Road trip snacks are the most important things to pack for your next trip with kids. In many ways, they are more important than phone chargers, swim suits and hotel reservations. Seriously. They can make it break your trip!
Ever since our girls were teeny tiny, we packed them up for road trips. Our sojourns to Palm Springs each year are legendary (if only to us). The number one rule I’ve learned is this: You can never have too much food. NEVER.
If you have the time, pack a full meal for everyone (including adults) so you can be sure to have a healthy, satisfying meal on the road. This saves a ton of money too! For families with older kids, put them in charge. One less thing for you to do and one less thing for them to complain about. (Hopefully…)
Road trip snacks need to walk that difficult balance between being fun so the kids will eat them and being healthy to make sure kids still get the nutrients they need, even on vacation. If you have picky opinionated kids like mine, you have to get pretty savvy about what you pack. Don’t worry though, I am here to help!
On a recent road trip in Northern California, we drove from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mendocino in a sweet Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ. The ride was smooth, the truck was fully equipped with all the bells and whistle, and everyone was even happier because of the SNACKS.
Check out the road trip snacks I love for families, as well as some of my favorite tips to help you survive your next family road trip!
7 Road Trip Snacks and Tips for Families
1. Eat fresh food
The best road trip snacks are the ones your kids eat. This means don’t go crazy trying to introduce a kiwi and mango fruit salad if your kids haven’t been exposed to tropical fruit. Keep it simple. Whole fruit like apples and pears are great options. Wrap each one individually to keep it clean. Triton loves a fresh juicy orange to curb his snack attacks on the road. Berries are also a great choice. Just be sure to take the time to put them in individual containers, and not bags. No one is going to eat smushed blueberries. Skip bananas as they tend to brown quickly and get mushy. Also, grapes can be a choking hazard so if you have little ones, so save them for when you stop for a meal.
2. Stock up on squeezable snacks.
Especially for families with elementary school-aged kids or younger, squeezable apple sauce or yogurt packets are a fantastic invention. They aren’t messy…so yay for that. Even more important though, they are healthy, delicious and travel well. A new favorite of our road trip snacks are the protein-dense Slammers Snacks, which are like portable fruit smoothies without the spills.
3. Limit liquid to a juice box.
My favorite thing about juice boxes is that you can control how much liquid your child is taking in. Some kids have bladders that size of a pea and if you don’t want to pull over every 30 minutes, you probably don’t want to give them a giant water bottle or super-size fountain drink. Go for the 100% juice brands. (We liked Juicy Juice when the girls were younger.) Older kids can get the 6oz bottles if they balk at a juice box. Limiting liquids in the two or three hours preceding the trip also helps. We try to walk that fine line between making sure the kids don’t get dehydrated ,while also trying to reduce the potty breaks as much as possible.
4. Buy individually packed snacks.
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of pre-packaged, individual snacks like chips, crackers and cookies. However as road trip snacks go, these are some of the best. They are portioned out so no one complains about someone eating “ALL” of the chips and kids don’t go crazy munching all your food within the first hour. Have fun with it. Buy the treats your kids never get at home. Splurge on the variety pack of chips from Costco and let them check out new flavors. And get something you like too! I’ve always got a stock of energy bars and trail mix in the car for road trips.
5. Engage the help of older kids.
If you are so lucky to be traveling with more than one child, give the older ones some responsibility for helping the little ones. I find this knocks out two birds with one stone! Helping to entertain, open food packages, or find the lost iPhone charger are all things tweens and teens are good at. Giving older children responsibility can give them a sense of pride and accomplishment when you reach your destination. If that’s not enough, $5 goes a long way too…or so I’m told.
6. Prepare your road trip snacks the night before.
Do not wait until the last minute to put together your road trip snacks. When traveling with kids, there’s too many other things to think about when you’re packing up and trying to hit the road. If you’re making sandwiches, wrap them individually. Portion out cookies or other treats into containers for each child. For Sophia, that would be fish-shaped cheddar crackers, and spicy rolled tortilla chips for Ava. Freeze water bottles overnight and use them to keep a cooler cold. Take as much off your plate the night before the big road trip as you can. You’ll be glad you did!
7. Pack your patience.
Road trips are harder on the parents than they are on the kids. I mean, let’s face it – family travel can be stressful. Try to go into each trip with a good intention and concentrate on being patient with your kids, your partner (if you have one) and other drivers as well. Know ahead of time that you will probably run into traffic. You may have to stop twice in one hour because your 5-year-old swore she didn’t have to go at the first stop. You may drop a bottle of orange juice in your lap. Just take advice from Elsa and let it go. Concentrate on having fun and making memories instead!
The bottom line with road trip snacks is that you can never, ever have too many of them when you’re traveling with kids. Pack way more snacks than you think you’ll need. And if you have a tween or teen, double it.
Now go hit the road!