This summer will be the first time we’ve taken our kids on a true road trip longer than 5 hours. So, I’ve decided to share my Ultimate Snack Plan for Road-tripping with Kids with you!
Note: This is based on what has worked for us personally in the past for shorter road trips, and what I believe will be my best strategy for managing the constant request for snacks while we’re in the car for 16 hours (one-way) this summer. This post is intended to give you an idea of what could work for you and your family, but is definitely not the only (or best) way to handle snacks on a road trip.
Why do kids always want snacks in the car??
Now, if your kids are anything like mine (they’re 4 and 5), the second the car leaves the driveway they are suddenly so famished that the only thing they can think about other than bugging you for a snack, is the fact that they NEED a snack. Nevermind the fact that they just had breakfast. Nope. Their tummies have just suddenly emptied and only the tastiest of snacks will do. And what’s a parent to do? You’re going to be trapped in the car for quite some time, so my tolerance for screaming and whining is a bit lower than if we were going about our normal routine.
Real life mom road trip hacks with kids
But, before we get to my snack plan for road tripping with kids, here’s a few other things to know about me and my family when it comes to road trips… and hopefully these make you feel a little more “normal” or validated in your mom-game (not that you need it… we’re all rockstar moms just trying to do our best):
- We have a large SUV that has a flip down TV that the girls can watch movies on. Somehow, they have believed us that the only way it works is if the car is going to stay on for more than an hour… so, we only use it for road trips… but when we do, I just accept the fact that their screen time is going to be absurdly high for the next several hours. It is what it is, and we all need to maintain our sanity. #youdoyou I do plan to hit up our local library and check out some new DVDs they can watch that will entertain them for some of the time, and will be loading up our iPad with some fun new apps. If you have any favorites, be sure to leave them in a comment below!
- My nutrition/food goal for while we’re in the car is not for them to eat the most perfectly well-balanced and healthy snacks and meals… but rather to make sure they’re eating quality food that their tummies are used to (no one needs to deal with diarrhea from a 4 year old on the road) and that will fill them up.
- I like to give my kids controlled choices. This means I let them pick what they want to eat, but from a set of choices that I have predetermined and would be ok with whatever option they choose.
- We have one of these travel potty’s because we’re still at the age where they will need to pee every couple hours at a minimum and a road trip that should only take 16 hours could easily take well over 20 hours with too many gas station stops. Not to mention the fact that if we’re constantly stopping at gas stations or fast food restaurants, they are going to be begging for us to buy food at those places instead of being content with what I packed.
Ultimate Snack Plan for Road-tripping with Kids
So, keeping all of those things in mind, here is my Ultimate Snack Plan for Road-tripping with Kids:
Remember: This is not how I would ever recommend handling food at home on a normal day-to-day routine. This is what I plan to do for my kids on our own road trip. Hopefully, it gives you some ideas for what could work for your family on a road trip.
- Each kid will get to pick one snack every hour, if they want one. I will set a timer (so they have a visual reference if they feel the need to ask before it is time for the next snack). If they aren’t hungry or don’t feel like eating a snack at that time, they can definitely decline and I will offer one again in an hour.
- They’ll get to pick from a set of choices I have predetermined. This way they feel like they are in control of what they are getting to eat, and I know that I am ok with whatever they choose of the options I’ve given them.
- There will be 4 categories of snacks that we will rotate through, like this:
- Hour 1: Travel-friendly produce
- Hour 2: “Crunchy stuff”
- Hour 3: Packaged snacks and bars
- Hour 4: Refrigerated snacks packed in a cooler (this is the one I use on road trips)
And then we will repeat each category in that order until we reach our destination. The exception to this is if at any point they request fruits or veggies, I say yes. This is the only part of this plan that will be similar to how I handle requests at home. I never want to discourage their desire for fruits and veggies, so I say yes to those requests.
If you’re really ambitious and/or not satisfied with the options available at the store, you can add another category for homemade snacks, but I usually have no desire to add additional cooking/baking to my task list before a trip.
Travel-friendly produce: Try to think of produce items that:
- Leave little or no waste after you’re done eating them
- Don’t require cutting or peeling
- Aren’t easily squished
Some of my favorites are: blueberries, carrot sticks, baby tomatoes, snap peas, dehydrated fruit, baby bell peppers, pineapple chunks, etc.
“Crunchy stuff”: Some of my kids’ favorites are: popcorn, raw nuts, crackers of all kinds, chips, pretzels, goldfish, dry cereal, etc. I package these things up in individual servings in reusable containers that I can load up again for the return trip home.
Packaged snacks and bars: I try to find an assortment of bars and packaged snacks that will keep them full and take them a decent amount of time to eat. I do this by paying attention to the fiber, fat, and protein content and making sure the bar provides a decent amount of at least two of those nutrients. I also check for how much added sugar is present relative to the amount of fat and protein. And quality ingredients are still important to me on road trips (as I mentioned above) because I don’t want my kids or my husband and I to have to deal with upset tummies while we’re on the road.
Refrigerated snacks packed in a cooler: depending on how much you want to spend, you can find great travel coolers that will keep things cold for anywhere from 8 hours to up to 5 days! I found this great cooler on Amazon for only $32 that keeps ice frozen for up to 8 hours. The cooler is a great opportunity to pack things like: yogurts, cheese sticks, milk, sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, produce that needs to be kept cold, drinks, nut butters (I let my kids eat it straight from the jar whether we’re traveling or not), hummus, etc.
Hopefully, this gives you some ideas for how to handle snacks and road-tripping with your own kids. And whether you end up doing things like we do, or do something totally different, just remember to have a plan in place. Kids thrive on structure and like to know what’s coming. And also give yourself and your kids some grace. Traveling is stressful on everyone, but the most important part of every trip is to bond as a family and have a good time. Don’t forget that!