How to Plan a Food-Focused Road Trip

Avoid Those Regrettable Gas Station Snack Stops

picnic spread on paper and rocks

Jennifer Cole / Stocksy

With travel restrictions around the country still in place, it's clear that 2020 has become the year of the road trip. Choosing a route, mapping out points of interest, and discovering regions that you may not have otherwise considered are just a few of the perks of hitting the great wide open for a mobile escapade. For those who love to eat while traveling, road tripping provides a unique opportunity to get creative and proactive about your culinary adventure. You’ll also want to plan ahead wherever possible to achieve your desired outcome; this will not only prevent a case of getting “hangry,” but also those regrettable gas station stops for food. 

From what to pack to how to preserve it—and even get your best Michelin-starred interpretation together—here are all the items you’ll need for a food-focused road trip.

Get the Right Gear

Food prep before any road trip is key. Think about specific cravings you have and try to get those items before you depart. Portion your meals and snacks in separate reusable containers that are easy to grab. You’ll also need a good, insulated cooler to store your perishable items. 

Keep It Eco-Friendly 

Whether you’re behind the wheel or making a stop, when it’s time to eat, eco-friendly options are a great way to minimize trash and help the environment. Go for reusable silverware, water bottles, and containers, as well cloth napkins. Planning out your meals ahead of time will help prevent food waste. 

Bring Snacks That Last

With hours on the road and warmer summer temperatures, it’s important to have non-perishable snacks when the hunger pangs hit. Make sure to pack easy to hold, nutrient-rich options that won’t make you too sleepy on the road. Granola bars, trail mix, beef jerky, sliced veggies, and string cheese are great options. 

Make It Memorable

When you want the satisfaction of a flavorful meal, but also the ability to conserve space, finger foods are the way to go. Consider a variety of sandwiches, from chicken salad to brie and apple, or take it up a notch with empanadas.

Choose Finger Foods

Before you depart, do some research on any restaurant take-out options of your favorite cuisine along your route. Stopping at restaurants along the way is a great opportunity to support the industry during these times as well as satiate your own cravings. You’ll also be able to discover more regional specialties and local foods around your route. Feeling fancy? Create a picnic stop with your takeout options. Bring a colorful blanket or chairs, fancy cutlery, and a few candles to set the mood.

Go Local

One of the joys of road trips is all the local farmers markets and grocers you’ll pass. Fresh fruits and vegetables at roadsides will be fresh and in abundance, thanks to the summer months. If you want to do a little pre-planning, see which specialty grocers might make for an incredible food experience, such as specialty cheese stores and bakeries. Not only will you be supporting a local business (mask on, of course), you’ll also be able to make a delicious charcuterie board or dessert platter for an outdoor picnic.