There are two magical words that inevitably inspire a feeling of excitement and adventure in the hearts and souls of many: road trip!

Whether the trip is long or short, bringing food for the road is not only essential in terms of health and nutrition, it can be a lot of fun as well, while also helping you stay on budget.

Road trip snacks can be old favorites or new surprises.

The key is to find food that can withstand the realities of storage and potential temperature changes while spending time with you on the road, yet still be tasty enough to tempt you and healthy enough not to make you wish you had stayed home.

Planning Ahead is Key

The biggest key is to plan ahead.

Keep in mind that when on a road trip, the perfect snacks need to be able to withstand any eventuality.

It’s winter and you want to leave your food in the car to go out and about? No problem.

The middle of summer is a sauna outside and your only choice is to park in the sun? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered.

Simply keep reading for ideas on healthy and handy snacks to take with you on any day trip, vacation, day-to-day exploring, or even an afternoon of running local errands.

Key Items to Pack

While the right food is essential, the best way to ensure maximum enjoyment while eating on the go is to have a few key items at the ready to help you stay comfortable.

Pack a “go” bag of trash bags, baby wipes, and a hand towel or two.

Baby wipes are great for cleaning just about anything, including your hands, the car console, and even your clothing in a pinch. As an added bonus, they have the cleanser built in. Hand towels are washable and reusable, in addition to economical and environmentally friendly.

Healthy Snacks for Road Trips

Cooler Snacks

A small hard-sided cooler with a drain will be your new best friend on longer road trips. With this you can keep drinks cold, and can pack foods like cheese sticksyogurt, and even sandwiches without worry.

Soft-sided cooler bags are also terrific to keep in the trunk at all times in case you decide to buy some artisanal chocolates or locally made ice cream on a hot day.

It’s easy to keep reusable ice packs in your freezer to grab and go on your way out the door, or you can make your own with plastic storage bags and ice cubes.

Pre-Portioned Snacks

The best snacks are, of course, the ones you will enjoy and eat with gusto.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but so often people look towards healthy foods because they know they should eat carrot sticks when they really want peanut butter.

It’s okay to have both!

Think about your go-to snack choices and consider if those are items that are easy to keep on hand. Always start with what you like.

Hint: taking advantage of pre-portioned snacks are one of the easiest ways to keep your favorites on hand.

Road trips are also a great opportunity to add something new into the mix. Go ahead and pack something new and interesting to change things up for yourself. After all, food can and should be fun, and enjoying nutrition while you travel adds that much more dimension to your trip. 

Food in Bar Form

There are no end to the different brands and types of food made into portable, tasty bars. Granola bars work great in a pinch, of course, though keep an eye on added sugars with those. Kind bars and Lara bars are two brands that contain all natural foods without processed ingredients. They come in many flavors and taste great.

Check out your local running or athletic shop to see what options they have available. Honey Stinger creates small, hand-held waffles with – you guessed it – honey for a quick and tasty shot of healthy carbohydrates for energy. They also have gummy bites that are similar in consistency to gummy candy but are packed with electrolytes without added processed sugars.

Trader Joe’s is a great place to check out new snack ideas. One of their latest are “Nothing But Fruit and Nuts” disks. These small disks have few ingredients, no added sugars, and a lot of flavor. They are portable, can withstand all temperatures in the car, fit easily in your pocket, and will satisfy any sweet tooth.

(Trail) Mix It Up

Trail mix is the staple food of travelers everywhere. The options for trail mix are as endless as your imagination. Just about every grocery store and specialty store will have trail mix available in all sorts of combinations. Making your own is also an option.

Consider choosing your two favorites from the list below, and adding in more depending on your preferences.

Salty carbohydrates:

  • pretzels
  • cereal pieces
  • oat clusters
  • sesame sticks


  • M&Ms or other candy pieces,
  • dried fruits (papaya, mango, apple, raisin, banana, fig, etc.)
  • dried (sweetened or unsweetened) coconut


  • peanuts
  • cashews
  • almonds
  • macadamias

The possibilities with nuts range from salted or unsalted, smoked or flavored, mixed or individual variety. Nuts are one of the best portable protein sources around.


