Skip to Content

Food for Road Trips

When planning food for road trips, there are quite a few factors that you need to consider. First, how far are you going? Second, what is the weather, including the temperature? Third, will you be able to replenish any of the items? And fourth, what are your family’s must-haves and will-not-eats?

highway surrounded by variety of food for road trips

When planning for easy road trip meals, decide whether you’ll be eating at a rest stop or in your car. That can make a big difference since you don’t want to spill food in the seats.

There are many delicious healthy road trip foods that will satisfy your family and make the good times even better. Bringing your own food is an easy way to cut costs so you can spend your money on having more fun.

Buffalo chicken dip with vegetables
Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ultimate Road Trip Food List

One of the things I like about bringing your own food on road trips is that we’ll have to stop less frequently. We also won’t have to rely on fast food or gas station food when we’re hungry.

As you plan your master list, make sure you include healthy snacks and water bottles that you can fill as needed. Sure, you can grab a candy bar, but it’s a good idea to limit junk food. 

You can also bring bottled water. However, you might run out during a long trip. So you might need to stop off at convenience stores to replenish your supply.

It’s a good idea to make a master list. Ask each person for lists of their favorite nutritious food ideas and a treat that they’d like. After that, fill in with some healthy road trip snacks that are easy to pack.

The best road trip food ideas are those that you know your family will enjoy. I always liked to have plenty of nutritious snack food as well as some treats that are simply fun. In fact, I believe that the best foods are the ones people look forward to eating.

Also consider any dietary restrictions each person may have. The last thing you want to do during your road trip is trigger someone’s allergies.

Cold vs. Room Temperature Road Trip Food

If you have room, pack a couple of coolers—one with cold foods and the other with water. It’s more economical to purchase water in gallon jugs than individual bottles. But you have to do what’s best for your family.

Pack a large tote filled with room temperature foods that you as the parents as well as the little kids would like. Since you want the whole family to be happy with the food.

Freeze several ice packs to put in the cooler. Although you can use ice, I’ve found using ice packs is a great way to keep food cold without ending the day with inches of water in the bottom of the container.

cup of hot cocoa

Some families who travel in the winter even like to pack a thermos with hot water for making hot chocolate or instant soup. If you have room and a thermos, by all means, do this.

Nutritious Non-Refrigerated Foods for a Long Road Trip

Before you head off to the grocery store, check this list and see if there’s anything you might want to add. Don’t forget that you can find a lot of good snacks at your local dollar store.

bowl of fresh fruit

Here are some of the best road trip snacks to pack:

  • Granola bars
  • Fresh fruit
  • Potato chips
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Individual packs of peanut butter
  • Jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread
  • Trail mix
  • Nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Popcorn
bowl of popcorn
plate of peanut butter cookies

Road Trip Cold Food

It’s a great idea to bring a cooler with a few cold items as well. This helps add to the variety of tasty and healthy options for the enjoyment of your whole family.

Here’s a list of foods that need to be kept cold:

  • String cheese
  • Cheese wedges
  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream based dips
  • Fruit that needs refrigeration
  • Fresh vegetables (celery, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, radishes, bell peppers, and cauliflower)
  • Cream cheese based foods
  • Ham
  • Turkey
  • Tuna salad
  • Cottage cheese
sour cream and onion dip

Put your cold food in plastic containers or bags. I like to have each type of item in its own plastic bag to keep things separate.

It’s fun to give each person their own individual bags for easy access. It’s messy and awkward to try to portion things out while you’re driving.

If you have room in your cooler, add some bottles of water and soft drinks. If not, you’ll need a second cooler. After all, you need to stay hydrated.

We like to pack food that’s ready to eat. For example, this mason jar salad is delicious with a little bit of protein on the side.

Also mason jar fruit salads are a big hit. Pack different colors of whatever fruit is in season and add a light dressing to enhance the flavors.

Road Trip Breakfast Ideas

Don’t forget top pack something to eat for breakfast. These can be prepackaged or make ahead meals.

bowl of homemade granola

Here are some delicious food choices to get the day off to a great start:

bowl of boiled eggs
“Boiled” Eggs

Make sure you include some foods with healthy fats, such as nuts or coconut filled bars. You probably know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Meal Planning for a Hotel Room

If you’re on a tight budget and prefer not to dine out or eat fast food every day, plan some meals you can enjoy at the hotel. The extra cost can put quite a strain on the family’s finances. But you can still have a great time and enjoy a delicious meal.

Here is a list of food with links to recipes that you can make in advance:

Of course, you’ll need to have these items in an airtight container and put them in a cooler. Call the hotel in advance to see if they have microwaves in the hotel room. If not, ask if they have facilities in the public areas that you can use.

Serve any of those foods with bread, chips, fresh veggies, and fruit. You can pack a delicious dip for the chips and vegetables.

Non-Food Items for Road Trips

Don’t forget some non-food items that will make life easy during your trip. You can get a variety pack of some of the items.

Here are some items you may want to bring for mealtime:

  • Napkins
  • Paper towels
  • Cutlery – forks, spoons, and knives 
  • Paper plates and bowls
  • Wet wipes
  • Plastic bags for storage 
  • Garbage bags

Entertainment for the Road

Remember to plan some great road trip activities for everyone in the whole car. Consider the ages of the family members, including the little one who is still in a car seat.

Here are some fun activities for road trips:

License Plate Bingo Game

There are many ways to play this. When our children were little, we gave each person a card with letters and numbers in rows. When they spotted any of those letters or numbers on a car tag, they could mark it off.

I Spy Game

Each person gets a turn being “it.” That person finds an object and gives a short description and says, “I spy with my eyes something red (or round).” Everyone guesses, until someone comes up with the right answer. Then that person becomes “it.”

Alphabet Game

Start with the letter “A” and find a sign that has the letter. Then move on to the letter “B.” This can get quite challenging with the letters “Q,” “X,” and “Z.” It’s up to you whether or not to include them.

What I Packed Game

The first person gets a turn of saying what they packed in their suitcase that starts with the letter “A” by saying, “I’m going on a trip, and I packed —.” The second person repeats what the first person said and adds something that starts with the next letter. Each of the following people have to start at the beginning, listing everything the other people said and adding their own with the next letter of the alphabet.

There are quite a few variations of these games. If they’re too easy or too difficult, adjust to suit the group. The goal is to have a great time, even when you’re traveling from one destination to another.

Music

Don’t forget to include music. If everyone likes the same tunes, that’s great. However, if not, take turns choosing what music to play.

Most Important Part of Any Road Trip

The key to taking a road trip is to make it fun. Between the meals, snacks, games, and music, everyone should have some say in the planning.

Please feel free to share!