September 1, 2014

Fun Picnic Lunch Ideas for Travelers

We all know that developing a list of fun picnic lunch ideas is the key to using this travel food strategy to save money on the road. The problem is it can be difficult to come up with a list of picnic or tailgating menus that will be suitable for any given situation. Varying grocery store access, international food availability and the walking distance of stores when you are traveling on foot are just some of the factors. Here are some fun picnic lunch ideas that vacationers can use in a number of locations and situations.

Get it to go.

If you’re really limited with what you can find and would still like to pull off a picnic lunch as a way to enjoy one of the world’s great piazzas or national parks, don’t underestimate the power of takeout. It might not be as inexpensive as cooking at home from scratch, but it will still be cheaper than a restaurant meal. My husband and I have purchased Subway sandwiches to go in order to make the most of pet-friendly rest areas further down the highway, and grabbed deli takeout while blogging at an outdoor public Wi Fi area during a temporary displacement after a flood. The point is, it doesn’t always have to be an elaborate picnic to be successful.

Incorporate a grill.

Whether you are cooking from a teardrop trailer or whipping up hot, fresh picnic food from the tailgate of your truck, barbecuing at least part of your picnic definitely takes it to the next level. This makes grilling gifts a great idea for the fellow travelers in your life or as a family gift for yourselves if you are the type of couple to take frequent road trips. Need some ideas? Shrimp kabobs, skewered mushrooms and even hot dog buffets can all be accomplished affordably by bringing along a small cooler. If you don’t want to lug a grill, you can always reserve a picnic pavilion at your favorite state park or public beach. This keeps family reunions fuss free and makes for extremely affordable beach travel.

Choose a lovely location.

In order for you to feel like you are having a more phenomenal experience while still choosing a frugal meal option, it helps if the location is spectacular. For example, on our last day in Petra, we wanted to simply enjoy the scenery and reflect upon our time there. Since there are no restaurants within the massive archaeological site, a picnic was the only solution. We packed wine, dates, pita bread, fruit and eggplant dip inside our backpacks and hiked up to a great lookout point where we spent the entire afternoon. Similarly, we lounged on the grass and enjoyed a leisurely lunch on world-famous piazza in Pisa when we lived in Italy. The buildings are exquisite and people travel from all over the world to see this multi-building attraction made famous by the leaning tower. It only makes sense to spend some time enjoying the view if you can. Other fun picnic spots around the world include beach-side Tel Aviv, the Washington Mall and Shenandoah National Park.

Be flexible with your ingredients and menu plan.

If you’re in Hindu India, chances are finding a rotisserie chicken might be difficult. Go with what’s available. If you’ve just gotten off the train in Paris, a baguette or a slice of quiche with individually-bottled wine are likely two of your best picnic lunch ideas. Find yourself in Florence? A panini with a cappuccino and biscotti go might be a better bet. Then again, there’s always the wine, cheese, fruit and bread plan.

BYO picnic gear.

If you spend any amount of time on the road as a budget traveler, you’ll come to realize that having a few critical pieces of gear is a good idea. Corkscrews, Leatherman tools, travel silverware and collapsible bowls along with a bandana to serve as both napkin and miniature picnic cloth are part of my personal repertoire. So are reusable chopsticks and a stainless steel water bottle.

Regardless of where you are in the world, it’s possible to pull off a penny-pinching picnic lunch with style. What are your favorite picnic lunch ideas? Do you pack your own from home or pick up supplies from the road?

Photo Credit: Neils Photography