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We’re pretty much the poster children for packing everything bar the kitchen sink, and despite fervent vows that the next trip will be different, that we’ll learn to travel light, this never ends up being the case. In fact, we travel so light that we even travel with a microwave!! For cross country road-trips at least.

It was a during recent road-trip throughout the US that we realized a portable microwave could come in incredibly handy. With the amount of time we were spending in the country to explore, we figured the time and money having a microwave would save would prove to far outweigh it’s initial cost.

We hit up Walmart to invest $40 and haven’t looked back since. The following explains exactly why our microwave now rides shotgun on each of our epic trips.

How to travel with a microwave

Traveling with a microwave. Pure genius.

Saves Money

Eating out is an expensive pass time, and when you’re on the road full time, jumping between hotel rooms, you don’t have many options. Room service usually costs an arm and a leg, and take-away will leave you feeling depressed and overweight within the first three weeks.

The cheapest option for eating abroad is always to shop at local supermarkets, though we can’t always afford to book hotel rooms which come with a full kitchenette, and not all rooms provide the essentials like a single serve blender … or a microwave!

Traveling with our own has saved us a LOT of money on food, and has broadened our range of options for cheap meals when we may have otherwise been forced to eat out.

Buy a carton of eggs and cook one in a cup for 45 seconds on high. Breakfast. Find microwavable rice, mashed potato, vegetables, and you’ve got dinner. Our average cost of food for two people while on the road is around $10 per day.

Travel with a microwave

Breakfast in Memphis. Not all hotels provide an in room microwave.

Great for Traveling Gluten Free

Yes, Mike is one of those people who’s diet is unfortunately gluten free.

Having both worked in the hospitality industry for many many years, it’s very easy to believe that having a genuine intolerance to gluten is a myth – people jumping on the notion of eating gluten free because it’s a trend and they believe it’s the healthiest option. You wouldn’t believe the amount of customers who would traipse through our respective restaurants and demand food which was “gluten free, dairy free, wheat free, sugar free, oh and we’re also lactose intolerant too.” That’s a highly unfortunate combination of allergies.

So imagine our surprise when we realized gluten intolerance is a genuine health concern, and your body can become intolerant and reject products made with wheat. Those with a genuine intolerance to gluten can become very sick should even the smallest crumb come into contact with their food, and so we would much rather prepare our food ourselves where possible and save ourselves the stress.

Having a microwave handy means we can cook up our own fresh food purchased locally from nearby supermarkets, and not have to worry about wondering whether someone has handled our food incorrectly. Check out The Gluten Free Guide to Travel for more information.

Microwave while traveling.

Great for gluten free travel.

Eat Whenever You Want

You never have to worry about sleeping past the end of your hotel breakfast again, the ability to cook for yourself means you can enjoy your meals at any hour of the day or night.

Have access to good, hot food even after the room service menu ends, and enjoy the convenience of not even having to even open your door to get dinner.

Tips For Road-tripping with a Microwave

We travel with a cover for the microwave so it doesn’t look odd as we’re entering/exiting a hotel. It’s not exactly an item you normally see someone checking out with, so we don’t want to raise alarms that we’re stealing.

Highly advise against attempting this for international travel, as the voltage is likely to vary and you may end up causing a lightning storm in your room.

Checking in – we travel with a cover for the microwave box so it doesn’t look odd.

We pack our microwave away each day if housekeeping is due to clean the room – no need to cause confusion among the hotel staff if there shouldn’t be a microwave in your room!

If you’re thinking of other options for self catered trips, be aware that most hotels ban the use of a grill in room. Though for our upcoming road trip from Phoenix to Alaska I’m also going to pack my toasted sandwich press. Toasted sandwiches provide an immense amount of joy in my life.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram also.

    54 Comments

  1. I completely understand the love of a toasted sandwich! I’m going to keep this in mind for my next cross-country road trip!

    • Absolutely! Now I’ll never go without lol 🙂 Glad we gave you something to think about 🙂 Have a great trip!!

  2. Ha! This would solve a lot of my problems when on the road. I usually eat far too many burgers.

    • Lol I was right there with you trust me!! Fast food really does having a way of just making you feel ill after a while though lol!

  3. When we do long road trips in UK, we take our Electric rice cooker and it serves us variety of food options. It’s quite easy to carry (fits into a suitcase). Have you guys tried using this as an alternative?
    And yes, as you say, it saves a lot of time/money, plus pleases our tummy all the time than the oily junk foods.

