A selection of hot food out for serving to diners

How To Keep Food Hot While Traveling


Even though packing hot meals on a journey is pretty common, maintaining the right temperature is a hassle nobody enjoys. It's crucial to properly store the food since incorrect storage can cause the food to become rancid and even cold. To ensure that your food remains hot until you reach your destination, we've compiled some helpful recommendations.


Why Is It Necessary To Keep Food Warm?


Before we get into the ways to keep food hot while traveling, here are 3 reasons why you need to do so:


1)  Hot Food Tastes Better


A man eating a burger with his hands
Credit: Envato Elements/ AnnaStills


Certain foods like steak or chicken gravy simply taste better when warm. Can you imagine biting into a chilly steak? The thought itself is enough to make us cringe in disgust. If you want food that is fresh and hot out of the pan or pot, you must maintain the temperature.


2)  Warm Food Helps Your Digestive System


An image of the human digestive system with a happy face

Credit: iStock


The human digestive system works better with liquids and foods that are warmer since it doesn't have to work as hard to digest the food. Your digestive system is jolted and forced to work harder to break down the nutrients when you eat cold food or even food that is room temperature. To maintain a healthy digestive system, it is crucial to eat your meals hot.


3)  Keeping Food Warm Lowers the Possibility of Food Contamination


A pale green plate with a wooden knife and fork and mouldy bread on the plate

Credit: Envato Elements/ lyalya_go


Last but not least, preserving the warmth of your food will reduce the risk of food contamination. Warm food stops bacteria from developing, which can cause diarrhea, nausea, and stomach discomfort.


How to Keep Food Hot While Traveling


Wondering how to keep food warm when transporting it or while traveling long distances? Here are a few ways:


1)  Use a Towel and an Aluminum Foil


Shredded aluminum foil

Credit: Envato Elements/ pioneer111


Wrapping food with aluminum foil is the simplest and most popular way to keep it hot while traveling. If you want to keep your food as warm as you can, using aluminum foil is a great starting step.


Aluminum can be wrapped in two different ways, depending on the food:


  • If you are packing foods like a sandwich or a hamburger, simply grab a sheet of foil and carefully wrap it around the food.
  • If you have a dish like a lasagna, place it in a casserole dish and cover the top with foil. Make sure there are no gaps. The food will keep warm for around 30 to 60 minutes if you completely wrap it.


To keep the food warmer for longer, you can also place a layer of towel on top of the aluminum foil. The towel will act as an insulator and prevent steam and moisture from escaping.


2)  Get Insulated Liners and a Cooler


Nice Pack insulated thermal liners

Credit: Nice Packs


Although a cooler's primary use is to keep food cold, it can also be used to keep food warm. This is due to the cooler's insulation design, which guarantees that food will stay chilly for an extended period.

To ensure that your cooler maintains the temperature of the food, pack it with insulated liners. Insulated liners like the ones from Nice Packs offer high-performance heat control due to their reflective properties. In place of insulated liners, you can also add hot bricks or heat packs.


3)  Use Thermal Products


A person carrying a big bright yellow thermal bag to the car

Credit: Envato Elements/ RossHelen


Food can be kept warm for hours without electricity by using thermal products, such as thermoses or thermal bags.

Thermoses prevent energy transfer and have a vacuum interior and a double-walled stainless steel exterior that prevents steam from escaping. Thermal bags on the hand are similar to aluminum foils but are more effective and lighter due to the layers of foil, plastic, and cardboard. To ensure that the meal stays hotter for longer, pack your thermal bags and thermoses with a heat pack.


4)  Add Hot Water Bottles


A rose gold hot water bottle with a red lid

Credit: Envato Elements/ FabrikaPhoto


Your food will stay hot for a longer period if you add a hot water bottle. To keep your food extra hot, fill a single-wall stainless steel bottle with boiling water or plastic bottles or containers with warm water. You can place your hot water bottle next to your food, in a thermal bag, or in a cooler.


5)  Get a Travel-Sized Food Warmer


A travel size food warmer that plugs into car lighter

Credit: Skywin Road


If you're traveling by car, look for a portable food warmer that you can plug into your car's cigarette lighter jack. As you travel, fill the cooler with hot food and plug it in. The cooler will use the power from your car to maintain a safe temperature for the food.


6)  Keep the Windows Down and A/C Off


A lady with her head sticking out the open car window

Credit: Envato Elements/ JohnJK


This is another tip if you're traveling by car. When you use the air conditioner, the interior temperature of the car is lowered which has an impact on the temperature of everything within, including your hot food. Instead of turning on the air conditioner, roll down your windows. This will allow you to cool off without significantly altering the temperature of the food.


7)  Make Your Food Super Hot


Some pots on a gas stove heating up food

Credit: Envato Elements/ FabrikaPhoto


It is crucial that you cook the meal at a high temperature before traveling. Normal heating temperatures cause the food to cool down quickly. When the meal is all cooked, pack it into the containers you'll be carrying it in right away. If at all feasible, reheat the food just before leaving the house.


8)  Wrap the Food in Warm Clothing


Some jerseys in a pile on the chair

Credit: Envato Elements/ Nina_p_v


Warm clothing is designed to be a great insulator, keeping both your body and your food warm. To keep it warm while you're traveling, wrap your meal in multiple layers of winter clothing.


9)  Use an Electric Blanket


A person plugging in an electric blanket to warm up ready for use

Credit: The Spruce


A portable electric blanket will make it simple to transport hot food in a car. These electric blankets have multiple heat settings and are big enough to cover a buffet's worth of hot food. It includes a timer that automatically shuts off every 45 minutes for safety and simply plugs into a 12-volt power socket in your car.


10)  Prevent the Steam From Escaping


A bowl of soup on a red cloth being opened by a person

Credit: Instructables


As steam emerges from hot food, tiny water molecules soak up the heat, hastening the cooling process. But if you keep the steam in and don't let it escape, your food will stay scorching hot for a lot longer. Because of this, make sure the container you use to keep hot foods is vacuum sealed. 


11)  Do Not Pack Cold and Hot Foods Together


A person sitting in front of a plate of piping hot food with steam coming off it

Credit: Orissa Post


When packing your food, make sure that you do not pack hot and cold food together. The heat from the warmer container will pass to the colder one when hot and cold foods are packaged together. This causes your hot food to cool off as well as cold food to heat up.


12)  Wrap it in Newspaper or Cardboard


A pile of newspapers waiting to be used

Credit: Envato Elements/ BrianAJackson


If you don't have any of the items mentioned above, you can always wrap your meals in cardboard or newspaper as a backup. Because paper and cardboard are good insulators, wrapping food in a few layers of it helps keep it warm for longer. If you're truly looking for a good cardboard insulator, consider insulated shipping boxes like those from Nice Packs. These containers are made to keep food at a consistent temperature.


13)  Place the Food in the Trunk of the Car


A man opening the trunk of his car so he can put items inside

Credit: Envato Elements/ DragonImages


As a last option, you can store your hot meal in the trunk of your car on a hot day to keep it secure enough to eat. However, note that this technique might be useless during the winter or in a car with a cold trunk.




There you have it. Our top tips to keep food warm while traveling. Ending up with cold food after you've taken so much trouble to prepare it can be a real bummer. With the tips mentioned above, your food will remain hot for several hours.