My Favorite Frugal Travel Tip {Ever.}

There are lots of ways to save on vacation, but I'm taking a break for a picnic lunch at a rest area and skipping the drive thru is probably my favorite!


I asked my kids if they'd rather pack a lunch (including Cheetos ~ we never buy those!) or make a quick drive thru McDonald's, and  they all agreed rest area lunches are one of their favorite road trip stops. Love, love, love saving $25-$30 at the drive thru at each meal, and giving them time to stretch their legs a bit!


We also found this great trail at the first rest area we stopped at this morning ~ fun! Maybe someone needs to start a blog highlighting all the best rest areas in the country . . . the ones we visited would all make the list. 😉


Note: do watch where you picnic at (most rest areas have lots of picnic benches) to make sure they're not too close to the road if you have young children. Cars fly through those rest areas, and if you have very young children (and even kids my children's ages), you'll want to make sure to find a spot further away from traffic!


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  1. Novella Robinson-Parsons says

    That looks so nice–where is this located?

  2. Kathleen Hisel says

    What kinds of meals do you have? Sandwiches? Other? My husband remembers his childhood days when they would stop at parks/rest areas, bring a hibatchi and grill up something. That sounds complicated to me. So what kinds of meals do you have?

    • We keep it simple (really simple!) Peanut Butter and Jelly, chips, apples and carrots, but I usually try to bake homemade cookies or have a special treat. (This trip I ran out of time for homemade cookies so my husband picked some up at Sam’s Club ~ they weren’t as good as mine though so I’ll bake next trip!) The great thing about PB&J is that it will last throughout the trip, so anytime we want to save money (as long as we grab a loaf of bread), we can eat pretty inexpensively, and my family is all okay with basic sandwiches.

      We also sometimes do turkey or ham sandwiches, and a reader shared with me yesterday that she cooks a ham early in the week for dinner and has potato salad, then just packs up the ham and potato salad for the trip (I loved that idea!) We also made sausage & cheese biscuits at home for breakfast – just had dinner for breakfast last night and I made extras so we’d have enough for the road today. I definitely don’t do anything fancy (no grilling, although that’s great if you’re up for it!), but my kids aren’t usually up for fancy.

      (My husband teased that since we have an adaptor in our card we could plug in the crockpot and have her cook while we drove, but even I’m not up for that one….) 😉

  3. Bridgette Murphy says

    Safe travels!

  4. Love the pictures and the smiling faces!! Looks like you all are having a blast! Safe travels!!

  5. My sisters and i went on road trips with my grandparents every summer growing up, and we always just at lunch at rest stops… My grandparents usually brought those little cans of Vienna sausages, a block of cheddar cheese, grapes, apples, and saltine crackers… Super easy to eat, filling, and a “treat” because we never ate Vienna sausages at home. Our dessert would be Nilla wafers with peanut butter… Ate just like nutter butter cookies!

    • Love that Jessica! Bringing those special foods (not expensive, just something different that we don’t usually have at home!) always seems to make it so much more fun…love that your fmaily enjoyed it too!

  6. We do Alot of camping! When we stop just to have food I found a small camping stove is perfect to make something simple like Mac and cheese or our quick homemade chili! When we opt to not have sandwiches that is.

  7. When we travel long distances as a family, we pull off the road about 30 minutes before meal-time, take out a package of foil-wrapped hot dogs from the cooler, pop the hood on our van, and place the package of hot dogs on the engine or manifold (know your car — put it where it won’t cause car trouble, but where it still gets heated). Then we close the hood and get back on the road. 30 minutes later, we stop for a picnic lunch of HOT dogs and sides. We don’t do this for all our meals, but the hot dogs are a nice beak from pb&j or cold sandwiches, and are cheaper than fast-food (and there’s virtually no prep work involved). Also, most rest stops or public parks have ample room for the kids to run around and burn off all their pent-up energy…

  8. We used to do this a lot when we were kids and traveling. Now, we fly for most of our trips. We pack a lunch for the plane. We try to include nutritious foods that we don’t get at home. We write each other notes that we put inside each person’s lunch bag too.

  9. We’ve always done this on road trips. Our latest road trip picnic lunch was at a stop at Niagara Falls. Our second favorite Penny Pincher road meal is eating at Costco since I always look to see if a Costco is close enough to our travel route to make a gas stop. Then we’ll fill up our tank and stomachs all at one time. Sam’s Club works too, but the food isn’t as good in my family’s opinion.

  10. Your post brought up so many memories. Both of my parents worked and when we were able to take a vaca we always, always ate 2 meals in the car or in our room and 1 meal “out.” My Mom is a wonderful cook and she became an expert on meals in the car or a room. She makes anything in a tortilla and calls them rollups. My brothers would get it burrito style with meat and beans and mine would be chicken salad made with fruit and nuts. She would buy a package of honey buns to have for breakfast, these were special because we never got anything that sweet for breakfast, and she would throw them up on the dash to heat in the sun. She continued the tradition with all of our kids, her grandkids, and they think Nannie is the best cook in the world! Thank you for all of the memories!

    • I love that Terri – goodness, what special memories! Thank you so much for sharing, I love that and you made my day. Precious!

  11. My mom always fried chicken before heading out after my dad got home from work. We would eat it at room temp in the car with sliced sandwich bread as our side. Simple, filling and filled with memories! I would love to eat her fried chicken one more time…

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