Summer vacation is on the horizon, and that means plane travel. But flying for several hours can require lots of sustenance for both kids and adults alike. Even short flights can be stressful due to all the airport delays these days, and then there's always those long security lines and changing regulations.
Don't let yourself get "hangry" under these circumstances— you need to eat well to keep your energy up and nerves under control. Yet flying doesn't make it easy. The snacks available on board are typically an overpriced mix of junk food odds and ends. And if there is anything healthful available, it's bound to sell out before the flight attendant gets to your seat. The sugar and fat-laden choices available inside the airport are rarely much better.
Packing your own food for travel is practically a necessity now, and flying with food isn't as simple as throwing your favorite snacks in a plastic bag. So here are some simple rules to follow.
1. Check What You Can Take Through Security:
With the liquid ban still in place and security procedures changing all the time, it's best to check (and double-check) the latest guidelines on the TSA website concerning food before packing anything. You don't want your packed snacks confiscated before you even arrive at the gate.
Solid foods are currently permitted, and passengers can also carry on up to 3.4 ounces (100 ml) of liquid or gel-like products like creamy cheeses, hummus, peanut butter, salad dressing, and jams and jellies. Remember to pack them into a one-quart ziplock plastic bag, just like your toiletries.
Plastic knives and forks are currently allowed, but the final decision always rests with individual TSA agents. That means you might consider packing spoon or foods that don't require utensils, just to be extra cautious.
2. Focus on room temperature foods:
Lack of refrigeration is one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to packing food for a plane trip. That means nutritious non-perishables like nuts, granola bars, carrot sticks, dried fruit and squares of dark chocolate are obvious choices for taking on board. But don't overlook fiber-rich grain salads made with quinoa, tabbouleh or couscous that you can pack in a plastic container with perhaps a little flavored olive oil or dressing sitting in the bottom. Then you can just shake it up right before eating.
Sandwiches on crusty bread (like focaccia or a French baguette), made with your favorite cheese and cured meats like prosciutto or salami, are also a great option. Dress it up with olive oil, mustard, or mayonnaise and then wrap it in a layer of plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil to keep it fresh.
3. Freeze items that should be cold:
You don't need to eliminate cold foods entirely, though. Consider freezing cups of yogurt, applesauce packs, celery, grapes, berries or cubes of fruit like melon or mango. They'll thaw out at the airport or during the flight, but then they'll still be cold when it's time to eat them. These frozen items can also act as ice packs for sandwiches and other treats.
4. Be Considerate of Your Fellow Passengers:
Everyday eating rules certainly change when you're squished onto a plane with strangers, cruising at 30,000 feet. So whatever you do, please don't eat foods with a strong odor on the plane. Leave the garlicky spreads, stinky cheeses and tuna fish for eating at home. Also keep in mind that personal space is at a premium, so avoid snacks that require lots of assembly before eating. Then clean up any crumbs after eating, or avoid foods that make a mess altogether.
5. Pack a Special Treat:
Remember that travel is supposed to be fun and eating on a plane doesn't have to be all strategy and seriousness. Make sure that the majority of your packed snacks lean healthy, but remember to take along something special for yourself and the family. That could be something as fancy as home-baked cookies or brownies you made the night before, or just keep it easy and throw an extra-special candy bar in your bag. You'll all be thankful for it after several hours into a boring flight—just make sure there's enough for everyone.