There’s nothing quite as American as a road trip – a packed car, the open highway, and lots of snacks! From healthy to not so much, these are my favorite road trip snacks.
Whether I’m traveling solo, exploring with a friend, or vacationing with several family members, the trip is always as much about the food as it is the sights and experiences. But eating three meals a day on the road can take a big bite out of a travel budget. So we try to eat at least one meal a day (and all of our road trip snacks) with items we’ve brought from home or picked up at a grocery store or market along the way.
With options that range from healthy to sweet-tooth satisfying, these are the best road trip snacks to take on your next adventure.
Sage Advice: Even if a road trip snack is unprocessed and fully biodegradable (like an apple core), always dispose of any remains properly. When you leave crumbs and scraps in a parking lot or toss them out of your car window, you encourage wildlife to approach the remnants, where they may be hit by a vehicle and killed. When you feed ducks chunks of bread, you can cause them to be malnourished. And when you leave food at a picnic table or campsite, you may prompt an undesirable bear encounter.
How to Pack Snacks for a Road Trip
How you pack your road trip snacks may be just as important as the snacks themselves. You’ll need to stow the food so it doesn’t spoil, get crushed, or take up unnecessary space. Plus it needs to be within easy reach of the driver and passengers.
To keep snacks like sliced vegetables fresh, a cooler is a must-have. I prefer soft-sided coolers because they offer more flexibility when squeezing them into tight spaces. I also like reusable cold packs that I can stick in my hotel room’s mini fridge at night.
Plastic bags that seal tightly are also essential to ensure that your snacks remain edible and don’t cause a mess. Reusable food storage bags will help keep snacks like granola from scattering crumbs everywhere and sliced peppers from absorbing condensation in the cooler. I typically use multiple sizes of bags and bring extras for when I restock with local snacks along the way.
And don’t forget the kids when you’re planning your snack-packing strategy. A lunch bag with some finger food will keep kids content and minimize the number of times they need adult assistance.
Sage Advice: Adding local snacks to the mix will enhance your cultural experience at each stop, so check out farmers markets and local shops on your road trip!
Accessories to Pack for a Road Trip
Don’t forget to pack accessories for your road trip snacks. Having the right tools on hand will ensure you don’t have to spread peanut butter with your finger or try to slice cucumbers with a plastic fork.
Packing the following accessories will make snacking more enjoyable:
- One set of camp silverware per traveler. Sure, plastic utensils are more convenient, but they’re flimsy and bad for the environment.
- Paring knife. A small, sharp knife comes in handy for slicing fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. For safety, look for one with a sheath cover.
- Apple corer/slicer. You might be surprised at how handy a good apple corer/slicer can be on the road. Apple slices are often more convenient to snack on than the whole fruit, plus they’re easier to share when cut into pieces. This apple corer/slicer is my favorite because it comes with a safety cover.
- Small cutting board. Whether you’re trimming the tops off of strawberries or slicing an apple, it’s helpful to have a clean, flat surface available.
- Travel-size bottle of dish soap. A small bottle of dish soap will help keep all your snack gear clean.
- Roll of paper towels. In addition to wiping down surfaces, a paper towel can double as a plate and then serve as a napkin when your road trip snacktime is over.
- Tablecloth. Public picnic tables aren’t always the cleanest surfaces, but instead of trying to disinfect them, just cover them with a tablecloth. You can also spread it on the ground for picnic-style snacking.
- Travel coffee mug. Skip Starbucks and fill it up at the hotel to kickstart your morning. If you need a pick-me-up later in the day, many convenience stores and truck stops will let you refill your own mug, helping to reduce the number of single-use coffee cups that end up in landfills.
- One reusable water bottle per person. Choose a more earth-friendly way to rehydrate by opting for reusable water bottles. You should be able to find plenty of places to fill them along your route.
- Mini trash can or large, sealable container. Your road trip snacks will likely generate some waste you’ll want to manage. I like sealed containers that trap the smell of old banana peels and apple cores.
- Assortment of reusable zip bags. These babies aren’t just for organizing road trip snacks. They can also be used to seal things like wet swimsuits or leaky shampoo bottles.
Is It Illegal to Eat While Driving?
You already know you shouldn’t drink alcoholic beverages and drive. But is it illegal to eat and drive? The short answer is that no US state currently prohibits eating while driving. However, most states have laws against distracted driving. So if you do eat in the car on your road trip, be sure you’re nibbling foods that aren’t too complicated to open, assemble, or consume while operating a motor vehicle.
Some road trip snack lists omit messy snacks. I’m talking about foods that are crumbly (like crackers), powdery (like mini donuts), or potentially stinky (like cheese sticks). But I don’t automatically exclude foods like that from my list. Why? Because not everything you pack for your road trip needs to be consumed while you are in the car. You can always enjoy these foods when you stop at a picnic table or tailgate during regular stops along your route.
