Best Junk Food Road Trip Snacks

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What do you reach for when you reach for a road trip snack? Something salty or something sweet? Something hot, cold, or off the shelf? Something healthy or something with as many calories as possible? If you answered healthy, this list might not be for you. But if you answered anything else for any of those questions, we’ve got you covered with this list of the best junk food road trip snacks.

While we all strive for a little balance in our life, sometimes you just want to throw caution to the wind and splurge. And sometimes that splurge comes in the form of a gooey and sweet or savory and salty snack for the car. There was that meme going around on social media that said, “it doesn’t matter how old you are, buying snacks for a road trip should always look like an unsupervised 9-year-old was given $100.” And that’s what we’re looking for here. The best junk food snacks to eat in the car when we just want a junk food snack in the car.

The way I see it, there are three criteria to use when choosing these not-so-healthy road trip snacks: they should satisfy a craving, they should be easily eaten with one hand (for the driver, at least), and they should be fast and easy to obtain. Most of the best road trip snacks can easily be found on the road: in gas stations, convenience stores, fast food drive throughs, travel centers, and hotel and rest area vending machines.

Salty, sweet. Hot, cold. Fatty, delicious. Read on to find the best junk food road trip snacks that you’ll definitely want to pull over for.

Best Junk Food Road Trip Snacks

Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger in Miami, Oklahoma on Route 66

Fast Food Value Menu Snacks

Fast food drive throughs fulfill all our criteria for providing the perfect junk food snacks for road trips. They have many options that will satisfy almost any craving, they come in easy-to-eat packages, and they are so convenient, you don’t even have to get out of your car to get something to eat!

There are often endless options for fast food takeout on the road too: Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Shake Shack, Taco Bell, Jack in The Box, White Castle, KFC, In-N-Out Burger, Sonic Drive-In, Panda Express, Whataburger, Culver’s… I can keep going.

But we’re not looking for a meal here, we’re looking for a snack. And when you want a fast food snack there are two places to look: the value menu and the sides menu. The value menu often offers the smallest version of the chain’s well-known offerings for a bargain price (usually $1 to $3). Think, a small burger with limited toppings or a four piece of chicken nuggets. While the sides menu offers snacky sides like french fries and onion rings. Here are some of the best snacks you can get at a drive through:

  • French Fries
  • Onion Rings
  • Chicken Nuggets
  • Mozarella Sticks
  • Soft Taco
  • Cheesy Roll Uo
  • Stuffed Jalapeños
  • Small Hamburger/Slider
  • Cheese Curds
  • Boneless Wings
  • Cream Cheese Rangoons
  • Egg Rolls
  • Hashbrowns
  • Milkshakes
  • Ice Cream
  • Cookies

Snacking on fries in the car?

If you’re snacking on fries, onion rings, or chicken nuggets in the car, you son’t have to choose between a sauceless snack and making a mess. A Saucemoto Dip Clip clips to your air vent and provides a convenient portal to keep your ketchup, honey mustard, or barbecue sauce.

Potato Chips - Buc-ee's in Denton, Texas

Chips

If you love a good salty snack, chips are at the top of the list. There’s a huge variety of styles and flavors and every one of them provides a satisfying crunch. Here are some of the most popular types of chips you can grab when you’re craving something salty:

  • Potato Chips
  • Salt and Vinegar Chips
  • All Dressed Chips
  • Sour Cream and Onion Chips
  • Barbecue Chips
  • Cheetos
  • Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
  • Cheetos Puffs
  • Nacho Cheese Doritos
  • Cool Ranch Doritos
  • Takis Fuego
  • Potato Sticks
  • Hot Fries
  • Funyuns
  • Fritos
  • Chili Cheese Fritos

All. The. Chips.

Save money and always have snacks on hand by stocking up before your trip instead of while you’re on the go. Stock up on a variety pack of chip flavors to satisfy every craving and last you to your destination and back.

