There are two kinds of road trippers in my life.
There’s my dad, who was my first road trip experience. A road trip to him means never having to say you stopped along the way. He likes to start very early in the morning–like, 2am, a time that to the rest of the world would be better defined as the middle of the night. Then he sets the cruise control to 70 and stops only when someone in the car starts begging for a bathroom. A road trip from Southwest Florida to Chicago with him: 22 hours, straight through, interstate-only.
And then there is my husband of 25 years. If it was up to him, we would never drive on an interstate. Instead, we take what we call the blue highways–those small blue lines you find on paper maps. That means they pass through towns rather than passing by them. Hubby is a laid-back guy who likes to meander and stop along the way to explore, eat at locally owned diners and find weird roadside attractions. He indoctrinated the kids with the adventure of looking for the “world’s biggest ball of twine.” (We haven’t found that yet, but we have found the world’s largest muskie in Hayward, Wisconsin. A muskie is a fish in case you didn’t know.) The last road trip with him from Southwest Florida to Chicago: 5 days, with stopovers to visit friends in Georgia and explore a new town, Greenville, South Carolina.
There is one thing these two road trippers have in common: road trip snacks.
There are two kinds of road trip snacks: healthy and not so much
We generally aim for a combination of healthy snacks on road trips. My go-to is a bag of roasted almonds for salt and crunch and a bag of dried fruit for sweet and chewy. That’s when we start. As the road trip rolls along, I find the snacks get less healthy. Suddenly it’s pretzels or chips for salt and crunch and candy bars for sweet and chewy.
When the kids were small, we packed the car with easy-to-eat fruit. Apples, bananas, Clementine oranges and grapes were our go-to choices. We would freeze the red grapes. The kids ate them like mini-Popsicles. As an added benefit: They helped keep the cooler chilled. But, we learned quickly, fresh fruit can be a road trip challenge. We once left banana peels in a hot, closed up car over night. When we climbed back into the car the next morning, we were overwhelmed by the smell of rotting bananas, a smell that stuck with us for days.
AGirlsGuidetoCars tip: Remember to bring plenty of small garbage bags and toss them out every time you stop–for gas, for more snacks, for the night.
Healthy Road Trip Snacks
For veteran road tripper Christine Tibbetts, healthy travel snacks are as close as her South Georgia backyard. She picks figs, blueberries, and more from her “edible landscaped back yard.” The dried fruits become her go-to travel snack.
Healthy snacks are non-negotiable for Dana Zucker and her husband, a tri-athlete. Their last road trip was fueled by meat and cheese plates, fruit and veggies.
Sweet and Salty Make the Grade
Nasreen Stump, who oversees social media for AGirlsGuidetoCars, is a true road warrior. She has been a traveling saleswoman, spending hours upon hours in the car as she criss-crossed the big state of Texas, peddling coffee. So she knows a thing or two about road trip snacks.
“Bugles with Reese’s Pieces,” she says. “Or salt and vinegar chips with peanut butter M&M’s. The combinations sound weird, but man are they delicious! Also – it’s not a road trip without breakfast tacos.”
SBC Contributor Erica Mueller also digs the sweet and salty vibe of road trip snacking. Her healthy options: grapes, Clementines and cheese sticks. Her guilty pleasure: chocolate covered almonds and Cheetos. How does she keep the car from turning into a brown and orange mess on family road trips?
“Those are for myself,” she says. “The kids get something like Bugels or goldfish crackers!”
Specialty Road Trip Travel Snacks
Ask Renee Virata, a contributor at our partner site, TravelingMom.com, about her guilty pleasure travel snack and she practically gushes about Buc-ee’s Beaver Nuggets. As a Midwesterner, these were new to me. Here’s how she describes these delictable treats: “They are caramel covered corn puffs. Think puffy Cheetos without cheese but add caramel.”
But Renee is not all about unhealthy. She also makes her own granola bars for a road trip. Here’s her recipe:
- 4 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup softened butter
- 1 cup honey
- 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips (or 1 cup raisins and 2 teaspoons cinnamon, for cinnamon raisin ones)
Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 9×13 pan. In a large bowl combine first 6 ingredients (plus cinnamon if using) and then stir in chocolate chips (or raisins). Press mixture into pan and bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10-15 minutes and then cut into bars. Let the bars cool completely before removing from pan.
Emergency Road Trip Snacks
This is why truck stops were created, right? So when we run out of the healthy fruit and nuts, we can get us some truck stop snacks.
One woman, whose identity we are protecting because her friend ratted her out, considers a road trip just right for a little “special occasion naughtiness.” She heads to Trader Joe’s and buys everything she would never allow in the house. Topping that list: chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels. Seriously. (And, no, the “friend” is not me. I didn’t know about chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels. Now that I do, all I need to do is find the nearest Trader Joe’s.)
And then there’s Karyn Locke, who regularly drives from her home in Florida to Disney World. She plans ahead and always brings a case of water. “Great for thirsty kids and emergencies – like a radiator leak until you can get somewhere safe,” she says.