Road Trip

Chow down on these easy-to-eat road trip-friendly foods

Fast food and fast casual restaurants offer many options for road trip diners, who could also opt to BYO food from home.

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Summer has come to a close, but road trip season is still in full swing as people journey to see their football teams take on rivals in towns near and far before then setting off to visit relatives for the holidays. Where to eat while you're on the road? AutomotiveMap has you covered.

Whataburger

Whataburger's honey butter chicken biscuit, fondly abbreviated "HBCB", is a perennial classic in the state of Texas. The fried chicken, flaky biscuit, and honey melt in your mouth. Enjoy a side of tater tots and wash it all down with coffee or orange juice.

For a car full of passengers, a tray of cinnamon rolls can make for an easy breakfast option. Heck, make it a tradition!

Note that the breakfast is only available from 11:00 pm-11:00 am though many Whataburgers are open 24/7.

If you're at Whataburger during non-breakfast hours we recommend the #14 combo – fried chicken, Texas toast, fries, and a drink.

Whataburger is currently only in southern states, but BDT Capital Partners (based in Chicago), recently bought a majority stake in the company. Might this mean expansion north? We can hope.

Houston hero J.J. Watt has another idea: "I say we all chip in and buy Whataburger back. Make honey butter chicken biscuits available all day, add kolaches to the menu and change nothing else. Especially not the ketchup."

Sonic

Located across the United States, Sonic offers a wide variety of menu items with a free side of nostalgic appeal. We recommend popcorn chicken, tater tots, and a limeade or strawberry slush. With its roller skating waitstaff and option to drive-in (vs. just drive through), Sonic is a unique on-the-go dining choice.

Buc-ee's

Buc-ee's is a modern-day general store. You can fill your vehicle with gas, use a very clean restroom (certainly not to be taken for granted when on a road trip), buy home décor and clothing (some Bucee's-branded, some not), and choose from a plethora of food options.

Our picks? Kolaches and fudge (perhaps not together). Kolaches, a flavorful combination of meat, cheese, or other fillings wrapped in warm, puffy dough, are both delicious and a nod to Texas's past. Popularized by the Czech settlers in Texas in the 1800's, kolaches are still popular in the state today. Buc-ee's also has a wide variety of fudge flavors, ranging from classic chocolate, to peanut butter and chocolate, to nut-filled.

McDonald's

Many McDonald's restaurants (even in airports) allow you to order via their app. Get your family's order of nuggets (add dipping sauce at your own risk), milkshakes, and fries queued up so when you pull in, it's easy grab and go. Remember, kids can opt for apple slices instead of fries, but then you're trading greasy hands for sticky fingers. For a snack, grab an apple pie.

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Starbucks

Whether you opt for coffee or tea, you can enjoy a bite with your drink that will fill you up through lunch. Instead of opting for their hot sandwiches or eggs, try a piece of loaf or a small vanilla scone, both of which are easy to eat while behind the wheel. A meat and cheese tray from their prepared food section is also a good option.

In-N-Out

The glowing yellow arrow of the In-N-Out sign is iconic. Travelers often make this California-born chain their first and last stop when arriving in the state. Roadtrippers can find In-N-Outs scattered throughout California, from San Diego in the south to Redding in the north. In-N-Out continues to expand north and east with locations in Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Texas.

For drivers, we recommend a cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate shake. Passengers can order similarly but should get their fries "animal style" – smothered with a delicious secret sauce that's a little messy so make sure extra napkins are handy.

Taco Bell

There aren't many things on the Taco Bell menu that are easy to eat while behind the wheel. The quesadilla is one of them. You could choose be a hero and attempt a burrito, but you might want to spend some time constructing a napkin bid and thigh covering before you dig in.

Chick-fil-A

This bastion of fast food, which was founded in Atlanta, Georgia, has spread throughout much of the United States. Chick-fil-a is best known for its chicken sandwich, nuggets, waffles fries, and lemonade. On an especially hot day, the frosted lemonade makes for a very refreshing treat. If you prefer some spice in your life, Chick-fil-a's spicy chicken sandwich is a palate pleaser. Kid-sized cones of Ice Dream are a good choice for kids who deserve to be rewarded for their in-car behavior.

For quick service in the restaurant or when going through the drive thru, order via the company's app ahead of arriving at the restaurant.

Gluten Free Choices

Need to be gluten free? Most fast food comes fried and breaded, but consumers can make their meal mostly gluten-free with a bit of savvy ordering. At burger places, ask for your burger to be wrapped in lettuce rather than placed in a bun. At Chick-fil-A, order the grilled nuggets over the grilled chicken sandwich on a crumbly gluten free bun.

