What's summer without a car trip? Whether it involves days in the SUV on a cross-country trek or an hour-long jaunt to the nearest amusement park, time on the road requires snacks to keep kids happy and parents sane. There's no better way to stop the endless sounding of "Are we there yet?" than silencing your little darlings with a tasty morsel.
Packing car-friendly snacks involves more than just filling the cooler with soda and grabbing some bags of chips and a few candy bars. Messy, sticky items are a no-no, along with foods that can give kids a sugar rush. Those quick bursts of energy are followed by an inevitable letdown and ill tempers. On the other hand, heavy, filling foods aren't the best choices when you're spending your day in a car seat.
In this article, we'll take a look at some tips for packing snacks that will keep you satisfied all the way to Wally World -- or even shuffling between baseball practice and piano lessons.
Limit the Liquids
On the road, the best choice for a beverage is simply water. For one thing, it's cheap -- really cheap if you fill water bottles from the tap at home. If spilled, water won't make seats and door handles sticky. Kids aren't as likely to overindulge on water as they are with sweet soda or juice. They'll drink only as much as they need to quench their thirst. This means you won't be hitting the road with a bunch of kids hopped up on sugary beverages. Another bonus: Less liquid means fewer time-consuming bathroom breaks. If the kids won't drink plain water, add a bit of juice to give it some flavor. If juice is a must, don't forget the hard-sided holders to contain those flimsy boxes -- they're a disaster just waiting to happen.
Bring Filling Snacks
Pack snacks with lasting value, something that will stick with you as the miles roll along. Toss some packages of string cheese in the cooler, put dry cereal or trail mix in containers, and fill plastic, sealable sandwich bags with baby carrots, celery sticks or apple slices. Add individual cartons of dip for the veggies and apple slices, and you've got a snack that will keep little hands and mouths busy. If you'd like to add an extra punch of protein, spread the apple slices or celery sticks with peanut butter. Raisins on top turn it into "ants on a log." Grapes are great little self-contained snacks and good thirst-quenchers, too. Sturdy cookies -- like oatmeal, or those old favorites, animal crackers -- also work well in the car. Just stay away from anything too crumbly or delicate.
Keep It Clean
Perhaps just as important as the food you pack for your car trip are the cleanup supplies that go with it. Messes will happen no matter how carefully you pack. Bring along plenty of baby wipes for cleaning little faces. Hand sanitizer keeps the germs from traveling with you, while napkins and paper towels tackle big messes. Don't like all the paper waste? Try Mom's time-tested solution for road trips: a wet washcloth in a plastic bag.
Keep It Safe
Pack foods that don't have to be refrigerated: dried fruits, nuts, and apples and bananas are good choices. Avoid foods that spoil easily -- mayonnaise-laden dishes like potato salad, meats and dairy products. Remember, cut melons need to be refrigerated. Keep anything that needs to stay cold in a cooler, putting the most perishable foods at the bottom under a layer of ice. To skip the mess of melting ice, you can fill the cooler with frozen gel packs or simply freeze bottles of water. Once they thaw, you'll have something to sip on. Also, don't forget something like a plastic bag -- or even a small trash can -- so you can throw away any waste.
Make It Fun
It's vacation -- loosen up! The trip is as much a part of the fun as reaching the destination. Don't become the parent who's so worried about nutrition, sticky messes and stains on the car seats that you spoil the ride for everyone. Buy some treats, maintain a secret stash and reward your kids for good behavior along the way. Pull out the goodies -- maybe something that takes some concentration to consume, like those little packages of cheese spread and crackers. Purchase and pack a few foods you wouldn't normally indulge in. Don't forget to buy goodies for the adults, too. You deserve a treat. Allow enough time to enjoy the ride. You'll make some memories by stopping along the road for ice cream or a visit to a farm stand.
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- Fraser, Angela M. "Take Safety on Your Picnic." North Carolina State University. (May 26, 2010) http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/foodsci/ext/pubs/picnic.html
- O'Connor, Gail. "Healthy Road Trip Snacks." Toddler. (May 25, 2010) http://toddlermag.com/eat/car-trip-snacks/
- Park, Michael. "Road Trip Snacks: Top 13 Do's and Top 7 Don'ts." Epicurious. July 7, 2009. (May 26, 2010) http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/blogs/2009/07/road-trip-snacks-dos-and-donts.html
- Road Trip America. "Snackin' Better on the Road." (May 19, 2010) http://www.roadtripamerica.com/recipes/Road-Trip-Snacks.htm