Gas Station Hot Foods

If you’re craving a hot snack and feeling brave, you can always grab something from the gas station hot food section. You’ll probably have to stop for gas at least once a day, if not multiple times depending on how many miles you’re wracking up. So save yourself those extra stops by picking up a questionable hot dog from the roller grill or glistening under the heat lamp pizza slice if you’re in the mood for a quick bite. Here are some common options that you’ll find in your gas station heat lamp hot station:

  • Hot Dogs
  • Boneless Wings
  • Taquitos
  • Mini Tacos
  • Pizza Slices
  • Soft Pretzels
  • Potato Wedges

Packaged Baked Goods

Sometimes a little bit of cake goes a long way. If you have a sweet tooth, the packaged baked goods aisle of your gas station, convenience store, or travel center might be calling your name. These junk food road trip snacks are more indulgent than your typical candy bar and provide all the sugar you need for a quick energy spike after a long day in the car. Here are some of the best pre-packaged baked goods you can get at a gas station:

  • Twinkies
  • Honey Buns
  • Zebra Cakes
  • Donettes
  • HoHos
  • Glazed Cherry Pie
  • Hostess Cupcakes
  • Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies
  • Moon Pies
  • Oatmeal Creme Pies
  • Pop-Tarts

Keep it clean.

The more road trip snacks you have, the more garbage can accumulate in the car. Keep your car neat and organized with a car-sized trash can.

Wall of World Famous Beef Jerky - Buc-ee's in Denton, Texas

Beef Jerky and Meat Sticks

When it comes to junk food road trip snacks, beef jerky isn’t all that bad. Who knew, considering it’s dehydrated chunks of meat. But jerky is usually made from lean cuts of beef and is high in protein and low in carbs. Still, depending on the flavoring, it can be high in sodium. Making this meaty treat fall into the junk food category. Our favorite flavor is the Bohemian Garlic Beef Jerky, which is one of the best things to get at Buc-ee’s travel centers. If you’re just grabbing a snack from a gas station, you might be more limited in your options. Or, you might just find another meaty snack: Slim Jims meat sticks (which are similar in that they are meat, but different in the the fact that they are often a combo platter of meats, higher in carbs, and have a definitive stick shape).

While there are many snacks we love from gas stations, we recommend getting your jerky from a specialized travel center, where you might have more options in flavors, such as:

  • Teriyaki
  • Garlic
  • Mesquite
  • Hot and Spicy
  • Sweet Chili
  • Brown Sugar
Pink donuts at The Simpsons 7-Eleven Kwik-E-Mart in Chicago, Illinois

Gas Station Bakery Items and Pastries

For a snack that’s a step above the packaged Twinkies and honey buns, you can snack on one of the “fresh” baked goods from your gas station or travel center. These grab-and-go pastries often lean in the breakfast pastry category but are a tasty sugar-rush any time of the day.

Gas stations are convenient but you can also grab a pastry to go from a coffee shop (like Starbucks), a doughnut shop (like Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme), or even a local bakery! Here are some of the most common gas station pastries you’ll find on the road:

  • Doughnuts
  • Muffins
  • Apple Fritters
  • Brownies
  • Croissants
  • Cinnamon Rolls
Best Junk Food Road Trip Snacks - Cookies
Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Cookies

Cookies are another great road trip junk food. You can snack on whatever flavor or brand is your favorite, whether that is chocolate chip, Oreo, chocolate chip, peanut butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, or chocolate chip. Gas stations and convenience stores usually have a pretty good selection of snack-sized bags of cookies. You can even buy a full bag of cookies if you have enough self control to not eat them all before your next highway turnoff. We recommend the snack size. Here are some of the types of cookies you might find on your road trip:

  • Oreos
  • Chips Ahoy! Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Teddy Grahams
  • Fudge Stripes Cookies
  • Mini Sandwich Cremes
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Cookies

Here I crumb.

Since we can’t be trusted to not eat an entire box of cookies in one sitting, a variety pack of snack-size cookies as least gives us the illusion we won’t eat them in one sitting.

Best Junk Food Road Trip Snacks - Candy and Chocolate
Photo by Erik Mclean via Pexels.

Chocolate and Candy

Candy comes in many forms but the two most popular varieties are chocolate and not chocolate. The candy you snack on on a road trip will most definitely fit into one of those categories. Most of the chocolate candy you’ll snack on in the car comes in the form of candy bars or bags of little morsels of goodness. It’s a solid choice for a junky road snack. Especially if you go for something like a Snickers bar, which has that extra punch of protein from the peanuts. Just make sure that any chocolate you buy is eaten right away or else you might end up with a melty mess. But who is leaving chocolate for later anyways?

