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Road trips are exciting adventures to take with your friends, family or solo. However coming up with a list of the best road trip food & easy road trip meals and snacks can be hard.
Which is where our ultimate list of the best food for road trips comes in handy. To help you avoid hangry companions, outrageous food costs, and unhealthy gas station food stops.
We’ve taken our share of cross country & multi-day road trips over the years, both as adults, and with kids from months old to teenagers. So we know quite a few tricks when it comes to road trip meal planning.
Our list includes easy ideas for healthy snacks, breakfasts, lunches & dinners, for all ages. As well as gluten-free, and vegetarian options too.
Plus we provide essential packing tips and a list of non-food items to bring along, at the end of this post. Hop in the car, & let’s go!
ULTIMATE HEALTHY ROAD TRIP MEALS LIST
If you plan ahead and pre-make some yummy snacks and meals, your family will be well fed on the road. Whether you are heading on a Southwest USA road trip or a coastal road trip from Boston to Acadia National Park or elsewhere.
Healthy road trip food & easy meals the whole family will love.
Why Bring Make Ahead Meals For Road Trips?
Before we get into our epic food list, we’ll quickly go over a few reasons why you should bring your own make-ahead road trip meals and snacks:
- Road trip meal planning is a great way to reduce fast food temptation, junk food and save money for your family road trip.
- Bringing good food for road trips frees up some of your hard earned cash to splurge on meals you will actually look forward to.
- Your own make-ahead meals & road trip food is healthier.
- If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, creating a road trip meal plan will allow you to have safe meal options on the road.
- Have fun picnics at rest stops, parks, or in your hotel room along your long drive.
- Avoid hungry kidlets with healthy road trip snacks, so they can focus on road trip activities, not driving you crazy with whining.
Bringing your own food is well worth the time and money you can save on your adventure. Use our road trip planner to help organize your trip.
Make ahead easy travel meals are great for cutting down on the mess, stress and time it takes to prepare and clean up on the road.
Road Trip Breakfast Ideas
You can take these easy road trip breakfast ideas to go, or quickly eat hot in the morning. As long as you make ahead and bring in a cooler, or have access to hot water or basic kitchen facilities or a microwave.
Cold, Non-Perishable Road Trip Breakfast Ideas
⭐️ PRO TIP: Bring a reusable coffee mug and water bottles for each family member. They’re a great option for filling up with hot water, tea, coffee and water on the go. Less likely to spill in the car if you use a spill-proof refillable cup and snack cup for the littles.
Cold Breakfast Ideas for Road Trips
- Yogurt – Tubes, Drinks
- Fresh Fruit
- Rye Crisp Breads & Goat Cheese
- Chia Pudding – Make the night before
- Granola & Overnight Oats – Make the night before
- Muffins & Peanut Butter (or other nut or seed butters)
- Egg Muffins or Mini Quiches (To heat or not to heat. That is the question)
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Egg Salad
- Breakfast Cookies
- Vegan Blueberry Muffins
- Bagels and Cream Cheese
- Peanut Butter and Banana Wrap
- No Bake Oat Bites
- Apple Pie Oat Bliss Balls
- Croissant, ham, cheese
- Croissant, jam & cream cheese
- Pancake Sandwiches – nut butter / jam between two mini pancakes (make ahead)
Hot & Quick Breakfast Ideas
- Instant Oatmeal
- Cup of Soup or canned soup
- Pre-made Mini Quiche (just heat up)
- Egg, Cheese, & avocado tortilla wrap
- Haloumi Cheese and Bacon Breakfast Sandwich
- One Pan Chickpea Hash (fried chickpeas, veggies, herbs) & Fried eggs
More kid friendly breakfast ideas here.
Road Trip Lunch Ideas
Road trip lunch ideas are probably the easiest for most people to come up with, when it comes to thinking of meal planning for road trips. We like to think of them as picnic lunches.
What is the first thing that comes to mind, but sandwiches. Sandwiches are such a staple we’ve given them their own section below.
To be honest, I often just prepare and pack foods I would usually take for lunch at work, for the first day or two.
Then add easy road trip lunches to grab and prep along the way, like sandwich fixings. Or cheese, meat and cracker plates for a longer trip.
