Travel and Activities

Food For Your Road Trip With Less Mess and More Success

Esther Pransky July 30, 2020

add or remove this to/from your favorites

Moving on (pun intended) in our road trip series, let’s talk about food again.

We already covered what you’ll eat at your destination, but what about in the car? Packing food for the car takes some thought. You’d like to balance healthy and satisfying with kid-friendly and low-mess.

Here’s our list of food to go that will check off all the boxes.

Snacks on the go

Let’s start with snacks here, because, realistically, the kids will be noshing most of the trip. How else do you pass the time?

The easiest snacks will be ones that are already in individual packages. Why? Imagine what happens when you pass a family sized package of pretzels around the car. It’s not pretty.

Stick to individual bags and you’ll have fewer disastrous snack spills:

  • Pretzels
  • Gefen Bars (including a brand new Peanut butter flavor!)

For fruits and veggies, pre-wash and cut them all. If the entire piece is edible, that makes it less likely (although not impossible) that you’ll find a rotting apple core under a seat come next Passover.

  • Carrots with individualized hummus dips
  • Cut veggies like sliced peppers, cucumbers or grape tomatoes
  • Grapes

Real food for real kids

Meals are a great way to provide variety in between snacks. Definitely ask your children for their preference in advance. They still may not eat the food you lovingly packed (see below), but it increases the odds in your favor.

Once again, go for individual portions whenever possible. Stick to finger foods to make less mess.

  • Yogurt squeezes
  • String cheese
  • Borekas
  • Blintzes
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Individually wrapped sandwiches (make sure to bring water and a washing cup!)

Less mess

Mess management is a big deal on car trips. If a child spills on himself, that can quickly send the car ride into a tailspin. And the mess on the floor of the car can spiral out of control before you know it.

Some families try to minimize or eliminate the constant eating in the car. They’ll drive through the night when everyone is asleep and (presumably) not eating. Or, if weather and timing allow, they’ll plan a picnic at a rest stop.

Other tips include:

  • Make sure every row has a designated garbage bag.
  • Pack drinks with closed tops like juice boxes or water bottles with sports tops.
  • Don’t pack anything that needs to be eaten with a fork or spoon. It will spill!
  • Avoid chocolate, especially in the heat of the summer.

Set yourself up for success

How does the saying go? Plan twice, pack once. Or something like that.

Once you’re on your way, you’re stuck with what you brought, so plan ahead for maximum success. Like we said earlier, let each kid choose their own main, be it sandwich, yogurt, or anything else. Each kid can also pack their own snack bag, too.

  • Keep the food light. Kids (and adults) can get slightly carsick and heavy food may not be appealing.
  • If you have space, overpack on the non-perishable snacks. You’ll be covered even if your trip takes longer than expected, and they won’t go bad.
  • Pack one bag of treats for the adults to give out for good behavior at different intervals of the trip. For treats, choose something that takes a long time to eat, like a lollipop.

Happy eaters

  • If you pack lunches for school, you already know that the same kids who begged for a cream cheese sandwich on Monday night may not want it anymore come lunch on Tuesday. (Especially if they get carsick, see above.) This is NOT the time to be a stickler for well balanced meals. Just try to keep everyone happy during the trip.
  • Buy a fun treat for everyone at a rest stop
  • Put a surprise in each kid’s snack bag

Special thanks to my friends and family for contributing their tips and tricks!