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There are a few things that are a must-have for any road trip. A great destination, a carefully selected playlist, and some great road trip snacks. But what are the best road trip snacks? We did an informal survey. Are your favorites on the list? Check it out below.
For years, any time my family went on vacation, it was a road trip. Whether it be to Disneyland or another theme park in Southern California, a trip to one of our favorite Oregon destinations, or somewhere else in the mainland United States… we almost always drove.
And one thing we always do is pack some of our favorite road trip snacks,
Here are some tips for road trip snacks before we get into the results of our “Best Road Trip Snacks” poll.
Planning Your Road Trip Snacks
When planning snacks for a road trip, it is important to take a few things into consideration. You don’t want to just go out and buy everything on our list, and you also don’t want to take something that you end up having to throw out for some reason (we will cover those reasons in a bit).
Below are some things you should consider before stocking up on road trip snacks for your next vacation.
Where To Buy Road Trip Snacks
This seems silly to spend time thinking about, but you should. Are you going to buy all of your snacks beforehand at your local grocery store? Will you only buy snacks when you stop at a gas station?
There is no right or wrong way to purchase your snacks, but you will want to think about what makes it easier for you.
It also doesn’t have to be one or the other.
In my family we personally buy some snacks we will take with us at the grocery store, and then now and then, when we stop at a convenience store, we will let the kids pick out a treat or snack.
How Will You Store Your Snacks During Your Trip?
With this, we aren’t just talking about where will you put it in the car.
You need to think about if you will have a cooler that can fit your road trip food in it for items needed to be kept cool. How will you handle ice/cooling in the cooler?
Dry snacks like potato chips that can be squished and turned into crumbs need to have a way to be protected.
How will people share the snacks? Specifically, if you have little kids. Will you just hand them a large bag of chips? Buy individual serving sizes of chips?
Insider Tip: If you want the savings of buying a larger bag, but don’t want to pass it around the car, you can bring paper or plastic cups to put snacks in and hand to kiddos. Bonus if they also have a cup holder they can put it in.
I can’t mention the storing of the snacks without thinking of The Middle. If you haven’t seen the series, basically they have an infamous “blue snack bag” that they pack, but it always gets left behind, on top of the car and flies away, etc.
So make sure you put your snack bag on your road trip packing list so it doesn’t get forgotten.
How Will Snacks Play Into Your Meal Planning
Road trip snacks can be just extra fun to snack on, but some families may want to use road trip snacks as part of their meal planning.
An example might be that you know during your road trip, you will most likely stop at fast food places for meals, so you want to make sure you have some healthy snacks like fresh fruit or vegetables available.
Others, they may want to pack items that will make it so they don’t have to stop for meals at restaurants. In that case, you may want to pack sandwich fixings, protein bars, and maybe some string cheese.
How you plan to utilize snacks will play a big part in which snacks you choose. Either way, snacks are a must have for a long road trip.
Will Your Snacks Be Allowed?
This may seem silly, but depending on where you are heading (looking at you California) you may not be allowed to bring some of your snacks in.
The biggest example of this is that California has agricultural checkpoints as you enter the state. While sometimes you will be waved through, other times they may be limiting certain produce products due to disease, etc that they are trying to keep away from their own crops.
Just be aware that you may be required to fork over things like bananas, apples, grapes, oranges, carrots, etc. In this case, I think it is best to only pack what you know will be eaten before these checkpoints, and then purchase more in state.
2024’s Best Road Trip Snacks
Enough of the tips, right? You are just here to find some good road trip snacks.
Below we will cover some of the best road trip snacks based on a little bit of my research, polls I have done with my readers and social media followers, and my personal opinions.
It doesn't matter how old you get, buying snacks for a road trip should always look like an unsupervised 9-year-old was given $100.— bananafanafofisa (@lisaxy424) June 9, 2016
I think one of the best ways to break down this list is by the type of snacks. I won’t label any of the sections “healthy road trip snacks” because people’s idea of healthy foods is always different, but I will break them down by things like protein, fresh produce, salty snacks, etc
Best Road Trip Snacks – Protein Options
Here are the best protein snacks according to the sources I mentioned above.