  • sunflower
  • pumpkin

A go-to recommendation: unsalted almonds plus peanut M&Ms. It’s a great combination of healthy nuts and a bit of sweet while getting in plenty of hunger-killing protein. 


While dried fruit is a terrific and versatile snack on its own, fresh fruit should not be overlooked. Apples and bananas are perhaps the world’s perfect snacks. They taste great, are portable, and are usually inexpensive.

Mandarin oranges are also a great travel snack, given how easy they are to peel and to enjoy. (That trash bag you packed will come in handy for the peels!)

Don’t underestimate the appeal of figs, both fresh and dried. If you have never had a fig before, now is the time to try them. They taste like chocolate. Don’t believe me? Try one.

Apples and pears are great options to bring sliced because they are not only easy to eat on the go, but you can then dip them into chocolate-hazlenut spread or nut butter.

If you prefer salty over sweet, consider pickles. That’s right: pickles.

They are portable, come ready to eat out of the jar, and have a satisfying salty crunch. They add flavor and fiber to your diet with minimal calories.

Think Protein

Protein is one of the best ways to boost your nutrition and stay full at the same time.

As an added bonus, many protein sources travel quite well, even without a cooler. With a cooler, though, your options are endless (think hardboiled eggs for the perfectly portioned protein snack).

Jerky is having a moment. It comes in many artisanal varieties, and is not hard to find in an all-natural state, without added fillers. Most grocery stores that specialize in organic or all natural foods have a fairly extensive selection of jerkies

Beef is but one option. It’s possible to also enjoy siracha bacon (thanks, Trader Joe’s!), venison, and even salmon in jerky or pressed stick form. (It tastes better than it sounds, trust me).

For vegetarians, enjoy munching on wasabi peas (peas are an excellent source of protein), dried edamame (the king of all portable protein sources), or dried chickpeas, which come seasoned in different flavors.


Try not to drink your calories if you can help it, so load up on good, old-fashioned water as much as you can.

Bonus: in addition to keeping you hydrated, water also helps you feel full.

For a bit of extra flavor without added sugar, enjoy the many brands of flavored, non-sweetened seltzer on the market now. Also consider making your own infused waters. Simply add a few strawberry or cucumber slices (or lemon slices, or lime slices, or orange, or grapefruit…you get the idea), or perhaps some mint to your water bottle and keep refilled with water throughout the day.

You can also make your own lemon lime and cucumber water and enjoy it’s many health benefits.

When looking for a beverage with more flavor, consider a lightly sweetened (or unsweetened) iced tea (the best are the ones you brew yourself, so you can control the sweetness), or perhaps a beverage made with real fruit juice that has little to no added sugar.

Final Thoughts

Above all else, the key when traveling is to enjoy your food.

Watch your portions. Come prepared.

Try something new. Embrace the familiar.

Protein, protein, protein. When in doubt, eat whole grains.

Avoid added sugars as much as possible, but a little is okay. Though really, a lot is okay, it just matters on what is important to you.

When you start out prepared to enjoy your time on the road and make healthy choices, there are no end to the opportunities to enjoy your food, try some new things, eat healthy snacks, and enjoy your time on the open road.

Suggested Shopping List:

____    Baby cut carrots with individual packets of salad dressing

____    Celery sticks and peanut butter (available in individual sized cups, or make your own with a spoon and small reusable plastic container)

____    Bar food of your choice

____    One fresh fruit of your choice

____    One dried fruit of your choice

____    Nuts

____    Coconut flakes

____    One food item you have never tried

____    One guilty pleasure

Suggested Packing List:

____    Hard-sided cooler with drain or soft cooler bag

____    Ice packs

____    Baby wipes, reusable cloth hand towels, or both

____    Trash bag(s)