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Food on Plane - What Would You Take?

We leave in less than 3 weeks to fly to Frankfurt and our flight is almost 11 hours. We are thinking it might be a good idea to not eat the food served on the flight so we can stay masked while everyone else is eating, then we can eat while others are masked. I’m trying to think of foods that we could bring with us and would love any suggestions you may have. Thanks for any help you can provide.

Posted by
9681 posts

Well, having the vegan thing going I learned long ago to take food with me. Sometimes the "special meals" aren't loaded, sometimes they are pretty awful, sometimes I'm just in the mood for something else.

So...I usually carry a couple of bagels as they travel better than other kinds of bread. Justin's brand (probably in the natural foods section of the grocery store) makes small foil travel packets of peanut butter, almond butter and the ever delicious chocolate hazelnut spread (except theirs does not have milk in it as opposed to the major brand which does contain milk). I bring a couple of those and they go in the 3-1-1 ziplock I have for items in my purse (chapstick, hand cream, etc).

I also throw in a couple of Kind bars and I particularly like the Luna Bars that are chocolate peppermint as well as a small box of raisins or other dried fruit. Fresh fruit does not travel well and you have to get rid of it before you land if you don't eat it. Just easier to skip it.

Sometimes I pick up a Coke before I board my international flight. I save it for "breakfast", lol as I want a shot of caffeine then and they've quit serving coke on the plane by that time. lol. I don't want airline coffee.

Now that I'm transiting thru Seattle there is a good restaurant that has a spicy hummus wrap so I might stop and pick one of those up on my way thru for my April trip.

Bag any food in a big ziplock in your carry on. Last Fall in Spokane they made us take out all food items and if you don't they'll dig thru your bag until they find it. When I recently flew back from Hawaii the TSA had no interest in food so not sure what your local airport will demand. Better to be prepared and have it all together!

Woohoo on the countdown!

Posted by
337 posts

Could you accept the food served on the flight but not eat it until everyone else is finished and masked again?
If not, I usually eat unsalted nuts (not peanuts in consideration of others) for the protein and drink just water. I also take a few cheese sticks.

Posted by
8766 posts

Great ideas, thanks! Claudia, do those have to be refrigerated? We have to drive from Sacramento to SFO, arrive there 3 hours early, etc. I’m concerned about food spoiling.

Airplane food isn’t great when they first give it to you. I doubt it’s any better cold. 😬

Posted by
187 posts

You can bring many different types of food that suit your dietary preferences. The caveat becomes what does and doesn’t meet TSA guidelines if you’re bringing to the airport. Naturally, anything that you purchase at the airport beyond security should be okay as long as it conforms to your airline’s guidelines. Otherwise, pack what you enjoy.

Remember to familiarize yourself with what is permitted upon arrival back in the United States. For example - those delicious fruits that you enjoyed at your destination should not be considered for your return flight meals unless you are able to consume all of it mid flight. Someone I know was fined substantially by border control for failing to declare a couple of bananas.

https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/food

Posted by
437 posts

FTR, the governing authority for food entry to the US is not TSA (or security at origin, they only care from a security standpoint) but USDA (enforced, generally, by CBP). https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/resources/traveler/intl-travel/fruits-vegetables/fruits-vegetables

Regardless of whether you're bringing back something you're not sure of or if you're bringing back something you purchase here (Cadbury chocolate, for example), DECLARE, DECLARE, DECLARE, and let CBP decide if it's ok.

If you're concerned about timing, why not get a special meal (diabetic, kosher, etc), since those are given out first?

For further, non food related reading about what CBP/USDA cares about bugs, etc., read this - https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/invasion-of-the-longhorn-beetles-145061504/

Posted by
8766 posts

Thanks! I should clarify that I’m only concerned about out flight to Europe. Of course I’ll be careful upon our return, but if I was exposed to Covid at least I would be home if I got it. I want to take every precaution to avoid exposure while we are traveling.

Posted by
4446 posts

My favorite foods to pack are unsalted mixed nuts (not peanuts). Costco has some individual packets of either nuts or the Nature Garden nut/fruit mix that I bring for plane & train rides. Also for the plane - lots of raw carrots, celery, cauliflower, radishes. And I like to buy an orange juice after the TSA check. If you bake, I like to make something like Sally’s Baking Addiction “Breakfast Cookies” to customize with your favorite ingredients.

Just a comment - watch the overall content of sodium. A lot of food that’s portable can be salty which makes me feel crummy on a plane.

