Let’s face it—road trip snacks are the best part about road trips. But why do we continually fail to snack prep as arduously for long plane rides? After all, the food at most airports is overpriced, in-flight meals can be terrible or maybe mediocre at best, and it’s so easy to miss your bag of free pretzels because of an ill-timed nap or bathroom trip.
It’s probably because not all snacks can travel as well by plane as they can by car. For one, there are TSA rules that restrict liquids. Planes also don’t offer the privacy of a car, which means that even though you love hard-boiled eggs, know that it’s probably not okay to start peeling one of those bad boys on a flight (i.e. smelly foods will not fly with your neighbors). You can’t just stop at a gas station to replenish your stash midway through a longer trip, and it’s not like you can pack things on ice.
Still, that doesn’t mean you should be stuck with a soggy sandwich or lame cookie somewhere over Nebraska. Which is why we rounded up the must-have snacks for your next flight that you can pack easily without worrying you’ll be stopped at security or given the stink eye by your seatmate. Below, the most delicious airplane snacks that are made to travel, and some handy dos & don’ts for making everyone happy.
Scroll all the way down for the snack shopping list, or keep reading for all the details.
Two top words to keep in mind when prepping delicious airplane snacks: portability and tidiness. Melissa Hie, who runs the popular Instagram and blog, “Girl Eat World,” usually packs roasted almonds, bite-sized chocolates, trail mix, and cookies.
“They aren’t messy to eat,” she says, “which is key to me if I am going to be spending my time seated somewhere for hours.”
UnReal chocolate gems (like sophisticated M&Ms) are one of our favorite chocolates for travel because they won’t melt everywhere. For cookies, if you love buttery, crunchy Tate’s, stock up on Trader Joe’s chocolate chip sandwich cookies. They’re like extra chocolate-y Tate’s, and each one is small enough to eat in one bite—just be prepared with a chip clip, since the packaging isn’t ideal for tossing in your carry-on.
In terms of compact, savory snacks, Dang Rice Cakes are awesome if you need a hit of something crunchy. They’re also bite-sized, and a perfect mix of salty and sweet. Another great option is Moon Cheese, a gluten-free cross between a cheese puff and a crouton that comes in a resealable bag and lots of different flavors (though we say go with Pepper Jack).
For those with dietary restrictions, choosing the right snacks are necessary if you don’t want to feel like total garbage when you finally land. We love gluten-free crackers, like Mary’s Gone Crackers, to go with cheese and fruit boxes that are sometimes offered on airplane menus for purchase.
You can also look for more about-to-break healthy snacks on wellness pantry-stocking sites like Bubble, that specialize in vegan, gluten-free munchies including Saysa Lentil Chips and Amazi Plantain Chips.
No-brainers that travel well and won’t offend anyone around you: Popcorn, fresh veggies like carrot sticks and celery sticks that pack well on long haul flights in smaller, air-tight containers, and granola bars like RXBars, KIND bars, or Supernola’s Pineapple Clusters.
If you’re looking for a nut-free protein, roasted fava beans from Bada Bean Bada Boom are the next chickpea; check out lupini beans too. And if you want vegetables without stressing over prepping them, give Trader Joe’s crunchy okra or broccoli florets a shot. They look weird but are actually light and nutty.
Lastly, local treats are a great way to hang on to the vacation spot you fell in love with for just a little bit longer. “A Montreal-style bagel with cream cheese is always a must before I get on the plane from my hometown,” says Mayssam Samaha, the food and travel writer behind the blog “Will Travel for Food.”
Related Reading: If You Go to France, You Have to Bring Home These Food Souvenirs
Homemade Fat Bombs
If you’re trying to watch your macros, we also love a homemade fat bomb that can do no wrong in a Ziploc bag.
Bentgo Stackable Lunch Box, $14.59 on Amazon
Pack two tiers of snacks and utensils that nestle under the lid if you need them.
The TSA rule about liquids sounds like a no-brainer, but there are actually a few nebulous foods that are just liquid-like enough to face restrictions. According to the guide on the TSA website, stuff including yogurts, dips, and creamy cheeses are allowed through security, but they have to be less than 3.4 ounces (a typical cup of Chobani is around 5.3 ounces). Other products that fall under this definition include honey, nut butters, and hummus, so buy these at the airport (unless you’re a superhuman who’s satisfied by half a container of yogurt).
To avoid dehydration and bloating, steer clear of super salty snacks like jerky and cured meats, especially on longer flights.
Lastly, try to keep in mind the person next to you can’t jump out of the airplane by parachute because you absolutely need to bring gouda on this flight. Airplane snacks should never be pungent as you’re all basically sharing the same air up there.
Snack Shopping List:
Unreal Candy Coated Chocolate Crispy Quinoa Gems, $7.99 on Amazon
Sweet, satisfying, and won’t melt everywhere.
Trader Joe's Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies with Creamy Fudge Filling, $12.24 on Amazon
Buttery, crunchy, chocolately, and bite-size.
Dang Snackable Rice Cakes, 4 bags for $11.36 on Amazon
Compact, sweet-and-savory snacks.
Moon Cheese Assorted Flavors, 5 bags for $24.95 on Amazon
A gluten-free cross between a cheese puff and a crouton in a resealable bag.
Mary's Gone Crackers, 6 boxes for $24.45 on Amazon
Gluten-free crackers to complement the cheese and fruit box you can purchase on the plane.
Saysa Lentil Chips, 6 bags for $14.99 at Get Into the Bubble
Twice-baked for extra crunch.
Amazi Plantain Chips, 3 bags for $14.95 at Get Into the Bubble
Think of these as chocolate-covered banana chips, but healthy.
RXBAR Real Food Protein Bar Peanut Butter Chocolate, 24 for $35.89
KIND Bars, Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt, 12 for $13.51 on Amazon
For those who like salty with their sweet.
Supernola Pineapple Ginger Clusters, 12 bags for $38.50
Chunky bites of nuts, seeds, and superfoods.
Enlightened Bada Bean Bada BoomRoasted Broad Bean Snack, 24 bags for $16.07 on Amazon
The new chickpea snack?
Trader Joe's Crunchy Okra, 2 for $9.48 on Amazon
Light and nutty and surprisingly delicious!
Related Reading: The Best Vegan Trader Joe’s Items You Can Buy
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