Healthy and fun ideas to enjoy while you’re on the move
Do kids seriously grow an extra stomach the second your car’s wheels hit the tarmac?
At home or in a child’s usual routine, it’s much easier to have structured meal times and deny the repeated whining for a snack. However, when you’re in a confined space and hurtling along at 65 miles an hour trying to keep to a schedule… you want to be prepared!
Our Top 5 Tips for Packing Road Trip Snacks for Kids
- Eat Well! Keep the snacks as healthy as possible; Your aim with a car trip snack is to satisfy bellies until the next proper meal stop. If you give kids highly sugared snacks, they will likely have their energy peak while strapped into the car. Aim for foods that give longer-lasting energy and save sweets for special treats.
- Portion Control. Keep the number of snacks you give kids in one go contained. If they open up a delightful big bento box of treats all in one, go you’ll find everything’s gone before lunch, they don’t eat lunch, then they whine all afternoon for something more!
- Fresh or Packaged? Think practically about what will keep and what prep tools you will have when traveling. A weekend away, you can certainly bake up a storm and have lots of fresh homemade goodies to go. However, a multi-day road trip without a fridge or stove can limit your options.
- Provide Choices. Yep, that same kid that ate 4 rice cakes yesterday can’t stand them today. We all have our moods and moments, so it’s wise to have a range of options in your goodies bag each day.
- Bin it or wash it? It’s essential to have a cleanup process in place on a long trip. If food comes in disposable wrappers, have a trash bag system. Containers to wash? You’ll need a separate spot for empty containers, so they don’t leak and mess through the rest of your supplies, as well as a few small washing tools with you.
After countless hours on the road with our kids, here are the finger food snacks that we’ve found work best for a family road trip.
Top 40 Road Trip Travel Snacks For Kids
Our favorite make-ahead road trip snack is to prepare our own trail mix. What you fit in is totally up to you but could include various nuts, raisins, and other dried fruits, seeds, and grains and even throw in a few extras like desiccated coconut or choc chips.
Make them up into portion-sized treat bags and share them out as you go. You can also find some fun and interesting packet trail mixes too.
Plain, buttered, salty, caramel, sugared – however you like it, the base ingredient here is pretty simple! Popcorn is a super easy snack to pop in your motel microwave at the start of the day, then loads of munching fun whenever your kids start to feel famished.
Packed with nutrients and delivering a satisfying crunch, mix and match to your kids’ taste for a colorful rainbow treat in the car. Try cucumber spears, sliced peppers, celery sticks, and carrots (just remember you’ll need to pack a sharp travel knife if you’re preparing snack boxes on the move).
You can add a dip with veggie sticks too to make them more interesting, but be warned this does increase your chances of sloppy spillages!
These sweet little treats are the perfect healthy road trip snack, on their own or in a snacking box. Slice them in half so there’s no choking hazard.
Fresh Cut Fruit
Fresh fruits are arguably one of the best natural sweet treats you can give kids. Understandably, though, in a car, chopping an apple, peeling a banana, or dissecting an orange isn’t always so easy. If you’re going with fresh fruits, try and chop ahead and avoid overly juicy chunks. (Looking at you, sorry, watermelon!) Including a little spork is helpful.
Raisins & Craisins
Another super easy win for the road. Raisins and Craisins (dried cranberries) can be purchased in small individual packets, but the cost does significantly add up. If you can buy a bulk pack for mixing with your trail mix or dividing them into their own containers you’ll save a lot.
A super simple snack for when you’re on the move (and especially good for when you’re making an early morning start). Honey Nut Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Frosted Flakes, and Corn Pops all make great finger food snacks for the car that can be consumed without milk.
Bake granola bars yourself ahead of time or store-bought (but do check how much added sugar is going in). These are a wonderful, chewy energy treat packed with goodness to fill grumbly bellies on the road.
