You are about to be confined to an airplane with your children, and you are hoping for a smooth flight and good behavior. How do you keep hunger from causing a mid-air meltdown? Packing healthy and familiar snacks that you know your child will enjoy is essential. A little bit of planning can go a long way in making your airplane experience soar.
First, check and follow Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules for what is allowable through security and on your flight.
TSA Guidelines for Food and Beverages
- “You may purchase beverages after the security checkpoint and take them on the plane, as they have been previously screened. Empty drink containers can also be taken through the checkpoint and fill them afterward.”
- “You may carry liquids, gels and aerosols in your carry-on bags only if they adhere to the 3-1-1 rule: containers must be 3.4 ounces or less; stored in a 1 quart/liter zip-top bag; 1 zip-top bag per person, placed in the screening bin. Larger amounts of non-medicinal liquids, gels, and aerosols must be placed in checked baggage.”
- “Solid food items (not liquids or gels) can be transported in either your carry-on or checked baggage.”
- “All food products should be properly packaged to avoid spilling during the screening process and damaging security equipment and other passengers’ belongings.”
- “Medically required liquids, such as baby formula and food, breast milk and medications are allowable in excess of 3.4 ounces in reasonable quantities for the flight. It is not necessary to place medically required liquids in a zip-top bag. However, you must tell the Transportation Security Officer that you have medically necessary liquids at the beginning of the screening checkpoint process. Medical liquids will be subject to additional screening that can include a request to open the container. We recommend, but do not require, that medication be labeled to facilitate the security process. Many airports have designated lanes for families and individuals with items requiring additional assistance with screening.”
- “Formula, breast milk and juice for infants or toddlers are permitted through the security checkpoint. Separate formula, breast milk and juice from other liquids, gels and aerosols limited to 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters. Inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that you carry formula, breast milk and juice in excess of 3.4 ounces in your carry-on bag. These liquids go through the X-ray. Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in carry-on. If these accessories are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to the same screening as described above. You may also bring gel or liquid-filled teethers, canned, jarred and processed baby food in carry-on baggage. These items may be subject to additional screening.” More information about formula, breast milk, and juice can be found here.
- “Meat, fish, vegetables and other non-liquid food items are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags. If the food is packed with ice or ice packs in a cooler or other container, the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when brought through screening. If the ice or ice packs are partially melted and have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they will not be permitted.”
Secondly, you may want to check with your specific airline about guidelines of what you are allowed to carry-on.
Best Snack Ideas to Bring on an Airplane
- Homemade muffins. Having a healthy snack that doubles as a treat for your kids can definitely work in your favor on flights. Mini-muffins have many beautiful qualities. They are easy to pack, wonderful at containing healthy and delicious ingredients in a package that kids enjoy, easy (and not too messy) to eat, and freezable so that you can make them in advance to pack at your convenience. Your kids will think that these fruit and veggie smoothie muffins are a treat for traveling, but they pack fruit, spinach and whole grains. Another favorite is pumpkin walnut muffins. These have mini chocolate chips for kid appeal, but also have whole grains, pumpkin, and nuts if you choose to include them.
- Homemade snack bars. These blueberry date snack cakes with oats are another delicious snack full of wholesome ingredients. Or you can bring along carrot cake granola bars.
- Fruit pouches
- Dried cereals or granola. A mixture of these, along with dry fruit and nuts, is always a success with my kids.
- Lara bars or similar types of bars
- Dried fruit
- Cheese sticks, Babybel, Laughing Cow
- Whole or cut fruit. Fruits less likely to be juicy (and therefore be messy) would be best, such as grapes, apples, and bananas.
- Small containers of nut butter
- Whole grain crackers
- Raw vegetables
- Sandwiches or wraps
- Frozen yogurt tubes
- Baby food and finger foods. If you usually give your child puffs or other baby food products, such as fruit and veggie pouches, bring enough along for your trip and until you can get to a store.
- Favorite cups. Many flights do not offer milk. Plan on buying milk after going through security and putting in a thermos type of cup for your child. Also, if your child likes to have water available at all times, buy a couple of bottles of water after going through security to use as needed in your child’s cup.
Super Healthy Kids has several recipes for muffins, bars, granola, and other snacks perfect for your traveling needs.
Snack Packing Tips
- Keeping all snack items in zippered plastic bags will protect your carry-on luggage and make snacks easier to find. Also, pack snacks in individual portions to easily hand out to your children or for your child to easily get from his backpack. Yogurt tubes, fruit pouches and peanut butter packets are less than 3.4 ounces and you can take them through security; however, make sure to keep them in a quart/liter size zip-top bag.
- You may also pack spoons, forks, and straws. Straws may help your child to drink from cartons of milk or juice. You may also pack your child’s empty cup and fill it once you go through security. Having your child’s cup with you also helps when the airline offers your child a drink. Should you choose to order something for your child, you can put it in your child’s cup to avoid spills.
- If your child is old enough, pack a small backpack for him to carry with some entertainment. Include items such as books, his snacks, and his cup. This allows you to not have to carry everything, and it helps your child to be more independent.
- If you have a formula fed infant, premeasure the formula and place it into bottles at home or purchase single serving packets of formula. Bring your own water (purchase after going through security) to use to mix the formula or call and confirm that water necessary to make baby formula can make it through security. Do not use water from the tap water in the passenger bathroom to drink, mix formula, or wash bottles, nipples, or breast pump parts.
If you have any specific needs or questions of what you may pack to ensure that your flight and your experience are as smooth as possible, check with your airline or the TSA. Prepare for travel by having child friendly and familiar snacks available increases the likelihood for traveling success and enjoyment for all.