Road trips… I think everyone can agree there’s something enticing about a good road trip. It almost doesn’t even matter where you’re going; just the idea of hitting the road and eagerly awaiting the next stop is exciting. Having the right people with you is important. Having the right road trip snacks is essential!
So, just what are the best snacks for a road trip? Of course, the answer to that question is a little different for everyone. But, I think we’d all agree that the best road trip snacks have just a little bit (or maybe a lot) of a guilty pleasure to them. Maybe something you don’t typically eat at home. Perhaps even something you can’t get at home. After all, that’s what a good road trip is all about, right? It’s an escape from your everyday life.
With as much as we travel, we do have to tame our indulgences just a bit. As such, the list of our favorite road trip snacks includes both reasonably healthy snacks and sugary treats.
I’ve linked to products on Amazon in case you want to stock up before hitting the road. That is something we do occasionally. That said, you’ll invariably have to stop at a gas station to use the restroom at some point. When we do that, we always make a point to buy a snack there (especially if we’re not getting gas). That’s just our way of saying “Thanks” and not being selfish jerks.
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Updated October 2020
Grant’s number one go-to road trip snack is Beef Jerky. Or really any kind of jerky. All in all, jerky is a relatively healthy and filling snack. Yes, jerky can have a lot of sodium and preservatives, but it’s also typically low in calories, saturated fat, carbs and sugar.
Since having a heart attack, Grant isn’t supposed to eat a lot of beef. For that reason, he has started ordering Turkey Perkey Jerky from Amazon regularly. Yes, we actually have it on “subscribe & save.” It is actually quite a bit cheaper to get a large bag from Amazon than buy it at the grocery store or gas station.
If we’re at a gas station, though, he’ll usually just get beef jerky. If we’re out west and find bison or elk (or really any other kind of game meat), he’ll typically go for that. Honestly, the saturated fat in jerky is often so low (if there’s any) that he doesn’t worry about it too much.
The real treat, though, is when we drive to Tallahassee to visit my family and we pass Stripling’s General Store in Cordele. With offerings of custom cut meats, sausage, jerky and all kinds of southern treats, we just about always stop here when driving by. Stripling’s pork jerky is some of the best out there. If you’re ever in south Georgia and have a chance to get some Stripling’s jerky (or, really, just about anything from Stripling’s), we highly recommend you do!
Another filling snack we like is Clif Bars. Chocolate chip has been one of our favorite flavors for a long time. This summer, we tried cool mint chocolate and it’s a new favorite!
Clif Bars also make a great breakfast if you’re in a hurry. We certainly have eaten chocolate-flavored bars for breakfast, but, honestly, we prefer Blueberry Crisp in the morning.
Whether for breakfast or a snack, Clif Bars are hearty, reasonably healthy (while also being a little indulgent) and not terribly expensive. Another great feature is that they are not coated in chocolate, so they won’t melt in a hot car!
Zapps Voodoo Kettle Chips
Grant, especially, loves the kick of these kettle chips. Born in New Orleans, Zapp’s Voodoo Kettle Chips have this smoky-sweet flavor that is just plain unique. These are a perfect accompaniment for sub sandwich or, even better, a muffuletta!
You can get other flavors but Voodoo is Grant’s favorite, hands down!
Smoked Almonds or Other Nuts
Again, still trying to stay somewhat healthy, most nuts make for a filling snack. One of our favorites is the Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds. The smokiness and, let’s be honest, salt, give the almonds a nice rich flavor. I’m sure they aren’t as healthy as plain almonds, but they are so much tastier.
Blue Diamond offers a variety of flavors, including whole natural and lightly salted for those of you really trying to be healthy.
Just the Cheese
I love cheese, so when the folks at Just the Cheese reached out to us about sampling their product, I jumped on it! The crispy snack is available in bars or bite-size rounds and in a variety of flavors. One of their representatives hooked us up with a nice selection for our Great Lakes trip.
As Grant crunched away on a Grilled Cheese bar, he noted, “It’s very cheesy.”
Of course, I responded, “Well, it is just cheese. And maybe a little flavoring.”
That’s what’s so great about Just the Cheese. It literally is just baked cheese. Ok, the Jalapeño Cheese bars have 2 ingredients – cheese and jalapeños. I love snacks without a lot of filler or preservatives.
Just the Cheese is low carb and has a reasonable amount of protein. The only minor complaint is that they are a little salty. To be fair, though, cheese is usually a bit salty. I think it’s just a bit more noticeable in the baked form. Still, this is a great road trip snack.
So far, I haven’t seen Just the Cheese in stores, but their web site says it is available in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, along with a few places in Wisconsin.
Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels
This was a recent discovery on our trip out to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We had seen these in several convenience stores throughout the Midwest and decided to give this North Dakota native snack a try. Wow! These are really good!
These come in two varieties: the Original Seasoned (red bag) and the Southwest Seasoned (blue bag). The Original is more of a garlic and herb flavor while the Southwest is a bit bolder. Both are great but if we had to choose, we would go with the Southwest flavor.
Since we got these, we have started noticing them a bit more often and you can order them on Amazon.
Ok, now we’re getting into the guilty pleasures: Combos. I’m pretty sure Combos are the exact opposite of Just the Cheese. Are any of the ingredients real? Is there anything about them that is in any way healthy? I think there’s a good chance that the answer to both those questions is no.
I don’t care. Well, some days I do. But some days you just go for the tasty treat no matter how bad it is for you. Life’s too short to not take a few risks.
Combos currently come in 7 different flavors. Our favorite is buffalo blue cheese.
If you want something salty and crunchy, Combos will satisfy your craving!
We all know M&Ms. I’m pretty sure we all love M&Ms. The question is, what’s your favorite variety? I think we try to trick ourselves into thinking the M&Ms are a not-so-bad treat if they have peanuts in them. I mean, peanuts are healthy, right?
Healthy or not, Peanut M&Ms are generally hearty enough to actually fill you up if you’re a little hungry. And they typically won’t melt in a hot car… That’s always a plus on a road trip, especially if you’re packing a box of your favorite snacks for the entire trip.
Another classic here: Snickers. Again, it’s typically a relatively hearty snack if you’re hungry and you can almost fool yourself into thinking its healthy because it contains peanuts.
With the gooey caramel, though, Snickers is definitely a guilty pleasure. Still, sometimes you just gotta indulge!
This is one snack to not leave in your car for long, though. A melted Snickers may taste *almost* as good, but it’ll be a huge mess. Better to just pick this one up on the road if you’re traveling somewhere hot. Snickers is definitely an easy buy if just stopping to use the restroom.
With all this food, you’re gonna need something to wash it down. The drink selections at gas stations can vary widely, but you’re pretty much always guaranteed to be able to find soda (or pop, depending on where you live).
While we both try to avoid soda, we also both have a soft spot for Dr. Pepper. And, well, sometimes you just need the caffeine to keep you going.
I will typically go for Diet Dr. Pepper, while Grant sticks with regular. Yeah, yeah… I know the fake sugar isn’t good for me. Neither is the real sugar. There’s always something to ruin the fun.
The best thing about Dr. Pepper is that it’s independent. So, it really doesn’t matter if you’re in a land of Coke or Pepsi, you’ll likely still find Dr. Pepper.
When I don’t need the caffeine, or just want to make a healthier choice, I typically go for flavored sparkling water. I know that plain still water is the best choice, but that gets boring after a while.
Of course, sparkling water is definitely harder to find. I prefer the non-sweetened drinks such as Deer Park Sparkling Black Cherry or Perrier Peach. In a small store, I’m often out of luck. Sometimes I keep a few on hand (especially when trailing with the RV). Other times I just suck it up and make a different choice.
I do think that sparkling water is becoming a bit more mainstream, so hopefully, I’ll find it easier to buy on the road in the future.
Grant’s go-to “healthy” drink is Gatorade or Powerade (as a Florida State alumna, I prefer to not support the Gators if I don’t have to). On a hot afternoon, especially after a long hike, either of these sports drinks is almost essential.
Never one to be too mainstream, Grant tends to prefer the more exotic flavors. His favorite flavor is cucumber lime. Even for breakfast, he prefers tangerine or mango to orange. That said, he doesn’t like all the crazy flavors so it’s sometimes difficult for me to predict what he’ll like when faced with new options.
I just wish all the flavors came in the smaller bottles that fit into the cup holders.
Final Thoughts on Our Favorite Road Trip Snacks
When you’re on the road, you have to keep yourself “fed and watered.” No one wants to get hangry. More importantly, no one wants their travel partner to get hangry!
Staying hydrated, of course, is essential to life. On a road trip though, it also has to be balanced with how many potty breaks you’re willing to take. I admit I have a tiny bladder. On the days when we can actually make it 2-3 hours without stopping, we both celebrate. Thus, I choose my beverages carefully and try to not drink too quickly.
Whether you’re packing your favorite road trip snacks or picking them up along the way, having the right food and drinks is essential to a good trip.
What did we leave out? What are your favorite snacks? Bonus points for untraditional road trip snacks! Leave us a comment below – we’re always looking for new things to try!