Getting ready for your next road trip and feeling overwhelmed with road trip food ideas?
When the holidays have you on the road and on the run, nourishing yourself and your family can sometimes get left behind, Kevin McAllister style. We understand how stressful it can be to add “prepare road trip snacks” to your already long to-do list. That’s why we’ve come up with some easy tips and tricks for how to keep everyone’s tummies full and satisfied on the road, no matter where your holiday travels take you this year. Just try not to leave the cooler ‘Home Alone.’
Here are some of our favorite road trip food ideas:
Tips for packing a road trip snack cooler
Packing a cooler full of road trip snacks may be a more convenient and time efficient way to stay fueled on the road than making several stops along the way. It also gives you the freedom and flexibility to pack items you know your family will love, instead of hoping you’ll find something at the next pit stop.
- Set a reminder on your Siri or Alexa to put plenty of ice packs in the freezer the night before.
- Pack beverages like water bottles and juice boxes at the bottom of the cooler so they don’t crush other items. Freeze a few to serve as extra ice packs (these will stay extra cold for hours down the road).
- Food items should already be chilled when placed in the cooler so they don’t warm other items up unnecessarily.
- Pack the cooler as full as possible to eliminate warm air pockets. This means using the smallest possible cooler that will fit all your items.
- Keep out! Open the cooler as infrequently as possible to keep cold air in. This might mean keeping the cooler out of reach of tiny hands in the backseat.
- Eat the most perishable items first like fresh fruit or dairy and save shelf stable items like trail mix and crackers for later.
Convenience road trip snacks
The trick to choosing filling and satisfying snacks is to look for items that contain a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. For example, apple slices can be more filling when smeared in peanut butter, pretzels more satisfying when dipped in hummus. Not sure what to bring along that will be both convenient and nourishing? Don’t be afraid to pick up these ready-made items before you go. Many of these items can also be found at convenience stores along the way, like WaWa and Sheetz. While this list includes several name-brand items (not sponsored), it’s ok to opt for store-brand alternatives too.
- Sargento Balanced Breaks*
- P3 Protein Packs*
- Siggi’s Yogurt
- Chobani Flips
- Breakstone’s Cottage Cheese topped with Del Monte mixed fruit cup packed in water*
- Crunchmaster Crackers* and Mozzarella Cheese Stick
- Sabra-To-Go Hummus* and Pretzels
- Kind Bars*
- Justin’s Nut Butter packets* and apples slices or bananas
- Starkist tuna pouches* and whole wheat crackers
- Trail mix packs
- Vegetable and dip cups
Preparing your own snacks in advance
Sometimes we have time to prepare our own snacks at home in advance of long trips. It can be more cost effective to purchase items like crackers, nuts and dried fruit in bulk and portion into baggies or containers for the road. Remember to pack items that, when paired together, create a balance of nutrients for maximum satisfaction, like nuts and fruit, crackers and cheese slices. You could also make snacks from scratch like granola bars, crunchy chickpeas, copycat Perfect bars, or a custom seasoned nut mix. At RBA, we also love a good energy bite. Energy bites are nutrient-dense, kid-friendly snacks that pack well in tupperware for your trip. Try some of these recipes to get your creative juices flowing, then don’t be afraid to roll up some energizing bite-sized combos of your own!
Preparing for overnight stays
Long trips may have you stopping overnight at a hotel. If you’re concerned that food options will be limited or have picky eaters for whom food may be tricky, you may find it more convenient or comforting to pack a few meals in your cooler as well. Packing homemade meals is an option if you have time to prepare before you leave. Packing convenience items is another equally acceptable option if that’s what your schedule allows. Many hotels have microwaves for heating frozen entrees in common areas if they are not included in the room. Consider these for both dinner and breakfast the following day:
- Amy’s frozen meals
- Trader Joe’s frozen meals
- Wegman’s Pre Packaged meals (found in the prepared section)
- Pre-portioned salad kits
- Oatmeal packets or cups
- Kodiak Cakes Flapjack cups*
- Hard boiled eggs or Peckish peck packs
- Jimmy Dean Delight breakfast sandwiches
- Just Crack An Egg cups (requires a raw egg, so pack carefully!)
Nourishment on the road– it’s ok if it’s not perfect!
Kristin Jenkins, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Kristin specializes in eating disorders and intuitive eating, and is an advocate for weight-inclusive care for all her clients.