August 24, 2009

Road Trip Snacks

My husband left on a road trip last week. To be more precise, he's driving alone across the country! It's unusual in this day and age, but he insisted. He had hoped for us to go together and take the train with a sleeper car, but when that proved too expensive, he'd waited too long to get a cheap flight. I'll fly in and join him later this week and drive back with him, hoping for some motel pools to beat the heat.

Before he left, I was busy packing him a big bag of snacks. I didn't want him to have to stop and pay a fortune for potato chips and other junk food. He seemed to think I was overdoing it and teased me a little bit, but after his 4-day drive, he told me he was so glad to have the bag and he hadn't needed to stop for a meal until the evening of the 3rd day! Now, that's going to change on the way back. They were meant as snacks, not meals. But here's what got my husband through almost 3 days of driving:

1. bananas
2. almonds
3. pistachios
4. peanut butter crackers
5. dates
6. Balance energy bars
7. tortilla chips
8. chocolate chip banana bread
9. peanut butter and jelly sandwich

I still don't know how most of that qualifies as a meal, but they're great snacks for a road trip, or to take on the plane now that they don't serve food and your only option is junk food from the airport.

I plan on taking some homemade trail mix with me on the flight. I'll post my favorite recipe soon.

What are your favorite road trip snacks? Or do you prefer to just let loose and enjoy the junk food? Maybe you adopt a "When in Rome" attitude and sample the local flavor, like a 72 oz. steak in Texas or White Castle burgers in the midwest. Please leave your thoughts and suggestions in the Comments section.


saymoi said...

I drive from Las Cruces NM to LA quite often and take a little cooler with me. I only stop for bathroom breaks and gas. I like hard boiled eggs, mozzarella sticks wrapped in ham, fun size Snicker bars & couple of cans of Coke. I also take banana bread with coffee from home for the early morning departure. When I drive back home from LA, it's usually a Starbuck's egg salad sandwich that I pick up with my morning coffee and scone. I also have a trunk load of Trader Joe's stuff so it's Guiltless pita chips, shrimp spring rolls and trail mix.

If I do stop, it's always Inn-n-Out.

Anonymous said...

We're doing a road trip in late October, 10-12 days around the perimeter of Flordia excluding the Keys - so this info was very good.

Personal taste: apples instead of banans; walnuts instead of pistachios. We try to stay at motels that include breakfast so that's covered. We use yoghurt thru out the day at home and will when we travel. Plan on taking some home baked goods and homemade trail mix too.

Dinner - hate to eat at restaurants but we know SuperTarget, WinnDixie & Walmart have good rotisserie chicken, grinders and sides & salads and plan on stopping there for dinner.

PS This trip is a 'try it out' trip for a planned roadtrip from Florida to the Grand Canyon (with lots of stops along the way) late next summer. We're in our 60's, retired and not sure how well we'll travel together nor how sure we'll take all that time in a vehicle.

Leigh @ compactbydesign said...

When I was a child I travelled with my grandparents many summers. We'd pack up the trailer and hit the road for a weekend, a week, or however long it took to drive from Minnesota to California, stay for a week and drive back. I don't remember ever eating in a restaurant when we were on the road. I don't remember the eating much at all actually, just the fun of sleeping in the bunk over the front table and how great it was to pull over and have our own toilet to use.

Today my husband is desperate to make a cross country trek. I've temporarily squashed the idea as we have a two month old and a two year old and that's two to many for me in a car for too long! But your snacks are pretty similar to what we pack up for any of our numerous other trips. Great snacks that don't leave a mess on your hands and can last a few days without full refrigeration.

As for the meals, your husband is just like mine and many others I'm sure. Snacking continuously removes the need for true meals as you never stop eating or get hungry!

WilliamB said...

I focus on things that are expensive to buy, so drinks and chips are on the top of the list. I take chips that I like but don't love, otherwise I'll eat them in the first two hours. Then fruit and something chocolaty. After that, probably whatever won't last till I get back.

stephanie said...

One thing I didn't see on your list that doesn't melt and travels well is fruit roll-up type things. The actual brand and whole foods-ish alternatives.

But, really - the thing I learned most from traveling the country on long drives is that EATING AT LOCAL ESTABLISHMENTS and stopping in at LOCAL GROCERIES is a big part of the local experience.

Do not fear talking to the locals and asking advice for a good restaurant or local grocer.