Posted by
1284 posts

When I travel the last stress I want to pack on is preparing food so I usually go to a deli or restaurant and pick up on our way to the airport plus I don't want to deal with container's and having to keep those for the rest of the trip . In the past we have brought Hoagie type sandwiches (no mayo- mayo packets to add while eating) purchased from the deli or Burritos from the local Mexican Restaurant (Eaten several hours later they are still fantastic). Both these options allow us to get two meals each out of each, eating 1/2 at each session. We always pack our own snacks regardless.

It would probably be a good idea to for you to have a meal at the airport so you can be 1/2 way through the flight before you would even need to eat again.

Posted by
2604 posts

I always skip the meal because: (1) it's atrocious and barely passes as food, and (2) I'd rather try to get to sleep asap rather than be "served" for hours.
First check what's available at the airport. A good sandwich shop can't be beat, and you might even be able to find a quiet corner to eat before you even board.
I also don't want to deal with packing and keeping something cold on top of everything else, so I tend to buy at the airport since mine has some decent offerings. But you can easily find some decent containers that can be thrown out without guilt and pack something like a grain or pasta salad, or whatever kind of thing you like. Crackers, fruit, and cheese (something semi hard that can be out of refrigeration a few hours, use a cold pack in the car on the way there) is a great suggestion. Buy drinks at the airport, remember a dip can be considered a liquid in the TSA world, and other silliness.

Posted by
3304 posts

Since you are going to fly out of SFO, I’ll remind you that the food options there are pretty good, pricey, but good. If you buy after security, you can have anything you want.

Posted by
1850 posts

I always take a few bagels with us. I like them, they are filling, and I can easily stash a few in my pockets.

Posted by
6618 posts

We've taken PBJ (peanut butter & jelly) sandwiches. Overseas, I avoid the airplane meals anyway as part of my jet lag reduction protocol. A easy one for those not health-focused is the the nerd favorite - PopTarts.

Posted by
1284 posts

I will add, I actually don't mind airplane food. Nothing I have ever gotten has been uneatable and has done the job.

Posted by
3106 posts

We’ve done a lot of domestic traveling in the past 12 months and with airlines not serving anything but salty pretzel/cracker mixtures we’ve had a bit of practice on several 4-5 hour flights plus the 2 hour wait at the airport. Our method of getting by on these shorter flights and anticipating the 10-11 hour flights we’ll be taking this summer is to eat a little meal at the airport while killing time waiting for the flight. We also pack Kind bars and some dry fruit like mangos. You can slip these under your mask and chew while everyone else around you has removed their mask for awhile to eat the airline meal 😬. I might also start taking a bendable straw ( I’m hoarding some) to sip under my mask too.

For people worried about taking peanut butter as a snack I’d have you look for the packets of Justin’s almond butter too. We practically live in the middle of 2 almond orchards and it’s readily available at most of our neighborhood grocery stores.

Posted by
716 posts

Does Ambien count as a meal? That's my favorite long-flight treat.

Posted by
2564 posts

you should always travel with some Kind bars or Clif bars or similar, just the way you should have more than one credit card and check your car's spare tire

Posted by
278 posts

In the past I've packed sandwiches on a baguette (less likely to get smashed) with salami, cheese, olive tapenade, mustard, and maybe some spinach or peppers. They seem to hold up well, especially by avoiding most other condiments (mayo especially) or things that will wilt. Other favorites are apple slices, carrots, cookies, protein/snack bars. I really like Perfect bars--they are in the refrigerator section but can be out of the fridge for up to a week. Last summer when we flew, I kind of wish we'd packed food because the meals weren't great on Lufthansa, but we survived. I will say the kids meals I ordered for my two kids looked better and they ate them without complaint. Happy travels!

Posted by
690 posts

I assume since you are flying out of SFO to Frankfurt, so you are likely in terminal G (United, Lufthansa). If so, Napa Valley Farms is a great place to pick up something for you to take on the plane for your dinner. It is after security. You can get great sandwiches, salad, and if you get it before your flight it should hold 2-3 hours without refrigeration.

For breakfast, I would bring a bar, some dried fruit and/or trail mix. At breakfast, they typically offer fresh fruit and/or cereal, so you could ask for that and just wait until the others are finished before you eat.

For snacks, anything that is portable and doesn’t require refrigeration. If you are going to bring fresh fruit, just plan to eat it before you land.

As a note, SFO does not sell plastic water bottles, so plan to bring a collapsible water bottle and after security.