Easy Non-Refrigerated Road Trip Lunch Ideas
- Canned Tuna & crackers – The mini pull tab tins come in many flavours
- Protein Bars, Energy Bars
- Sardines or Mackerel canned with avocado, crackers or bread
- Snacks for lunch: Beef Jerky, Trail Mix, Smoothie Pouches, Nut Butter Pouches
- Peanut Butter (or other nut & seed butter) & Jam Wraps
- Canned grape leaf rolls
Cold Road Trip Lunches
- Sushi / nori rolls – sweet potato, cucumber and avocado, smoked salmon, cucumber and avocado, smoked salmon & cream cheese
- Sandwiches (see Road Trip Sandwiches below for ideas)
- Tortilla Pinwheels
- Meat Kabobs
- Pasta Salad
- Corn & Zucchini Fritters
- Fruit (apple slices, cantaloupe, grapes), cheese and bread or crackers
- Charcuterie plate – cheese, deli meats, olives, dried fruit
- Chickpea or Bean Salads
- Quinoa Salad
- Mason Jar Salad – keep the dressing separate
- Pre-made Quesadillas – Refried beans and cheese. Keep salsa & sour cream separate in small leak-proof containers
Sides to Add to Lunch Ideas
- Cut up veggie sticks and hummus
- Fruit – apple, berries, melon, grapes
- Homemade cookies or energy balls
- Cucumber, cherry tomatos & peppers salad
Road Trip Sandwiches
What’s a road trip, without a sandwich or two. In fact sandwiches are so iconic, portable, easy to make and ideal for lunch and family vacation dinners they deserve a section, all on its own.
For easy, awesome sandwiches you will need a few things:
- Bread: First you’ll need some kind of hearty bread (kaiser bun, wraps, pita, baguette, ciabatta)
- Protein: Pair with protein such as deli meat, sliced chicken or beef, bacon, eggs, tofu, nut butters
- Extras: Add on the extras such as cheese, lettuce, pickles, fruit
- Condiments: mayo, mustard, olive tapenade, other sauces
Tasty Sandwich Ideas for Traveling:
- Cheddar and Jam
- Egg Salad
- Cream cheese and cucumber
- Spicy Tuna and Cucumber – leave out the spice if it’s not your thing
- Pesto Egg Salad Baguette
- Ham & Cheese Baguette or Wrap
- Turkey and Cheese Baguette or Wrap
- Turkey Club Sandwich
- Turkey, Pear, Feta Wrap
- Apple, Cheddar and Mustard Sandwich
- Roasted Red Pepper & Hummus Sandwich
- Curry Chicken or Curried Chickpea Salad Sandwich
Tips for Packing Sandwiches on Road Trips
- Start with heartier bread or toast it first. Put a layer of mayo, or mustard on each side. It actually helps prevent soggy sandwiches.
- I often toast the bread, and then wait until it’s completely cooled before making and storing the sandwiches.
- Keep wet sandwich ingredients separate like tomatoes, and add them right before eating.
- Pack each ingredient separately. Then everyone can assemble their sandwich how they like, on-the-go.
- Pack sandwiches in a hard sided container. Either use reusable individual sandwich containers or larger leak-proof containers for multiple sandwiches. We also love silicone sandwich bags to cut down on plastic.
- Keep the sandwiches on top of the cooler for easy to grab meals on the road.
You may also like 50+ Easy to make, healthy road trip snack recipes
Easy Road Trip Meals Dinner Ideas
Dinner is the one meal we often splurge on, and choose to eat out at a local restaurant, instead of on the road when possible.
We like to do a bit of research and see what the area is known for, or if there are special meals we can’t get at home. Also after a few days of packed road trip meals, it’s nice to sit down at a restaurant and have someone else clean up and organize.
However, there are times when you need dinner in the car ideas. You can always re-use the lunch or even breakfast ideas, because they are all tasty anytime of day.
Cold Road Trip Dinner Ideas
- Pasta Salad & Greek Salad
- Taco Salad
- Cobb Salad
- Other Cold salads – Potato, bean, egg, chickpea, salmon, tofu, quinoa, rice and bean
- Sandwiches – check out ideas in sandwich section
- Chicken salad / caesar wrap
- Falafel Wrap
- Rice Paper Rolls & Peanut Sauce
- Chicken wings & pre roasted veggies
- Grilled or roast chicken, rice and veggies
- Tortilla Chips, Bean Dip and Salsa
- Egg roll pinwheels with spinach, and cheese
- Mason Jar grain + protein + roast veggies (pre-made)
Salad Tips – Keep the ingredients & dressing separate. That way each person can assemble to their liking, and the lettuce doesn’t get soggy from swimming in the dressing all day.
KOA has 10 fun on-the go recipes to try.