I think when most people think of a protein snack on road trips, beef jerky comes to mind. This dried meat snack can be found in various sizes and flavors. From long sticks of beef jerky, to diced-up pieces, you can find an option that works for you.
One thing to think about with this snack though is the smell. Beef jerky has a strong odor, and some people (like me) who get motion sickness can find the smell triggering.
Beef jerky is also a great option if you plan on getting your snacks when you do a rest stop as most gas stations sell it. It is also available at grocery stores, but I think buying it at a gas station is part of the road trip experience.
Protein bars were mentioned a lot by my social media audience. My family doesn’t normally buy them, but we might need to for our next road trip.
Some of the brands that came up often included Clif, No Cow, Pure Protein and N!CK’S.
No I am not saying to bring a jar of peanut butter and have your kids eat it straight from the jar… oh the mess that would make.
There are a lot of great snack options that include peanut butter in them.
Ritz Peanut Butter Cracker Sandwiches are a perfect example. They even come in convenient snack size packaging. The only down side is they can leave a bit of crumbs, but we find that it isn’t bad.
This one came up a few times, and it is something my mother-in-law often likes to have for a long drive. Hard-boiled eggs are something you can prepare at home, but are also sold in the travel snacks section of many larger convenient stores.
Hard-boiled eggs usually have about 6 grams of protein, making them a great option for those looking for soemthing that is not peanut butter or beef jerky.
Best Salty Road Trip Snacks
A salty snack option is nearly a requirement for a family road trip. First, if someone starts feeling a little motion sick, a salty snack like a saltine cracker can help calm their stomach long enough for Dramamine to kick in. Plus, it can balance out some of the sweet items you might be eating in the car as well.
This one was such a debate on where to put it, but ultimately I figured the salty snacks was the best fit. Trail Mix can offer protein, a sweet treat (if you get the ones with candy in the mix), and of course… saltiness.
You can either make your own trail mix for the road, or you can purchase your favorite mixes at the store or gas station. Depending on what you include, trail mix can be a great source of protein in a small amount of food. If you want to add a little something for your sweet tooth, some dark chocolate chips or mixes containing M&M’s are a great option.
If you can find a variety pack at the store, with snack sized packaging, this is a great option.
Trail mix can come in packaging of all sizes to fit your needs, but definitely think about how you will serve it up.
My husband loves having sunflower seeds on long trips. We usually buy a few different flavors, mix them together and put them in a ziploc bag. We also bring a cup for the shells. The cup fits perfectly in the cup holder in the driver side door, so the rest of us don’t have to look at it, and it is easy to grab and dump at a rest stop trash can.
Of course, you can also find some that have already removed the shells but that is not my husband’s favorite.
Potato Chips or Corn Chips
When most people think about easy road trip snacks, chips come to mind. Chips are pretty much a road trip staple and are something the whole family can enjoy.
With chips, you can easily buy a big bag and share (using the cup idea or snack bags), or you can let everyone pick out individual-sized bags when you stop at the gas station to fill up the tank.
Yeah, some people would classify this as junk food, but chips are almost like a requirement for a long car ride.
If you choose to bring any cheese-flavored chips, like Dorito’s Nacho Cheese, Cheese Puffs, or Cheetos, you will want to make sure you bring wet wipes or something to clean off cheesy fingers. Especially with young children who will be touching everything from their car seats to the windows.
I would also put corn nuts in this category of our list.
Insider Tip: If you are eating lots of salty snacks, be sure you are also drinking plenty of water. Pack water bottles (refillable or otherwise) and make sure to drink. Sometimes we already drink less to hopefully lower bathroom stops, but you don’t want to start your vacation off dehydrated.
Best Road Trip Snacks – Fruits and Vegetables
So you want to make sure you get some fruits and veggies into your snack list. I think that is a good idea.
Stores have also come up with an easy way to encourage this by packing many items in snack-size containers. You can find everything from baby carrots to celery sticks, and grapes and apple slices, pre-packaged in snack-sized servings.
