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12 Make-Ahead Snacks to Power Your Next Road Trip

12 make ahead snacks to power your next road trip header

By Anthony St. Clair on August 4, 2021 in Travel

However long the road trip and whether it’s just you or a crew, snacks are always welcome on the ride. In fact, nutrient-dense, satisfying, make-ahead road snacks don’t just make the trip more enjoyable. They can help you stay more alert, prevent hanger, and help stabilize your energy levels. Plus, since you can make fewer food and drink stops, packing your own snacks can also save you money and help you get from point A to point B faster.

So, what should you bring? This snackable guide takes you on a tasty tour of road-trippable options. No matter your budget or dietary considerations, this list can be your go-to guide for make-ahead snacks that are easy to transport. We’ve included some shelf-stable items; others require a cooler. You and your copilots can enjoy each option either in a car or while you pull off for a pit-stop picnic. Read on for our favorite homemade snacks to fill you up, so you can go the distance.

Breakfast sandwiches

A great thing about a car trip? It’s a good reminder that you can enjoy breakfast foods — including breakfast sandwiches — any time of the day. Part of the beauty of a good breakfast sandwich is its simplicity: All you need is bread, protein, extras, and storage.

For example, pack a protein-packed bagel sandwich filled with smoked salmon, pickled asparagus, and eggs.

Tip: Don’t skip the schmear of cream cheese. It can help glue the sandwich together, preventing the fixings from winding up on the steering wheel.

Or go extra savory with a frittata-style sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich — baked up in a Bundt pan. The frittata makes all your fillings cohesive and much easier to enjoy on the go.

Granola bars

Granola bars can be crunchy, chewy, salty, savory, and/or sweet. Their versatility combines with another road-friendly feature: Homemade granola bars can be cut into whatever size is the best fit for your road trip crew’s appetite.

Granola bars can include nut butters, tahini, dried fruit, dried vegetables, nori, chocolate chunks — you name it. Plus, making a batch of granola bars doesn’t even have to require turning on the oven. Many recipes can be shelf-stable after they’re prepared, so you don’t even have to pack a cooler.

Ready to get your granola on? Try out these fruit and seed-packed, applesauce-sweetened oaty energy bars, or combine sweet and bitter with these honey, almond, and tahini healthy no-bake granola bars. Homemade bars can be packed in single-serve bags or tucked into a travel food container for easy grabbing on the go.

Energy balls

Looking for more of a bite-size snack? Try energy balls! As the mini version of the energy bar, they focus on building a few nutrient-dense ingredients into a stick-together ball. They can be baked or no-bake, sweet or savory.

When putting together your energy balls, think about how you’ll most like to enjoy them. Some roadtrippers like energy balls they can eat in a few bites. Other prefer popcorn-size small bites they can pop and chomp.

For a protein-packed, vegetable-focused take on a tasty energy ball, try these baked zucchini, feta, and quinoa bites. Or take a more cookie-style approach with these five energy ball combos including oatmeal raisin and white chocolate cranberry. Energy balls can be sticky, so consider wrapping them in squares of wax paper to keep them from sticking and to make them easier to eat on the road.

Trail mix

Want something you can dig into? Trail mix is an enduring, versatile classic. Mix up dry ingredients, bag them, and chow down when hunger strikes. A few handfuls go a long way when it comes to keeping you focused on a long drive.

Today’s trail mixes can range from classic GORP (good ole raisins and peanuts), to intricate combinations and proportions of a range of bite-size sweet, salty, chewy, savory, and crunchy ingredients. Here are a few ideas for your next road-worthy trail mix.

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter filled pretzels
  • Jerky
  • Dried fruit
  • Crumbled nori
  • Sesame cracker sticks
  • Chocolate chunks

Pack a few trail mix bags, and dole one out when a child (or driver) gets restless.

Veggies and dip

You can drive and eat your veggies too. Whether you choose hummus or a cheddar cheese spread, thick dips add extra nutrients and flavor to your crispy veggies — and they’re less likely to make a mess in the car.

Consider packing your dip in a container that fits a console cupholder. That way, your dip stays upright and doesn’t spill, but it’s still convenient enough for you to dip into while keeping your eyes on the road.

Some great road-trip veggies include:

  • Celery sticks
  • Baby carrots
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Sugar snap peas

You can also bake up some chip-style veggies such as these beetroot chips or other root vegetable chips.

Turkey and cheese roll ups

When it comes to car-friendly comfort food, it’s hard to beat a good turkey and cheese roll-up. And if you’re a fan of roll-ups like the ones you can find at big box stores, you can power down the highway with a simple homemade version.

