11 Top Road Trip Lunch Ideas
Going on a road trip can be a thrilling adventure, but it can also be tiring and hungry work. And nothing ruins a good road trip like a growling stomach and no good food options in sight. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead and pack some delicious and satisfying meals for your journey.
In this blog post, we’ll explore a variety of road trip lunch ideas that will keep you fueled and ready to hit the road. Whether you’re looking for healthy options, indulgent treats, or on-the-go snacks, I’ve got you covered with tips and ideas to make your road trip lunches a success. So, buckle up and get ready to discover some tasty and easy road trip lunch ideas!
Healthy Road Trip Lunch Ideas
Let’s start out with some healthy road trip lunch ideas! These ideas will fill you up, keep your energy levels high, and keep your nutrition on track.
1. Mason jar salads
A mason jar salad is a portable and convenient meal that is prepared by layering salad ingredients in a glass jar. The base layer usually contains dressing or sauce, followed by vegetables, fruits, grains, and/or proteins. The final layer is typically leafy greens, which stay crisp and fresh thanks to the layering technique.
The jar is then tightly sealed and stored in a cooler for a few hours, making it a great option for a road trip lunch. When ready to eat, simply shake the jar to mix the ingredients and enjoy a delicious and healthy meal on the go!
Let everyone in your family create their own mason jar salad with the toppings they prefer, or just make a variety and let everyone pick when it’s time to eat.
Mason jar salads are one of the meals you should probably eat first as they will be the tastiest and freshest within a day or two of preparation.
I love to pack fun and interesting wraps and sandwiches for our road trips. We make a six-hour trek to Northern Michigan several times a year, and if we leave late in the day, I’ll typically make a stack of sandwiches to enjoy so we can get to our condo sooner.
Instead of the standard ham & swiss, get creative with different types of bread (Hawaiian rolls, baguettes, pita, flavored wraps, etc.), add a variety of meats and cheeses, lettuce, and some type of unique dressing (like a chipotle mayo or jalapeno mustard).
By having a bit of a gourmet sandwich it will feel like a treat to enjoy them on your road trip!
3. Veggie & hummus plates
If I have a little more time, I love to prepare elaborate charcuterie-type lunches, but for most trips I just cut up some cheese, meat, veggies, and fruit ahead of time, store them in individual containers, add a tub of hummus, some type of veggie dip, olives, and pita chips or other crackers, and voila! Lunch is served.
Even if you don’t want to go to that effort, just a simple meal of hummus and vegetables is filling, healthy, and delicious!
4. Fresh fruit & yogurt cups
Another super healthy and delicious road trip lunch is a fruit & yogurt cup. Add granola for staying power, and a variety of fresh berries to creamy Greek yogurt and you’ve got a delicious, healthy lunch!
Indulgent Road Trip Lunch Ideas
If you’re in the mood to indulge on your road trip, there’s no need to settle for subpar fast food. With a little bit of planning, you can enjoy some seriously delicious and decadent road trip lunches. I got REALLY good at creating delicious and indulgent day trip lunches during COVID as we were only eating outside when away from home (and enjoying picnics) for most of 2020.
These options may take a bit more effort to prepare, but the payoff is worth it when you’re enjoying a delicious meal with scenic views from your car window. So, treat yourself and add some indulgent options to your road trip lunch menu!
5. Gourmet sandwiches
Instead of your typical PB&J, why not spice things up a bit with a gourmet sandwich?
Use some really good bakery bread, quality meats, and cheeses, and add some veggies and special condiments like chipotle mayo or garlic aioli. YUM! If you really feel creative, make a variety of gourmet sandwiches and cut them into fourths so everyone can have a nice selection.
6. Homemade pizza
If you are a fan of cold pizza, then homemade pizza is an excellent road trip lunch idea!
Make a pizza the night before you leave and then slice it up (squares are easier to eat on the go), package it carefully (I put layers of wax paper between slices), and stick it in the cooler. You’ll be good to go by lunchtime.
And, since you are making your OWN pizza, you can add all the unique toppings you’d like – we always have banana peppers on ours.
7. Charcuterie boards
Take your cheese and crackers to the next level with an on-the-go charcuterie board. Package up a variety of cheeses, meats, olives, pickles, crackers, bread, fruit, and anything else you can think of into little containers.
