Whether it’s snacks in the car or a favorite roadside eatery, you have to eat! After years of experience on many road trips and tons of food consumed, I can safely say that I can recommend the following items as perfect road food snacks.
In the car…
Make sure you place perishables in a cooler (I avoid coolers all together). Steer clear of foods that are messy and hard to handle.
Avoid melt-ables like chocolate. Although a favorite candy – peanut butter cups do not travel well. They melt, they’re messy and hard to unwrap. Several candy bars fall within the melt-able category. The best traveling candy is M&Ms. As the saying goes, they melt in your mouth, not in your hand.
Make your own trail mix – choose bite sized treats. I try and stay away from yucky dried fruits, but if you’re a health nut – knock yourself out. I prefer a good mix of M&Ms (plain, peanut, peanut butter – it’s all good), mixed nuts, pretzels, sunflower seeds, Chex Party Mix, Cheez-It or Nabs, Bugles… you get the idea. It’s great to grab a handful.
Always bring along bottled water. You can drink it cold or tepid. Soft drinks aren’t very tasty unless they are cold. Try to buy soft drinks during pit stops – gas, lunch, or rest areas – and drink them then.
If it’s cold outside or you just need a burst of caffeine to keep you going, make sure to bring along a thermos of hot coffee (or cocoa). Don’t be shy at fast food restaurants – ask them to refill it when you’re running low.
Cookies, individually wrapped snack cakes and crackers and chips are all good bets, but avoid chocolate coated cookies (see meltables above). Krispy Kreme glazed donuts are a yummy treat and will last for a few days (this only works if traveling through a low humidity area)! Make sure to look for the hot sign!
Okay, okay… you say I only list junk food. Well, as a rule that’s what makes a good road trip. But if you must, bring along something healthy try apples, bananas, grapes – the less messy fruits. But remember, they don’t stay fresh forever. I’ve been in a car that smelled like a brewery when leftover grapes were not disposed of and banana peels are nasty creatures. If you don’t want the processed foods, bring along homemade goodies – muffins, cookies, pack sandwiches – whatever sounds good. Just remember, keep it simple and avoid a mess.
Looking for a quick meal?
Combine your fill-up stops with a meal. Fast food drive-thrus are a quick alternative to a road trip on a schedule and now many gas stations have combined with fast food restaurants. However, eating and driving can be messy and dangerous. We don’t recommend it, but if you do… Don’t order a huge sandwich with lots of toppings or you’ll find half the contents in your lap. Fries are an easy fast food to manage, just limit the ketchup.
Want to sit down for a meal?
There are several restaurants lined along Interstate exits. For something quick, stick with the fast food chains. You’ve eaten it before, you know what you like, they all taste the same. But if you have a little extra time, relax and be served. My favorite road trip eatery is the Cracker Barrel – good country cooking and a little country store to boot. You can’t miss with the chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes and sawmill gravy! And if you’re there on Wednesday or Saturday, make sure you try the potato soup. Plus you can pick up a free map inside that lists all the Barrels throughout the country.
If you’re near a well populated area, you can find chain restaurants right off the highway. Look for areas with shopping malls and college campuses. You’ll likely find Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Chilis, Roadhouse Grill, Outback Steakhouse to name a few.
And for those of you more adventurous, stop off at a little Mom & Pop restaurant or even a truck stop. You don’t know what you’ll find but it could be good (or not so much…).
Here’s my last tip…always bring along a package of disposable wipes (anti-bacterial is a smart choice). I always keep a package in my car for every day use. They’re handy for quick clean ups after pumping gas or messy snacks. Remember… good hygiene is always important, even on vacation!
Tell us about your favorite roadtrip staple, or a not to miss roadside restaurant.