The key to this combination? Make sure to balance the rich, creamy flavors of cheese and turkey with the bright, acidic tangs of condiments such as a mustard or cranberry sauce.

If you want a more filling snack, serve up the full wrap handheld burrito-style. Or you can slice the filled wrap into smaller discs.

Fruit leather and nut butter rollups

The beauty of homemade fruit leather is the concentration of flavor. The drying process packs intense sweet and tangy notes into thin strips of dried fruit, such as these no added sugar strawberry roll ups. While berries can make great fruit leather, so can just about any fruit such as these healthy one-ingredient mango roll ups or this fall-flavored cinnamon apple pear leather.

While fruit leather is a delicious and chewy treat, it can take a lot to tide over a hungry stomach. Power up your fruit leather by turning it into filled fruit roll ups: Lay out your strips of fruit leather and spread on a thin layer of cashew, peanut, hazelnut, or almond butter. Roll up the filled leather, slice it into rings, bag it up, and get ready for a taste sensation that’s like a PB&J without the bread!

Roasted, seasoned chickpeas

As a good source of complex carbs and protein, the humble chickpea packs major nutrition into a teeny little globe. A bowl of these beauties isn’t necessarily road friendly, but with a hot oven and a little time, you can crank out a batch of roasted chickpeas that will fill you up without slowing you down.

Toss your chickpeas with oil and roast at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 to 40 minutes on a cookie sheet. If the chickpeas seem done but aren’t quite crunchy enough, turn off the oven and leave the cookie sheet inside. Taste test a few every 5 to 10 minutes until they’re crunchy enough, then let them cool and pack them into travel containers for easy handfuls of nutrient-dense, crispy pick-me-ups.

Mini muffins

Whether sweet or savory, muffins make for a great bake-ahead road-trip snack.

Eggy breakfast-style muffins can combine cheddar and bacon; tomato, mozzarella, and spinach; or mushrooms and peppers. Low-carb, paleo-friendly muffins can pack in healthy fats, filling veggies, spices, and even a bit of dark chocolate. Or choose a more traditional recipe such as cinnamon apple or a blueberry muffin that packs in more than half a pound of blueberries into a single batch, yet still keeps some cakey texture.

For max freshness, bake your muffins the day before. Instead of a plastic bag, a rigid container will help prevent the muffins from getting smooshed and broken.

Sweet or savory waffles

Waffles are a wonderful way to power your travels. Rather than handle a whole waffle at once, you can cut them into quarters so they’re easier to eat on the go.

Whether plain, packed with berries, or topped with chocolate chunks, waffles can be a delicious, sweet way to boost your road stamina. To make your waffles more filling, flavorful, and nutrient dense, try variations like these savory sweet potato and spinach waffles or these savory masa corn cakes.

Hand pies

The name of this snack says it all — the hand pie was made for eating on the go. They can be filling and savory such as a steak-and-root vegetable Cornish pasty or a pea-and potato-packed Punjabi-style samosa.

Prefer a touch of sweetness? Hand pies can be filled with pretty much anything, from apples or peaches to blackberries or pumpkin pie filling.

Mini charcuterie boxes

If you’re looking for a filling, savory snack spread, it’s hard to beat a charcuterie box. Cured meats travel well, and they’re easy to pair with anything from cheese and crackers to fresh fruit and pickled veggies.

If you want to go all out with your packable board, you may want to pull off the road — say at a rest stop, scenic viewpoint, or park — to enjoy it picnic style.

You can also keep things car-friendly and simple: Fill a multi-compartment container with your pre-cut pieces of cheese (such as less crumbly sharp or medium cheddar), cured meats (such as salami, summer sausage, or pepperoni), pickles, raw veggies, crackers, and/or fruit. You can enjoy a different combination with every bite as you watch the scenery unfold beyond your windshield.

Fuel your next road trip with tasty, nutrient-dense snacks

Whether powered by gas or electricity, your vehicle needs fuel — and you do too. Sure, stop for whatever quick eat or leisurely lunch strikes your fancy. However, when you pack a few snacks you made ahead of time, you’ll be able to keep up your energy for the road ahead and save time and money.

Above all, packing your own snacks gives you options. If you’re hungry but there’s nowhere to eat, you don’t have to worry about finding food. If you want to eat but don’t want to stop, grabbing one of your make-ahead snacks can help you fill up while you log miles.

Anthony St. Clair is a consultant for Say Insurance. He's an author, globetrotter, craft beer expert, and professional writer based in the US Pacific Northwest. When he’s not writing, Anthony is with his wife and two children, usually either cooking or going on some sort of adventure.