I don’t eat airplane food. I can’t say I never have, but I’ve never met an airplane meal that was minimally bearable. Nowadays, I barely glance at it and most certainly never open it to inspect what might be lurking in the sealed tinfoil containers.
Instead, I travel with at least 48 hours’ worth of food. When it comes to packing food for a flight (long or short) there is just one rule. Nothing smelly. Boiled eggs, tuna sandwiches, buttered microwave popcorn, anything garlicky. Just don’t be that person. You wouldn’t want to sit next to that and you don’t want your backpack to smell like that.
It’s also not advisable to travel with fresh produce (eat your fill before and after the flight instead). If you must get your fresh fix, stick to non-squishy items like apples, firm pears or cucumber and carrot sticks.
Below is what you would find in my food backpack on a flight. (Yes, I have one and you should too). These items keep you full, not bloated and cure airsickness, nausea and the dreaded blocked ears.
1. Cheese sandwich
Depending on the length of flight, they will serve one or two meals. I bring a sandwich or two which I’ll eat when the meals are served. When it comes to making a sandwich for an airplane, filling is important. Mild hard cheeses work best, but a soft cheese like goats cheese or cream cheese also works. If you’re putting in veggies (tomato slices or roasted veggies) make sure to cushion them with the cheese to avoid soggy bread. Your sandwich should be layered as follows: Bread – cheese – veg – cheese – bread.
If you don’t eat dairy, nut butters are good, as is hummus or another spread (light on the garlic). Lastly, make sure the sandwich is sliced in half for easy eating.
2. Trail Mix and or Granola
This can act as a snack or a breakfast. Often with breakfast, airplanes will serve yogurts (they’re small and sealed and thus safe for consumption). Sprinkle a little granola or trail mix and voila you have a breakfast.
3. Instant Coffee sachets and or Tea bags
When it comes to drinking, drink as much as water as possible. If there’s water being handed out, just take it. If you’re worried about a lack of water on the plane, buy a bottle after you pass security. Ginger ale works wonders if you tend to get airsick.
I avoid drinking airplane coffee and tea. Instead I bring my own single serve sachets of instant coffee and some tea bags and ask for a cup of boiling water to make my own. Peppermint tea is a favourite for flying as it settles any airsickness or queasiness you may get from flying.
4. Snack Bars
Food bars / energy bars make great travel snacks as you don’t need to put your fingers in them to eat. This is great if you’re stuck on the plane before taking off, hungry and not able to wash your hands.
If I have time, I’ll make cookies before a flight. The rule of travel cookies is they need to be a sturdy cookie. So choose a trail mix cookie or something a bit denser that won’t crumble in your bag. To keep them well, I wrap each individually and then in a roll and into a Ziploc bag. These trail mix cookies (main image) lasted a 16 hour flight intact.
I’m super sensitive to turbulence and often feel nauseous at some point during the flight. No matter how long or short the flight is, I always take crackers. A few crackers are all it takes to soothe nausea and they’re especially useful during bad turbulence when you can’t get hold of a ginger ale.
Gum is essential for keeping your ears clear during take-off and landing. If you have sensitive ears which get blocked easily, do not get onto a flight without a pack. Start chewing as soon as you get seated until the seatbelt signs go off, and then again as soon as the descend begins. I choose a mint flavour because you may as well get fresh breath at the same time.
Share your travel and food tips below.
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.