Of course, if you don’t like the store-bought kind of prepackaged produce, you can also bring your own. If you bring full apples, or other produce with parts you will need to discard, I highly suggest bringing a gallon size ziploc bag. You can easily put the core, etc in the bag and seal it so your car doesn’t start smelling like rotten produce.
Some of the top fruit and vegetable options that made the list are:
- Mandarin or Clementine Oranges
- Baby Carrots
- Dried fruits (apple, pineapple, mango)
- Watermelon (though this one can get very messy)
Best Road Trip Snacks for Young Kids
Planning road trip snacks for older kids and adults is one thing, but what should you bring for young kids?
As a note, it is important that parents know their own kids, and watch young children while they have snacks in the car. Especially toddlers that are still prone to choking. Our family would usually have an adult in back with them, or we would just eat at rest stops.
Whether it is a Go-Gurt style option, or you are using a spoon to feed them greek yogurt, this is a great option for kids. I definitely suggest this one be something they eat at a rest stop, and not in a moving car because if there is a spill… good luck cleaning that up.
Most kids love fruit snaxks, and they come in packaging that makes them great car snaxks. They are easy to travel with, and most kids love them.
No they aren’t what many would call healthy, but they are a great option for younger children.
When my kids were little, we often drove overnight to our destinations (especially Disneyland). Our kids would sometimes wake up well before we were near an area where we could stop to order breakfast at a restaurant.
Having granola bars on hand was a great option to hold them over until we could stop somewhere else.
Apple Chips and Veggie Straws
This is one we would give our kids when they wanted something like potato chips, but we wanted them to have something a little different.
I am not sure if they make these in snack-sized containers, as we always bought large bags and then broke them up into smaller pint-size bags.
If your kids enjoy these items, I definitely suggest bringing them.
Insider Tip: Have kids that like to be in charge of their car snacks? Try packaging the different items and placing everything in a plastic container (like those used for crafts). Kids can choose their own snacks through out the road trip. Parents can set rules for how often they will refill items, when they can choose a snack, etc.
Best Sweet Snacks For The Open Road
In general, I suggest avoiding candy bars and other sweets for a road trip. The sun beating through car windows can make them melt easily, causing quite a mess. If you do bring chocolate, be sure to have a cooler available to store it.
That said, there are some sweet treats that are fun snacks for road trips.
Licorice, Red Vines, Etc
I asked on my website’s Facebook page if it was just my mom that always had some sort of licorice or red vines on vacation. The overwhelming response was it was everyone’s mom. At least if you grew up in the 1980s or 1990s.
My mom always had the Red Vine style, and always brought both the original flavor and the chocolate or black licorice flavor (I don’t remember which it was exactly). It was definitely a road trip staple for her.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Another one that my family did a lot growing up, but I do not as a parent, is chocolate chip cookies.
I don’t know why we did this.
Every time we were preparing for a big road trip though, my family would bake up a large batch of chocolate chip cookies and pack them in a Tupperware container for the trip.
Insider Tip: Bringing baked goodies (whether cookies or bread for sandwiches)? Get one of the “Brown Sugar Softeners” and put it in the container with those items to help keep them soft.
While I said I don’t allow my kids to have candy bars as a road trip snack, it is something that is great to pick up once in a while at a convenience store.
If my kids are extra well-behaved, at the next stop I might let them grab a Snickers Bar, Milky Way, or another candy bar. They do have to eat it before we get going on the road, but it is a nice treat for them now and then on a trip.
Other Road Trip Snacks That Are Popular
There are so many options when it comes to road trip snacks that I don’t think I could name all of them if I tried. But the above are some of the most popular. If none of those items are what your taste buds are craving, here are some more of the best foods that came up a few times in my research.
- Tortilla chips
- Energy bars
- Fresh fruit from a roadside stand
- Crackers of all kinds
- Favorite sodas
- String cheese, cheese sticks
- Capri suns or other juice boxes
- Sports drinks
Did your family’s favorite snacks make the list? Let me know what your perfect snack for a road trip is in the comments.