Mason Jar Meal tips
Mason Jars are a fun and easy way to store pre-made meals.
They are fairly sturdy (I’ve dropped them many times without breaking them) and come in different sizes. The 500ml and 250 ml are perfect for individual meals.
Choose a grain + a protein + roasted, steamed or stir fried veggies and you have a delicious meal to go.
- Pre-cook a grain: brown rice, basmati rice, white rice, quinoa,
- Choose a protein: roast chicken or beef, curried chickpeas, tofu
- Cooked veggies: stir fries, steamed broccoli, curries, stew,
Hot Road Trip Dinner Ideas
One pan or pot dinner ideas are perfect for travel, camping and road trips. Especially if you ‘ve been entertaining the kids with road trip conversations all day.
As long as you remember the hot plate, or cook stove. Been there, done that, forgetting the stove. Another option is to choose motels, or places to stay that have basic kitchen facilities.
You can also meal prep ahead of time and put individual meals in separate containers that are easy to reheat and clean up.
If you are a camping family, what you plan for camping meals is similar.
Think easy camping type meals:
- Baked Beans
- Cup of Soup or Canned Soup
- Frozen Homemade Soup (use the first day or two after it defrosts. Bonus it helps keep the cooler cold)
- Bacon or Sausages and Eggs
- Rice and beans or ground beef for tacos or wraps
- Chickpea Curry and Rice (pre-make and heat up)
ROAD TRIP SNACK & DRINKS LIST
We have a full article on our favorite road trip snacks to bring that both adults and kids will love. Good food for long journeys.
Here are a few snack ideas to get you started:
- Energy Balls
- Trail Mix
- Baby Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes, Snap Peas, Celery Sticks & Dip
- Cheese and Crackers
- Apple Pear Muffins
- Jerky, Beef Sticks
- Potato Chips
- Plantain Chips
- Lara Bars
- Moon Cheese
- Cheese Crisps
- Seaweed Snacks
- String cheese
- Sunflower seeds
- Gluten-Free Bars – We like these mini Gluten-Free Bars
Who doesn’t drink too much on the road because they are avoiding using restrooms at pull-outs or gas stations?
I’m guilty of this too, but this often leads me to crankiness and wicked headaches, sooo…… Do as I say, not as I do (said Parents everywhere).
Staying hydrated is super important. While water should be the number one choice, sometimes you need a little something different like:
- Herbal Tea
- Coconut water
- Water with crushed berries, or cucumber slices, or lemon
- No sugar added fruit juices
- Flavoured Sparkling water
- Almond / Oat / Soy Milk
🚙 More road trip ideas 7 day Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon itinerary
Road Trip Food & Meal Planning Tips
Meal Planning Tips
When meal planning healthy road trip foods, you’ll need to consider a few key important things:
- What road trip meals you want to bring, and which one’s you’d like to buy.
- If travelling with kids, which foods do they already like. They aren’t going to magically start liking raw broccoli and raisins on your long trip. Adapt your food for road trips with kids.
- Road trip meal ideas – Make a list of food ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks. Make sure they’re easy food to travel with.
- Creating a road trip grocery list is a good idea, so important items don’t get forgotten. But don’t stress, as usually you’ll be able to pick up ingredients along the way if needed.
- How to pack food for your road trip, so it doesn’t get squished, and stays cool longer.
With so much to do when planning a road trip, it’s sometimes hard to be prepared when it comes to traveling food.
Road Trip Food Tips
Beyond throwing a bunch of items into the cooler and food bag and hoping for the best. Let’s give you a few tips to make packing a bit easier:
- Bread: Bring wraps, pitas and flatbreads – they take up less room, and won’t get squished like bread loaves
- Perishables: Eat your perishables and more fragile fruits first (bananas, raspberries, pre-cut fruit like melons, pineapple, mango etc.)
- Freeze Water bottles: When hot out, freeze a couple of the water bottles the night before. They’ll keep your cooler cold, and give cold water to drink as they melt.
- Pre-Make Meals & Portion Out: Pre-make meals, and portion them out in mason jars or reusable plastic or glass containers.
- Cooler Tips:
- Place your cooler somewhere cool the night before, or pre-chill the cooler for up to 12 hours with ice / ice packs you won’t be using on your trip.
- Lay solid blocks of ice or reusable ice packs on the bottom, plus put a layer of ice on the top
- Pack the cooler full – too much space helps the inside heat up faster
- Freeze food you won’t need for a couple of days, and use frozen water bottles to help keep the inside colder, longer
- Try to limit the number of times you open the cooler in the day.