When lunch rolls around, pull out all the containers, hand everyone a plate, and let them create their own fancy charcuterie lunch. This is probably my favorite travel lunch – everything is bite-sized and you can create so many interesting combinations with very little effort.
Anything left over is amazing in the evening at your hotel with a crisp glass of white wine.
On-the-Go Road Trip Lunch Ideas
When you’re on a road trip, sometimes you just need something quick and easy to keep you going between stops. That’s where on-the-go road trip lunch ideas come in handy.
8. Pre-packaged snacks
Often I am just too busy packing and getting ready for my trip to prepare food at home but I still want a quick, fairly healthy road trip lunch option. On these days, I like to stop at a grocery store (or even Starbucks) and pick up a pre-packaged snack tray.
Most grocery store delis carry a selection, as do most Starbucks, and YES, they are more expensive than one you can make yourself, but they are easy, quick, and still less expensive than stopping at a restaurant.
9. Fast food options
Although in general, I do try to avoid fast food while on the road, sometimes it’s the best (or only) choice. If I find myself in that situation, I’ll at least try to find a fresher version of fast food like a deli, sandwich shop, or counter-service Mexican.
If I AM going to indulge in a fast-food burger and fries, a fun option is to find a local rootbeer stand. You’ll spend a little more time on lunch, but have a unique experience so to me that’s a decent tradeoff!
10. Gas station finds
When I say gas station finds, I’m talking about what you can find in a “fancy” gas station – you know the ones you’ll often see on long road trips.
Typically, these types of gas stations will have packaged options as well as a counter service with freshly prepared food. It’s easy to grab a drink from the cooler, something for lunch, and even a snack or two for later in the afternoon.
11. Local food trucks/sandwich shops
My final suggestion is to search out a local food truck or sandwich shop. It will be quicker than a sit-down restaurant and can be a lot of fun! Make it part of your journey and enjoy getting outside of the car for a quick break.
I typically search for these places on Yelp, but you might get lucky and just see them as you are driving along your route.
Packing Tips for Road Trip Lunches
Packing for a road trip can be challenging, especially when it comes to keeping your food fresh and safe to eat.
Choose the right cooler
Choose a cooler that is the right size for your needs and make sure it’s well-insulated to keep your food cold. It’s also important to keep food safety in mind and avoid packing perishable foods that can spoil quickly
Containers, utensils, and napkins
Select containers that are leak-proof and durable, and pack utensils and napkins to make eating on the go easy and clean.
By following these packing tips, you can ensure that your road trip lunches are delicious, fresh, and safe to eat.
Use ice packs to keep things cold
I always use more ice packs than I think I’ll need to keep things cold – and put the items that will spoil quickly directly on them. Then I’ll pack Ziploc bags that I can fill with ice cubes later if the hotels we are staying at don’t have a freezer to re-freeze the ice packs.
FAQs: Road Trip Lunches
What should I pack for lunch on a road trip?
Any of the options listed above would be great, but if you just want a quick list, go for sandwiches, wraps, salads, charcuterie, pizza, or fruit & yogurt.
How do you pack sandwiches for a road trip?
The best option is hard plastic containers like these, but if you don’t have one, a Ziploc sandwich bag, or even wrapping your sandwich in waxed paper will do the trick.
Is it okay to eat food left in the car?
If you haven’t kept your food cold (and I highly recommend you invest in a good cooler so you don’t have to worry about this), the recommendation is not to eat food that has been in the car for over two hours, and one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees.
Personally, even for that time period, I wouldn’t risk dairy products – if they weren’t kept cold, I won’t eat them!
Conclusion: Road Trip Lunches
In conclusion, packing the right meals for your road trip can make all the difference in keeping you energized, satisfied, and ready for adventure. Whether you prefer healthy options, indulgent treats, or on-the-go snacks, there are plenty of road trip lunch ideas to choose from.
By following our packing tips and exploring our suggested menu items, you can enjoy delicious and convenient meals that will fuel your journey.
So, next time you hit the open road, be sure to plan ahead and pack some tasty road trip lunches to make your adventure a success.