Rather than traditional highly salted potato crisps, introduce your kids early to the fun flavors of veggie straws! Although not AS nutritious as fresh veg, they have way less sodium and more fiber than potato chips, and are a lot more colorful!
Squeezable Yogurt Tube
I can’t believe after how many post-road trip car cleans I’m still going to recommend these – but they are a great fun travel snack! Keep your yogurt tubes chilled, and if you can, freeze them overnight for a special icy treat in summer! Be ready with the Kleenex though…
I don’t love how processed and packaged these are, but they definitely DO keep little hands busy on the road. Packed with calcium and protein, cheese strings are a fun little snack and so easy to add to a snack box.
Make your own or pre-packed and store-bought? However you like your jerky this is a great protein-filled and flavorsome special treat, finger-sized pieces make them ideal for the car.
Whatever shape or size you prefer your pretzel in, these are a great salted snack ideal for snack boxes.
A family pack to share, in a bento box, or an individual snack size – nuts are a GREAT energy-rich snack for kids. Look for mixed nuts, peanuts, and almonds – just check how much added salt (Always check there are no nut allergies before traveling!)
High in iron and protein and packed with fiber! You can buy these pre-packaged or as a fresh treat. Parents looking for a healthy road trip snack, here is your solution!
Naturally bursting with sweet goodness, we love sharing a bag of dried fruits. In moderation, of course, as too many can upset bellies. Try a huge variety of fruits including apricots, mango, apple, peach, pear, pineapple, and paw paw.
Cute and fun little crackers in the shape of your kids’ favorite animals, need we say more! Have fun lucky dipping and swapping and trading, they may even eat them too!
A wonderful crispy treat for kids that’s light on the calories. Long gone are the days where these were a horribly boring snack for dieters, rice cakes come in many varieties packed with flavor – though be warned, these ones can leave the car in a bit of a crumbly mess in their car seats!
These small, round crackers are harder than rice cakes but deliver a lovely crispy, salty treat. You can get rice crackers or rice thins in a variety of flavors to make them a little more interesting, or if you trust the kids with a dip in the car they are the perfect dipping cracker.
The perfect finger-sized salty treat for the car, Goldfish are ideal for mixed trays or just eat your favorite flavor all on its own! Watch the sodium levels though, the more kids eat, the more they then drink!
If you’re going for a salty pre-packaged snack, then Chex Mix really hits the spot with kids. They come in salty, sweet, and savory flavors and a variety of different shapes including pretzels and mini bread sticks.
Peanut Butter Sandwich
Keeping it super simple, a swipe of peanut butter between two slices of bread can be the perfect filling energy snack between meals. The only question is, crusts on or off?
Good for the start of your trip, where you can freshly boil eggs. We pre-peel them too to prevent too much mess in the car. Eat them on their own or with some crackers, the perfect protein hit.
A lovely homemade treat you can prepare in advance with the kids. Naturally sweetened with honey, these pack a powerful pick-me-up. And when the kids have helped make them, they’re more inclined to try their own creations!
These chewy little meat treats are an absolutely super filler snack. Keep them in their wrapper until they’re ready to eat though, they do omit a rather strong smell!
Rolled Sandwich Meats
You don’t have to eat sandwich meat in a sandwich! Cos, you know bread is fine, meat is fine, but together?! They are a great quick and easy treat and keep well in the car with some cooling. We look for multi-packs in the supermarket with different types of ham and turkey.
The convenience of the cylindrical container releasing one chip at a time makes these the road trip crisp of choice around the world! Far fewer crumbs to deal with than regular bags of chips and as they say, once you pop, you can’t stop!
A simple and filling treat. If your tot prefers a little more flavor you can add some cream cheese and jelly or whatever their favorite filling is.
Don’t think these are just for babies! Well, into our toddler and preschooler years food pouches were one of the most convenient and easy-to-grab meals on the go for our kids. The fact they can suck on them straight from the packet tends to minimize mess, and unlike fresh fruit, refrigeration is not essential.