- Pack your food in order of when you want to eat it, leaving the next day or two’s meals on top.
- Garbage Bag for the car: Having a designated garbage bag for the car, will keep the garbage contained, and your car organized.
- Clean-Up Kit: Bring a clean up kit. Kids, adults, toddlers all on occasion make messes. Having a clean-up kit handy just in case is good practice. Include wipes, paper towel, extra water, and an easily accessible change of clothes.
- Storage: To keep things organized, use small stackable Rubbermaid containers to pack your non-perishables.
🚙 More Road Trip Ideas: 4 Day family friendly itinerary in Acadia National Park
Road Trip Essentials
Now that we’ve got the meals all planned out, and the best road trip SNACKS organized let’s move on to the non-food items you’ll need to add to your road trip packing list.
Our goal is to reduce our impact on the earth whatever mode of travel. Bringing reusable items on our trips to cut down on waste is one simple way to do this. If you make it part of your routine, you will be pleasantly surprised how easy it becomes.
Here are some other reusable items to pack for your road trip:
- Plastic, glass or stainless steel containers – Can be used for leftovers, as dishes, hold snack packs, or even small toys, art supplies
- Cutlery – knives, forks, spoons,
- Dishes – Cups, plates, bowls
- Coffee Mugs – Our favs are Yeti Mugs or the Klean Kanteen
- Reusable Straws
- Water bottles for the kids
- Water bottles for the adults
- Cloth fruit bags
- Bento Boxes
- Garbage bags – reuse grocery bags
Storage & Cleaning Supplies
- Reusable Ice Packs
- Hand sanitizer
- Paper Towels & Wet Wipes
- Biodegradable Soap
You will definitely want to make sure you and your kids have their own travel backpack for the trip.
A good travel backpack can be multipurpose, for hiking, storing road trip activities and entertainment, plus give easy access to a couple of snacks, and a handy change of clothes.
Best Road Trip Coolers
Coolers provide more flexibility with the types of meals and snacks you can bring on your trips. We think they are a road trip essential, without a doubt. Before choosing one, there are a few things to consider:
- How long is your trip?
- Which meals will you be packing from home?
- How often will you have access to a grocery store?
- How much space do you have in your vehicle? Where do you want to put the cooler?
Answers to these questions will give you an idea of the size and cooling ability needed from your cooler. We’ve put together a list of the best coolers to try, that are easily available on Amazon.
Best Overall Cooler – Yeti Roadi 24 Cooler
The Yeti Roadi 24 Cooler is narrow, so it easily fits behind the seat, is well insulated, which holds the cold, and is lighter than previous versions.
It can also be transformed into a stool if you buy the cushion. It’s a bit of an invesment, so a good buy if you are planning on using it a lot.
Best Afforable Family Cooler – Coleman 316
The Coleman 316 Cooler is a top pick for size, flexibility and price. It can hold a lot of food and ice, which can be kept cool at higher temps for 2-3 days.
Perfect for shorter trips, or if you plan on replenishing your food / ice every few days.
Best Soft Sided Cooler – TOURIT Leak-Proof Backpack
The Tourit Leak Proof soft-sided backpack is an excellent option for shorter road trips or if you are planning a picnic or day at the beach. This leak-proof high-density insulated backpack can keep food cold for up to 3 days. It also has side pockets for extra storage.
Tips to Prepare For Your Next Road Trip
Anything you can do the day or two beforehand to prep your food, and pack your non-perishables, do it. This will save rushing around at the last minute, and forgetting important things like your water bottles.
We recommend doing the following ahead of time:
- Make a Shopping list and meal plan.
- Check off the items as you pack them.
- Wash and cut veggies and fruit
- Prepare sandwiches, meat slices, cheese slices
- Freeze meals and water bottles the night or two before
- Prepare the snack bags or snack tote
- Prepare your Clean up kit
- Pack non-perishable foods in small totes or bags
- Pack your perishable foods in the cooler, & an airtight container, right before you leave.
PRO TIP: Pack your car the night before you leave, to make sure everything fits. Make sure your cooler and essential road trip snacks are easily accessible.
Conclusion: Ultimate Easy Road Trip Meals & Snacks List
With over 100 delicious and easy road trip meal ideas, you will find a party in your cooler for all taste buds or your next long journey.
Plus don’t forget that a little pre-trip planning can go a long way towards a stress free vacation.
Grab a great road trip snack or two and head on out on the open road. I hope this helps you have an epic road trip.
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