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Kitchen Talk: Food for Flying

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Tasty Kitchen Blog: Kitchen Talk (Food for Flying)

The holidays are a busy time for travel: flying home to see the folks, driving with the kids to see grandma and grandpa, or maybe that annual reunion with your best friends from college. Whatever the reason, lots of people will be the move during the last 6 weeks or so of the year, and you know what people on the move need? Food. To fuel said moving.

It’s usually a challenge to pack food for a trip, especially if you’re flying. Most just plan on grabbing something on the way or buy something at the airport, and others will pack a sandwich and some chips and call it a day. Have a long road trip ahead? We usually pack sandwiches and chips for that, too. But I’m always open to ideas to make travel food more interesting and fun. Because let’s face it, there are so many things about traveling these days that just aren’t fun anymore. It’d be nice to reclaim some of that lost lustre.

We’ll talk about packing food for the plane this week, then we’ll tackle road trips next week. So tell us:

What are your favorite tips for packing food for the plane?

I tend to travel more by air than land, and always try to pack something from home. I like nibbling on food, and don’t usually get so famished that I need an entire meal. I’m also quite clumsy, so if I try to maneuver a large bowl of salad or a hefty sandwich on the plane, chances are, some of it will end up on my shirt and my lap. I’m usually on fairly long flights, so I like packing little bags of grapes, cherry tomatoes, nuts, pomegranate arils (with a spoon), olives, maybe grilled chicken strips or hardboiled eggs, and something savory and crunchy. Like a deconstructed salad, if you will. That way, if I start craving something, chances are I’ll have something to satisfy it. I love bringing hummus too, but that falls under the “no more than 3.4 ounces” rule, so I make sure I don’t bring more than that.

I once tried to bring a salad on the plane, and the dressing—which I packed in a separate, allegedly leakproof container—dressed the exterior of the salad container. Nice. (Like I said, clumsy.) I do love salads, so if you have any tips on packing one for the plane, I’m all ears!

Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite foods to pack for a flight? Or even favorite ways to pack food? Or do you have a favorite place to go to grab food before takeoff? Come share below!



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Camille on 11.19.2014

The last couple times I flew I had ordered (or made) a pizza the evening before and took the leftovers to eat for breakfast at the airport. Slices of pizza fit great in a quart size zip-lock. I love cold pizza though so this may not be a good option for others.

I also always take a combo of almonds, craisins, and dark chocolate m&ms. Making your own trail mix means you get to decide what goes in it!

Angie W on 11.16.2014

Since I have Celiac Disease, I have to pack all my own food wherever I go. I’ve gotten very good at it. We fly to visit my husband’s family across the country a couple times a year and these are things I tend to pack:

-Breakfast sandwiches to eat while waiting in the airport before an early morning flight. Typically bacon and flat fried eggs with gluten free bread. They are good cold and the egg smell doesn’t bother anyone since they are eaten before we get on the plane.
-Grapes all removed from the stems to make less garbage that we have to deal with.
-Homemade muffins, either savory or sweet depending on the mood. Another alternative is banana or pumpkin bread. They are a sweet treat that feel more substantial than cookies and can fill you up more.
-Two salads that are not lettuce based for lunch. An antipasto salad and a sweet potato salad are the two that I packed on the last trip. They hold up well, the dressing is already on them, and they taste good at room temp.
-Meatballs of any kind. As long as they don’t have sauce, they are a perfect portable protein that aren’t messy. And they’re good at room temp too.

I pack everything in plastic containers because I can wash them and fill them with food for the return trip home. We have one carry-on that is dedicated just to food, and have found that if we aren’t prepared ahead of time we very much regret it.

Caroline on 11.16.2014

We fly quite often and when I pack something to eat for the flight, it will always be onigiris. Easy to make, easy to eat and delicious!

Liz on 11.15.2014

I like to drive, so my food stash usually involves cleaning out the fridge. I’ll pack the salad fixings, cheeses, eggs, fruit, crackers, whatever and then make up a snack at the rest areas. I’ll also stash some soup cups and other easy things to microwave in case I don’t feel like stopping at a restaurant for dinner.

Lots of hotels are starting to put mini fridges in the rooms, so it is easy to store stuff overnight. And some chains will have mini stores which will have foods you can microwave in the room.

It’s amazing what is prepackaged and easy to carry along for a trip.

With respect to flying – the way some people are acting on flights, I would limit eating to the restaurants or the waiting areas in the airports. since it seems that no matter what you enjoy, someone else will complain about it.

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kay43026 on 11.14.2014

I always carry a zip bag of some sort of nuts…macadamia & cashews are my favorite, but have been known to take walnuts.

Depending on how long the flight is I might also take a baggie of cut up veggies & another with grapes.

Cheese sticks…I must have string cheese.

Peanut butter & butter on a wheat tortilla, all rolled up, is the PERFECT sandwich…just don’t put jam on it or you’ll have a MESS (ask me how I know this:-)

Peeled hard boiled eggs are perfect if it’s an early morning flight and you know the eggs won’t be out of the fridge very long. Or even a fried egg sandwich…once again wrapped in a tortilla.

Crackers…as long as they are NOT the crumbly kind.

Hubby likes to take Trail Mix of some sort.

I’d REALLY like to take a BIG bag of some sort of CHOCOLATE…but (usually) refrain myself.

Justine | Cooking and Beer on 11.13.2014

Ah! I love reading all of these comments! This is a great post/question, Erika! I never have enough food for flying! Love it.

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Shawna C on 11.13.2014

Ack! Typo! I’d *have* a real issue.

