The Best Road Trip Food Ideas for a Frugal Foodie

Aug 8, 2020 | Budgeting, Food, Travel

Snacks, ahoy! Road trips are one of our favorite ways to make family memories! But if you’re not careful, road trip food can really start to eat up your vacation budget. Don’t waste all your vacation savings on meals! Here are some of our best road trip food ideas, including what to take and how to use it. 

Sealed, individually-packaged snacks are simple grab-and-go road trip food ideas. From Dun Cheap or Free

Who doesn’t love a good road trip?! Half the fun of taking a trip is getting there, though stopping along the way for food can waste time and drain budgets pretty quickly! If you’re looking for ways to save money on your next trip, we’ve got you covered.

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The best road trip food doesn’t have to break your budget. We’ve rounded up the ultimate road trip food list that’s frugal foodie-approved! Keep reading for tons of road trip food ideas your family will love.


Have you noticed that being on the road really works up an appetite? When we hit the road, someone is always hungry—usually within about 10 minutes! If we stopped every time someone wanted to eat, it would take forever to reach our destination. Plus, let's be for realsies here… it would also cost a WHOLE lot of money.

The best way to stay within budget while traveling is to plan ahead and pack plenty of food – and literally, there are so many simple and affordable snacks, lunches, and even dinners that you can take on the road. Here are some of our favorite road trip food ideas!


A handful of pretzel sticks is an easy road trip food snack idea in between stops. From Fun Cheap or Free

You can never take too many snacks on a road trip! Here are some fun, easy, and tasty ideas that will please even the pickiest eaters.

  • Individual Snack Packs – We think it’s fun to personalize a gallon-sized bag of snacks for each of our kids, and they love it! You can include non-perishable items like crackers, chips, cookies, or fruit snacks. Word of warning: make sure you tell them the snacks have to last the whole trip. When they are gone, they’re GONE!
  • DIY Lunchable or Protein Pack – Our kids love these, but they’re fun for adults, too! Quickly put together a homemade lunchable or protein pack using ingredients you have at home, and you’ll be good to go!
  • Cheese – Toss some string cheese, sliced cheese, or cubed cheese in a cooler for a super-simple crowd-pleaser that’s virtually mess-free.
  • Fruits and Veggies – Grab some apples, oranges, or bananas for the older kids or slice up some grapes for the younger kiddos. It’s always a good idea to incorporate a few healthy road trip food options!
  • Chex Mix – Hello, crowd-pleaser! Make a big batch of Chex Mix before your next trip, and we guarantee someone will ask for it within 15 minutes of hitting the road. Store in a big Tupperware container or some gallon-sized bags and voila! Here’s our favorite easy Chex Mix recipe from AllRecipes.
  • Trail Mix – Another great healthy option: load up your trail mix with dried fruit and nuts to sneak in some nutrients for the kiddos. 
  • Chips & Dip – Who doesn’t love chips and dip?! This one is a guaranteed hit.

Pro Tip: Bring some cups for distributing the smaller snacks like Chex Mix or Trail Mix. We always pack disposable cups, but regular plastic cups from home work well, too!


Bento makes a great on-the-go lunch option, and it's easy to personalize to individual tastes. From Fun Cheap or Free

Contrary to popular belief, drive-through windows aren’t the only option for quick and affordable road trip lunches. Try one of the ideas from this road trip food list on your next vacation:

  • Wraps – Use whatever you have on hand! Peanut butter and banana wraps are a hit with the kids, but you can never go wrong with meat, cheese, and veggies, either. 
  • Pitas – Stuff your pita with hummus and fresh veggies, or fill them with any leftover chicken or tuna salad you may have on hand. 
  • PB&J and Fruit Kabobs – These are SO fun! Grab some skewers and make a batch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Cut them into bite-sized pieces and alternate sandwich bites and fruit on the skewers. Throw them in an airtight container and be prepared for your kids to ask for them again and again.
  • Mason Jar Salads – What better way to use up all the perishable food in your refrigerator than to toss together some mason jar salads! Mix in shredded chicken, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, fruit–whatever you have on hand! There’s no wrong way to assemble a mason jar salad. Be creative! 
  • Chicken/Tuna/Egg Salad – Serve on a wrap, on celery, in a sandwich, or bring along a box of crackers. 
  • Subs – Have a sandwich-making party the night before your trip. Set up an assembly line and let each family member customize their own sub.
  • Yogurt and Granola – This delicious combo can serve as a standalone meal or as a healthy dessert. 