    • Electric rice cooker is a fab idea! We might look into that if it fits into a suitcase – obviously a microwave is very bulky, though it’s been fine for road trips because you just toss it into the car 🙂

      Same line of thinking though – so great minds must think alike lol 😀

  4. We are thinking of traveling with a George Foreman grill on our roadtrip this summer. Never thought about a microwave, great idea!

    • Just be mindful that if using it in hotel rooms many of them technically ban them – I think it’s because of the smell and smoke which a grill can let off. But I’m sure if you open a window and you’re cautious about where you cook you’ll be fine 🙂 Happy travels!

  5. Such a great and practical tip Meg! At first the title sounded ridiculously funny but it does make sense especially when you are on a road trip. That way you actually can control what you eat and not always have to succumb to junk food ! 🙂

    • Glad you found it useful Jean! Lol a few people were thrown off by the title – I got a lot of “you don’t hear that every day!” comments 😀

      But absolutely – it’s nice having options which exist outside of the realm of fast food!!

  6. I’m one of those people who travels light, so I have to admit I never thought of taking a microwave on my travels! The idea though is genius, particularly if you’re travelling long-term and are always on the road.

    For me, I try to stay in rooms with a kitchenette, but this would be a great solution for if I try and budget more/travel for longer.

    • Absolutely – we always try and aim for kitchenettes too – generally we’ll at least aim for a kitchenette every second night, because that way we can cook up good food the night before and then heat it up the next day. Usually works pretty well if we can’t guarantee something every night 🙂

  7. this truly is ingenious! But don’t u run the risk of breaking the microwave emitter with all the bumps on the road?

    • We like to think so 😀 We’ve never had any problems – we keep it in the same box it came in so it has foam padding around it at all times 🙂

  8. This is amazing. I can just see my biceps getting stronger due to a microwave workout. And toasted sandwiches brings joy in my life as well 🙂

    • Absolutely – though I usually leave the heavy lifting to Mike lol 😀 and I’m so glad I’m not the only one who enjoys a good toasted sandwich – we should start a club!! lol!

    • Absolutely – it’s so much less stressful knowing that Mike’s going to be fine the next day 🙂

  9. What an interesting idea. Not sure it’s something I would do, but it is ingenious. Thanks for sharing the tip. Personally, I don’t like using a hotel ‘anything’ if I can help it. That goes for the coffee maker. So I would be more prone to bringing my own coffee maker.

    • Hey a coffee maker is cheap enough to buy and small enough to be able to throw in the car on roadtrips, so why not!

  10. This actually makes sense – though I’m still giggling at the thought of people’s faces when you’re lugging it around!

    I have cooked up a few odd dinners by boiling water in the coffeepot, if that’s all a hotel provides. Usually I can find a microwave around if I ask, but sometimes I have to make do.

    • Lol we’re pretty good with keeping it covered so that we don’t have to attract too much attention as we’re going to/from a room 😀

      Normally a hotel will have a microwave behind the front desk or in their kitchen which they’ll usually let a guest use, though with the amount of cooking we now rely on it for, I think they would probably get fed up with seeing us at the front desk :D!

  11. LOOOOL! I mean, what a brilliant idea! I never imagined this but do see what you mean. We usually camp and eat on site because it saves so much money. So I hear you. It’s probably wise indeed to store your microwave to avoid confusion with the staff haha 🙂

    • Lol absolutely – can’t even imagine how much confusion that would cause, just easier to avoid the whole situation entirely and remain discrete :D!

  12. I totally understand the inordinate amount of joy a toasted sandwich can bring. After a year on the road, we finally found a hostel with one a few weeks ago and cannot express the ooey-gooey wonderfulness that was experienced multiple times during our stay. Long live the toasted sandwich!

    • There really is nothing better!! Lol it’s the small victories in life! Glad to hear you managed to melt one together – I’ll send some positive thoughts your way that more pop up for you as you continue your travels 🙂

  13. Interesting perspective – bringing the microwave with you in your travels. And yes, many benefits indeed! Compact and money and time savior!

    • Absolutely 😀 So many benefits it’s now one of our essential road trip items 😀

  14. I’ve never thought about this before but it makes a lot of sense! Thanks for sharing this! I guess we’re stopping by Walmart soon to snag one of those cheaper ones :-))

    • We generally try to avoid Walmart where we can as I’ve found it’s often a stressful place lol but they do have cheap micro-waves so I’ll give them that!!

    • Lol well maybe you’ll be compelled to give it a go for your next roadtrip 😀

  15. Ha, I can get where you’re coming from in a way. In another way I think you’re totally MAD! hilarious!

    also, hi from the service industry, we had a vegan coeliac… I had no idea what to do them so I just shouted for my boss and shuffled away quietly. Like, if you have an intolerance (an actual intolerance, not a bullshit one) WHY sweet mother of jesus would you restrict yourself from other foods by choice and then decide to eat out!

