Family Road Trip Food 101
By Bonnie Anderson, Domestic Budget Goddess
Planning your family road trip food in advance can save time, money, and stress. Last month we got a new (to us) van. This is a big deal for our family since all of our vacations consist of family road trips. We LIVE in our car. Literally. We are the crazy
New van = new rules.
Previously, when it came to road trip snacks, I pretty much did whatever was most convenient and didn’t worry too much about the cost, health, and mess factors. Now that I have a car payment (my least favorite thing about the new van) and a spotless car, I am super motivated to change the way that we family road trip. I guess you could say I am ready for a road trip snacks makeover. I want our road trip snacks to be cheap, I want them to be healthy, and I want to keep this car spotless.
Some might think this is impossible when traveling with kids, but I have a few tricks that are going to change the way you eat in the car as well as some family road trip recipes that are simple enough that you will want to make them all the time. They are perfectly healthy snacks for kids on the go.
So, what are the best road trip snacks when traveling with kids? The answer
It is amazing the things that kids will try
Let’s start with the obvious healthy choices:
Veggies and Fruit
These are some of the easiest snacks to pack, they have
Here are some of my favorite fresh road trip veggie snacks:
- baby carrots
- sugar snap peas
- sliced cumbers
- little peppers
- cherry tomatoes
- celery sticks
- cut up broccoli
Get creative with dips. Everyone knows that toddlers are CRAZY about dipping. I can get my 2-yr-old to eat just about anything if I put some ranch in front of him. Veggies really can be perfect toddler snacks for road trips.
Some great veggie dips are:
- ranch (of course)
- peanut butter
Most grocery stores carry them in individual packets, or you can buy “bento boxes” with dividers to separate the dip from the veggies. However, a cheaper way to go is to save those sour cream or cottage cheese containers, put a small baby food jar or a similar container with a lid in the middle, fill it with your own homemade dip, and pack veggies around it. Your kids will think you are a genius!
These dip containers also work for any of your favorite fruits. I usually pick whatever is in
- clementine oranges
These fruits pair well with:
- peanut butter
- Greek yogurt.
If you are doing the more “juicy” fruit, make sure to tape a plastic fork on the top to avoid sticky fingers.
If you are worried about the sticky mess of fruit and dips in your car, you can also do applesauce pouches (a favorite at our house) or dried fruit. Store bought dried fruit can be pricey and loaded with added sugar. Making your own with a dehydrator is easy and gives you more control. Purchasing a dehydrator is a great investment and gives you lots of options. Homemade fruit
Homemade Fruit Roll Ups
My kids love these homemade fruit roll ups more than store bought brands. They take up to 24 hours to dry in a dehydrator, so plan your time accordingly.
- 2 quarts Applesauce homemade or no sugar added
- 1 packet Kool-Aid (13 oz) pick your favorite flavor
Mix applesauce with kool-aid packet.
Spread 1/2" thick on fruit roll sheet in a dehydrator. Dry according to your dehydrator's directions (usually about 24 hours).
When dry, lay on plastic wrap, roll up tightly, and cut with scissors through roll into desired servings.
When traveling with kids protein is a must if you don’t want to be handing snacks back every 30 minutes. Here are some of our favorite protein road trip snacks:
- String cheese
- lunch meat
- beef jerky
- frozen yogurt tubes
- hardboiled eggs (whole, peeled or made into egg salad)
- canned chicken (mix with mayo to make chicken salad)
- Pediasure or other protein drinks
- milk boxes (Gossner’s foods sells
shelf stablemilk boxes that doesn’thave to be refrigerated and comes in lots of flavors)
Protein or granola bars are also a great option (but they can be messy and pricey too if you find the ones without oodles of sugar).
A cheaper option to protein bars is to make your own protein bites before you go. They don’t require baking and can be made days ahead of time and tossed into a container in the fridge until you are ready to go. You can adapt them to whatever your kids like. This is a great family road trip recipe that leaves lots of room for adaptations:
No Bake Road Trip Snack Protein Bites
These protein bites are easy to make and require no refrigeration. They are packed with dates, which are both healthy and delicious.
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup natural peanut butter (or any other butter)
- 4 pitted dates
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut
- 2 tbsp ground flax
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp raw honey use more or less to help form balls
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
Add all ingredients in food processor and process until evenly incorporated.
Form into small balls.
Pass these bites around in a large container or package them into individual snack sized baggies for each child.
When traveling with kids there is just no getting away from the carb snacks. These are my kid’s road trip snacks of choice, but also some of the messiest and least healthy. I knew this would be the hardest thing for me to change in our road trip snack repertoire. But it had to be done because I was tired of vacuuming up all of the crumbs! They were in every little crevasse of the seats! Pretzels, crackers, popcorn, graham crackers, goldfish, dry cereal, rice cakes, bread, chips; these are things I decided we would stay away from with our new van.
The two road trip carb snacks that I have found do best with crumb control is mini bagels and mini muffins. There are times when we pull our kids right out of bed into the car and I like having a breakfast they can eat on the way (that isn’t dry cereal…. oh the crumbs…). I love these Sistema lunch cubes that I found for this purpose. I pack one up for each kid with a mini bagel with
These are my very favorite made-from-scratch breakfast mini muffins. They can be made ahead of time, are virtually crumb free, and have lots of
Cranberry Yogurt Mini Muffins
These easy muffins can be made ahead of time, frozen, and then thawed when ready to eat.
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1 egg
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup plain, vanilla, or strawberry yogurt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup canned whole cranberry sauce
Mix wet ingredients together.
In a separate large bowl, mix dry ingredients.
Combine dry and wet ingredients and stir gently.
Spray mini muffin/cupcake tin with nonstick cooking spray. Pour in tablespoons of batter directly into tins.
Bake at 400 degrees for 9-10 minutes.
Of course, as with everything I mentioned, make sure that whatever you would normally keep in the fridge you pack in a small cooler. I like to freeze water bottles ahead of time and pack them in the cooler as ice packs as well as in every cup holder in the car. It gives us something to drink as they melt (water is the only drink allowed in the new van) and keeps our food safe to eat.
Traveling with kids isn’t a one size fits all. If you are the type that cares more about convenience with road trip snacks then buy the prepackaged convenience snacks. If keeping your car clean is
Domestic Budget Goddess, Core Contributor
Bonnie loves finding a great deal that can get her closer to the next exciting adventure with her husband and 5 kids. Her degree in Family and Consumer Sciences has helped her to claim the title of the “domestic budget goddess” by neighbors and friends throughout Central Illinois and Northern Utah.