Summer is right around the corner. My kids are antsy, ready to pack up their lockers and shove it all under their beds. We want to hit the highway and live like September will never come. But before we do, I have to pack up the Ford Explorer. So of course, I need some road trip snacks.

Wherever the road takes you this year, road trip snacks are just as important as the map.

Wherever the road takes you this year, road trip snacks are just as important as the map. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

The Great American Road Trip. It’s part of our culture. We yearn to discover our country much like the first explorers did. It has an allure of its own. For myself and my three kids, we pack up the Ford Explorer and hit the road nearly every school break. That’s how we’ve explored 46 states and six Canadian provinces so far.

Road trip snacks are just as important as the map. My kids, 8, 12 and 13, have road trip snack opinions so we talk about it. The snack bag is another passenger and has its own spot in the Ford Explorer.

Packing the snack bag is as important as packing the car.

Packing the snack bag is as important as packing the car. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

My 13-year-old daughter is in charge of the road trip snack bag en route. As the driver I need to stay focused on driving. That and I don’t have time for the snack squabbles that break out.

Road Trip Snack Planning

First off, I make it easy for me. I forget about the cute little containers I saw on Pinterest. Let’s get real for a minute. What am I supposed to do with all those containers on the second day of our trip?


I skip the plastic containers and especially the glass Mason jars. I buy individual serving sizes so I can grab all the trash from the back seat when I stop for gas. I don’t think I’m the only one with messy kids.

Headed out on a road trip with your tweens? Take a break and pack some fun

Headed out on a road trip with your tweens? Take a break and pack some fun. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Then there’s the container for my road trip snacks. I use a reusable shopping bag. Since it’s soft-sided, I can stash the road trip snack bag in another place if needed.

Since it’s vacation, my kids get what they want – except for chocolate, a giant barrel of cheez balls and Capri Suns. The chocolate and the cheez balls for obvious messy reasons. But back in the summer of 2010, a Capri Sun gunfight broke out in the back seat of the Ford Explorer. I didn’t know that my boys could turn drink pouches into sticky sweet weapons. They did and they had a great time. Now Capri Suns are banned from my SUV.

What’s in My Road Trip Snack Bag?

I could tell you I pack the most nutrient-rich, organic items that I can find. But this mom needs a break. Just like the kids, I need to have fun, too. It’s been a long school year and I want to be the Fun Mom for our road trip. So I’m packing some fun snacks, just for vacation treats.


My kids love their fruit but most fresh fruit doesn’t travel well. It really needs a cooler or to be eaten on the first day.

  • A banana or two. Not too many because they bruise.
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Apples
  • Fruit leather or fruit bites
  • Freeze-dried fruit– Apples and pears seem to be the winners here.
  • Breakfast in a Pouch
  • Applesauce pouches
  • Yogurt-covered raisins
  • Dried cherries or apricots


  • Protein bars
  • Granola bars–my kids love Nature Valley’s chocolate dried cherry ones.
  • Cereal bars


A good source of protein and travels well. Put it in cooler during the summer.

  • String cheese
  • Baby Bells
  • Laughing Cow
  • Individually packaged pieces of Cheddar or Colby


  • Beef or Turkey Jerky–our favorite right now is Crave, tender pieces of meat with unique flavors like black cherry.
  • Hard-boiled eggs–I’ll eat these instead of the carbs on most continental breakfast bars.
  • Yogurt–don’t forget the spoons or get the tubes.
  • Hummus

The Extras

  • Little boxes of cereal–not just for breakfast.
  • Cracker sandwiches–I get the variety pack to keep everyone happy.
  • Cheez-Its or Gold Fish
  • Pretzels
  • Pre-popped bagged popcorn

Sweet Treats

  • Cookies, a couple of varieties. I even get the kind I usually say No to for lunchboxes. Anything except chocolate-coated.
  • Rice Crispy Treats
  • Cracker Jacks

  Road Trip Snack Bag Necessities

  • Paper towels
  • Wet wipes
  • Disposable silverware.
  • Ziploc bags, quarts and gallon size
  • Refillable water bottles

Road Trip Snacks for Mom:

I do the majority of the driving on our road trips so I have my own snacks in the front seat since my kids will eat every thing within their reach.

  • Assorted nuts–some sweet, some salty and then the cocoa-dusted ones.
  • Good crackers
  • Cheese
  • Bottled coffee drinks
  • Canned sparkling water
  • Gum
  • Sweet tarts or other really tart candy

I also pack treats that wake up my mouth so I can stay alert. After a few hours on the road I like to chew gum. I have a roll of Sweet Tarts or other really tart candy. I alternate between unsweetened iced tea, iced coffee and sparkling water.

I really have two snack bags. One in the back of the SUV that I use as back stock. If I give all the snacks to my kids at once, they will eat them like a pack of puppies.

If you have a vegetarian and taking a road trip, Judy Antell has some great ideas. If you need some road trip ideas, I would suggest visiting a national park this year. It’s celebrating its centennial.

What is your favorite road trip snack?