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Finding new restaurants and trying local foods can be one of the best parts of a road trip. But when you’re trying to save money, eat a little healthier, or are pressed for time in getting to your destination, planning a road trip food list is the best way to go.
If you read our post on hiking snack ideas, you probably know we’re often eating on the go. Whether we’re camping, hiking, road-tripping, or skiing, we often have food packed up for our adventure.
We got pretty good at eating on the road the summer we spent on a month-long road trip and again on our recent road trip through South Dakota. That many days eating out would have wrecked our travel budget and our waistlines! Plus, having our dog on our summer trip with us made eating out difficult. That summer trip armed us with a few tips and tricks for making the best road trip meals.
Breakfast Ideas for Road Trips
1. Egg Muffin Cups
Fill them with veggies, cheese, and bacon or sausage for extra protein. Keep in the freezer until right before your trip so they’ll be thawed and ready to eat after a day or two on the road.
2. Bagels & Cream Cheese
Use peanut butter instead of cream cheese for extra protein. Bagel thins tend to pack a little better than regular-sized bagels.
Pick up some muffins from the grocery store bakery, or make them at home before your trip. We like muffins made from high protein mixes, like Krusteaz or Kodiak because they are less crumbly than others.
Munch on dry cereal if you’re eating en route, or pick up a pint of milk to serve with cereal.
5. Hard Cooked Eggs
Peel at home for the quickest morning meal.
6. Overnight Oats
One of the best make-ahead meals for road trips. Prep everything at home (repurposed Talenti jars are great for overnight oats) with your favorite recipe (ours is made with peanut butter and chocolate).
Every now and then a sugary treat in the morning is fun for our road trip meals. Our go-to is Pop-Tarts because they pack well.
We don’t eat scones often, so we sometimes add them to our road trip food list. We’ll make them at home or pick some up at the local bakery.
9. Breakfast Cookies
Giant cookies that are actually healthy are one of our favorite make-ahead meals for road trip adventures. Our favorite recipe is found here.
Road Trip Lunch Ideas (That Are Great for Dinners Too)
The best road trip lunch ideas are quick to prep and serve. More than once, we’ve ended up at a fast food place because I didn’t feel like digging through the cooler and prepping lunch when everyone was starving. Many of these road trip meals are best made at home, before your trip. When you can, get everything prepped and assembled so you can just unpack and eat when hunger strikes.
10. Rotisserie Chicken
When you need to restock for your road trip meals, pick up a roasted chicken from the grocery store. It’s easy to serve and often comes with leftovers for another meal.
11. Chicken Salad Sandwiches
When you have leftover rotisserie chicken, use it to make chicken salad. It’s especially easy when you already have mayo, grapes, and pecans already on your road trip food list.
12. Turkey Wraps
We generally save this one when we pick up groceries for more road trip meals. Tortillas, deli turkey, and sliced cheese are all you really need for a quick and easy meal.
13. Pasta Salads
Pasta salads are great make-ahead meals for road trips. Cook tortellini or penne, add your favorite veggies (we do chopped carrots, peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes), and toss with Italian dressing. Pack each serving up in a repurposed Talenti container so you can toss when you’re done.
14. Mason Jar Salads
Mason jar salads make are good road trip lunch ideas because they are intentionally packed to travel well. If you haven’t made mason jar salads before, this has good instructions – and customize as you wish.
The easiest on-the-go meal ever. Easy to make where ever you are, and easy to find the ingredients in almost any store with even the most limited groceries.
16. Greek Chicken
We probably have this more than anything, Marinate and grill chicken strips before your road trip for a perfectly packable roadside picnic. Pack naan, pita, or tortillas for serving, along with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion, feta, tzatziki.
17. Cold Fried Chicken
The classic picnic meal is one of the best road trip lunch ideas. Add it to your road trip food list for restocking at the grocery store, along with some sides from the deli counter.
If you like cold burritos, you can eat these make-ahead meals for road trips anywhere. We sometimes serve these for dinner on our road trips, heating them up in hotel microwaves.
19. Charcuterie and Snack Boards
20. Grain Bowls
I’ve been obsessed with grain bowls lately (thanks to this cookbook) and have been trying them out for make-ahead meals for road trips. They’ve worked perfectly for the road!
21. Tuna Pouches
Tuna is one of those road trip lunch ideas that you don’t want to make ahead but can get a little messy when draining. Pick up pouches to make prep easier.
Ideas for Road Trip Snacks and Sides
These ideas for food to bring on a road trip are great for snacking or for pairing with your on-the-road meals. We stock up on a variety so the family can pick and choose what they want to complete their meal or stave off hunger.
We like to have a mix of sweet and salty snacks and sides for our road trip meals.
22. Granola Bars
Try to avoid crunchy and crumbly granola bars for road trip snacks if you’re worried about keeping the car clean.
Stick with tubes, pouches, and drinkable yogurts so you don’t need to dig out the spoons.
24. Fresh Fruits
Apples, oranges, and grapes pack better than many other fruits and are the easiest to prep. Bananas can brown quickly when packed away but are good for making peanut butter banana wraps. Berries packed in a plastic container also travel well.
25. Dried Fruits
In addition to packing fresh fruits, we also like to bring some dried fruits that have a longer shelf life and aren’t as crushable as fresh.