  • Snickers
  • Milky Way
  • Almond Joy (got nuts)
  • Mounds (don’t)
  • Butterfinger
  • Hershey Bar
  • Kit Kat
  • Nestle Crunch
  • Twix
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • M&Ms
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Whoppers
  • Junior Mints
  • Milk Duds

Not chocolate candy often comes in the form of gummies or other fruit-based flavors. Here are our favorites:

  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Gummy Worms
  • Sour Worms
  • Gummy Bears
  • Starburst
  • Red Vines
  • Twizzlers
  • Swedish Fish
  • Skittles
  • Mamba Fruit Chews
75 cent ice cream at Little America Travel Center in Little America, Wyoming. | Wyoming Roadside Attractions | Soft Serve Swirl COne
75 cent ice cream at Little America Travel Center in Little America, Wyoming.

Ice Cream

Ice cream is not the ideal road trip snack. It melts really quickly. It’s hard to eat with one hand. The McDonald’s ice cream machine is always broken so it is as never as convenient as you think. Still, I have to keep this on here because, to me, ice cream is synonymous with road travel.

Way back in the 1900s I went on a high school choir trip and we took an overnight bus from Chicago to Washington D.C. What I remember most from that trip is stopping off at a convenience store in some state in between at some random hour of the night and everyone choir and band member got off the bus and bought individual pints of Häagen-Dazs and ate them dry. I got strawberry. It was delicious. But ever since then I’ve I’ve equated road travel with eating copious amounts of ice cream.

So get that ice cream as a tasty tasty snack. But maybe eat it all before getting back in the car. Or stop at a local ice cream parlor and eat it there (not every snack has to be eaten on the go). And bring wet naps. Here are some road trip ice cream options:

  • McDonald’s Sundaes (if only)
  • Häagen-Dazs Pints
  • Chip Burgers
  • Drumsticks
  • Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • Strawberry Shortcake Bars
  • Frozen Snickers Ice Cream Bars
  • Fudge Bars
  • Push Up

No more orange fingerprints.

Those who snack in the car get bright orange cheese puff dust all over the steering wheel in the car. Keep a giant stash of wet naps around your car so everyone can keep those sticky fingers clean.

Best Junk Food Road Trip Snacks
Photo by Veronica via Pexels

More of the Best Junk Food Road Trip Snacks

There are endless options when it comes to finding junk food snacks to eat on a road trip. Here are some more popular snacks and snack mixes to snack on when you need a quick road trip snack!

  • Pretzels
  • Cheese Sandwich Crackers
  • Cheez-Its
  • Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Pieces (Honey Mustard and Onion, Peanut Butter, Cheddar Cheese, Buttermilk Ranch)
  • Combos (Pizzeria, Cheddar, Pepperoni)
  • Corn Nuts
  • MUNCHIES Snack Mix
  • Bugles

Pin this list of the best junk food road trip snacks to save for later:

What do you reach for when you reach for a road trip snack? The best junk food road trip snacks are found in gas stations, convenience stores, fast food drive throughs, travel centers, and hotel and rest area vending machines. Salty, sweet. Hot, cold. Fatty, delicious. Read on to find the best junk food road trip snacks that you'll definitely want to pull over for. #RoadTrip #RoadTripSnacks #RoadTripJunkFood #JunkFoodRoadTripSnacks
What do you reach for when you reach for a road trip snack? The best junk food road trip snacks are found in gas stations, convenience stores, fast food drive throughs, travel centers, and hotel and rest area vending machines. Salty, sweet. Hot, cold. Fatty, delicious. Read on to find the best junk food road trip snacks that you'll definitely want to pull over for. #RoadTrip #RoadTripSnacks #RoadTripJunkFood #JunkFoodRoadTripSnacks

VALerie BROMANN

Founder & Head Road Tripper

Val is the founder and head road tripper at Silly America. Having grown up near Berwyn's famed car kabob, The Spindle, and a restaurant with a cow on its roof, her fascination with roadside attractions started early. Today, Val has visited hundreds roadside attractions across the United States and is constantly on the lookout for the next BIG thing!