With Texas being an enormous state, some road trips include long stretches of lonely highways with nary a Buc-ee’s in sight. Take, for example, I-10 West, where there’s not much more than tumbleweeds and the occasional military base between Kerrville and El Paso.
Obviously, a cooler opens up some options and, at a bare minimum, there should be one in the car to keep drinks cold. As far as food goes, though, there are many options that require no refrigeration at all and are easy to eat in the car. This list includes some sensible favorites, as well as certain drink choices that serve particular functions.
If you have traveling companions, be nice and avoid the smelly stuff, like sesame sticks and tuna sandwiches. This isn’t the time to break out the squid jerky. Speaking of squid jerky: Check out our list of Asian snacks, several of which also work great for a road trip. (The fuzzy beef jerky leaves debris everywhere, but it might be worth it.)
Need some destination ideas? Then take a look at our recent Big Tex Road Trip story and get inspired.
10. Vegetable Juice. Let’s face it: If meals are coming from diners and fast-food joints in little towns, fresh vegetables are likely to be scarce. A can of vegetable juice might be the closest travelers can get until they hit the next major city.
9. Fresh Fruit. Similarly to the above, fresh foods might be hard to find. Choose fruits that come in “nature’s perfect wrapper” and aren’t too hard to peel or too messy. Oranges are out, except for easy-peel mandarins, and so are juicy peaches and plums. Apples, grapes and bananas are perfect. Dried fruit is a durable substitute, but avoid the ones with added sugar.
8. Granola Bars and Trail Mix. So, eating a bowl of cereal while driving is right out. A granola bar is the next best thing. Trail mix is a great snack as well, and comes in so many different combinations of fruit, nuts and other goodies that there’s something for everyone. The ambitious can actually make their own granola bars at home.
7. Candies That Won’t Melt. Need a little something sweet? This isn’t time for chocolate (especially for the driver) or candies with coatings that will leave a sticky residue on hands and door handles. Instead, go for hard candies or ones that will stay relatively neat until they make their way into your mouth.
6. Non-Messy Chips and Crackers. Skip the Cheetos and Doritos, lest ye be cleaning orange gunk off your leather steering wheel and door handles. Aim instead for snacks that don’t have a bunch of messy coating. Triscuit, Cheez-It, pita chips, nori rice crackers, pretzels and good ol’ potato chips are all fine.
5. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches. Unlike lunchmeat sandwiches that have to be kept in a cooler, these are durable. They won’t go soggy or spoil quickly, and are more filling than a snack. Also, kids love them and these will help tide them over between meals. For bonus points, toast the bread first for extra structural integrity.
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4. Nuts. There are so many good things to say about nuts. They’re not only crunchy and tasty, but a good source of protein with good fats. That said, they are high in calories, so watch those portion sizes.
3. Portable Caffeine. It’s hard to believe but no, there’s not actually a Starbucks everywhere. (Serious coffee drinkers hopefully have carefully mapped their trip according to the best coffeehouses, anyway.) For the long, caffeine-free stretches of a journey, an insulated carafe of actual good coffee comes in handy. Short of that, packaged iced coffee or espresso will do — and tastes so much better than an energy drink with odd ingredients.
2. Beef Jerky and Dried Sausages. These are not only the gods of road food, they are worth planning ahead for. Going through El Campo? A stop at Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse is required. North of Austin is Robertson’s Hams. Dotted around the state are various Texas Best Smokehouse locations. If the trip doesn’t route through one of those towns, well, there’s always Buc-ee’s.
1. Water. The importance of carrying water on a road trip cannot be overstated. There’s no telling what will happen. Cars can and do break down in the middle of nowhere. Really, carrying water in a vehicle at all times, just in case of emergency, is a good practice. Besides: The sweet and salty road trip snacks tend to make people thirsty. Want to be a road trip superstar? Help save the environment and bottle your own.