One thing that makes a huge difference in the comfort level of travelling by car is if you are well fed and hydrated. Not just for the kids, but the adults too. We find that while restaurant food has been pretty good in our travels, often it is just too time consuming and the portions much too large when we are doing a long trek from one area to the next.
Being from Canada, the border itself causes challenges when packing the food box. There are things that we are not allowed to bring into the USA such as fresh fruit, veggies, or meats, so we must buy our more perishable items en route. Keep this in mind if you plan to do cross border travel and check out the regulations to keep from having to ditch items at the border.
Make sure if you are buying perishable items that you keep your cooler cold so that there is no spoilage. Nothing wrecks a trip faster then a case of food poisoning! If you are travelling somewhere hot, such as the desert, be extra careful. We never left the food box or the cooler in the car. Bring it into your hotel room to keep items from spoiling and/or melting. Immediately transfer perishables to your hotel room fridge.
Drinks: Try to keep the drinks to something that isn't sugary, that won't stain your car, and won't make your kids have to stop to pee every 10 miles.
-bottled water, water, water, water-freeze some and put it in the cooler to keep things extra cold
-single serving Crystal Light or Lipton Green Tea mixes for variety. I like these because they are also low calorie
-V-8 juice: good for when you aren't getting any veggies on the road, and a bit filling too
-packets of hot chocolate
-iced tea mix (for us Canadians that find American iced tea yukky)
Crackers and other breads: These are great because they can be combined with peanut butter, cream cheese, string cheese, or pre-mixed tuna/salmon for a small meal. Add some veggies and fruit and you're set.
-mini pita breads
-mini cereal boxes or cups (I find these too sugary, and they are too hard to eat out of, so we just bring a small box or two of cereal-it's also so much cheaper then buying the cups, and I use a cup from the plastic dishes that I bring to serve it in the car.)
-mini muffins: there are many recipes over at Recipes from the Cookie Jar, pack them frozen to keep them longer.
Fruit and Veggies: pick something that won't spoil or bruise easily and that you and your kids will eat
-sugar snap peas
-cups of applesauce or fruit cups
-dried fruit (although this isn't very filling and is murder on their teeth)
-need dip? Try to get the single serving sized ones or you can get carrots packed with dip, although more expensive
-yogurt: tubes or single serving cups
-cream cheese (try to get the single serving sized ones)
Hotel Room fare
-there is quite a selection of pastas and soups that you can just add hot water to or microwave, so these can be picked up and packed as well. Make sure that your hotel room has a microwave. If there isn't one, a coffee maker can be used to at least make the hot water needed for some noodle soup cups or instant oatmeal.
We personally aren't fond of packaged food and prefer not to go this route, but it could be helpful with small hungry kids that just want their Kraft dinner, darn it!
-trail mix: make your own by combining various nuts, seeds, and dried fruits
-smores mix: teddy grahams mixed with chocolate chips and peanuts
-home made oatmeal cookies-pack them frozen to extend their freshness
-unsalted, roasted almonds
-home made cracker mix (we combine goldfish crackers, wasabi peas and pretzels, but you can make your own)
And, because you can't be healthy all the time
-cookies: we love Oreos!
-chocolate bars: one for each of us...much cheaper then getting them at the gas station, too.
Misc stuff you may need: some of this stuff, like the salt, pepper, sugar, and napkins can be scooped en route.
-small packets of salt and pepper
-small packets of sugar
-plastic cutlery: I often buy a pack of spoons because we use them most
What is your favorite road trip snack? Do you have recipes to share? Let me know in the comments!
*Of course, you would never give things like grapes, almonds, cherry tomatoes, etc to small children for the risk of choking. You could, however, pack them for yourself. I don't recommend trying to cut them up en route, that could be a little dangerous (and messy too)