Posted by
704 posts

I always seem to have a selection of some kind of granola bars (there are LOTS of kinds to choose from ahead of time) in my personal item and a water/juice bottle picked up after security. Then if sandwiches are available I will get one too and save the granola bars for munching on the trains. Anything coming individually packaged is best since it cuts down on prep ahead and disposal after. "Snack packs with meat and cheese" are so heavily salted for me that I try to avoid them.

Posted by
7681 posts

I always take granola bars, Kind bars, an apple. If they actually have started serving meals I would go ahead and eat it.
For the past two years we got water and a teensy snack even in First Class and we were starving on long flights.

Posted by
1143 posts

Hi Andrea --
You might order some sort of special meal such as kosher or veggie. Those are often served first and you could eat quickly and then remask while the other passengers are being served.

Posted by
5113 posts

Masking certainly is a matter where each person has their personal preferences and I respect your choices. I am usually masked myself. However, I have not felt uncomfortable eating the snacks when served while traveling by air. I think you will find that there is never a time when someone isn't eating /drinking in the cabin. Cheese travels well since it doesn't require refrigeration and it is easy to "nibble" and then put your mask back up.

I hope you have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
8277 posts

Ooh, i’ve ordered Kosher meals and they were unedible, really bad. I’ve ordered vegetarian meals and they were meh. I lovvve PB Perfect bars (sold in fridge section of Whole Foods) but in my experience they do not do well more than an hour or two out of the fridge. And they are expensive. I bring cashews cuz i love them, Clif Bars, and sometimes gummies from Whole Foods. Peanut M&Ms are great too by hour 9… lol.

Just don’t bring anything that has a strong smell 😉

Posted by
8603 posts

If it is an overnight flight, I would have my main meal before boarding and have some snack bars to nibble.

If you are nice and full when you get on the plane falling asleep should be easier--- think the classic everyone naps after the Thanksgiving dinner :-)

Posted by
8766 posts

Thank you all for your suggestions. I’m going to go through all the replies and make a list. I appreciate the mentions of not bringing peanuts because I hadn’t thought of the potential consequences to fellow travelers. My husband’s favorite granola bar has peanuts. I’ll make sure he doesn’t bring those.

Posted by
4446 posts

Andrea, isn’t it exciting that your trip is actually going to happen? Please share a trip report when you’re back or even halfway through your trip. : )

Regarding peanuts, yes, I have been on domestic flights where someone in the cabin is allergic to peanuts, and the flight attendant has announced that no one should open anything they brought that contains peanuts.

Posted by
5 posts

I like to take my own copy of a "tapas" box made by an airline. I have triscuits, with an individually wrapped cheese (laughing cow or other) from the regular chees aisle in a grocery store. Small hummus or guacamole item bought through Costco. They are small enough to go through security and not count as a gel. Individual serving of olives -in the olive/pickle aisle. Dried apricots, almonds, and a chocolate.

Posted by
8766 posts

We got home Sunday night and had a great trip. On our flight there we packed some food in a thin thermal bag with a frozen blue ice. We ended up driving to SFO to avoid a 7 hour layover there. I asked my brother, who lives in the East Bay (not too far from SFO) if I could pick up a frozen blue ice from him on our way so I could get it through security. He suggested using dry ice to keep our blue ice frozen. We picked up a small piece as we we leaving town and disposed of the remainder at the airport. It worked out great. On our way home we ate the airline food. It was convenient having that thermal bag and blue ice with us, and we will bring it with us on our next trip, just a few months away.

Thanks for all the suggestions everyone.

Posted by
51 posts

We have flown twice since April 15th and maybe 1/3 of the plane was wearing masks. We were on domestic flight. We are flying to Europe in August. Are masks still required for international flights?

I fill my water bottle with ice if I’m flying local then, when I pass security I add water as I prefer colder water.

Posted by
8766 posts

When we traveled home on 5/1 masks were no longer required. We leave for another trip on 8/20 and we will mask, even if no one else does. Of course if people aren’t wearing masks my original strategy will no longer be necessary.

Posted by
39 posts

Baguette sandwiches, makeshift charcuterie board (cured meats, individually wrapped cheese, almonds, dried fruit), chocolate, grapes, crackers, hummus and lots of crunchy fresh veggies - carrots, celery, radishes, cuke slices with lemon juice, When I have time I also pick up vegetarian sushi beforehand (cuke, avocado, oshinko etc ).