Image of three colorful lunch salads

Road Trip Food Ideas: Packable Snacks and Make-Ahead Meals

By: Craig

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Are you planning a road trip and looking for snack and meal ideas that are convenient, mostly healthy, and money-saving? Then look no further.

We love a good road trip and one of our favorite things is packing fun snacks and meals to eat along the way.

This list of road trip food ideas will give you everything you need to plan all of your food for your next road trip. 

We include both refrigerated and non-refrigerated options to help you free up space in your cooler or to provide you options if you don’t have a cooler on this road trip. And we also share our tips for packing your cooling and restocking while on the road. 

Let’s dive in and find some mouth-watering road trip food ideas.

What Makes for Good Road Trip Food

When packing road trip snacks and meals, it is important to understand what makes for good road trip food. Not every meal or snack works well on the road. 

When coming up with your meal plan here are a few things to keep in mind when picking out your road trip food.

Try to focus on these types of foods when planning your road trip:

  • Easily packable
  • Easy to clean up
  • Individual packaging 
  • Easy to open
  • Finger food
  • Avoid strong odored food
  • High protein and fiber (to keep everyone feeling fuller longer)

Road Trip Healthy Snack Ideas

Road trips are all about the snacks. And, of course, we always include our favorite sweet treats. 

But we also try to pack a bunch of healthy snacks to keep the hunger monster away and keep us energized until our next meal break. 

Non-Perishable Healthy Snacks

  • Dehydrated fruits and vegetables (Mango is our favorite)
  • Beef jerky
  • Trail mix (w/o chocolate)
  • Laughing Cow Cheese and Crackers
  • Roasted almonds
  • Whole apples
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Snap peas
  • Popcorn
  • Homemade energy bars, such as no-bake peanut butter energy bars 

Cooler-Required Healthy Snacks

  • Fruits and vegetables, including celery, grapes, cut apples and pears, and baby carrots
  • String Cheese
  • Individual hummus, dressing, or dips for fruits and vegetables
  • Spicy Hummus and Veggie Jar 
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Pre-packaged all-natural smoothies that come in drinkable containers
  • Dark chocolate

Road Trip Indulgent Snack Ideas

Indulgent snacks are an essential part of a road trip because they are fun, tasty, and decadent. In addition, indulgent snacks, such as potato chips and cookies, are affordable and easy to pack in individual plastic baggies. 

Non-Perishable Indulgent Snacks

  • Banana bread
  • Cookies, such as sugar cookies (they don’t melt) 
  • Fruit leather
  • Muffins
  • Potato chips
  • Pretzel, cracker, and peanut mixtures
  • Licorice
  • Snack cakes and cupcakes
  • Boiled peanuts
  • Snack box – Check out Amazon for some unique snack boxes. We love the snack boxes from different countries.

Cooler-Required Indulgent Snacks

Make-Ahead Road Trip Breakfast Ideas

Enjoying a road trip often means early days and breakfast on the go. These make-ahead breakfast meals are perfect for those early mornings.

Non-Perishable Breakfast Ideas

  • Dry cereal
  • Granola bars
  • Muffins
  • Cake Donuts
  • Power Scones – A Winding Road Tripper Favorite
  • Whole fruits

Cooler-Required Breakfast Ideas

Make-Ahead Road Trip Lunch Ideas

Make-ahead lunch meals provide easy-to-eat food items if you plan on driving through lunchtime. Road trip lunch ideas are perfect if you want to take a break, stretch your legs, and have a roadside picnic lunch. 

Non-Perishable Lunch Ideas

  • Nut butter with pita chips
  • Snack packs with crackers, grapes, and peanut butter
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter
  • Pita bread with canned tuna and mayo packets
  • Orzo salad

Cooler-Required Lunch Ideas

  • Vegetables with ranch, hummus, guacamole, or veggie dip
  • Premade lunch sandwiches with deli meats and cheeses
  • Peanut butter sandwiches
  • Salad in a jar
  • Fruit salad
  • Cucumber sandwiches
  • Pita pockets stuffed with turkey, cheese, hummus, and cucumber
  • Homemade lunch packs with summer sausage, crackers, and cheese
  • Tortillas rolled with olive cream cheese and deli meat (such as turkey or pepperoni)
  • Roll-up or pita sandwiches, such as a chicken tortilla wrap 

Make-Ahead Road Trip Dinner Ideas

Road trips are often exhausting. And by the time you make it to your destination, you may be ready to shower, eat dinner, and get some sleep. Making dinner meals ahead of time allows you to do these things while eating comfortably in your hotel or campsite. 

