If there's one thing our family is good at, it's road-tripping. My best tactic for getting through a long drive all in one piece is to keep little bellies happy: pack healthy road-trip snacks and allow plenty of extra time for pit stops along the way. Because let's face it, road-tripping as a family can be trying for parents and boring for the little ones. So to keep travel as stress-free as possible, plot your stops out ahead of time so you have something to look forward to. Try to make the experience as special and fun as possible—and keep a few surprises up your sleeve to keep everyone smiling till the finish line.
Pack a reusable water bottle for every child and every grownup and refill them with fresh water at every pit stop. Seltzer water is a fun no-sugar option my kids are obsessed with right now. They love it because, bubbles. And they get to pick their own flavor at the gas station. I love it, too, because there's no sugar and spills don't really matter.
More drinks to pack:
• Smoothies (packed in an insulated thermos)
• 100% juice pouches
Start your road trip off on the right foot (er, wheel?) with fresh fruits and veggies. Keep cut produce fresh in a small cooler or add an ice pack to one of the kids' insulated lunch bags. Pack something special that everyone will be excited about eating; for my family, that's fresh strawberries, pineapple, mango and snap peas.
More fresh fruit & veggie ideas for a road trip:
• Apple slices
• Mini cucumbers
• Cut carrots
• Sliced bell peppers
Pictured: Honey-Peanut Popcorn
Popcorn is a perfect healthy snack for older kids: it's high in fiber, low in calories and (surprise!) it counts as a whole grain. Kids love it for the crunchy, salty factor. Air-popped popcorn and a simple lemon-Parmesan seasoning is all you need to make a craveable road-trip snack. Or get a little more creative by adding honey, peanuts and butter. Just be careful with little ones: the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping popcorn, raw carrots, nuts and seeds away from children younger than 4 years, since these foods pose a choking risk.
More whole-grain snack ideas:
• Granola bars
• Whole-grain cereal bars
• Whole-wheat muffins
• Whole-grain crackers
• Oatmeal cookies
Pictured: Dried Apples
I will squeeze as many fruits and veggies into my kids' diets as I can. But sometimes lugging a cooler around just isn't realistic. Fruit and veggie chips and dried fruit are great snacks that don't need to be kept cold. Dried apples and kale chips are favorites with my kids.
More dried fruit & veggie ideas:
• Sweet potato chips
• Beet chips
• Brussels sprout chips (yes, that's a thing, and they're delicious)
• Dried cherries
• Dried cranberries
Related: How to Make Homemade Veggie Chips
Pictured: Mini Rice-Cake Stack
Make sure to include some kid snacks with protein in your road-trip repertoire. Protein will keep their little bellies fuller longer. Spread peanut butter or sunflower-seed butter on mini rice cakes and top with banana coins for a perfect bite-size snack.
More protein-filled snack ideas:
• Meat sticks
• Cheese sticks
• Yogurt pouches
• Lunchmeat roll-ups
• Hard-boiled eggs
Pictured: Crunchy Granola Wedges
I'm an overpacker all around, but I've never regretted overpacking healthy travel snacks. I ALWAYS regret underpacking. Mix up some big batches of granola bars to have. Just. in. case.
More big-batch snack ideas:
• Trail mix
• No-bake cookies
• Energy balls
• Mixed nuts
Pictured: Crunchy Cereal Trail Mix
Stash some small nonperishables in your diaper bag or day bag. These will come in handy for when you've finally arrived at your destination and are nowhere near a grocery store or don't have time to go shopping right away. If there's one thing that will head off a meltdown at the zoo, it's having some speedy nourishment at the ready. I always keep some fruit pouches, such as unsweetened applesauce, in my diaper bag, and something with protein for staying power, such as trail mix.
More small snack ideas to stash:
• O's cereal
• Dried fruit
• Granola bars
• Fruit leather
Pictured: Chocolate-Covered Brownie Bites
My kids are conditioned to expect a sweet treat at the halfway point. It gives them (and me!) something to look forward to and breaks up the monotony of a long drive. Sometimes I'll pack a homemade treat, like cookies or bite-size brownies, but if I don't have time, then the kids get to pick their own treat at the gas station. A winner every time? Those individual serving cups of the sugar cereal that they don't get to have at home.
More treat ideas to pack (or buy):
• Mini chocolate-chip cookies
• Dark chocolate-covered pretzels
• Graham crackers
• Lemon snap cookies
• Animal crackers
Related: Healthy Family Summer Survival Guide