Travel snacks and an easy Chocolate-Oat Cereal Bar recipe


I‘m looking at suitcase on the floor, overflowing with light and airy garments with flower prints on them, white sandals, and a stack of Danny’s T-shirts. Just above, a window looks out on to our snowbound backyard, frosted white like a slicked sheet cake. Something does not quite compute.

BUT. Our flights are booked and an enormous villa is rented on a quiet beach near a remote fishing town on Mexico’s West Coast. Yes, we’re headed South! My three siblings and I are finally pulling off a tropical getaway that we’ve only been talking about for, oh, five or six years. Together with our families, we’re flying into Mexico from all over North America for a ten-days vacation together, Wimbush-style.

Here’s what we’re leaving behind…

snow collage

I’m so excited to bring my children back to the beach and just let them run. It will all be worth the massive effort required to coordinate such a trip for a family of five. Ugh. Toiletries in Ziplock? Not so much, but packing travel snacks is my specialty.

How to eat well and spend less on snacks in transit

Planning a bagged lunch and well-stocked snack ensemble for a day of air travel is slightly more complicated than packing for a trip to the local museum or park. Among the things one has to consider are:

  • space limitations – I’m leaving my cooler and ice packs at home, thank-you-very-much.
  • the food’s ability to be transported – It is crumbly? Will it spill or be crushed? Get soggy? None of that sounds like fun.
  • will the food hold at room temperature for several hours? Warm yogurt? Non merci.
  • nutritional value – there’s no point in packing empty calories; you can find those in any vending machine.

Travel can be draining, so we want to eat well, i.e., wholesome, nourishing foods. Packing food yourself ensures that you do just that. Instead of limiting yourself to the selection of fast food joints in the airport terminal, your choices begin before you taxi to the airport – in your own pantry and refrigerator.


The ‘spend less’ part comes into play when food is homemade. Stocking up on organic crackers, granola bars, cookies and other treats at the local Whole Foods is going to cost you a bundle; not as much as at the airport, granted, but costly nevertheless.

I’ve already talked about how homemade substitutes for pantry staples can be cost effective and the same goes for travel snacks. A few dozen hearty homemade cookies or a Tupperware of addicting fruit & nut crisps can be made at a fraction of the cost of buying them, plus, you can customize them to suit the family’s tastes. A bonus when some of the travelers are, ahem, selective eaters.

Food should be friendly for little hands, easy to eat, not messy, smelly (no eggs, ugh.) crumbly, or sticky. It should not require utensils, cutting, assembling or much preparation. We’re traveling with small children, let’s keep it simple. Trail mix, raw vegetables, muffins, firm fruit, and wraps with chicken and cheese are all good options for us, as are today’s cereal bars.


These chocolate-oat cereal bars are adapted from The Homemade Pantry, a cookbook I recently featured which knows it’s way around the granola bar. They come together really quickly, require no baking, and are absolutely addicting.

I have to say, my kids were most impressed with my pan of cereal bars. The addition of mini chocolate chips makes them similar to the store bought version, but with way less sugar and preservatives.

Chocolate-Oat Cereal Bars

In my version, I’ve also left out the nuts entirely and upped the puffed rice cereal and the sunflower seeds, so Noah has been able to take them for a school treat. I found the recipe to be quite adaptable, so have fun customizing them to your taste.

These cereal bars make a terrific travel snack – for the car or a flight; I’m feeling pretty good about having a stash of them in the freezer, ready to grab on our way out the door.

Chocolate-Oat Cereal Bars

Original recipe by Alana from The Homemade Pantry cookbook, these are grab-and go granola bars that the whole family will love. They are stirred together in just a few minutes and require no baking. Make-ahead and freeze for instant snacks on hand.
4.34 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Snacks
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 16 large bars
Calories: 249kcal
Author: Aimee


  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons demerara sugar or organic cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3 cups puffed cereal such as brown rice or quinoa (I used Attune's Erewhon Cocoa Crispy Brown Rice Cereal)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips


  • Lightly oil a 9X13 baking pan.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine the oil, brown rice syrup, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil and the sugar is dissolved.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, puffed cereal, seeds, and chocolate chips.
  • Pour the syrup over the cereal mixture and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon to combine well.
  • Press the mixture into the oiled pan and refrigerate for about an hour.
  • Cut down the center lengthwise, and then into bars and serve or store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 10 days.