Instead of pulling off the highway to a national chain (Walmart, gas station, Target), find the main street/"downtown" strip and ask the kid with the piercings or the nice lady working at the coffee shop or drug store where the local VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT is (there is almost always one). Or the BREAKFAST PLACE WHERE THE LOCALS EAT, if you will be there the next morning. Or the best HAMBURGER/FAMILY FRIENDLY place in town. Etc.

No point in traveling the country to go to Target, Denny's, Shell Stations and Cracker Barrel, right?

Then you get to see the actual townspeople and eat local produce and recipes.

For me, that is definitely a huge part of experiencing different places.

Donna Freedman said...

My daughter and her husband are moving to Phoenix in a week. I'm giving them a small cooler to keep beverages cold, and have been putting together two "road food" bags for them. No chocolate, because it'll disintegrate in the heat, and no fresh fruit, because it'll rot; if they want these things they'll have to buy them along the way.
Included in the bags:
Beef jerky (lots of it; DSIL is a big fan)
Dried cherries (DD's favorite)
Two cans of cashews
Triscuits and Wheat Thins, which they eat plain but may stop and buy cheese for (the crackers were free after rebate)
Red Vines (yuck, but DD loves 'em)
Quaker "True Delights" granola bars, the roasted cashew/mixed berry variety (50 cents a box after double coupons)
Two bottles of flavored vitamin water (free with coupons)
A box of wet wipes (50 cents on clearance rack at Staples) and a half-roll of paper towels, since eating in the car is messy
I hope they find decent meals along the way. However, I know from my own road trips that having snacks in the car CAN help you cover miles, i.e., if you have a big breakfast and a couple of snacks you actually don't need to eat until 6 p.m. or later.

Betsy Talbot said...

We don't take car trips very often anymore, at least not ones more than a couple of hours, but on the East Coast we did. We always keep power bars in the car in case we are between towns and get hungry. And of course we bring water so we are not tempted to drink too many sodas.

But I agree with Stephanie about eating at local restaurants (not chains). You can learn a lot about an area based on food, and you'll miss out if you stick with the tried-and-true. Food has always been a huge part of my travel experience, and the only food I take with me is to prevent a blood sugar meltdown or if I know I'll be in airports the whole way (you can eat healthy in an airport, but it takes effort to find it and it costs a lot).

So keep the snacks for the drive, but definitely stop for dinner!

Angela said...

saymoi- I love your ideas, and I'm going to steal the hardboiled eggs and mozz sticks for our drive back!

And yes, when we stop for Fast Food, it's In and Out as long as there's one in the area. We ask for a "grilled cheese" and it's two slices of melted cheese with their amazing sauce and toasted bun. We love it!

Anonymous- Your trip sounds amazing, and so does next year's. That's a good idea to see how you get along together that long. And I hope you'll consider not leaving out the Keys, unless you've been there already. They were my favorite part of our Florida trip. The Everglades were also amazing. Have a great trip! And thanks for commenting! I'm a big yogurt eater, but not sure how long it would last in a cooler. I guess a day or two at least. Maybe I'll bring that as well.

Leigh- I drove cross country with my parents as a kid four different times, due to moves. The first time I was four, my brother was two, and we had our dog Daisy, a good-natured cocker spaniel. The two of us and the dog were in the back "seat" of a Corvette- which wasn't even a seat, just an area! Seat belts, there weren't even seats! How times have changed. I think if my mom had a choice, she might have waited until we were a little older. I think we were excited though and not fussy, and I don't remember anything about food. I think my mom packed things. I think you're smart to get your husband to wait a bit until you can all enjoy it.

WilliamB- yes, I don't like to pay on the road for those kind of snacks (you pay through the nose) And that's a good strategy- chips you like but not TOO much, otherwise you'll eat them all right away- I can relate to that!

Stephanie- I totally agree. On the way back, we'll make it more of a trip and eat snacks during the day and stop once a day at a local spot. I think he was just trying to make good time and not spend any money. But I definitely like to sample the local flavor and in fact get depressed if all there is are fast food joints. Also, I love fruit roll ups, but he doesn't!

Hi Donna! Thanks for commenting! That sounds like a great "road care package" you've put together. I'm going to add Triscuits or Wheat Thins on our return trip. And yes, my husband always brings the wet wipes, and I am always so thankful!

Betsy- Yes, snacks for the drive and stop for dinner is what we'll be doing on the way back. And Power Bars have gotten me through more than one low-blood-sugar near crisis. They're brilliant.

Another great road trip snack would be homemade granola bars, there's a recipe on A Mountain Top High, here it is:

Thanks everyone for your memories, plans, and ideas. I love road trips!