Non-Perishable Dinner Ideas

  • Canned chili and cornbread
  • Couscous and white beans, topped with salsa
  • Garlic bread and marinara sauce (to go with the buffalo chicken pasta salad listed below)
  • Microwave macaroni and cheese cups (if microwave is available)

Cooler-Required Dinner Ideas

Eating on the Road Non-Food Essentials

To help enjoy your preplanned road trip snack and meal ideas, it is helpful to pack some non-food essentials. Use this list to make sure you have everything you need for an easy and clean road trip meal time. 

  • Paper plates
  • Paper bowls
  • Plastic cutlery — forks, knives, and spoons
  • Sharp knife (for cutting fruits, veggies, and sandwiches)
  • Paper towels or napkins
  • Wet wipes
  • Chip clips
  • Zip-locking food storage bags
  • Paper bags
  • Plastic food storage containers
  • Hard-sided cooler for trunk
  • Soft-sided cooler for inside the car
  • Reusable grocery bags to organize and store food
  • Refillable water bottles
  • Plastic trash bags

Protip: Splurge on Stasher bags (or any other silicon bag) for road trips. They are pricey but they are in your budget we highly recommend them as they are one of our favorite splurges. They are great to keep things dry in the cooler and to keep things organized and portioned out. 

More Road Trip Essentials:
Road Trip Accessories You Need for Your Next Road Trip
Family Road Trip Essentials: Things You Need to Pack for a Road Trip with Kids

The Ultimate Camping Road Trip Camping List

Tips for Road Trip Meal Prepping 

Meal prepping before heading out on a road trip helps save time while on the road and makes grabbing snacks and meals easier. Additionally, road trip meal prepping helps ensure you have all the food, snacks, and beverages you need to keep everyone full and satisfied. 

  • Create a list of meals and snacks to make ahead of time.
  • Select meals with foods that can easily be mixed and matched together for more options.
  • Choose finger foods to avoid the need for cutlery.
  • Consider the trip length and plans to determine foods and how long ice will keep cooler-required foods cold.
  • Pack ingredients for meals together using plastic and paper bags.
  • Pack individual packets of condiments, such as mayo, ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, and barbecue sauce.
  • Clean and cut vegetables and store in individual size plastic bags for quick access.
  • Split big bags of snacks into individual serving sizes.
  • Consider storage space, such as how much room you have in the car and coolers.
  • Keep things simple.
  • Pack plenty of water or refillable water bottles to keep everyone fully hydrated.

Tips for Packing a Cooler for a Road Trip

Efficiently packing a cooler for a road trip means the difference between having all the foods you want and having to leave some food behind. Plus, the issue many road trippers face is their food getting soggy as the ice in the cooler starts to melt. 

  • Use zip-locking plastic or silicon bags to keep ice in the cooler from getting things wet.
  • Use zip-locking plastic or silicon bags to store food in the cooler in case ice bags break open.
  • Keep what you plan to eat that day on the top, so you do not have to dig around the cooler, letting cold air out.
  • Use leak-proof containers for meats and poultry, especially if raw, and pack these items on the bottom, separate from foods that will be eaten raw.
  • To keep cooler food colder longer, freeze items, such as juices, and milk before packing in the cooler.
  • Refrigerate items overnight before putting them in the cooler
  • Keep the cooler full to help keep it colder longer.
  • Layer food with ice bags, ice, or ice blocks (ice blocks take longer to melt than ice cubes).
  • If not bagging ice, consider bagging some ice cubes to use for beverages.
  • If possible, keep the cooler in the car instead of the hot trunk.
  • If there is room, use two coolers, one for food and the other for beverages.

Tips for Restocking Food On Your Road Trip

When preparing meals for a road trip, you may realize that you cannot pack all the food you need for the duration of your trip. Additionally, you may run out of items sooner than expected because of excessive hunger or kids eating out of boredom.

  • Make a list of everything you packed, and when you use items, mark them to know which items to pick up at the store. 
  • Make a list of meals and snacks you could not fit in the cooler before leaving and use that to shop during your trip.
  • To save time, check online for a grocery store ahead of you and see if they offer curbside pick-up. If so, order ahead of time for pickup, and you can save time not having to shop yourself.
  • Consider shopping for fresh fruits, veggies, and homemade snacks at a farmers’ market where you stop for a night or two. Stopping at a local farmers’ market offers the opportunity to explore the area and restock your snacks and meals.

More Road Trip Tips:
How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip
Best Weather Apps for Your Road Trip
20 Road Trip Hacks for a Stress-Free Road Trip

You Got This!

Preparing for a road trip may feel overwhelming, especially when you decide to do some meal prepping in advance. 

Don’t worry you got this. 

Use this list to help you prepare make-ahead food and pack the snacks you need for your upcoming road trip.