Why do so many road trips revolve around desperate stops at gas stations, rummaging through aisle after aisle of pre-packaged food only to settle on a bag of chips and chocolate to sustain you for the next few hours? Unfortunately, it’s so easy to get stuck in this road trip rut, but don’t worry I’m here to help. In just a few simple steps you can plan your perfect foodie road trip and turn your vacation travel into the vacation itself.

1. Download Road Trip Planner

Road Trip

Photo courtesy of TVfoodmaps.com

First stop, a Road Trip Planner. Who doesn’t dream of finding cute restaurants in little towns at every stop of the way? But A) where do you start looking? and B) who has time for all that research?

This one-stop-shop takes away all the stress of planning and leaves you with a delicious outcome. By simply putting in your starting and ending location it maps out restaurants from almost 50 food-centered shows like Man V. Food and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

It’s so ridiculously easy that you have no excuse not to try it on your next road trip. Plus I promise your stomach and friends will thank you or your money back guaranteed (well, it’s free, but no one’s going to be complaining).

2. Get in The Right State Of Mind

Road Trip

Photo courtesy of Lou Malnati’s Pizza

So you may not have time to stop in every hip-hopping new restaurant or chic little cafe, but think about what states you are going to be traveling through. Every state has special food you can only get there and this is the perfect opportunity to try them.

I mean, this may sound a little “cheesy” but if you’re in Wisconsin drive into any small town and pick up some cheese curds; in Philadelphia get your hands on a Philly cheese steak; in Chicago follow the smell of deep dish pizza. Okay, that whole cheese thing was pretty lame but I stand by what I said. Find out what’s special to the states you’ll be in and find a way to try them, even if you have to take them to go.

3. Pack Appropriately

Road Trip

Photo by Stephanie Lee

In order to make the most of your driving time, any experienced traveler brings snacks on the road. Power bars, nuts and fruit are always extremely reliable. Plus they’ll help you avoid getting hangry before reaching your next food destination.

But if you want to really do this road trip right why not “pregame” your food destinations with some delectable car snacks? Think about making homemade treats or bringing hometown favorites. As a Chicago native, I know that no one can resist a bag of Garretts popcorn for the road (even if it does make the steering wheel greasy) so bring some equally scrumptious local treats to kick off your food journey.

4. Remember Your Return Trip

Road Trip

Photo by Jared Atkins

I think I can safely assume that that we all dread going home (I mean who wants to return to reality, right?). But to stave off the gloom, bring a little bit of the trip on the ride home with you. Whether it’s a dozen pralines from your trip to New Orleans or stopping at In-N-Out for one last order of animal fries, bringing your favorite food for the ride makes the end of a great thing a little easier.

5. Keep Your Eyes Wide Open

Road Trip

Photo courtesy of Brent Moore on flickr.com

My favorite road trip memory is seeing a small sign on the highway referencing a restaurant and then following various signs through a little town and curving streets until winding up at this local delicious dive.

It is incredibly common for local restaurants to advertise on the side of the highway. So keep your eyes open for local restaurant signs and food stands. Remember, vacations are supposed to be fun so don’t be afraid to go on a little adventure.