    • Lol that’s exactly why we tend to preference preparing our own meals – we always said when we got home “why would you go out to eat with those allergies”, so we take our own advice and usually stay in 😀 Granted there are some brilliant restaurants which offer fantastic choice of food for those with dietary requirements, so we do try and treat ourselves when we do find places which can cater well 🙂

  16. Hahaha, this is genius! A wee bit bulky but it sure would come in handy for cutting costs and dietary requirements.
    I done lots of road trips, mainly in a van where I’ve had a stove but when they’ve been in cars I’ve missed that.
    Thanks for sharing this, I had a huge grin on my face reading it 😉

    • It is a little bulky, but we have a decent size car so it’s never been a hassle to throw it in the back with our suitcases. We do go for a luggage trolley when we take in our bags to a new hotel though!

      Lol glad you enjoyed the post 😀

  17. This is hilarious, and totally something we would do. Have you seen the docco “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”? Anyway, in that the main guy brings a juicer around with him as he drives around the US to make his film. That pretty much convinced me to do the same whenever we’re roadtripping North America long-term. Annnnd now you’ve convinced me to bring a microwave, too! 😉
    – Jen
    thriftynomads.com

    • I’ve heard of that docco but I haven’t actually seen it lol a juicer is a great idea as well though – don’t give me any more ideas lol soon we’ll be traveling with my whole kitchen 😀

  18. Well, this is definitely something new to me! But now that you’ve mentioned it, it does seem like a great idea. I now want to give it a try!

    • I think it’s a new concept to a lot of people who probably hadn’t considered it before haha Mike and I are definitely a creative breed lol!

      Definitely give it a shot on your next road-trip; you’ll be surprised by just how handy and useful it is!!

  19. I did not know you could do that… Hahaha..

    • Absolutely :D! I wouldn’t recommend it between different countries, voltage etc, though if you’re doing an extended roadtrip through the same country like the US or Australia etc it’s a brill idea to pick one up and save on food costs during your trip!

  20. Wow a microwave! That’s something I haven’t heard of as a travel accessory lol.

    Gluten intolerance is soo real and I didn’t even know it existed until I started dating Ben! He is also traveling with Celiac Disease and it is not easy. Especially since he loves eating and trying pretty much anything.

    • We’re a bit different in everything we do lol. But seriously, it really does come in so handy, especially with Mike’s gluten intolerance.

      Neither of us realized just how bad Celiac’s Disease could get either until he developed it. It’s not easy and the microwave just makes travel so much more hassle free.

      Apparently Ireland and Italy are two of the leading countries in terms of awareness and availability of items which are gluten free 🙂

  21. I have just completed around my 30 th trip across Europe from UK to Bulgaria and was just contemplating the very same thing, I have become really quite good at making roadtrips enjoyable and as low cost as possible without being silly…..and the main points would be try to get accommodation with parking and wifi, always pull off the Mways for food and fuel,where you can buy your evening meal ahead of arriving………with booking.com its easy to book just a day ahead or even less and try to do around 400-450 miles max so you dont need to rush checking out and arrive at a sensible time to enjoy the next accommodation.

    • Glad to hear it Nick! A microwave in the back would be a great asset for a European roadtrip – would just have to make sure the voltage is the same from country to country so you don’t end up blowing a fuse somewhere along the way!

      Happy travels 🙂

  22. I would have never even thought of this idea, but it makes total sense! Seriously considering this for our next excursion.

    • Haha I’ve found people initially do double takes when we say we travel with a microwave. But it really has become one of our essential road trip items. Great for weekend trips and short stints of local travel too 🙂

  23. That’s really a brilliant idea. I’ve never thought of that, and I’ve done my share of road trips in the United States. I would say bringing a Microwave ranks up there with a cooler for cool drinks.

    • Absolutely – the microwave and the cooler are our two biggest roadtrip essentials 😀 It’s a little outside of the box, but we figured why not! Really does save so much money, hassle and time :D!

  24. Oh gosh! That’s awesome. I think I would look criminal if I was smuggling a microwave in to a hotel.

    How about designing a collapsible microwave for travelling?! Million $ idea? 😀

    • Haha that’s why we put a bit of effort into making a plain cover for it – didn’t want to look like we were looting the hotel room at the end of our stay lol.

      A collapsible microwave really is a million dollar idea!!!

  25. This is so awesome! I wish my parents had thought of this when we were kids. And the sandwich press… even better!

    • Sandwich press is my favorite appliance in the world 😀 lol! Happy travels Dan 🙂

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