zip-top bag.Then just keep the crackers in their original packaging. Bring the serving tray you want to use and put your appetizer together when you arrive, rather than plating it at home and trying to keep it from sliding around while you drive.

4. Beware the open container law

It’s the law. We are referring, of course, to alcoholic beverages — and the law that open cans, bottles, or other unsealed containers of alcoholic beverages cannot be inside vehicles.

Since open container laws aren’t mandated at the federal level, states have their own laws. But generally, that means that you can’t safely transport a punch bowl filled with an alcoholic beverage or even a partially full bottle of wine in the main part of your car.

Happiest holidays to you and yours!

Travel hacks | Car safety


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.