My parents recently booked a trip to Europe. Since they almost never fly, especially not for the duration it take to cross the Atlantic, my mom asked me to research the best airline approved snacks to take in a crowded carry on bag. She said "I want to do better than the crackers, cookies, and peanuts they're going to try and sell me for $10 on the plane".
Read on for the foods and tips I assembled for their "compact snack packs". The choices here are very travel friendly, and will keep you feeling well and energized while consuming very little luggage space.
If you find these space saving travel comforts helpful, consider voting for me in the small spaces contest.
Step 1: Powdered Drink Mix or Teas
Since your flight attendant can bring you unlimited hot or cold water, drink mixes allow you a flavorful beverage at no cost. They consume almost no space in your bag, allowing you to pack a variety to use throughout the flight.
I suggest mixing up your flavors; some sweet, some bitter (like a green or black tea), so that you aren't totally sick of one thing by the time you land.
Another selection method is to pick what headspace you want to be in during your flight.
If you want to feel alert and energized, green teas or drink mixes with B vitamins and citrus flavor are great.
If you'd rather mellow out, mint or chamomile teas are excellent choices.
Step 2: Nutrition Bars
Granola bars are an easy travel food I'm sure all of you have tried. In my experience, they do little to fill me up or make me feel like I've accomplished much in the way of nutrition. If all I've got on me is granola, I usually cave and get the $9 breakfast sandwich at the airport anyway.
Kick things up a notch with Protein bars or fruit and nut nutrition bars! They're good for you and fit easily in the almost flat zipper side pockets of a carry on bag.
Odwalla and Lara bars are full of good stuff, very flavorful, and slightly moist. I find them to be a very satisfying alternative to regular granola bars. Since they're soft, they won't shatter if your bag gets beaten around and you won't get crumbs all over yourself (or the person next to you) as you eat them.
Protein bars are great for making you feel full. Simple Truth is the only brand I've tried that doesn't taste like chalky cookie dough, but my boyfriend loves Cliff bars. If you're eating one of these during flight, ask your attendant for a cup of water. They're pretty dense, and extra water will help you properly digest the protein!
If you pack multiple bars, try one fruit flavor and one chocolate or "green" flavor. Avoid packing ALL chocolate so you're not totally sick of sweet when you land.
Step 3: Squeeze Packs
You may not realize that squeeze pack foods are allowed in your carry on. Squeeze packs are nearly flat, so they can go in a purse or in small luggage zipper pockets easily.
Keep your eye on the size. Some squeeze packs are just under the 3.4oz limit for liquids and gels. Some, like Mama Chia are just barely over at 3.5oz. Neither myself nor my parents have ever been prevented from bringing them 3.5 oz pouches aboard, but it can happen. If you get a very by-the-book TSA agent know that you might have to shotgun it (or throw it out) at the checkpoint before moving on. Fortunately, they're easy to eat in a hurry.
Mama Chia squeeze packs border on being juice-like and are really refreshing. These are great when you need a hydrating pick-me-up with a little substance to it.
Squeezable fruit packs, including applesauce packs, are mostly marketed towards kids. That doesn't mean they taste like baby food--some are quite good! This is an effective way to get your daily fruit in while traveling, rather than trying to stuff an apple or banana somewhere in your bag.
Step 4: Nuts and Savory Snacks
Nuts and seasoned chickpeas are filling and good for you, plus they provide a savory contrast to most of the other stuff we've packed so far.The GoodBean makes several savory flavors of chickpeas (all I had at home for the photo was sweet), including sea salt, cracked pepper, and chili lime!
Nuts, like almonds and walnuts especially, can be a little pricey and often come in a larger bag than you can accommodate in your carry on. You can buy a large bag and re-portion into travel size ziplocs.
You can find single size bags of nuts in the baking aisle. Since these are meant to be toppings you will find that the nuts are usually sliced. I find these mini bags to be a good alternative to pouches of trail mix, which tend to be chunky and take up bag space.
Stick to nuts and seeds that are already shelled. You don't want to be that gross, inconsiderate passenger with a slobbery pile of pistachio or sunflower seeds on their tray table, ready to spill with the first tilt of the plane.
AVOID CHIPS and CRACKERS! I know you feel like you're making a healthy choice by packing veggie chips, but thin and crispy snacks will likely get pulverized in your bag before you ever get to enjoy them. Stay crumb free and satisfied with nuts/ seeds/chickpeas instead.
Step 5: Mints
If you don't carry mints in your pocket or purse already, consider throwing a few in your snack pack. Your seat neighbor will thank you, and they're great for a quick freshening before you disembark and meet the person you've travelled to see.
Peppermint is also a very soothing scent/taste, if you're prone to nervousness or motion sickness during flight.
Grab a few extra Starlight mints next time you leave a restaurant, to keep on hand for travel.
If you're really pressed for space, you can plastic wrap a few smaller, more powerful mints into a pod you can tuck in your wallet.
Step 6: Suggested Pharmaceuticals
These aren't essential, but I do find them handy when I travel. Carry a few of each type in a pill compact, or bind them together with plastic wrap to stow in a zipper pocket or the greater snack pack.
Ginger Capsules --Great for settling your stomach and alleviating motion sickness. I swear by these be it plane, train, or automobile!
Vitamin B Complex -- Vitamin B will help boost your energy if you've had a long day of travel. If you plan to do any partying where you travel, Vitamin B6 may also help reduce the symptoms of a hangover. I take 2 after a night of drinking and haven't paid the price in a long time.
Your Chosen Pain Reliever -- An annoying headache can strike at the worst or times, so I make sure to have my migraine meds handy. You might also choose a regular Aspirin or Ibuprofen to help with achey muscles if you've been crammed in a tiny seat 6 hours +
Zinc -- Why not boost your immune system a little? I'm sure the efficacy of this could be argued, but minerals are good and why not do everything you can to guard yourself from the petri dish that is a plane ride.
If you happen to take any medications that come sealed in a blister pack, it may be a good idea to leave them intact and just take a portion of the blister sheet. That way there will be no mistake that these are legitimate medications.
Step 7: Booze
Mini bottles of alcohol are totally permissible in a carry on as long as they are under 3.4 oz and are packed in a clear bag along with your other liquids and gels.
I don't suggest you leave your shampoo at home so you can get hammered on your flight, but if you're looking at a REALLY long plane ride you may consider taking one mini bottle to help you mellow out. Choose something you can mix with your free in flight beverage and you'll have a rum & coke or jack & ginger!
Check here to see if your international flight offers free alcohol (some do). If you're lucky, that's one less thing to pack!
Step 8: Packing
Tuck your goodies in the spare nooks and crannies of your carry on, or pack them all together in a ziploc to avoid having to dig around later.
Your goal is to pack a relatively flat bag. This should be easy since most of the foods mentioned here are packaged as such.
Press all the excess air out of the bag before sealing.
My finished snack pack, which would comfortably get me through a moderate length flight (6hrs approx) measures 8.5 inches wide x less than 2 inches tall --about the size of one folded shirt! Easy to fit right on top of your carry on belongings. The pack will flex along with your bag as you move and stow, so no worries about mess.
I hope these tips help you travel lighter and more comfortably! If you liked this Ible, consider tossing me a vote in the "Small Spaces" contest.