Good Snacks for a Road Trip
The best road trip snacks are durable foods that don’t bruise, smash, or spoil easily. It’s best for your blood sugar levels and waistline to pack healthy road trip snacks, including fruits, veggies, and high-protein options. But you’re also on vacation, and everyone knows that vacation calories don’t count, right? So my list of snacks for a road trip also includes a few sweets and special treats.
Fruit to Pack as Road Trip Snacks
When you pack fresh fruit for a road trip, it’s best to focus on options that don’t bruise or spoil very easily. If you do pack more fragile fruits, consider varieties that can be frozen before your trip.
Whether you like red, yellow, or green, apples are a healthy, durable road trip snack. I always wash the apples before we leave home and pack an apple slicer. I can slice the apple when I stop to fill gas and then easily eat the pieces when I slide back behind the wheel and resume driving. Or, I can easily split an apple with a travel companion.
Sage Advice: If you pack sliced cheddar or peanut butter for your road trip, they pair well with apple slices.
While it does contribute to landfill waste if you purchase applesauce in individual cups or squeeze pouches, applesauce is another relatively healthy road trip snack. We love this organic unsweetened applesauce in cups, and the same brand also offers guava applesauce. GoGo squeeZ has pouches of applesauce without added sugar, including variety packs with several flavors, like apple cinnamon applesauce.
Sage Advice: Use these refillable food pouches to reduce the number of single-use cups and squeeze pouches that you put into the trash.
Red or green seedless grapes travel well. We wash the grapes at home and cut the large bunches into smaller segments before placing them in large zipper bags for the journey.
From mini Mandarin to the juicy navel, oranges travel well. They don’t require any prep work, and you can peel the fruit and separate the segments when you’re ready to eat.
High in vitamin C and dietary fiber, kiwi is another good fruit to pack for a road trip. Simply slice the fruit in half and scoop out the green flesh with a spoon.
Although they can bruise if tossed around a lot, bananas are another road trip snack we frequently pack. They don’t need to be washed before eating, and their natural “wrappers” are biodegradable.
Sage Advice: If you eat this road trip snack at a pit stop, dress it up with a dollop of peanut butter and dip it into a small container of granola.
Full of antioxidants, blueberries are easy to snack on in the car. They can also be used to “dress up” yogurt cups that you pack or pick up at the hotel breakfast bar.
Sage Advice: Consider freezing blueberries before your road trip. They can double as an ice pack in your cooler, and make a healthy snack once thawed. If you do freeze berries, just be sure to freeze them unwashed in Ziploc bags and rinse them before you eat them. Otherwise, you’re likely to have a frozen slab of berries.
Fruit Chips and Dried Fruit
Bare Snacks makes crunchy fruit chips that make great road trip snacks. Try baked apple chips, banana chips, and pineapple chips – all made with no added sugar. Or pack dried mango or dried figs for a more exotic fruit snack for your next road trip.
Vegetables to Pack as Road Trip Snacks
Another category of healthy road trip snacks is vegetables. Munch them as they are, or dip them in hummus or ranch dressing.
Full of vitamin A and beta-carotene, the fastest way to add this crunchy snack is with a bag of baby carrots. Or, peel a bunch of carrots and cut them into sticks before you leave home.
Sugar Snap Peas
Another healthy road trip snack that can be enjoyed straight out of the bag is sugar snap peas. Enjoy them pod and all for a slightly sweet snack that is a good source of vitamins A, B, C, and K.
If you eat out of boredom on road trips, celery is a great snack option. Not only is this vegetable low in calories (at less than ten per stalk), but the fiber in celery helps you feel full. Prep celery before you go by trimming the tops and bottoms and separating the stalks into individual pieces.
Sage Advice: For a heartier celery snack, fill the center with cream cheese or peanut butter. Put the filled sides together to make the stuffed celery sticks portable for your trip.
Whether you like English (long and thin with few seeds) or a backyard variety (like burpless), cucumbers are another healthy road trip snack. Cut them into spears before you go, or slice them into circles when you stop.
Sweet Bell Peppers
Load up on vitamins A and C with sweet bell peppers. Purchase a bag of sweet mini peppers that need no preparation, or cut larger peppers into strips before you leave home or when you take a break on your journey.
Sage Advice: If you cut a big pepper into strips, be sure to watch this video on the fastest way to get the job done!
High-Protein Road Trip Snacks
To feel full (and keep that “full feeling” longer), be sure your road trip snacks include options that are high in protein.
