Summer Hacks: Snack Edition

Summer is here and many of us will find ourselves travelling. Whether by car or by plane, with temperatures as they are, no one can blame us for heading out of town for a few days or weeks.

Anyone with kids — especially those of us with young children — will attest that snacks are a vital part of your toolkit when coping with travel. They aren’t just fuel for picky eaters (who likely won’t eat whatever meal you put in front of them at a roadside/airport restaurant), they are an activity in themselves.

A couple of things I’ve noticed:
  • over the course of a road trip or journey, your child will consume an incredible number of snacks! It’s better to be overpacked and over-prepared, than scrambling for something (or have to refuse!) when asked.
  • Because snacks function as an activity as well as a source of energy, try to provide a variety of different food groups and textures. It’s easy to get bored when you’re travelling, but snacks don’t have to be boring!
  • Presentation matters: food should always look inviting, and there is no group that visual appeal matters to more than toddlers and preschoolers. To that end, take the time to do the things that keep food looking and tasting its best.
  • Go with the flow. Sure, it’s not ideal for them to be constantly asking for snacks — nor do we necessarily want them to eat treats in huge quantity — but needs must. Travel definitely falls under the category “everything in moderation.” Journeys do come to an end, and worrying about how much and exactly what they are eating is less important — at least, to me! — than just getting through the trip.
This H-E-B snackle box is an affordable option for dry snacks and doesn’t take up too much space.

Essential Kit

I like to keep perishable snacks (anything that needs refrigeration, or at least cool packs to remain edible) separate from dry goods. To that end you’ll find me with several essential pieces of kit:
  • A well insulated lunchbox like this one from YumBox – I have both the snack size and the bento size, which I use for school (Mother’s Day Out) lunches. It has a silicone lid which seals and prevents wet foods from leaking (Bentgo make a similar box, and I also like the 100% silicone variation on the theme by Austin-based Austin Baby Co)
  • A snackle box: basically, a glorified tackle box. The little removable sections mean you can provide more or less variety, or keep things separated in size-appropriate slots
  • Small ice packs – I like the flat ones from Bentgo. They keep perishable foods cold for hours and are both quick to freeze, and easy to store. If I’m flying I buy cheap foil freeze packs than I don’t mind throwing away – they are easily passable through security when solid, but depending where you are travelling can be problematic once they turn to liquid
  • A snack pouch to keep loose snacks (cereal bars, fruit snacks, cracker packs, fruit leather, cookie packs, etc.) corralled together in my bag. My favorite is this cute but functional pouch from Austin-based small business Chalkfulloflove, I even gave one filled with goodies for Teacher Appreciation Day
  • Snack sized ziplock bags – perfect for portioning small crackers (like goldfish or Cheezits), cookies, candy, dried fruit, and chips so they can be handed out easily
  • A snack tower from Whiskware – we own a couple of these in various colors and themes (Cars, Bluey, Princesses) and they wash and wear well. The two larger containers take a whole cup, while the top takes a quarter. They are a great way to serve up things like cereal, freeze dried fruit, etc. as they keep them sealed and fresh and function as a bowl for little hands
The silicone lid seals the box shut, which keeps fruit and veggies fresh and can even work for yogurt, pudding etc. if needed.

Fresh Snacks

I always serve a selection of the following because they are pretty much guaranteed to be eaten! Balance out the inevitable beige (see the next section!) with fresh produce and a mix of proteins and fats:
  • cucumber sticks (they stay fresher than rounds), bell pepper slices, baby carrots
  • sliced, cubed or grated cheese like cheddar or colby
  • green peas, simply defrosted
  • string cheese
  • turkey or ham roll ups
  • diced grilled chicken
  • hard boiled eggs or egg bites
  • yoghurt pouches
  • wrap pinwheels made with cream cheese and ham/turkey
  • berries – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
  • grapes (quartered, please — especially if they will be eaten in the car)
  • Uncrustables – the wrapping helps stop them from drying out, and they defrost quickly
  • homemade mini quiches if I have time — mini pie crusts filled with eggs, cheese, spinach, and tomatoes
  • apple slices dunked briefly in salt water (my preference to prevent browning) or lemon juice
  • bananas
This snack pouch (linked above) is the perfect way to keep small bags, wrapped bars, etc. together in my bag.

Dry and Shelf-Stable Snacks

Bring on the carbs! The mainstay of a young child’s diet, these are the snacks that your child will probably eat most of.

  • crackers – Ritz, H-E-B mini rounds, goldfish, cheezits. Whatever your child already loves, stock up and portion out — travel isn’t the time to reinvent the wheel
  • chips — we like to take things like veggie straws and crunchy Cheetos because they are quite robust and won’t turn to sand easily
  • other savory snacks like pretzels, pretzel sticks, rice cakes
  • popcorn, sweet or salty
  • jerky or meat sticks, if your kids love it
  • dry cereal – cheerios are our favorite, add an extra challenge by letting them thread cheerios on a cord like beads
  • apple sauce pouches
  • shelf stable jello or pudding (pack some take and toss spoons)
  • cookies — the mini variety packs are great, we like the MadeGood brand for little ones. Oreo’s, Chips Galore, Nutter Butter etc also come in handy two-packs which are easy to store and pull out
  • two bite brownies, mini muffins, Little Bites etc. — we like the mini muffins from H-E-B bakery, I just remove the cases and slip them in the box or a bag
  • candy — M&Ms are always a hit if your kids are old enough, I otherwise like individually wrapped chocolate squares or mini bars, Kisses etc. for a little treat
  • granola or cereal bars – Nutrigrain are always a good option, we otherwise like MadeGood granola bars and bites, Larabar kids, and mini Clif bars, to keep energy levels going
Travel with kids is never easy, but being prepared – in terms of snacks, activities, and an endless supply of patience – can make all the difference in the world. They say that going away with little kids is just doing the same thing in a new location, but it is 100%, undoubtedly, WORTH IT. Whether you’re driving or flying this summer, have a wonderful vacation!
Natalie is the editor and content manager of Alamo City Moms. A proud Brit, she moved to Texas in late 2017 to be with her husband, a native San Antonian; she became a US Citizen in 2022. Their son was born in October 2020, and they are one and won! She spent the frivolous years of her early 20s pursuing a PhD in Renaissance history, living in Venice, Italy, and teaching. She pivoted into editing when she moved to the US, and joined the ACM team as a contributing writer in summer 2021. The rest, as they say, is history! Natalie lives on the north side of San Antonio with her husband, son, and their English cocker spaniel Oban. She loves searching out and sharing the best places to eat, drink coffee, and shop in San Antonio, and she’s never shy about sharing the highs - and lows - of motherhood. Favorite Restaurant: Tardifs Brasserie Favorite Landmark:World’s Largest Cowboy Boots Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Riverwalk Christmas Lights