These 15 Road Trip Snacks Make It All About the Journey


As children of the '60s, my husband and I spent a lot of time in hot station wagons on car trips. Stopping for gas meant gas only, not junk food, and a trip to the bathroom. Eating out was rarely an option. Instead, we were fed car snacks, and occasionally had a picnic lunch. To this day, on even short trips, my husband and I pack food for the road.

My mother elevated road trip food to an art form, using a special picnic basket, and whipping up special foods we didn't usually just have around the house. My dad would find nice spots to stop and picnic so the trip was broken up into pleasant outings.

You'll want to pack small ice chests with blue ice blocks to store water, other beverages, any perishable snacks, and wet washcloths, packed in a sandwich bag (nice for cooling off or a good wiping down). Stay away from greasy or oily foods, which are not only messy, but may upset stomachs. Also, avoid foods and drinks that stain if spilled.

Here are 15 delicious, frugal road trip snacks to keep you going.

See also: 7 Travel Hacks for an Affordable Summer Road Trip

1. Homemade Trail Mix

Sure, you can buy it all pre-mixed, but why not make it yourself and save some money? "Classic" trail mix usually contains cashews, peanuts, almonds, raisins, and M&M's. Before buying all of those ingredients, though, check your pantry for dried fruit, other nuts, and cereal. You might as well use those up. If nuts or cereal are a little stale, just toast in a low oven (200ºF) for about 10 minutes to crisp them up. Nice additions are craisins, coconut pieces, crackers, and pretzels.

2. Energy Bars

These energy bars, which are extremely popular in Hawaii, travel well and aren't messy like traditional crumbly granola bars. Store the bars individually in waxed paper; twist the ends to seal.

3. Fruit

Select fruit that travels well. This rules out peaches, nectarines, and bananas. Stick to apples, grapes, clementines, oranges, and other nonstaining, non-smelly, and non-sticky fruits.

4. Veggies

You'll feel pretty virtuous if you snack on veggies while you cruise the highway. Good travelers are: baby carrots, snap peas, celery sticks, and even radishes. Wash and pack into small plastic bags; store in the ice chest to keep them more refreshing and crispy.

5. Nuts

Nuts are a great snack for road trips, but you'll pay more if you buy them in individual packages or cans. Make your own roasted, salted nuts and pack into small snack-sized bags. I like the addition of curry powder, or cumin and red pepper flakes.

6. Snack Mix

My mother cranked this classic snack mix out at regular intervals (in the oven, though, not the microwave). I still love it. Try substituting goldfish crackers for the bagel chips, and toss in some oregano. Great stuff.

7. Cheese

Was string cheese developed for road trips? It's such a perfect car snack. Keep it frugal by buying the large bags, not the individual sticks.

8. Soup

Mom filled a large thermos with soup when we were heading someplace chilly. I recommend pulling the car over for a soup break, lest you burn yourself or make a mess. Some of my mom's tried-and-true were clam chowder, turkey noodle, and split pea. She'd bring along breadsticks, too, to round things out.

9. Sandwiches

I don't like sandwiches on road trips, normally, because they tend to get mushy and I have a phobia about that. There is one exception, though: peanut butter sandwiches. Don't be feeding kids egg salad or tuna unless you want to ride the vomit comet.

10. Animal Crackers

I love these, in their colorful, tiny circus-print boxes. They still entertain me, and they are cholesterol-free.

11. Jerky

Pack beef, turkey, or even fish jerky for a non-messy, high-protein treat.

12. Muffins

Either made sweet or savory, muffins are portable and low on the "messiness" scale. These zucchini-chocolate chip muffins will be a hit.

13. Popcorn

Popcorn has one disadvantage: You'll need to vacuum after the trip. However, it's crunchy and delicious. Try gussying it up with this black pepper and parm recipe.

14. "Fried" Chicken

Because it's oven-baked, it meets my road trip non-greasy criteria. Bake the night before and chill.

15. Pinwheels

These tortilla pinwheels pass the road test because they are a perfect bite size. They're also non-messy and non-greasy.

What else makes for a great road trip snack? Share with us!

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