Calories: 249kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 90mg | Potassium: 116mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 30IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 1.8mg

Do you pack a favorite snack when you travel or brave the airport/truck stop fare?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. YAY – SO excited for you Aimée – I can’t wait to see pics from your trip. Enjoy!
    A question about the recipe. I made a VERY similar recipe last night using honey instead of brown rice syrup but when I poured the honey/oil/sugar mix on the dry ingredients, the chocolate chips melted. Not a BAD outcome but not what I was wanting. Your chips look intact – how did you manage that?

    • I did let it cool a bit before I poured, MArdi. Though I thought that if the chips melted, they would help bind the bars further. Once the bars were pressed down, I scattered a handful of the mini’s over the top and pressed them in. There were only a few left in the bag and I wanted to use them up. Wonder if I should add that to the recipe now? It was kind of an afterthought….
      So this method worked well with honey? Tons of ppl are asking for a sub for the brown rice syrup….can you get back to me on that, please? Merci. xo

      • Thanks Aimée – that makes sense. Yes the honey worked well but I baked my bars for 45 minutes at 275˚F so it’s a little more work maybe than yours. I think with honey they would need to be baked to bind?
        I’ll definitely post my version soon (and link to this) but mine was a combo of oil, honey and a tiny bit of brown sugar.

  2. My family loves granola bars, but thus far I have been able to recreate them at home and always end up making granola instead. I will definitely have to try this recipe!

  3. Your trip sounds fantastic, both the destination and the fact that you’ll be with all your family. Enjoy the sun and the sand!

    I’ll be trying these bars out soon, I’ve been looking for a good recipe. Thanks!!

  4. I’m making these today! So many granola bar recipes are held together with peanut butter, and then they can’t be sent to school. Thanks so much, Aimee! Enjoy your trip. It sounds blissful.

  5. I never thought to freeze my granola bars. Great idea since it typically makes so much. Enjoy vacation!

    • I freeze a dozen in a Tupperware and take them out for school lunches when needed. It works great – and then I don’t eat them all. 😉

  6. 5 stars
    My husband, who’s obsessed with those terrible Quaker chocolate chip bars, will be equally obsessed with these. Thank you, once again, for putting us on the better snack path!

  7. Ahh, I’m so jealous that you’re heading South into the warmth!! I need/want to get away too 🙂 I love that these are homemade granola bars instead of the prepackaged/processed ones. You can choose what YOU want in them and they’re loads healthier!! Have fun, Aimee! xoox

  8. What a great snack. I know we will love these!

  9. Aimee – These look delicious! I think they would make a great ski snack, too.

  10. I love a good hearty snack with a touch of sweetness! Perfection.

  11. These look fantastic. I just took a 10 hour car trip with my littles and I wish I had thought to make something this yummy . . . next time.

  12. What a great cereal bar for on the go! Perfect for those busy mornings….or anytime for that matter 🙂 xoxo

  13. these are so perfect for traveling!! and anything with chocolate puffed cereal is so my jam!! I’m with ya on packing food for the airport – all the food there is so heavy and salty you just end up feeling icky once you get on the plane!

  14. 5 stars
    I don’t travel that much, but my husband does. So before he leaves for a conference, I try to give him some granola bars to take along. He is usually so busy that he misses a meal or two at some point during the intense days of sessions and networking.

    And then there’s the cost savings, as you pointed out. Airports and downtown restaurants are rather expensive options, and he appreciates not being be forced into buying overpriced food!

    Thanks for this great looking recipe.

  15. This looks so yummy! Is it the rice syrup that binds it?

  16. I’ll have to try these. They look delish! My favorite travel snack would be my almond/pb granola bars but I do adore your honey oat cookies w/ candy coated sesame seeds. Those are top notch as well! Have a wonderful vacation.

  17. Thanks for the inspiration…need lunch box treats for the 6 kids! Going to use Coconut OIl , as I’m moving away from Canola, and have no puffed cereal on hand, so will use something else…thanks again!

  18. I love this recipe, and of course now, I need that book now!!

  19. I love that this recipe is nut-free! I have the hardest time finding nut-free seeds though, as many of them contain traces of nuts. Buying in bulk is a no-no for this reason. Any advice for where to go in Montreal?

    • Eeek, I haven’t looked that closely, Jennifer, I’m sorry to say. We have no allergies in the family, so I seldom read the fine print re. contamination.

  20. We have enjoyed cherry tomatoes and banana bread ( in a sturdy container) as snacks for trips. These look delicious. What can I sub for the syrup?