Before hitting the road, I hard boil eggs and pack them as snacks for our road trip. Not only does that clear out the fridge, but at 7 grams of protein per egg, it also means I have a good source of protein for breakfast if the hotel buffet is heavy on carbs and sugars (as many are).
Granola Bars and Other Snack Bars
While I have yet to meet a granola bar I don’t like, some are full of sugar and low in protein. Are Nutri-Grain soft-baked breakfast bars delicious? Absolutely! But they only contain two grams of protein and are loaded with about a quarter of the day’s sugar, so I prefer to pack other options as snacks when we hit the road. My current favorites are KIND crunchy peanut butter protein bars, with 12 grams of plant protein.
Homemade Protein Balls
Homemade protein balls make a perfect road trip snack because they are typically packed with healthy ingredients that satisfy a road tripper’s need for both flavor and protein. On top of that, they’re easy to make.
Check out these recipes:
- These no-bake brownie energy bites will naturally satisfy your craving for something sweet and rich in protein. And as an added bonus, they’re both vegan and gluten free.
- Peanut butter gives these gluten-free, vegan energy balls protein while dates make them naturally sweet. A delicious, healthy snack!
- At six grams of protein each, these no-bake energy balls make a great road trip snack. Best of all, the chocolate chips and rolled oats make them taste like cookie dough. Win, win!
Jerky, Meat Sticks, and Meat Bars
From its origin as pemmican, a Native American dried meat dish typically made from bison or elk, this high-protein food has been consumed by travelers for centuries. Today’s road trippers have many dried meat options to choose from, ranging from traditional beef jerky to bison sticks to venison meat bars. And they come in updated flavors like bacon cranberry, apple bacon, and chicken sriracha. Yum!
A note of warning: Although a great source of protein, dried meat products can be full of salt. Make sure you have plenty of water on hand and prepare to make extra potty stops when you eat this tasty treat.
Food manufacturers have made it easy to enjoy tuna and salmon on the go. I always pack a couple of fish pouches for tasty, convenient protein. With flavors like hot Buffalo, lemon dill, and ranch, you don’t need to add anything to the fish. Just spread the tuna or salmon on crackers and you have a protein-packed road trip snack.
Sage Advice: Fish is another reason to pack air-tight containers on your trip. No one wants to smell tuna in a confined car!
Nuts are a great source of plant-based protein and typically a crowd favorite. I like to buy a big bag of almonds at Costco and divide them into smaller zip bags. They’re the perfect thing to include in kids’ snack bags, and at 7 grams of protein per ¼ cup, almonds will help travelers feel full for a while.
Sunflower seeds are another road trip favorite. Not only does a ¼ cup contain 6 grams of protein, but cracking them open, chewing the seed, and spitting the shell into a cup keeps you busy while driving those long stretches of interstate on cruise control. Yes, I’m looking at you, Western Kansas!
For a slightly more exotic snack, try dry-roasted edamame. Edamame, which are immature soybeans, are delicious and loaded with protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. If you like your snacks spicy, dry-roasted wasabi-flavored edamame will do the trick.
You can’t go wrong with roasted chickpeas. This crunchy snack is a good source of protein and fiber. For those of you who like to sample different flavors, check out this variety pack.
One of my all-time favorite snacks is DIY adult Lunchables. Cut cheese and deli meat into smaller pieces that fit your favorite cracker before you leave home. Or pack nut butter packets to pair with a jelly packet from the breakfast buffet to make peanut butter or almond butter and jelly crackers.
Sage Advice: Don’t have time to cut up deli meat before you go? Toss a package of sliced pepperoni into your cooler instead.
Dairy Snacks for Road Trips
Dairy products may not be the first things that come to mind when you think about good road trip snacks. But because they’re convenient and loaded with protein and bone-building calcium, they deserve a spot in your cooler.
Have a craving for something sweet en route to your destination? Instead of loading up on sugary candy, grab a container of yogurt from your cooler. If your hotel has a breakfast bar, you might be able to snag a container on your way out to replenish your stock. For kids, I prefer squeezable yogurt tubes for a low mess treat.
Just be sure to read the label before you load up or dig in as some brands of yogurt have as much sugar as a candy bar! My favorite low-sugar options include Chobani’s less sugar Greek yogurt, Siggi’s lower sugar yogurt, and Oikos Triple Zero yogurt.
Sage Advice: Pack granola to stir into your yogurt (along with a few berries) to make an instant parfait. And keep mess to a minimum with these reusable containers. There’s even a separate compartment for your stir-ins!
String Cheese and Mini Babybel
Cheese is one of my very favorite road trip snacks, and there are many travel-friendly options. Tuck some individually wrapped string cheese in your cooler for a treat that both kids and adults will enjoy. Or grab a bag of Mini Babybel cheeses. Your fellow travelers will perk up when they see that familiar red wax coating. These cheeses can be eaten on their own – no crackers required!
