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Best Road Trip Food – How to Eat When On the Road

Veggies

Eating on a road trip can be challenging.  Especially if you want to eat healthy, not get bored, and stay on a budget.  If you’re looking for some tips on how to keep it interesting, good for you and easy on the pocketbook, read on!

When you’re eating on a road trip, there’s snacks and there’s meals, so let’s break it down.

Snacks

Snacking on a road trip is important.  It alleviates boredom, helps keep you alert, and helps you make better food choices when you do stop for a meal.  And, if you have kids, teenagers, or men along – it is definitely a necessity!

Having snacks & water handy for those wayside hikes is also a good idea!

Homemade snacks are likely ideal, but there are a lot of pre-packaged alternatives that save on time and aren’t bad.  Here are some suggestions – see this post for more.  Note that packing a thermoelectric cooler could be a great way to bring these snacks along.

  • Veggies and Fruit
  • Beef jerky & cheese sticks
  • Nuts & granola
  • Mini cookies
  • Fruit snacks, rollups, or dried fruit
  • Small crackers or popcorn
  • homemade muffins or bars
  • Water

Unique, local Restaurants

Discovering a locally owned, off the beaten path eatery is one of the fantastic things about road trips!  Often, they are one of the best values in town.  But, how do you find them?  There are mainly two ways.

Local RestaurantResearch:  Do your research ahead of time.  This is more than Yelp or Tripadvisor.  The best local restaurants are not always the most popular or most recommended.  You will have to spend some time looking at Google Maps, reading reviews, looking at website ‘About Us’ sections, and then listening to your gut.  Usually, it’s worth it.

Canvassing: Wait until you get somewhere and then ask the locals.  Don’t ask the concierge service.  Instead, ask the gas attendant, ask the grocery clerk, ask the hotel staff.  But, ask them where they like to go eat when someone else is buying.  You will get different, better answers.  We have never been steered wrong and we’ve eaten at some pretty amazing places.

Local restaurants can provide insight into local specialties not available anywhere else.  Checking out the bakeries and sandwich shops is also a great way to pick up a quick meal or snack while supporting the local economy.

Picnics

We love to have picnic meals on our road trips.  There are usually some pretty amazing parks and scenic views that offer a great place to stretch out, relax, and have a meal and it gives us a welcome break from the restaurant scene.

Rather than pack an elaborate meal that we need to prep and then put together, we’ll usually stop at a grocery, deli, or farmers market the morning or day before and pick up just enough meat, cheese, and greens for sandwiches, pre-packaged salads (green or otherwise), crudités, chips, and drinks.

We may decide to buy a nice bottle of wine or a six pack of local beer to enjoy.  Or even a special dessert for this day, either at the picnic or an ice cream stop.  Don’t forget bottle openers, forks, spoons, and napkins!

Cooking Your Meal

Cooking on the road may seem like a step too far, but really, it can work out pretty well.  You can either get lodging with a kitchenette, take an RV or camping trailer, stay at a cabin, use a roadside or park grill, or cook over an open fire at a campsite.

Grilling KabobsYou can get as elaborate or as simple as you want.  Grilling your meat & veggies makes a wonderful meal.  Kabobs & tinfoil packets are a great way for an ‘all in one’ meal of protein & veggies without a lot of equipment.  There are a lot of recipes online to tempt your tastebuds!

Cooking with a portable camp stove is also an option for when fires aren’t allowed and facilities aren’t available.  If you purchase one, look for something that is compact, easy to use, and can make use of multiple types of fuel.  You’ll also need a pot or pan to cook in.

Don’t forget tongs & a couple hot pads.  I love the combination tongs with a spatula on one side and a ‘grabber’ on the other like these.

Chain Restaurants

Ok, ok, we all know why we go to chain restaurants.  They are predictable and many of them actually do serve good food.  Really, it’s ok to go to a chain on a road trip.  Sometimes it’s just the easiest thing to do when you’ve been driving all day and just want to eat.

Chain restaurants don’t need to mean fast food.  But, even fast food can be acceptable in moderation.  Especially if it’s a fast food chain or restaurant that you don’t have in your area (Culvers or In-N-Out Burger come to mind).  Trying out a regional favorite and anything that makes them unique (chicken and waffles anyone?) can be fun.

Whatever you decide to eat on your road trip, make sure you mix it up and have variety.  Many restaurant menus are similar, so try different cuisines or cultures while you’re out and about.  Local specialties, especially seasonal ones, can be a great way to try something new.  Checking out local farmers markets can give you some insight and many provide tasty samples.

And don’t forget!  Savor and enjoy what you eat!  Don’t just eat for the sake of eating.  Instead, take your time to appreciate the aromas, the flavors, and the textures of what you put in your mouth.  Not only will your meals become part of your experience, your body will thank you.

Are you looking for recommendations for your next road trip?  Or maybe a customized day-by-day itinerary?  We’d love to help!

As always, thanks for reading!

Kristi, aka The Trippy Tripster!

About Author

Kristi enjoys traveling and taking road trips to fully experience life. She loves to find local eateries, off the beaten path hidden gems, and the secrets to enjoying the journey.

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(11) Comments

  1. Stephen

    The temptation to stock up on sweets and sugary snacks before a road trip is ridiculously high for me.

    Your post gives a variety of alternatives which I like. One that I try and avoid is going to chain restaurants, though. On a roadtrip I think it’s best to try the local delicacies 😀

    1. Trippy Tripster

      I agree wholeheartedly on avoiding chain restaurants!  But, I also know that in the middle of a long road trip, you may just opt for that as an easy option next door to your hotel.  And, that’s all fine!  Some people beat themselves up about it – to me, it’s just another aspect of a road trip.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Lyndsay

    Hi Kristi, great article! I enjoyed reading the best road trip food. The part about asking the locals where they like to go eat when someone else is buying. You will get different, better answers made me laugh out loud. That is too funny and something I never thought to ask but I can see the value in that and I’ll be taking that piece of advice with me.

    I like that you mention that fast food is an option as we don’t eat fast food in our daily lives, so when we do road trips. we often treat ourselves to a burger from somewhere. It’s all part of rewarding ourselves while on vacation.

    thanks for the post, enjoyed reading it!

    1. Trippy Tripster

      Hi Lyndsay!  Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!  I’m glad you found something valuable (and funny)!   I always figure there are no calories while on vacation!  Haha!  But, seriously, anything in moderation and treating yourself to foods and experiences you don’t normally get is all part of the fun!  Thanks for sharing your perspectives!

  3. Cassie Mac

    Ok so i love this! A lot of great tips and ideas that are essential for long roads ahead! Will definitely utilize these on future trips

  4. Deborah Hunter Kells

    What a well put together and great post. Thanks for all the information. Appreciated!

    1. Trippy Tripster

      Thanks! And Thanks for reading!

  5. Michelle

    This is great! It is a fantastic way to make healthier food choices on the road. I feel you often end up making poor choices because you wait to long to stop and then are too hungry!

    1. Trippy Tripster

      I agree! There are so many great restaurants with healthy choices and picking up healthy options at a grocery is easy too! Especially if you plan ahead!

  6. Peter Nyiri – FunnelXpert

    Wow, I actually never thought of taking snacks on a road trip, I always took sandwiches…
    But what you are writing makes total sense!

    1. Trippy Tripster

      Hey Peter! I can’t tell if you’re being sincere or sarcastic, but either way, thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

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