Some Slightly Sweeter Road Trip Treats
These all make great road trip snacks but are higher in sugar. Include them in your snack arsenal in moderation.
Fruit Roll-ups / Fruit Leather
If you’re looking for pre-packaged snacks that are easy to grab and pack, these are a sure-fire winner. They are exceptionally sweet (why most kids love them!) so in moderation but they’ll keep kids busy sucking and chewing (pack wipes for after!)
Another great option when kids are craving something crispy but you’re trying your best to keep it healthy. So many delicious flavors to try – think apples, bananas, peach, and strawberry. Warning though – even when packaging marks them as 100% fruit – they are still super packed with natural sugars so in moderation.
A few mini choc-chip cookies or Oreos can’t hurt as a sweet addition to their snack pack.
Sweet crackers in the shape of a teddy bear. Clearly, very, very different to animal crackers (when you’re under the age of about 6!) You just gotta judge what sort of cracker fan you have on your hands!
Another that fits within the dry cereal category but a little more sugary so we’re including them separately down here in sweet treats! You’ll still get the carbs and protein kids need though with the wholegrain base.
A great make at home treat if you can, as they can freeze until you need them ready for your trip! Otherwise, we won’t judge if you go the store-bought option. A sweet treat but packed with fiber.
Yogurt Covered Raisins
These can be a little messier and a little sweeter than raisins just on their own, but oh so delicious! A much better alternative than actual sweets or chocolate covered fruits.
Our special reward of choice! Mentos take a little longer to suck and chew on than other sweets, so we feel like we get the best bang for buck from this sweet treat. They are also a great sweet for airplanes when you need kids to suck for take-off and descent. Obviously, reserve these for your older kids as they can be a choking hazard for your under 3’s.
And don’t forget drinks!
The need to stay hydrated whilst on the road is crucial, but obviously needs to be balanced with the subsequent need to pee! Make sure every person in the car has their own water bottle, and save fruit juices and sodas for special treats only.
How to Transport and Distribute Your Road Trip Snacks
Shared containers or one each?
I personally hate having too many boxes to clean each night when we get to our destination. However, with such individual tastes – plus fussy ones who will simply cry if the meat has been placed in the same container as their fruit – I have taken to providing kids with an individual box each or separate zip lock bags of dry snacks.
We try to give these out at set times, then collect them back in once they’ve had a few bites, so they don’t eat everything all at once, and we have a few things left for the next driving stint.
We also keep a bag of packaged snacks they can pick and mix from once they’ve had something from their “healthy box”. Even if they’re still healthy, anything with the shiny wrappers seems to be viewed as a special treat!
Others prefer to go bento box style lunch boxes which offer a variety of choices in one tray which can then be shared around. Our experience has been these have a higher probability of spillage occurring. Nonetheless, they make for simpler packing and cleaning and give everyone a wide variety of choices.
Little hands need special containers
When it is safe to start giving your toddler unsupervised snacks in the back, be conscious they will, of course, try and tip it out! We highly recommend if you’re giving dry cereals and crackers to use a cup with a spill-proof lid.
And of course – wet wipes! Always have wipes to hand for before and after handing out snacks to little ones, along with a good spritz of hand sanitizer.
The emergency snack
No matter how you store and hand things out, ALWAYS keep at least one emergency snack packed away! Especially if you get stuck in traffic or delayed in your final arrival for the day, this might be just the trick to get you over the line without a total backseat meltdown.
Keeping it cool
If you have perishable items such as fresh-cut fruit and veg, you’ll want to transport them in a suitable car cooler to keep them fresh for as long as possible. You will need to keep up with remembering to freeze ice packs in your motel fridge each night to keep things fresh for the following day.
What Else Do You Need On A Road Trip?
So now you’ve got your snacks sorted – arguably the most important element! What else will you need to keep your kids comfy and entertained on the move?
Pop over to our Road Trip Essentials Checklist to grab all the ideas for preparing your car and your family for a long trip.
© Family Road Trip