Good food should always be a priority on a family road trip but the budget should be too. These budget-friendly food tips for family road trips will help you enjoy good (and quality) food while you also stay on budget.
A top priority for any road trip should be good food. While you’re on the road there are so many opportunities to try new foods and restaurants and nothing completes a good road trip better than having some food experiences to talk about when you get home.
With many miles of travel and a few long-distance family road trips under our belt, we’ve learned a few tricks for making sure we enjoy a variety of food without breaking the bank or spending all our time in restaurants while on the road and I’m sharing them with you so you can enjoy good food too (even on a budget).
21 Budget-Friendly Food Tips for Family Road Trips
Pack snacks smartly!
- Shop for snack staples before you travel.
- Pack a wide variety of easy snacks – granola bars, fresh and dried fruit, seeds/nuts, veggies, popcorn, pretzels, and beef jerky all make great road trip snacks.
- These veggie wipes are my favorite to have on hand for washing produce along the road.
- You can also grab a quick snack when you make a coffee stop. Spend a little more on quality snacks (especially protein) to refuel your body.
Plan stops at grocery stores and pack easy breakfast, snack, and lunch food.
- You will save a fortune if you choose at least 1 meal a day to eat while you travel.
- You also are more likely to eat healthier when you eat on the go instead of swinging through a drive-thru for greasy fast food.
- Smart snacks can also double as lunch.
- Dry cereal, bread, peanut butter, and jelly are great staples to have on hand. (You never know when you’ll be in the middle of nowhere for hours either!)
- Pack condiments from home if you will have a way to keep them at the proper temp. We often load up the cooler with ice since we often camp.
Pack dishes and utensils.
- Pack containers with lids to double as food storage and salad dishes.
- Paper plates, bowls, napkins, and plasticware are necessities whether you are camping, staying in a hotel with no breakfast, or making lunch on the road.
Drink up, but drink right.
- Pack reusable water bottles.
- Pack juice boxes for special treats.
- You will save so much money by buying gallons of water instead when you can’t find a place to fill up. Many national parks have special water fill-up stations. If that isn’t an added bonus to get out and visit our parks, I don’t know what is.
- You can often get cheap or free cups of ice and/or water at gas stations. We pair bathroom breaks + water refill + fill the gas tank to save time AND money.
- Skip ordering drinks except on occasion. You will save so much simply by getting water with your meal. Plus, there are inevitably more bathroom stops when kids (and adults) fill up on other drinks.
Plan meals out.
- Book hotels that include breakfast. You’ll get tired of the waffles but I can almost guarantee your kids will not.
- Search for local restaurants that have great comments or are mentioned in online articles along the way. You often get a much better experience and meal when you skip the chain restaurants. You’re also likely to have more fun stories and memories.
- Skip the kids’ meals and order several meals to divide among everyone. We like to order an appetizer or 2 then split several meals so everyone can try a variety of dishes. Sometimes it doesn’t save money but it does give us a tasty experience. Be careful not to over order. We usually find 1 or 2 apps and 1 less meal than we have people is plenty. If not, it’s a great excuse to order dessert.
- Eat early. Hit lunch or early bird dinner specials plus miss the dinner rush.
- Look for restaurant deals (just check online reviews to make sure those discounts are for horrible food or service).
What’s your best budget-friendly food tip for a family road trip?