Vacation in my mind: quiet beach… toes in the sand…cold drink in hand.
Vacation in reality...hours of planning, three car seats across the backseat, and me repeating over and over in my head, "Are. We. There. Yet?!"
"Parents don't really go on vacation. They just take care of their kids in a different city."
The reality is, the kids aren't gonna take care of themselves. (No matter how self-sufficient my six-going-on-sixteen-year-old thinks she is). Especially if you're playing zone defense (3+ kids), the breaks are few and far between. I'm perfectly happy with 45-60 minutes of alone time a few times during a trip, especially after several hours in the car. That's why healthy road trip snacks are essential for a happy trip.
Feeding Planning is everything when traveling with kids. Hangry kids=crazy caregivers. We take road trips to see family and friends several times a year. Food is always one of the most important parts of the planning process, especially if you’re driving through the mountains of West Virginia and the next exit is a bajillion miles away.
Even if you wanted to just make a quick run through a drive-through or fill up your tank and belly at the closest gas station, sometimes when you're traveling in more rural areas, that's just not an option. For us, it comes down to optimal health options to pack our own road trip snacks. Convenience foods come with convenience prices.
Grab-and-Go Healthy Road Trip Snacks
If you want to go the most frugal route, just use your own reusable containers or baggies and fill up with what you already have in your pantry. I sometimes sacrifice a bit of frugality with some more convenient options when we travel, because I'm still saving money by not having to grab marked up snacks at a convenience store.
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Here are some of our favorite grab-and-go items for kids:
-Applesauce pouches (mess is mostly contained… grab a giant pack here on Boxed.com and get $15 off your first order)
-Cuties (Can be a little messy depending on juiciness factor)
-Jerky (Aldi, Kroger, and Target have their own brand of organic versions of this)
-Granola Bars (check for simple ingredients and no added sugar, we like Made Good, which is also allergy-friendly)
-Mini raisin boxes (Target has organic ones available)
We don’t typically buy a ton of individually packaged items, but they’re just perfect for road trips. The kids love the little portions, and they make prep, planning, and clean up so much easier.
Chilled Healthy Road Trip Snacks
Even if the trip is just a couple of hours, we always take a small cooler (This one pictured came in our Step 2 Wagon!) You can throw a few little ice packs in, and refill with hotel ice (or in-laws’ ice maker) for the trip home if necessary.
For The Cooler
-sliced cheese or cheese sticks (Walmart and Kroger have organic options)
-mini hummus or guacamole (organic options available)
-small baggies with cut-up fruits and/or veggies
-mini bottled water (we usually fill up a jug to fill our own water bottles)
-yogurt cups, or even better, yogurt tubes (no spoon necessary, Stonyfield has an organic option)
-mini milk cartons (also available in flavors and non-dairy)
-YumEarth organic lollipops
I always pack an extra package of baby wipes just for car messes and try to have several old plastic grocery bags on hand for simple disposal when we make pit stops.
The Extra Mile
If we’re on a longer trip and I know we’ll be stopping at a rest area, I always pack a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly (or honey). While we will occasionally hit up a Chick-fil-A or Chipotle on the road, a lot of times it’s just easier to eat a sammie, stretch our legs, and get back at it.
Again, planning is key to keep it healthy when traveling. Chances are, you'll be indulging at family dinners, ESPECIALLY during the holidays. You may also be hitting up restaurants or parties on trips and vacations, and you shouldn't feel guilty for indulging on those occasions! Having healthier options for snacks on the road and in hotel rooms won't derail you too much and can curb your guilt for indulging while traveling! 🙂
So tell us, do you have any tips and tricks for traveling with kids? What are your favorite “car snacks” and healthy road trip ideas?
P.S. Need ideas on how to ENTERTAIN your kids on a road trip? Check out: 19 Screen-Free Entertainment Ideas for the Car.