Author: Ashley Wentworth
So in all honesty, that title basically reads “my favorite road trip snacks.” If you’re headed out on the road with the family or friends, car snacks are a must! Read on to find out my secrets to staying satisfied and avoiding hangry meltdowns when you’re away from home.
Whenever I leave the house, I bring snacks! If I’m only going to be gone a short time I’ll just take a granola bar. But if I’m going to be gone for a few hours, or going on a day trip or a long vacation, you best believe we’re loaded to the hilt with snacks—or even small meals.
Funny story: I once got my carry-on bag searched at security at an airport because of all of my snacks—a lot of them had twist ties that must have looked suspicious in the x-ray machine. My bag was literally filled with food and a few books.
You can still have balanced meals and snacks but, in my opinion, road trips and vacations are not the time to obsess over healthy food choices—it’s a time to enjoy with your friends or family, be in the moment, and make memories. Choose foods that help give you energy for your trip and let you have fun, too.
Bringing foods from home can also save you time and money (um, yes, please!). Planning ahead will help you avoid stopping sixteen thousand times at convenience stores or fast food restaurants because you’re all hungry at different times or can’t find what you want.
Logistical snack secrets
Here are my logistical snack secrets for your family’s next road trip.
We always go to the grocery store a day or two before we’re heading out with a list of snack items we want to bring. Having a plan helps us avoid forgetting someone’s favorite snack—and the impending meltdown.
Bring things you know most everyone in the car will like. It’s great to bring healthy foods like fruits and vegetables—as long as they won’t go to waste. Packing foods you hope your family will eat—but know they probably won’t—just presents you with wasted space, food, and irritable people on your hands (no thanks!). So, if your family doesn’t usually enjoy grapes (or whatever) then, don’t bring grapes on your road trip.
Stick with What You Know
Road trips are not usually the best time to try new, healthy recipes or foods (hello, upset tummies—and frequent, inconvenient bathroom breaks). Bring your tried and true snacks and foods. You can always try new things on the road if you feel like it, just go easy to avoid “vacation belly.”
Bring a variety of items. Include things from all food groups to keep people satisfied, including sweet treats. I never go on a road trip without chocolate of some type (Mom Tip: Keep the chocolate in a container that will catch any melted chocolate if it gets left in a hot car!).
By bringing a variety of foods, it also allows you to make small meals out of snack foods so you don’t have to stop as often to find somewhere to eat.
Bring a cooler for things that need to stay chilled and bring a separate bag of shelf-stable items. We always take both! Letting things that need to be refrigerated stay at car temperature usually makes things not as tasty and can be dangerous—and another cause for upset tummies. Putting shelf-stable things in the cooler can cause them to be damp or get stale. I know it seems like a lot of space for food, but trust me on this one.
I like to use freezer packs instead of ice in our coolers when possible. They are so much easier to deal with than having to worry about stopping for ice all the time and it keeps things clean and dry. If you don’t have a way to re-freeze the packs though, by all means stay safe and use ice.
Don’t forget your fluids! Pack plenty of water to avoid paying for overpriced bottled water at convenience stores. If you’ll be away overnight or longer, a 5 gallon water jug with a pump is a total life-saver. Plus, you’ll avoid all the space and waste of plastic water bottles. If it will be hot, consider using sports or electrolyte drinks to help with electrolyte replacement. Using electrolyte powders can help save on cargo room.
Think Outside the Box
Just because foods you like aren’t considered “snack” food or road-worthy, doesn’t mean you can’t bring them! You could easily figure out a way to make oatmeal (thermoses are great!) or bring a bowl for cereal if those are things you enjoy.
Also, don’t forget a trash bag of some sort for all the inevitable wrappers—they hopefully won’t get stuffed between the seats this way!
Another tip—bring baby wipes, wet wipes, or something to clean off sticky fingers!
Bring On the Snack Ideas
Here are a few of my family’s favorite road-trip snacks to give you some ideas of what can be packed.
- Cheese: string, sliced, cubed, etc.
- Pretzels, chips, tortilla chips, crackers, etc.
- Dry cereal
- Peanut butter crackers
- Pre-popped popcorn
- Granola bars, protein bars, etc.
- Trail or snack mixes
- Nut butters
- Hummus or other dips
- Fruit: fresh, canned, freeze-dried, and/or dried
- Sliced veggies
- Hard boiled eggs
- Cottage cheese
- Bread and things to make sandwiches like deli meats or nut butter and jelly
- Meat jerky
- Chocolate and other treats you and your family enjoy. Choose packages that are individually wrapped or small portions to make them last longer.
- Chocolate covered nuts and pretzels are some of my favorites
There are no rules! Bring whatever you like. Make sandwiches ahead, make pasta salads, etc. Choose what fits your likes, wants, and needs. Snacks are one of the best parts of a road trip—have fun with them!