I never thought I’d write a post about fast food. Especially not the best fast food for family travel. I’m sure I’ll take some flak for this in the comments.
Because can you really say “best fast food”?
And how do you even qualify best fast food? For FAMILIES?
I’ll qualify this in a moment. But first: a story.
When Rob and I had been dating a few months, I already knew I wanted to marry him. (Cue the awwwwwwws.) He wasn’t quite on board yet (cue the boooooooos), but he WAS game for a road trip from Texas to Virginia. We drove out to have Christmas with my family, stopping to see friends and fam along the way. That trip was about 24 hours total in the car (not including the stops). THEN we hopped in the car and drove straight from Virginia to Kansas for a family reunion and 12th Night celebration with HIS family. THAT trip was about 30 hours in the car with ONLY stops for gas and the bathroom.
That was the beginning of travel as a key to our relationship. We are GOOD at road tripping.
Then we had kids. And for the most part, our kids are great travelers. I’ve driven to Virginia from Texas (or back) with three out of five kids when they were babies. Every other year we travel to Gulf Shores with my parents, a seven or so hour drive. This has given us a LOT of familiarity with being on the go. We’ve got this thing DOWN.
Now that we have three pretty little littles, it’s harder. Piper is the wild card and so far only likes it if the car is MOVING. Which is…a challenge. So long road trips are on pause for now. Still—we are in the car a LOT.
All this time in the car has given me some great familiarity with fast food chains. And I’ve got a list for you of the best fast food for family travel, whether that’s just being on the go around town or on a long car trip.
What exactly is “best” fast food?
When choosing the “best” fast food, I’m voting mostly with my wallet (because four kids eating actual food plus two adults adds up, yo) with some nod (though barely) to health.
Keep in mind, there is only SO MUCH HEALTH IN FAST FOOD. It’s comparative. Okay? Okay. If you don’t ever eat fast food, this is not the post for you!
My goal in sharing this list is to help busy families on the go. If you HAVE to go with fast food, this will help you keep the kids happy, YOU happy, and not break the bank. Because let’s be honest: when you go to McDonald’s and get a meal that costs almost as much as one at a reasonable restaurant, SOMETHING IS WRONG.
My List of the Best Fast Food for Family Travel
This list is in no particular order. All prices are subject to change and location. If you want more details, Fast Food Menu Prices is a site with a lot of info!
One thing I love about Sonic is that I love an all-day breakfast. Plus: happy hour from 2-4pm most days with half-price slushes and drinks. You can also get special weekly deals via text when you sign up on Sonic’s Website or on your phone when you’re at Sonic.
I don’t know if these are a temporary or permanent addition to the menu, but they are a small sized and reasonably priced grilled sandwich. You can get either a grilled cheese, chicken strip sandwich, egg and bacon, sausage and egg, or mini hamburger. These sizes are great for kids and honestly are probably the correct portion size for a normal adult meal.
Breakfast Toaster – $2.89
I love this sandwich. With bacon, egg, and cheese, it’s a great meal. Even better if you order it on their whole wheat bun or ciabatta, which is a nudge better for you than the Texas toast. (Sorry, Texas. Your toast is awesome.)
Jr Breakfast Burrito – $1.19
You’re going to find that I’m a SUCKER for breakfast. At most restaurants, it’s cheaper than a grilled chicken, and often better for you than a hamburger or fried menu item. MOSTLY. This small burrito has eggs, a little bit of sausage, and cheese. It’s called a “junior,” but like many junior items, is probably the correct portion size for an adult. My kids also love it.
Apple Sauce or Apple Slices – $1.00
These aren’t at all locations, but you can often purchase these on the side menu or have them come with a kids’ menu. Just a nice snack alternative to something fried!
Can I be honest? For YEARS I would not set foot in a McDonald’s. Maybe because when I was growing up, that was about the only option and I burned out? I don’t know the exact reason, but a few menu items have warmed me back up. One being a drink.
Fruit & Yogurt Parfait – $1.00
My kids love this and it makes a better treat than ice cream. (Not in terms of sugars, but the fact that it does actually have real fruit. Again, “healthy.”) It’s a great price for a snack.
20 Nuggets – $5
This deal is great for my family, though my kids still scarf through it. In a pinch, this can cover a meal for the four kiddos at a good price.
Apple Slices – 2 bags for $1
Yep. Fruit. I love that fresh fruit is something you can actually BUY at a fast food place. Nevermind that it’s more than it would be at the grocery store. We are talking about convenience here. You can also buy clementine oranges!
Sausage McMuffin – $1.00-$1.29
I love these and so do all of my kids. They are inexpensive and have a good deal of protein. You can also take off the sausage. You’ll lose some of the protein, but it cuts calories in half and the fat more than in half.
Latte – $2.00 (special for a size small!)
I love lattes. When pregnant, for some reason I could not drink coffee without feeling nauseous, but I COULD drink lattes. The typical coffee joint is WAY too expensive for that habit, but lattes here are usually $1+ cheaper per size. If you don’t want added flavor (I like plain), you need to be super explicit in your instructions to add no sugar, no flavoring, add NOTHING. I love these!
I have a love affair with the onion rings here, but overall, don’t hit up Burger King as much as I did in high school, when it was THE hang out. (Until they kicked us out and we moved to the 7-11 parking lot.) There are several $1 sandwiches, none of which I really love. But hey—$1.
Chicken Nuggets – $1.49-4.99
Like McDonald’s, Burger King has a good deal on nuggets which, in my opinion, taste better. Price varies and not every location has this deal, but our stores have a 10 for $1.49, which beats out McDonald’s for price. This is about the only thing we really order right now at BK.
Can I just say how much I LOVE the Baconator fries??? I’ve been avoiding those, because they are neither super frugal OR in any way remotely healthy or even “healthy.” But they are really good. Just saying.
Chili – $1.00-2.00
I love the chili at Wendy’s. It’s a great grab and go with probably the best actual health you’ll find on a value list and on a fast food menu at all. Check out this screenshot for the small.
Spicy Nuggets – $.99
While not the price point of McDonald’s 20 piece or Burger King’s 10 piece deal here, I really love these.
Back in high school, Taco Bell ran a special program in my school for lunch. I remember paying under $1 for tacos and some amazing thing that’s no longer on the menu, but I still dream about. Since then, though, I’ve basically avoided Taco Bell. I mean…I live in Texas! Why would I eat Taco Bell? (Especially when there are Taco Cabana’s around??) But here are a few tasty & affordable choices that mean I sometimes stop here with the kiddos.
Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito – $1
This is a great option if you want protein, but want to avoid the fast food meats. It’s filling and it’s $1.
AM Grilled Tacos – $1
These’s aren’t my favorite breakfast, but they have eggs! And are $1! Simple and good.
Cheesy Roll-Up – $1
Another favorite of mine, plus a favorite of my kid who doesn’t like a lot of foods. It’s essentially melted cheese in a tortilla. Yum!
Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla – $1
I love these! Tiny, tasty, cheap. A little on the spicy side for my non-spicy kids. But overall, a hit.
There are PLENTY of other deals out there, but these are my personal favorites and the ones that work for our family. Do I think fast food is the best choice? Again, NO. But I hope these few choices come to mind the next time you are out and find that you need to feed yourself or a bunch of little people on a budget.
As far as other stops when we are road tripping…I think that’s a different post for a different day.
Do YOU have any fast food hacks or favorite fast food items for your family? What are your suggestions for the best fast food for family travel?