interior of airplane

With meals on flights either non-existent, expensive, and often unhealthy, and airport food not too much better, one way to make your vacation a little more pleasant is to pack some food to take along on your flight.  Or road trip.

If you’re flying you’ll still have to avoid liquids and gels (get those once you pass through security), but packing a few healthy and yummy snacks, can keep hunger and crankiness at bay.  While prepared energy bars can always be packed into a bag, I much prefer to look for real food options.  Here are some of my favorite snacks to take along on my flight:

  1. Peanut butter sandwich – Add jelly, honey, or leave it plain, and make sure that it’s wrapped up good and tight because this will make a mess all over if it squishes out.  The sandwich won’t need refrigeration, is tolerant to a little bit of packing abuse, and offers a quick hit of protein when your energy is sagging.  Make it really, really full of peanut butter, and you can use the excess as a bit of a dip for vegetables or spread for crackers.
  2. Raw vegetables – A bag of crunchy celery, carrots, broccoli, or other vegetables can be satisfying and healthy, and is easy to slip into a tote or carry on.  My favorites are cucumbers and jicama that have been seasoned with a squeeze of lime and some chili powder.  Choose your favorite and stock up, and these food offer nutritious and healthy alternatives to the junk you’ll find at the airport.
  3. Dried fruit – You may be able to pack one piece of fresh fruit, but more than that and you’re just asking for it to get bruised or smashed.  Instead, opt for some dried fruit that will pack easily and last nearly forever.  My favorites are apricots and pineapple, and while they may be too sweet for some, it’s enough sweetness to keep me away from the candy.
  4. Nuts – Put together a mixture of your own, or stick to a favorite, and keep a big bag in your carry on so you can grab a handful when you need some energy.  Pair them with dried fruit for a delicious salty-sweet snack.  Lay off the salt and you won’t have to worry about that inflight bloat.  I’m a big fan of raw almonds right now.
  5. Cereal – With a cup and some milk, this makes a simple breakfast, and you can always snack on the dry mix for a little crunch. Add some dried fruit and nuts and you’ve got a sort of makeshift granola. Not all airlines serve milk, so you may want to pick some up once you’ve passed through security.
  6. Cheese – If you know you’ll be eating it within a few hours, a few slices of cheese make a good protein snack.  Much longer than a few hours, though, and you’ll need to worry about refrigeration.  I think hard cheeses travel best and are least likely to deteriorate in packing.  A wedge of Parmesan is perfect, and string cheese is great for kids. Avoid cheese spreads as they won’t make it through security – they’re considered a gel-like product.
  7. Crackers and chips – These are easily crushed, so it’s going to take careful packing to keep them in good condition.  I’d recommend taking them along only if you’ll be eating them fairly soon, as chances are they are not going to stay undamaged for more than a day.  Crackers and chips can be eaten plain, with some cheese or other items on this list, can be crumbled into soup or onto salad or vegetables.  There are healthy choices in this category, and while I typically avoid salt, I am partial to Fritos for travel.
  8. Licorice – Sweet, chewy, easy to pack, and low in fat and calories.  Chewing on a red vine is a great way to assuage your sweet tooth, keep your ears popped when changing altitudes, and it’s easily packed.  A little usually goes a long way.
  9. Salami – You’ll have to be careful with this, as it will eventually need refrigeration, but you will be good for a few hours.   Paired with some cheese and crackers (or bread) this is the quintessential Italian snack.  Be careful not to bring anything that’s too smelly so you don’t stink up the joint, but if a decent wine is offered onboard this combination could make travel feel downright civilized.  (Well, okay, that’s going to take a vivid imagination.)
  10. Hard candies – Great for a sore throat, or just one that’s a little dry, you can find hard candies in sweet and sour flavors to match your taste bud preferences.  Sucking on hard candy can help keep your ears clear when changing altitudes, and as long as you don’t chew on them, can last a long time.  You should be able to find sugar-free if preferred.

I usually assemble a selection of these favorites and keep them handy in my carry on.  If I’m headed on a road trip, or must back for longer periods of time, I use the Crew Cooler.

And, there are lots of health benefits to travel, too. You can read about some of those here.

Photo credit: SXC