Hands up if you’ve succumbed to $7 Pringles on a plane? Or spent $28 on room service after a late night arrival, only to realise your body just needed a few mouthfuls? Whether you’re flying a low-cost airline or want to avoid 2am jet lag hunger, I’ve found some creative ways to eat well in transit. These ideas are particularly useful if you have food allergies that limit your on-board menu options, if you have unusual arrival times, or you simply want to avoid overpriced airport food. Some of these will work for bus travel too!
My Top Travel-Friendly Foods
1. Herbal & green teas
I first spotted this idea when flying to Queenstown, New Zealand. A woman asked the flight attendant for a cup of hot water, and then brewed a fruity tea right on her tray table. I’ve done the same ever since. It’s especially nice on long haul flights when you want to stay hydrated or try induce sleep. Yes, I feel a bit a pretentious asking for hot water on a flight. But my request is yet to be refused and it’s absolutely worth it!
My favourite: Grab a box of T2 All Sorts (AU$10) for 10 assorted, individually packaged teabags. You’ll find one for whatever mood you’re in!
2. A granola/energy bar
It’s an obvious snack choice but for good reason. Granola bars are portable, filling and tasty. With a cup of tea or coffee, it almost feels like breakfast. When choosing a bar, look beyond marketing buzzwords like ‘natural,’ ‘superfoods’ or ‘low-fat’ and read the ingredient and nutrition labels. The healthiest options will have ingredients you recognise and not too much sugar. I prefer my granola and energy bars to have 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of sugar or less, but I allow a little more if they contain dried fruit as these will have naturally occurring sugars. A sickly sweet bar is the last thing I want before an adventure!
My favourite: I love Larabars (AU$8 for box of 5), as they contain just dates, nuts and a little sea salt. They’re gluten-free, vegan and packed with fibre. I’ll often eat half a Larabar at my hotel before a morning run if I need. For long-lasting energy, I like Clif Builders Bar with 20g protein (AU$33 for 12 pack) although it breaks my self-imposed sugar limit.
3. Instant oatmeal
If you’re a regular High Rise Hayley reader, you’ll know how much I love my oatmeal! A sachet of quick oats is ideal for travelling as it requires little more than hot water and a mug. Just pour and cover with a saucer, wait a few minutes and voila! Oats are exceptionally good for you and budget-friendly too. If your hotel room has milk in the mini-bar, even better. I’ve also raided fruit & nut mixes for toppings. For some serious hotel room creativity, soak your oats overnight with mini-bar orange juice for a refreshing Bircher muesli. If you have food allergies though, be sure to check your oatmeal packet for potential milk powder, nuts or sulphites (often in dried fruit).
My favourite: I like Macro Organic Quick Oats (AU$4 for 10x34g sachets) as they’re 100% rolled oats, without any sweeteners or flavourings. If you must have a flavoured variety, check the sugar content. Some brands contain up to 15g of sugar in a 35g serve – that’s 3 teaspoons, or more than one-third sugar!
4. Cup of soup
It’s midnight, you’ve checked into your hotel room and you’re a little hungry but not enough for a meal. If your room has a kettle, make soup! A cup of vegetable broth is both comforting and hydrating, and the water content can help you feel full without consuming lots of calories before bed. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of sodium in most commercially available soups. But it’s better than a bowl of room service fries, right?
My favourites: La Zuppa’s lentil soup (just 26 calories). I also like instant miso soup, even though it doesn’t have the probiotic benefits when making it yourself from miso paste.
5. Nut butter
Being lactose-intolerant, my plane meals usually include just half of the cheese and crackers course. Some flights I’ve been given butter with my bread roll too, which isn’t going to happen. Solution? Nut butter! Nuts are a delicious source of protein, fibre and minerals including magnesium, zinc and calcium. I bring a small sachet when travelling as a substitute for cheese or butter, or to boost my protein intake at a hotel continental breakfast. Be mindful that nut butters are calorie dense and you won’t be using much energy sitting in the sky. Luckily, I bring sachets, not a jar.
My favourite: Justin’s Classic Almond Butter (AU$17 for 10x34g serves). I’m always on the prowl for mini peanut butter packets at cafes or buffets too.
6. A banana
Nature’s breakfast on the run, no packaging required! Bananas are the original energy snack, with a nutritious combination of carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin B6. I often eat a banana for breakfast in transit with a cup of tea, which gives me enough energy for the day ahead without feeling weighed down. Just make sure your banana is the last thing you place in your carry-on luggage, or you’ll find yourself with an unintended banana smoothie.
- For early flights: Cut up fruit salad and put it in a take-away container. You’ll be the envy of every other passenger and you won’t land full of starch and fat from toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. You could even freeze some yogurt to eat with it, or top your fruit salad with mixed nuts.
- Day time flying: The night before, put 1/2 cup hummus in a tall container and freeze. Before leaving for the airport, put some carrot sticks on top. The hummus should be defrosted yet chilled when your seatbelt sign goes off.
- Night time flights: I frequently BYO sushi onto planes. Being vegetarian, I’m fine with avocado rolls being out the fridge for a few hours. Bite-sized food is a total win too.
You can take liquids on domestic flights but more than 100mL (3 oz.) of liquids is a no-no when flying internationally. Coconut water is a refreshing and healthy way to keep hydrated.
Keep all your food in its original packaging and before going through customs, toss any food that’s opened. I make sure all ingredients are listed too, in case quarantine or other authorities want to inspect.
Lastly, don’t forget utensils and storage. I put all my travel snacks in a zip lock bag with a ‘spork’ (a hybrid spoon and fork, available at most camping stores) and an extra zip lock bag inside to store any half-finished foods. Sound like a lot of work? Maybe. But it’s better than a soggy $10 sandwich!
QUESTION: What snacks do you pack when travelling?