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Shawna C on 11.13.2014

We have to pack food for flights because my son has a severe egg allergy and there’s very little he can eat that’s available on the flight. (As an aside, I’d a real issue with someone sitting right next to us pulling out a hard-boiled egg and eating it with their hands – that egg protein could easily end up on a shared armrest or a seat back if the person had to get up and cross our seats to use the washroom. My son can be a row over/behind/infront from the person though because it’s not an airborne issue for us like it is for a lot of nut allergy sufferers.)

I tend to make sandwiches and get pre-packaged servings of things like granola or protein bars, cheese-filled Ritz mini crackers, mini Oreos, etc. to accompany sandwiches I make. I bring only enough meats and fresh fruit so we can finish it on the flight though, because most of our flying is international and there are strict rules about bringing that sort of thing across borders. I also bring egg-free noodle soups that come in disposable cups and only need hot water, as well as disposable spoons in case we feel like something hot on the flight. The airlines always have hot water for us to use.

And like others here, I ALWAYS bring an empty water bottle and fill it up after I get through security. I think bottled water tastes gross and is very unenvironmental (hey, I have to do something to make up for my pre-packaged food and soups, right?), even if they do offer it free on the flight.

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Erika (TK) on 11.13.2014

Enjoying reading everyone’s comments! You know, eggs never bothered me, so I never thought it might be a problem for others. Glad to know! No more eggs from now on.

Gregory Johnson on 11.13.2014

Nice post guys! very interesting stuff, they look like very useful containers

Carolyn on 11.13.2014

I’m a former flight attendant and I always carried ginger tablets (from the health food store) for an disgruntled stomach while flying. Ginger ale can also help, basically I always tried to have something with ginger in it, even ginger snaps! As for foods, on long trips I tried to stay away from the veggies. I’m a vegetarian but veggies tend to give you a little gas which can really turn painful on a long flight. I’d pass on the veggies and stick with fruits, cheeses, breads and crackers. Bottom line, keep eating on flights light and simple. Bon voyage :-)

kelly on 11.13.2014

Here’s what NOT to bring – a tuna salad sandwich. As soon as the person next to me started to unwrap that, I had to make a mad dash to the lavatory. So as others have mentioned, leave any odiferous items at home. Come to think of it, super crunchy items like celery or carrots also have the potential of being a source of irritation to those around.

slammie on 11.13.2014

Prepackaged snack stuff from Costco for the kids. I don’t fly well so I don’t eat anything on planes.

CarleneCH on 11.13.2014

When flying, l ALWAYS bring an EMPTY water bottle to fill at the nearest water fountain on the other side off the TSA patdown. I HATE to pay $5 for a bottle of water on the other side. Happy travels and holidays!! :-)

Becky on 11.12.2014


I’ve never done this for flying, but my favorite way to pack my salad dressing for work is to put it in a small ziplock baggie. It will lay flat inside my salad container. When I am ready to use it, I just open it up and pour it on.

Paula B on 11.12.2014

As a former flight attendant with thousands of miles in the air, I concur with Tracy…..PLEASE leave strong smelling food at home. I always pack Goldfish, baby carrots, grapes, orange slices and Babybell cheese. Pack some wipes to use before eating!

AngAK on 11.12.2014

I always throw in some individual packs of trail mix from Costco. also granola bars(low fat and sugar) and 100 calorie packs of nuts and other snacks. they are handy and easy to grab and eat and no dirty container to bother with.

Tracy on 11.12.2014

All good suggestions. One request from a fellow traveller who’s logged over 700,000 in a two year period? Please, please, please leave strongly smelling food out of your lunch packs. The smell of hardboiled eggs will actually make me –and apparently many others– gag. Nothing worse than sitting next to someone who’s munching happily on hardcooked eggs :::shudder:::, salami, or olives.


Beth on 11.12.2014

Maybe instead of a salad (dressing, fork), you could try just a bunch of veggie slices or pieces in a ziploc or sealed carton and a cup of dip–like a mini veggie tray. I think this would be easier to manage.

Kim on 11.12.2014

I fly a lot (I’m in PA, and my parents are in AZ) and because my life on the ground is sometimes too hectic, I look forward to a nice long flight so that I can catch up on reading and have a bit of quiet time. And I’ve come up with some goodies that are healthy, if a little pricey, and feel like a treat.

I usually include some Babybell cheeses, a Ziploc bag of crackers, a peeled orange – again, in a Ziploc bag – almonds or other nuts, some sliced red peppers or carrots, maybe a couple of squares of good dark chocolate. If I have something savory, like the cheese and crackers, I usually crave something sweet, and the orange or the chocolate – or both together – usually fit the bill.

My assortment of little bagged snacks, all packed together in a larger Ziploc with a few paper napkins, means that I can take a break from my book, grab a little something to munch, and then get back to reading. None of what I bring is difficult to eat in a small space, and it doesn’t make much mess.

Wanda on 11.12.2014

For taking salad on a plane or in the car, use a pint-size (single serving) or quart size (big appetite!) canning jar with lid. Google salad in a jar for TONS of great ideas.

LillyC on 11.12.2014

I pack a light lunch that we eat before boarding, since there’s a long wait in the airport and we don’t like to eat much on cramped planes. Usually bring a chicken salad croissant, red seedless grapes, hummus w/pita chips. And ALWAYS pack a container of chunky oatmeal raisin pecan cookies, great for road trips too!

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C. L. ( Cheryl ) "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser on 11.12.2014

Gosh, I do not fly much, we have a boat and just came back from a 7 day trip to US Virgin Islands!
On the boat I can bring whatever I want there is a refrigerator and it’s super equipped. I suppose I would bring homemade munchies and get the Heck off the plane as soon as possible!!! hehe I’ll be interested in reading what others do.