If you’ve ever traveled with a baby or toddler, you know that it is NO JOKE. The first time my family took a road trip after my son was born (he was four months), we stopped at least every 45 minutes for one reason or another (he needed to nurse, he needed a new diaper, he needed a new diaper again, he was screaming and we couldn’t figure out why, he wasn’t screaming enough and the contentment was nerve-wracking…).
As someone who formerly took pride in making it from A to Z without stopping at all, this was SO painful.
When my kids were a little older (toddlers), I assumed road trips would become easier. They did… and they didn’t. (The whining commences after precisely 14 minutes…)
One thing my husband and I agreed on long ago has really helped things go more smoothly: when we’re traveling, the “food rules” pretty much go out the window while we’re en route. We don’t usually allow much snacking, for example, and I am That Parent who leans toward zealotry when it comes to what my kids eat, but durings trips, I lighten up. Certain “just, no” foods may or may not make an appearance, and the entire business of getting to and fro may as well be one long extended snack time.
And you know what? My kids love it! It’s not only made travel so. much. easier. for our family, but it’s become — dare I say — pleasant.
Now, snack prep is a fun activity my kids and I enjoy together before we’re traveling — whether it’s planning for a plane ride, a car trip, or just a one-day outing to the beach, zoo, park, or a friend’s. We’ve really leaned into the whole snacks on-the-go thing, and I’m here to tell you, when it comes to traveling with littles, a (lot of) good snacks can make it or break it.
Here are our team’s favorite snacks and foods for travel and on-the-go with babies and toddlers:
For babies who are still spoon feeding, we suggest one of two options:
- Bring an EASY food to smash up and serve as you need it — banana and avocado come to mind.
- Bring a pouch (or more!) of Amara organic baby food. These pouches are SO much easier and less stressful to travel with than glass jars that clank against everything and threaten to break when you inevitably drop your diaper bag… Plus the prep is super simple: all you need to do is mix the powder with a few tablespoons of water, and you’re set. The best thing about Amara, though, is that thanks to its patented nutrition protection technology, every meal is as nutritious as a fresh, homemade puree — and as bright and flavorful. Our faves for on-the-go and travel are Applesauce with Maqui Berry, Oats n’ Berries, and Tropical Mango.
Whichever route you go^^, make sure you have whatever feeding accoutrement you need: if you’re in the car, bring a baby bowl and spoon/fork for smushing and feeding (or snag them at a drive thru); if you’re at the airport, you can use a paper cup or plastic silverware to cut down on your own luggage.
The best toddler snacks for travel and on-the-go share some common features (these are must-haves, in our opinion…):
- Mess-free — This depends on your child’s age and manual dexterity, so it’s a subjective consideration, but oh so important. (I learned this the hard way after three minutes into a four hour car ride to spend the weekend with friends not one but BOTH of my kids spilled their entire yogurt smoothies all over the backseat — it was *everywhere, including caked under their car seats, and we spent the whole trip there and back gasping for fresh air. Yuck!)
- Long-lasting — Again, this is somewhat subjective, but it’s something to think about. I’m usually game to pack a lunch box with an ice pack, but if it’s something that requires an actual cooler (sushi, say), that’s an automatic NO.
- No prep — Every so often I think it’s a great idea to make muffins/homemade bread/gourmet spring rolls/etc. with my kids before we travel — then it comes time to get ready and I remember how stupidly overambitious my idea was… because packing and getting ready is project enough…
Okay, here are some of our team’s go-to snacks for traveling with toddlers that are low-mess, long(er)-lasting, and require little-to-no prep:
- Blueberries or Strawberries — These are my family’s absolute favorite munchie for day trips and “real” trips — they keep pretty well, are an easy finger food that’s also fresh and natural, super healthy, and always feel like such a treat. After much trial and error, I can safely assure you that blueberries and strawberries are the least messy berries for travel. Hah!
- Grapes — Another clean, easy fruit that kids love. These do require cutting…
*Also in the easy fruit for travel department:
- Apple slices
- Pear slices
- Dried fruit
Note that apple and pear slices go perfectly with nut butter pouches or cheese (which adds a dose of protein and makes the snack more filling).
- Whole Grain Crackers with Cheese — We always pack triscuits, as these have only three ingredients and are easy to break into smaller “sticks,” and pair them with cheese sticks, Babybels or pre-sliced cheese.
- Cubed Tofu — Simply cut tofu into cubes (or you can crumble it for a baby/younger toddler) and pack it. (You could also saute it if you wanted, but that violates my own personal no prep rule…) Tofu is rich in protein, iron, and zinc, and it’s really a fantastic, nourishing food all around.
- Pretzels or Pita Pockets with Hummus — Hummus is super filling and nutritious, and it goes wonderfully with crunchy pretzels or soft pita.
- Peas — Yes, really! I use thawed frozen peas seasoned with a drop of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt. They’re a great finger food for one-year-olds and older toddlers can eat them with a spoon.
- Cooked Pasta/Noodles — No sauce, hah! (And yes, this does require boiling water…) Plain noodles are a great snack for young toddlers. I like using rotini for travel as it’s easier for finger feeding.
- Goldfish or Cheerios — I know, I know… While not the healthiest option in the bunch, these classic toddler snacks are crazy easy for traveling with fam, and are also almost always well received. Sue me.
*If your child is old enough for them, nuts, trail mix, and edamame beans are also wonderful travel snacks that are easy to pack, filling, protein-rich, and don’t require an ice box.
**Also: don’t forget water! Traveling can be just as exhausting and dehydrating for kids as it is for us adults, so make sure you have a hydration situation set and ready :)
What are your favorite things to bring to eat for your baby and toddler? Let us know your go-to snacks and foods for traveling with toddlers in the comments — the more the better!