  21. susi rodriguez says

    are you going to yelapa??????????????????????????? if yes have fun and say hi !

  22. Wonderful post! What kind of lunchbox is pictured? Looks really neat.

  23. Leaving behind winter sounds good to me! I’m planning an escape trip to Phoenix in a few months, and will definitely be bringing these granola bars in my carry-on 🙂

  24. These would definitely satisfy a hungry traveler!

  25. Lovely bars – the perfect travel snack for sure!

  26. I’m excited to try these. I’ve been using a recipe that I love from Kitchen Simplicity but it’s a little different from this one. It uses honey, brown sugar, and molassas (which I love) but it’s almost too sweet. I added in brown rice krispies to make them a little less dense. I’ll try your recipe soon because I have two doula clients due in the next few weeks and I need some good easy snacks on hand that I can grab when they’re in labor. Have a wonderful vacation!

  27. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says

    5 stars
    We’re lucky that Newark airport recently got a deli that features pretty healthy stuff – I love the dehydrated fruit crisps they keep in stock. Trail mix is a must for us when traveling, and I always grab raw carrots and celery to take with. After once being stuck on a plane for hours and hours with only a bottle of water to sustain me, I now OVERPACK the snack situation, because I never want to experience that again. Hunger only made the “trapped” feeling worse.
    Have an absolute blast on your trip, friend! Can’t wait to hear all about it when you return. Oh, and just FYI – I can’t hear the word snacks anymore without an image of Mateo’s smiling face flashing through my brain. Hehe.

  28. Are these chewy? We are just geting started with making our own bars.

  29. Thanks for the awesome recipe! My 4-year old has been wanting them for breakfast and snack now every day! We tried a couple of variations that worked out well–we couldn’t find brown rice syrup at the store so we used part honey, part maple syrup and they taste delicious, but are a wee bit crumbly. I also added dried cherries and sliced almonds to one batch and they are amazing! I would love to try a peanut butter chocolate chip version but am not sure how or when to incorporate the peanut butter…any ideas? Thanks so much!

  30. I couldn’t find the brown rice syrup, so I substituted with a maple syrup that turned out to not be real maple syrup- the first ingredient listed was brown rice syrup! But the bars were still very crumbly, more like granola for yogurt than for bars. What do you think, more syrup mixture next time? Or what else could I add to bind them?

  31. What a great idea! I hope you’re having a great time at the beach! 😀

  32. Hi Aimee,
    I just put these in the refrigerator. I didn’t have brown rice syrup, either, so subbed half honey, half molasses. I also wanted the nuts, so took out a cup of the rice cereal and added chopped walnuts. (I also added 3 drops of stevia b/c I was afraid the molasses wouldn’t be sweet enough.) Because you liked the chocolate chips on top, I ended up reserving 1/4c. of the choc chips for after I put it in the pan…we’ll see how it all turns out! Thank you (and Alana) for the recipe!

  33. 5 stars
    Hi! I am going to Florida in a few days and decided to google ideas for snacks for the plane etc… and came upon your site. I made this recipe tonight and must say it was a hit with the kids, and myself! I am super glad I found this, it is just what I was looking for, thank you 🙂

  34. I made these for my trip to New York and they were awesome. I did add in a pinch of nutmeg and a couple of spoonfuls of creamy peanut butter, which made them even more awesome. 🙂

  35. 2 stars
    I substituted agave amber for the rice syrup
    but these were way too sweet and I could never get them to firm up
    idea is great, but I agree mine turned out like granoal for yogurt but sticky…and they needed something to break the sweetness (like an unsweeted greek yogurt)…

  36. I just tried these and loved the flavors, but couldn’t get them to bind well. I used half honey and half brown sugar for the brown rice syrup. Not enough liquid maybe? They are so tasty and delightfully crunchy I’d like to try again with corn syrup as mentioned above. And i do think bars of this type always end up half crumbled into the car seat or stroller no matter what you do. Thanks for the recipe!

  37. Megan Troxell says

    4 stars
    Reporting in that I finally got around to making these and I used agave syrup (couldn’t find brown rice syrup) in place of the brown rice syrup and the taste was spot on, in my opinion, but they didn’t bind and we ended up eating it like granola with milk on it. Seriously love, though and will keep the recipe around even if we don’t use it in bar format.

  38. Hello, is there any substitute for the brown rice syrup? I don’t usually keep that on hand. This recipe looks perfect for my peanut butter hating son!! It’s not easy finding homemade granola bars without peanut butter. Thank you!!

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