Beef, turkey, or any one of the so many flavors are a good, non-perishable protein snack
27. Tortilla Chips and Salsa
You could even add some simple guacamole by mashing an avocado and adding salt and juice from a lime wedge.
28. Cheese and Crackers
Sliced cheese (buy pre-sliced if you’re restocking on the road) or Laughing Cow cheese wedges.
29. Chips or Pretzels
Salty snacks. Buy cans like Pringles that aren’t going to get crushed.
30. Bagged Salads
If you’re able to stop off for a picnic, bagged salads from the grocery store are a good way to get fresh veggies in. Carefully open enough of the top to add dressing, hold it tightly closed, then shake to mix up the salad.
31. Hummus & Pita Bread
Hummus is also the perfect dip for veggies and pita bread. Go for the individual serving packs, or repack a larger container of hummus into smaller individual containers.
32. Olives or Pickles
These briny treats are a great addition to your road trip meals.
33. Cheese Sticks or Baby Bels
Individually wrapped and high in protein go well with lunches or with crackers for a snack on your road trip.
34. Nuts & Seeds
Nut and seeds are filled with protein and healthy fats. We bought a few containers of Planter’s Pop & Pour Nuts and refill the containers as needed. They fit perfectly into cup holders!
35. Applesauce Pouches
An easy, no-mess way to get fruit, especially when the fresh fruit is gone.
Cut an avocado in half and sprinkle with salt for a super easy snack. If you also bring a little lime juice (½ a lime), mash the avocado and add a good splash of lime juice for a road trip-friendly guacamole.
37. Peanut Butter & Banana Wrap
I love the new squeeze packs of peanut butter from Skippy and Jif for road trips. So much less mess since I don’t have to deal with a sticky, peanut butter-covered knife afterward.
Our favorite is Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop, which is a little healthier than other brands.
39. Raw Veggies
Veggies like carrots, broccoli, celery, sliced cucumbers, and grape tomatoes are so easy on the road and go perfectly with many road trip lunch ideas.
40. Trail Mix
Sweet, salty, crunchy trail mix is always good for a road trip. Our Backpacker Bars make trail mix even easier to eat on the road.
Sweet Treats for Your Road Trip Food List
41. Rice Krispie Treats
Individually wrapped Rice Krispie Treats are a perfect sugar fix on the road. They’re not too crumbly or sticky, so make less mess than other foods.
42. Skinny Dipped Almonds
This is our favorite way to get sweet with a little bit of healthy. We pick Skinny Dipped over other chocolate-covered almonds because the thin layer of chocolate with just enough sweet and the cocoa powder coating makes it a little less melty and messy in the heat.
43. Pudding Cups
Buy shelf-stable pudding cups if you don’t have the extra cooler space.
Homemade or store-bought, cookies are a quick and easy sweet treat on the road.
Tips for Packing and Prepping Road Trip Meals
- Stock up on easy to prep foods at the grocery store every day or two to keep things fresh and storage needs to a minimum (rotisserie chicken, deli meats, cheese, bread)
- Stay well stocked on water with a 5-gallon water jug
- Pack a single burner camp stove for easy-to-cook foods like quesadillas, grilled cheese, soup, or ramen noodles.
- Tortillas, sandwich thins, and bagel thins hold up better than loaves of sandwich bread, which can easily get smushed in the car.
- If you are packing foods that are squishable or crushable, like loaves of bread and bags of chips, store them in small cardboard boxes that you can toss when no longer needed.
- Hotels with microwaves open up a whole new world of possibilities, with easy mac, steam-in-bag veggies, microwavable meals, and instant oats
- Pack a small tote or bag with everything you need to prep and serve your road trip meals. Disposable utensils, napkins, plates, a small cutting board and paring knife, salt and pepper, koozies (these will help fill the gap in car cup holders that are too large for some cans and bottles). If we’re doing enough nights in hotels, I’ll try to pack in a microwave safe bowl too.
Frequently Asked Questions
What food is good for road trips?
The best foods for road trips are non-perishable, healthy, and not easily crushed.
How do you pack meals for a road trip?
Pack your road trip meals in individual containers to make them easily accessible and to reduce the need for extra plates or other items for serving. Cold foods should be kept cold throughout your trip. Plan to eat the most perishable foods first. Crushable foods, like chips or bread, should be stored in hard-sided totes or containers to protect them from other luggage and people moving around in the car.
What should I eat while driving long distances?
Avoid fatty foods, sugary food, and avoid caffeine before driving (both can make you jittery), as well as high sodium foods that will make you thirsty.
Eat a healthy breakfast to give yourself energy for the day, and have plenty of snacks such as granola bars, trail mix, or apples on your road trip food list.
How can I eat cheap on a road trip?
The best way to save money on food is to pack your own. When you need to restock, visit a grocery store on the road instead of fast food.
What should I pack for lunch on a road trip?
Sandwiches and wraps are easy to eat on a road trip and can be made ahead of your trip. Salads are another great option if you plan to stop for a roadside picnic.
What can you not eat on a road trip?
There is nothing that you can’t eat on a road trip, but some foods work better than others. We try to stay away from foods that need to be cooked, stay frozen, or have complicated preparation. Foods that are highly perishable or squish easily can be difficult to store, so we plan to eat these first. Crumbly and sticky foods are also avoided to keep our car clean during our road trip.
What’s on your road trip food list? Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know your best road trip meals in the comments!
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