Bring Food From Home

Another option is to bring food from home. Sandwiches wrapped in foil make eating with one hand simple, especially when cut into smaller portions. Bite-size food, such as cheese, crackers, sliced meats, and chopped vegetables, work well too.

If all else fails? Stop at the nearest gas station and load up on classic road trip fare – chips, candy, and sugary drinks.

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Volvo will install 60 ChargePoint chargers at Starbucks locations in the west and Northwest.

Volvo

Volvo plans to be an electric-only automaker by 2030, and along the way to that goal, the automaker is investing in services and infrastructure to support its vehicles. Today, Volvo announced a partnership with coffee giant Starbucks that will provide dozens of chargers at coffee shops in the west and northwest U.S.

As part of the deal, Volvo will install up to 60 company-branded chargers at up to 15 Starbucks stores on the route between Denver and Seattle. Volvo says it aims to install charging locations every 100 miles along the 1,350-mile route between the Mile-High City and Starbucks hometown of Seattle.

Volvo-Starbucks PartnershipVolvo's goal is to install a charger every 100 miles. Volvo

Though they'll have Volvo's name on the front, the chargers are from ChargePoint, and drivers will use a built-in ChargePoint app to access services. The function is available in the vehicle's infotainment system, and will help locate and use the chargers. Volvo says all EV drivers will be able to access the chargers for a fee, but notes that its owners will get free or discounted charging.

A Volvo-Starbucks partnership isn't as crazy as it sounds at first. Beyond the fact that there's likely quite a bit of overlap in both brands' customers, the move furthers Starbucks' sustainability goals and provides Volvo owners with a free or low-cost charging solution. The project should be done by the end of this year, so keep your eyes open if you're getting coffee in a Volvo EV in the area.

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Convertibles are fun, but can your family handle the size and driving experience?

BMW

Testing convertibles is always great fun, but they sometimes show up when the weather isn't ideal. Here in Maine, our drop-top driving season is fleeting, which can make for a tricky time driving with the top down. This year, however, a 2021 BMW 430i Convertible showed up in early August and I had an entire week of sun to soak up in the open air. I have two children, however, and own a three-row SUV to haul them, their friends, and all the accompanying gear. Squeezing into a convertible is possible and even fun at times, but it got me thinking: Could a convertible be a car we could live with on a daily basis? The answer for me is no, but there's more to the story, and I'm certainly not ruling out a drop-top purchase for my family at some point in the future.

Of course, none of this came as a surprise to me. Last year, I tested the BMW M850i Convertible, and while it was a blast, there was nothing about it that screamed "family car." This BMW is no different, but my younger daughter's shift to a booster seat from a full-size harness car seat made the back-seat fit for both of my kids much easier. Now, it's a little easier to see how the 430i Convertible could be a perfect weekend or summer car for a family that is already set with roomy daily drivers.

Here's how owning a convertible might play out for your family.


2021 BMW 430i ConvertibleThe BMW 430i Convertible is premium, inside and out.BMW

Open-Top Fun – At a Cost

This BMW's price tag lands in the mid-$50,000 range with a few desirable options, which is about right for a premium brand convertible. There are much cheaper options to be had, however, in the Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro. Both cars come in a convertible format and can be found for around half the price of the BMW. There are performance and luxury penalties when moving to the less expensive options, but for most people the draw of a convertible is the open-top experience itself. You don't absolutely need screaming performance or a top-notch interior to get the full convertible experience.

Good in Small Doses

My kids are over the moon about riding in a convertible for a while, and then spend the rest of the time complaining about noise, bugs, and wind. Rolling the side windows up helps, and models with a retractable rear windscreen are even better, but the reality is that some kids are not the best at dealing with outside-the-norm car experiences. More often than not, we'd end up driving for half an hour or so with the top down, a few more minutes with the windows up, and then the rest of the time with the top closed. That's no fun in a small car that feels even smaller with the top up.


2021 BMW 430i ConvertibleIf your kids are like mine, the open-top experience comes with some tradeoffs.BMW

Weather Woes

I get that most of you don't live in Maine like I do, and that your spring, summer, and fall months extend longer throughout the year. You're able to enjoy the open-top driving experience more often than those of us in New England, but there will still be times that driving a convertible is less than enjoyable. If you live in Florida, for instance, how often are you going to want to drive with the top down when it's 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity under the bright sun? Even with the wind in your hair, that will get old. Keep this in mind if you're shopping for a convertible.

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