If you’ve ever been on a long road trip, you will know that one of the things that can make the trip far more enjoyable is the food. Or to be more exact the road trip snacks.
Seriously, snacks are one of the main highlights of the time in the car. So why not make them great!?
We have been on so many road trips now for work, or to visit family that we’ve actually lost count.
We have, however, learned a few tricks to making our road trip snacks better.
1) Plan and purchase ahead of time
Don’t wait until you’re on the road and at a gas station. It is so much more expensive.
This tip has saved us SO much money over the years. Probably hundreds of dollars.
Here is why.
Let’s say I can buy a 24 pack of waters for $3.99. That means the average bottle of water costs $0.17. However, if I wait until I’m at a gas station, I’ll pay $1.50 to $2.50 per bottle depending on what I get and where in the country we are.
So, let’s just say an average of $2 per bottle I buy at the gas station.
That means the pack of 24 bottles that was $3.99, will cost $48 at $2 per bottle in a gas station, for the exact same quantity. That’s $44 on bottled water unnecessarily spent!
It’s a huge difference, and the same goes for snacks. If you buy a package of 6 meal bars, you might spend $6-7 on it. If you wait until you get into a gas station to buy them, you’ll spend anywhere from $2-$5 on one bar. That’s a cost saving of up to roughly $25. Between the pack of waters and the meal bars, you’re at a potential $73 savings already.
These are just some basic examples. Imagine the cost savings when you jump to packaged Starbucks, energy, or soda drinks… Or an abundant number of other food items that go beyond a few snack bars.
Planning and purchasing in bulk ahead of time will make a huge difference.
Places such as Walmart and Target are good options but definitely check your local wholesale markets like Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s Club if you can. There are also online bulk sites including Boxed.com and Jet.com.
2) Look for healthy snacks with minimal sugar to help minimize sugar rushes and crashes for yourself and the little ones in the back.
That soda and candy bar might seem like a good idea to give you a bit of extra energy, but that sugar rush is followed by a crash. For you, this means extra energy at first but then a major crash leaving you more tired and drowsy than before.
For your little ones, it means extra energy with nowhere to exert it unless you’re making pit stops along the way and allowing them to run in circles for a bit.
I’ve seen both scenarios turn into unwanted situations so consider whether or not this would be an issue when planning your snacks.
Then again, you could just embrace the sugar and capture hilarious moments like this dad did!
This post may contain affiliate links. Which means I may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. For more information, visit my disclaimer page.
3) Make your own snacks.
This can add to the cost savings and helps to control the healthiness level as well as cater to any allergies that need to be watched for.
Some great road trip snacks that are easy to prep and make include:
- Trail mix (You can make your own to minimize the sugar content added)
- Fruit baggies are always a great option for delicious and easy snacks!
- Sandwiches – this one can also be a meal. We’ve done this and it really tops having to stop at McDonald’s in remote areas where there aren’t any other options.
- Meal/Snack bars are a great option! As you can see from the photo above, we always try to keep a box of these on hand. There have been countless times when we couldn’t find an open place to eat, one of us was just super hungry before our next stop, or we just needed a little extra something at the moment. Our favorite options are Atkins, Think Thin, and Quest bars thanks to the low sugar levels.
- Cheese sticks & crackers are always a classic mix
- Spread your own peanut butter or substitute option between crackers
- Boiled eggs
- Veggies & Hummus for a delicious and healthy option
4) Don’t forget the drinks!
Like I said above, they can be twice the cost at a gas station or convenience store than they are at the local grocery store and significantly less in bulk.
To begin with, we love brewing our own coffee or tea for the first day of the trip and putting them in drink bottles or thermos’. It’s such a huge savings and we get to enjoy our favorite coffee and tea that we always keep on hand.
Next, we buy in bulk, both caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks. We like to have nice caffeine options for driving but also have non-caffeinated options for later in the evenings.
Some of our favorites:
- Vitamin Water Zero
- Zevia Soda’s (especially the ginger ale)
- Izze cans
- Water (because it’s a classic)
Keeping cans of ginger ale in the cooler can be a really great option for anyone who tends to get a little car sick on trips.
We always keep some Zevia ginger ale sodas on hand because they’re an all-natural sugar-free option. You can find them in many health food stores these days.
So we get the real ginger without any of the sugar. This little trick has actually been a life changer with as many road trips as we make. I (Allison) used to get quite car sick and have even made Josh pull over because of it.
Having ginger ale on hand has made a world of difference.
5) Cooler tips: Try to find a good one instead of a Styrofoam one if you can.
We have used those Styrofoam ones you get for a few bucks on many of our road trips, but having a real cooler is so much better.
First, if you have a long road trip, the Styrofoam just doesn’t keep things cold for as long as you need them to. Everything starts to melt and if you didn’t secure the lid on or it popped off, things melt faster.
Second, they make terrible squeaking noises against your leather chair or against the lid and cooler itself. So many hours of a squeaking cooler are not good. Trust me, I know. I was once tempted to dump the cooler and the entirety of its contents just so I wouldn’t have to listen to it anymore.
Third, depending on how much you have to move it in and out of your car, hotel, campsite, etc… it will start to break apart. I once held one together with duct tape and another one lost portions of the lid making it close at an awkward angle.
Lesson learned: if you’re going to be rough on it, invest in a good cooler that is nicely sized for your road trip.
We recommend the CleverMade Snap Basket! You can order it on Amazon. It holds up to 8 gallons by volume, is leak proof, has easy carrying handles, and folds up when you’re done with it. Perfect for traveling!!
Extra Tip: Have an overnight? Use your hotel ice bag, fill it with ice from the machine, tie it off and put it in your cooler to keep things extra cold. Refill it in the morning before you head to your next destination.
6) Healthy caffeine options in the car or on the road.
We talked a bit about this earlier. Healthy caffeine options can make a huge difference!
Energy drinks and highly sugared drinks put such a toll on your body which is already taking a toll from being cramped in a vehicle for hours eating fast food.
You’re consuming high amounts of energy and blood sugar spiking items, but you’re not actually utilizing or allowing your body to burn any of it up. You’re just sitting there hoping it helps keep you awake.
Try finding great caffeine options with lower sugar contents.
Some ideas on this are:
- Drinking your coffee and tea black
- Using healthier sweetener options such as stevia, honey, and raw sugar.
- Finding drinks with low or no sugar added (Yes, they do exist!)
- See our list above under tip 4 for ideas
- Carry your favorite tea packs with you so all you have to find is heated water.
7) Don’t forget the extras!
None of this is any good if you forget the paper towels, wipes, napkins and utensils that may be needed.
We always keep some paper towels on hand for any extra spills or messes we may make. Already on the road and forgot them? Just keep the stack of too many napkins you grabbed from your lunch stop.
Our best tip in the category is to keep some hand sanitizer wipes in the glove compartment. They really help with those extra sticky snack hands and are great for using after you pump gas.
As far as utensils are concerned, go the plastic route if you can. I know it’s not very consumer friendly but for long road trips, it’s a million times easier to keep your car tidy.
Extra Tip: keep a bag on hand to collect all the wrappers, bottles, and other trash you’re done with.
Well, there you have it! Those are our best and favorite tips for making your road trip snacks great! We pretty much live by these tips, nowadays, and they make a big difference to our health and our wallets.
It took us many road trips to figure out what works best for us but we hope these tips help jumpstart your own perfect road trip snack bag.
Now that you have the perfect snack bag for your trip, read all our tips on how to have your most comfortable road trip!
Let us know if you have any of your own road trip snack tricks below!
If you want to see where in the road we’re road tripping to next, follow us on social media or subscribe to our blog!