One of the many reasons we prefer road trips to air travel — in addition to the peaceful, uninterrupted hours of conversation — is the fact that we get to pack whatever we want based on the kind of trip we are taking rather than the confining restrictions put forth by the TSA. So, when we head down the highway for a trip that involves cooking (either in a part-time of unfamiliar vacation rental kitchen), we have the luxury of making sure we pack some key ingredients that will make our meals all that much better while away from home. We always bring wine (that goes without saying), but it's also nice to bring along some excellent olive oil, some hardnecked garlic found at our local farmers market that is more mild in flavor and peels really easily, a good pepper mill and a few fresh spices that can add flavor to dozens of dishes.
The best way I've found to travel with spices is by carrying them in a Masala Dabba, which is a traditional Indian spice box made out of stainless steel that containes several small compartments under its tight fitting lid. This not only keeps your spcies fresh, it prevents them from spilling all over the place as you bump down the backroads of your journey.
For our upcoming Thanksgiving trip to Santa Fe, my traveling spices include: fleur de sel, freshly ground black pepper, bay leaves, thyme, fennel seeds, aleppo pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and bay leaves from a friend's farm.
We'll also bring a couple of very good quality California olive oils, some hot smokey paprika, champagne vinegar, our local walnut oil and piquillo peppers (which are an excellent addition to a basic grilled cheese sandwich)!
And when I'm feeling really ambitious, I love making my own celery salt. This batch will come in handy when making the turkey dressing for Thanksgiving and the leftover turkey soup we'll surely be eating as part of our leftover repetoir!