Pro Tip: Pack sandwiches, wraps, and kabobs in plastic wrap to keep them from getting soggy in your cooler. To keep the car relatively mess-free, you can pack one shower caddy per kid. They work great as mealtime trays! Don’t forget to pack a container of plastic eating utensils, too.


Grab-and-go food isn't just for snacks and lunches. You can plan ahead and pack some pretty incredible road trip food to enjoy for dinner, too. Here are a few of our favorite ideas for the best road trip food to enjoy during dinnertime. 

  • Leftover Soup – You may be thinking, what the heck?! How does soup work on a road trip? Quite well, actually! All you need is a few kid-friendly thermoses. Taco soup is one of our family favorites.
  • Pasta Salad – What’s more filling than pasta?! Mix in your favorite proteins and veggies, and you’ve got a cooler-ready meal that can feed a crowd!
  • Bento Boxes – These are fun to make and to eat! And again, here’s a chance to be creative. You can use up fruits and veggies, sandwich squares, nuts, you name it! 

Pro Tip: Wondering how to store all this food? We suggest bringing two coolers, a large one to keep in the back, and a small one up front for easy access throughout the day. Don’t forget disposable eating utensils and garbage bags or grocery bags for trash. You can toss the garbage when you stop for gas!


Waffles can easily be frozen ahead of time for transport for your destination. From Fun Cheap or Free

When it comes to packing food for a road trip, don’t forget to plan ahead and bring things you can use after you reach your destination. Freezer meals, grab-and-go breakfast options, and other tasty treats can save you a ton of money! Here are fun ideas to jumpstart your meal planning:

  • Frozen Waffles Skip the pricey breakfast buffets and bring your own waffles from home! You can either pop them in a toaster or warm them up in a hotel room microwave. Top with yogurt or fruit if you have it!
  • Frozen Pizza – Pop a few in the cooler (homemade or store-bought) and heat these up in the oven or microwave for a quick, kid-friendly dinner away from home.
  • Pre-Packaged Snacks – Chips, granola bars, mixed nuts, fruit snacks, or cookies are never a bad idea to have around. And they’re portable! Pop them in a purse or fanny pack so you have snacks available wherever your travels may take you.
  • Jerky/Meat Sticks – Affordable, easy to transport protein for the win! 

Pro Tip: Bring your crockpot or Instant Pot along for the ride! Both are great for cooking while you’re on the road. 


  • Water – Not only is it important to drink plenty of water on the road but having water bottles on hand can help clean up the inevitable messes. 
  • Gatorade – Especially on hot summer days, it’s important to have something extra hydrating on hand. 
  • Protein Drinks – It’s a great idea to have these on hand for whoever’s driving. Super filling and easy to drink with one hand, they’re perfect for road trips. 
  • Yogurt DrinksThese are hit with the kids and a good source of energy on busy travel days!

Pro Tip: Freeze your drinks the night before you head out, and store the frozen beverages in your cooler. They’ll actually help to keep all your food cooler for longer, too. Win, win!


A little bit of prep can go a long way in saving your family money on your next big road trip! Why waste travel budget on unhealthy, overpriced meals when you can bring delicious and affordable food from home to enjoy? The best road trip food is likely already in your kitchen.

The very best road trip food ideas to save you money from Fun Cheap or Free!

Need more ideas and inspiration? Be sure to check out the posts below:

  • Cook up a big batch of make-ahead freezer breakfasts! Check out all the possibilities. 
  • Read through these road trip tips for advice on packing, food prep, in-car entertainment, and more! This blog post has all the tips you need for your next family adventure!
  • Peruse these picnic ideas for recipes you can try on your next road trip.


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