You want the best theme park snacks. We’re looking for snacks which are going to keep your family hydrated, happy and ready to take on a busy day of roller coasters and character meet-and-greets. You also want to avoid paying those theme park prices every two hours when someone is hungry or hitting a sugar crash. So we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite theme park snacks (plus a few treats you might want to buy anyway!)

1. Protein: Power up and avoid those sugar crashes with some portable protein. If you’re trying to avoid taking a cooler into the park, there are plenty of non-perishable options for protein. Roasted edamame is perfect when a craving for crunchy snacks calls, or add a little sweet with nut bars such as a Kind Nut Delight snack bar. Watch out for the chocolate-coated options if you’re going to the parks on a hot day — that chocolate gets everywhere! Fruit and nut bars get gooey in the heat, but it’s nothing a little wet-wipe to the fingers can’t fix. Eat This, Not That! has a great list of protein-packed snacks, including non-perishable apple/peanut butter snack packs, and even non-perishable hummus.

If you’re taking in a small lunch-bag or soft-sided cooler (most theme parks allow this, but check their websites for specific details), throw in some Greek yogurt and cheese sticks for quick protein boosts. You’ll find these items for sale at most theme parks for pretty impressive premiums over what you’ll pay at the local market.

Easy-peel clementines make an ideal theme park snack.

Easy-peel clementines make an ideal theme park snack.

2. Refreshment: Fruit and veggies go a long way on a hot theme park day. Cut watermelon, easy-to-peel clementine oranges, grapes, strawberries, bite-size tomatoes… all of these are cool, hydrating, and really hit the mark when the heat is on. If your goal is to keep your kids full, yet fit, Helen Sanders of Health Ambition recommends these healthy afternoon snacks. For cooling power without the cooler, freeze grapes in a sealed bag and use those to keep the rest of your snacks cool through at least part of the day.

3. Junk Food: You have to pack just a little junk food, or you won’t be able to compete with all those candy stores beckoning your children with five-dollar rice crispie treats and three-dollar Snickers bars. Snack-sized portions of their favorite cookies cost a little more than buying the whole package, but you skip the sugar surge (and crash) from binging on the whole box of cookies.

Caramel apples are a smart splurge item since they're not salty and dehydrating. Photo: Flickr/photogmateo

Caramel apples are a smart splurge item since they’re not salty and dehydrating. Photo: Flickr/photogmateo

4. Splurge: Set a budget for a splurge snack, whether it’s an ice cream bar at the end of the day or a funnel cake while you’re waiting for the parade. A strong contender for smartest snack splurge: the caramel apple. These giant-sized granny smith apples, dipped in caramel, can be ordered sliced at most venues, giving you a gooey, delicious treat which actually does everyone a little good, instead of leaving kids sugar-shocked and dehydrated like most theme park snacks.

If you can’t convince the kids an apple can be a treat, go for the giant lollipop. We know it looks like a lot of sugar, but these lollies are more for the cartoonish look than anything. It’s a rare child that manages to finish one! Still searching for the perfect splurge? Don’t forget to check out our favorite Walt Disney World snacks here!

Tips on Packing Snacks for Theme Parks

1. Prepare for squirrels! Watch any stroller parking area at Walt Disney World long enough and you’ll see a clever squirrel who has learned how to break into tote bags. Keep your food inside zipped compartments, and bring along sealable container to store half-finished bags of snacks squirrels love, like pretzels.

2. Give your children their own fanny-packs or small backpacks. A full-size backpack will be too hot and annoying for a child to stick with all day long, and fanny-packs might not be fashionable in the real world, but they’re definitely still worn daily in theme parks! Let them throw their favorite snacks into the bag and they won’t be bugging you every five minutes to dig through your own bag. Plus: less for you to carry! Every little bit counts.

Find a stroller parking area to leave your stroller (and snacks) - you can come back later. Photo: Flickr/themeparktourist

Find a stroller parking area to leave your stroller (and snacks) – you can come back later. Photo: Flickr/themeparktourist

3. Stash items in a stroller, park the stroller, and come back when you need something. For example, if you’re visiting the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, you can park your stroller at a central parking area in each land, leave it there, and experience the attractions around without constantly moving your stroller.

So as long as your snacks are fairly squirrel-proof, you don’t have to worry about taking that lunch-bag on every ride with you! (We’re sure your raisins don’t want to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.) Just don’t forget to pick up your stroller before you leave the park for the day.

Another great way to set up your theme park snacking for success is to choose accommodations with a kitchen. This way, you have room to store ingredients and do food prep on your family’s favorite snacks. Healthier home-cooked meals instead of fast food on the way back each night will also set you up for the miles of walking and long days in the sun you’ll experience at theme parks. Try a condo or villa at Summer Bay Orlando by Exploria Resorts on your next trip to visit Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and all the other attractions Orlando has to offer!

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