Other Nibbles to Enjoy as Road Trip Snacks
Snack Mixes/Trail Mix
Trail mix is a versatile road trip snack that can be sweet or salty, healthy or not so much. You can buy it already prepared, or you can easily make your own to ensure that your trail mix satisfies your taste buds. If your trail mix has chocolate chips, M&Ms, or any other ingredient that can melt, store it in your cooler in – you guessed it – a reusable zip bag. And if you do include chocolate, consider using dark chocolate, which is typically lower in sugar and a great source of antioxidants.
Gummy bears aren’t the healthiest snack, but your munchies don’t all need to be nutritious. I like to buy a big box of Black Forest organic gummy bears in individual bags. Made from real fruit juice, they are a low-mess treat that satisfies my sweet tooth.
Licorice is also a handy sweet treat to take along on your travels. Whether you opt for a classic – like Twizzlers strawberry-flavored twists – or a unique flavor – like huckleberry licorice – this is a road trip snack that will please travelers of all ages.
Veggie chips and straws, which come in flavors like spinach and tomato, are delicious alternatives to greasy traditional snack chips. My favorite? Sweet potato chips!
Plantain chips are slightly sweet and a decent source of fiber. For travelers on a paleo, gluten-free, or vegan diet, plantain chips are a good snack to have on hand.
For travelers who like their munchies a little cheesy, cheese crisps are a great road trip snack option. They have less fat than other cheese-flavored chips, and with flavors like parmesan and cheddar, they’ll satisfy your need for cheese.
Yogurt-Covered Raisins, Nuts, or Pretzels
Although not as healthy as the name implies, yogurt-covered raisins are a deliciously sweet road trip treat. Brands like Sunmaid offer yogurt-covered raisins in individually portioned boxes for easy snacking. And for nut lovers who like a combination of sweet and salty, it’s hard to go wrong with yogurt-covered almonds or peanuts.
Dark Chocolate-Covered Nuts, Raisins, or Pretzels
For a healthier alternative to yogurt-covered treats, try raisins and nuts covered in dark chocolate. In addition to being a good source of antioxidants, dark chocolate is surprisingly high in iron, with one serving providing nearly 20% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for women and over 40% of the RDA for men. Bon appetit!
Fig bars have come a long way since your daddy’s Fig Newtons. Today you can find them in whole wheat versions and enhanced by flavors such as apple cinnamon and peach apricot.
Sage Advice: Don’t like figs? Look for versions made from other fruits, such as strawberries and blueberries.
Although it takes up more space than other road trip snacks, popcorn is another great option. With flavors like sweet-and-salty kettle corn and white cheddar, Skinny Pop is one of my favorites. As an alternative, bring some low-fat, low-salt bags of microwave popcorn to pop in your hotel’s microwave for a road trip snack before bed.
Goldfish crackers have long been a lunchtime favorite for kids. But let’s be honest: What adult doesn’t enjoy nibbling on a handful of these tasty munchies? To save money, buy a large carton of goldfish and divide it into snack-sized bags.
In addition to the yogurt- and chocolate-dipped option mentioned above, regular old “naked” pretzels are another good low-fat snack to take on road trips. I love Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels, which come in flavors like Southwest and honey mustard. For a little added protein, bring along some pretzel bites that are filled with peanut butter.
Green Pea Snack Crisps
Rounding out the list of my favorite road trip snacks are green pea snack crisps. These tasty munchies are a decent source of fiber and even provide some iron and protein.
Sage Advice: While it’s not exactly a snack, gum is a great way to keep your mouth busy if you tend to be a bored snacker. And if you chew a brand that contains xylitol – like Trident, Icebreakers, and Orbit – it also protects against tooth decay from all the sweet snacks listed above!
What Are Your Favorite Road Trip Snacks?
What are your favorite road trip snacks? Do you tend to pack salty snacks or sweet snacks, healthy snacks or not so much? Any additional tips and tricks to pass along? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
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4 thoughts on “My Favorite (Mostly Healthy) Road Trip Snacks”
I love the balance between healthy and not-so-healthy snacks! For fruits, I love grapes and bananas. My favorite junk food is Hot Cheetos but it makes me drink a lot of water so I need to pee, so I like eating Cheez-its on the road instead!
Oh, man! I’m SO in love with Cheetos that I only allow myself to buy (and eat) the little lunch-size packets. If I had a Costco sized bag of them on a road trip, I would serious eat the entire bag!
Exciting snack list, with great tips! I love healthy snacks while traveling. I often pack nuts, hard fruits and vegetables such as apples or carrots, and high-energy protein bars that give me strength during hiking.
Those sound like smart, healthy snacks. Perfect for hiking!