Add food to your 'packing list' the next time you fly with your kids! These six tips will save time, money, and your sanity!
Now more than ever, many of us are trying to do what we can to maintain some normalcy by planning trips, even if it just a weekend away as a family.
We are also trying to take as many precautions as possible during this crazy pandemic, including minimizing unnecessary visits to places like convenience stores and restaurants.
And, of course, we most definitely want to keep our family healthy!
Believe it or not, I've taken more than fifty flights with kids - no joke!
1. Be Prepared For a Long Day of Traveling
I know what you are thinking.. "but it's such a short flight". Well, I've traveled enough (with all three of my kids) to know that flight delays and cancellations are very real.
I don't know how many times I've even been on a plane after a long delay only to be told the flight is canceled. Once it was the second leg of our flight that was canceled and it was late at night. Yikes!
So, be sure to pack enough!
And, keep in mind, food not only satisfies hunger for your kids, but eating gives them something to do and something to look forward to!
2. Plan According to Your Food Storage Options
Ask yourself these questions before you start packing food for your travels.
- Do you have space for a lunch bag or insulated tote in your carry-on? If not, it's okay! There are options!
- Do you have a stainless steel thermos container (most lunch box sizes are 10 ounces) and space for it? If yes, your options of what you can pack just increased significantly!
- Do you have (and want to use) small food storage containers or would you prefer to travel with disposable resealable sandwich and/or snack bags?
- How much space will you have for food?
- Will you (with the help of your kids) be able to carry it all?
3. Know What Foods are (and are not) Allowed Through Airport Security
Before you start packing, consider checking out the TSA website. Did you know that they limit the size of liquids AND gels that go through security? Yogurt, peanut butter, jelly... you get the idea.
Since nut and seed butters do not require refrigeration, they are perfect for traveling. You definitely can pack them... just not in large quantities as a carry-on.
Then on your day of travel, you can take your knowledge with you through airport security. As long as you are following their 'rules', there is no need to worry if they pull your bag or small suitcase aside for inspection. This happens to me almost every time I travel.
4. Let Your Kids Pack Some of the Food
Kids this age (6-12) are gaining independence and confidence pretty much daily... and, it's no secret that they want their voices heard.
Give your kids options to pick from. Would they prefer pretzels or crackers? Cashews, pistachios or sunflower seeds?
Let your kids pack some of the food. If you have three kids and decide to pack something like pretzels, let them put pretzels in individual bags or containers for each kid.
Also, let your kids pick something sweet to pack. No guilt here! On our way out this time, I packed chocolate chip cookie bars. I'm not going to lie, I had one, too!
Just as importantly, talk about sweets just like any other food. There is no need to make a big deal out of it or say something like "you need to eat the healthy food first". Just let them enjoy it!
5. Know What Foods 'Fly' Well
I learned pretty quickly that sandwich bread does not travel very well (unless your kids don't mind mushy sandwiches). For this reason, I prefer to use bagels, slices of hearty whole-grain bread (as you would buy from a bakery), or graham crackers to make either peanut butter or almond butter sandwiches for my kids for the day of travel.
Small-sized food storage containers with a tight-fitting lid will help foods (like sandwiches and grapes) hold up longer.
I've learned another lesson from packing... bananas. I like them. My kids like them. They are easy to eat with minimal mess. But, you really should keep them on top of your carry-on and plan to eat them toward the beginning of your adventure. Bananas get smashed easily.
Here are a few lists of foods that I have found travel well. What makes them even better, is that, for the most part, they are shelf-stable (grapes, carrot sticks, mini cucumbers, and apples will want to be kept cool).
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nuts (my kids prefer cashews and pistachios)
- Jerky (turkey and beef jerky are most common)
- Individual pouches of tuna (be sure to pack a fork, too)
- Roasted chickpeas
- Trail mix
- Mini muffins
- Bars (energy, fig, granola)
- Bliss balls (Energy bites)
- Apples (whole)
- Small bananas (see note above)
- Dried fruits (examples: raisins, dried mango, and apple rings)
- Fruit sauce crushers (<3.4oz)
- Carrot sticks
- Mini cucumbers
- Vegetable chips
6. Keep Your Kids Hydrated
Pack EMPTY reusable water bottles for each traveler and fill them up with water AFTER you have gone through airport security.
If you forget to pack water bottles, I suggest buying them after you have gone through security. In my opinion, disposable water bottles with a sports cap are perfect for kids!
Staying hydrated is important every day. But, since air at high altitudes is much drier than on the ground, it's even more important to make sure everyone is drinking enough water on the day of travel.
Yes, I know how small the bathrooms on airplanes are... but I also know how important hydration is for good health.
Oh, and be sure to encourage your kids to drink on the ascend and descend to help minimize pressure in their ears and help avoid airplane ear.
The only other 'liquids' that I can think of (for this age group) that will make it through airport security are listed below. Just be sure to keep them cold or consume them within two hours of taking them out of the refrigerator. Yes, gel ice packs are allowed through airport security - phew!
- Tube yogurt (aka 'squeeze yogurt' in my family). Siggi's has the highest protein content and fewest grams of added sugar per serving (that I'm aware of), but any brand will do!
- Danimals 3oz 'smoothie' drinkable yogurt containers - they are small enough to be allowed through airport security. They contain only 2 grams of protein but, kids like them, and they will help keep your kids hydrated.
Now that COVID restrictions are in place, there is VERY minimal food available (soda/water and a cookie on Alaska Air) on the plane. I just traveled with my 3 teens and had them well stocked with individual snacks and an empty water bottle. I wish I had your list 2 weeks ago! I will note that we had our apples confiscated in security once. My kids were embarrassed as we had 2 per person for our 6 person family!😜 I should have checked TSA first!
This is a great list of foods and tips for traveling! I totally agree that I have our kids choose their snacks and they LOVE choosing the order in which to eat them. I am also thankful ice packs are allowed through security. I don't like to travel without packing food! And gum is helpful too to prevent ear popping!