Homemade snacks for your family’s low-budget spring break trip

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Whether it’s road-tripping to visit relatives or jetting off for an international adventure, the journey there can be as memorable as the destination. On those spring break journeys, don’t waste money on overpriced snacks or unhealthy food — instead, embrace these budget spring break trip snacks that will have kids clamoring for more.

A woman and her children are sitting in the trunk of a car.
From dips to DIY trail mix, keep everyone happy and stay on budget with these tips. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

With a million and one things to do before leaving for a trip, it can be tempting to save time by grabbing expensive and unhealthy pre-packaged snacks for the road or the plane. But a little planning can change the game. Looking for quick, easy and kid-friendly snacks that won’t eat up the vacation budget? Keep reading.

Make the most out of that spring break budget

The first step to saving money on vacation is creating a workable budget. While it’s not necessary to have a perfectly planned, color-coded itinerary, try to get a rough sense of the costs of accommodation, meals, activities and transportation. Families should think about how many snacks get eaten during a normal week at home and how that might change while traveling.

Planning up-front now will reduce the chances of impulse or panic when shopping later. Think about the destination and how it might be different from home:

  • What are the portion sizes?
  • Will it be easy to find fresh fruit and vegetables?
  • Will picky eaters have a hard time adjusting to local cuisine?
  • Is local tap water safe to drink?
  • How will dietary needs — including allergies, vegetarianism, religious considerations — be met?
  • Will there be long hours driving through remote areas?
  • Will accommodations have a built-in kitchen, or will every meal be eaten at a restaurant?

After getting a general idea of snack portions and the budget for making them, think about ways to reduce expenses. See what’s already in your pantry or if any ingredients can be found in bulk, in season or on sale. Look for affordable, non-perishable ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes — think dried fruit and nuts, healthy cereal or savory jerky. Then, after shopping, hide those finds to make sure they don’t get devoured before it’s time to hit the road.

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Say goodbye to overpriced rest-stop snacks

Taking a road trip? Don’t sacrifice freshness and variety when it comes to snack options. Packing a small cooler or even some ice packs in an insulated lunch box is a smart way to keep fruits, veggies and other perishable items cool on the go. It’s also an opportunity to use up fresh produce that would spoil if left at home.

There are lots of snacks that can be partially prepared at home and then assembled just before enjoying, like fresh and filling cucumber boats or cucumber tomato bites. Prep the veggies and dip separately at home, then pack everything in the cooler. If they’re old enough, kids can assemble these crunchy and creamy bites in the car, which will also keep them occupied.

Or, try whipping up this taco dip with cream cheese and chopping some veggie sticks to go with it. Just be careful with younger ones, as this snack can be messy. This flavorful appetizer is also a perfect snack to enjoy in the hotel room, staving off between-meal crankiness.

Trail mix is a healthy and filling option that’s easy to put together from bulk ingredients and will last for days. Likewise, load up on whole-grain cereal for kids to crunch on. If the kids are adventurous, crunchy and briny pickles — homemade or store-bought — can be a novel treat.

Despite parents’ best efforts, some mess is always inevitable. Keep wet wipes, paper towels and small trash bags near the front passenger seat so that it’s easy to clean up after any accidents. If a particular snack turns out to be a hit, consider reserving it exclusively for future road trips so it retains its unique appeal. Kids might find those long hours in the car a bit more exciting when they get to enjoy a special treat along the way.

Snacks to enjoy in the clouds

Sometimes, those salted pretzels just aren’t going to cut it. So why not bring snacks from home? Of course, when it comes to crossing international borders, it’s important to be aware of TSA guidelines and any other applicable rules around bringing food into different countries. Additionally, focus on mess-free snacks that are easy to pack, eat and clean up on the plane. 

“On our upcoming spring break trip, we’ll be bringing what we always bring on trips: homemade protein balls and bars,” said Erin Dooner of Texanerin Baking. “They’re incredibly cheap to make compared to store-bought, I can control the ingredients and sweetener, and they’re sturdy, making them perfect for traveling.”

According to TSA guidelines, forks are allowed on planes, but be sure to also bring napkins to easily clean up any finger foods. Cheese cubes, crackers and dried fruit are all filling options that are suitable for plane travel. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be a great choice, although note that these options aren’t allowed for passengers flying from Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. mainland.

In-flight snacks have become notoriously pricey, so a little bit of planning can go a long way. Instead, free up cash by bringing goodies from home. Don’t waste money on overpriced candy or tiny in-flight portions when it would be more fun to spend it on a special souvenir or memorable activity down the line.

Don’t let snacktime be stressful this spring break

Who hasn’t felt frustrated, irritable or upset when hungry? This emotional experience is so universal that the word hangry was invented to describe it. At least one study has explored the phenomenon of hanger. Scientists Jennifer MacCormack and Kristen Lindquist from the University of North Carolina confirmed that there is indeed a “physiological and corresponding psychological shift” that occurs when individuals feel hungry.

In the context of travel, hanger can quickly turn a relaxing day into a stressful nightmare. When hanger strikes, it’s good to have a snack close to hand. Thinking about the travel budget, shopping smart and investing some prep time in advance are all wise strategies to avoid meltdowns in between meals. By choosing travel-friendly snacks kids will love, parents can take the stress out of travel, resulting in vacations that are memorable for all the right reasons.

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. The content presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or dietary changes. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.

Sara Nelson is the creator of Real Balanced, a food blog that showcases easy and balanced recipes. Since 2017, she has shared these recipes with thousands of blog readers and social media followers. Sara lives in Wisconsin with her family.

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