Sometimes it feels like you have packed enough and will just be dependent on what the airport has to offer for food and drinks…at whatever price the airport is offering it. Other times, we have picky kids, are following certain diets, or just do not want to overpay for every single item we consume.

Those airport dollars really add up when traveling with a family.  Here are seven tips – products and food ideas – to save your dollars for your destination while still filling your bellies.

  • Fresh Foods
  • Easy Snack Foods
  • Spreads & Liquids
  • Meals
  • Baked or Roasted Items
  • Just Add Water
  • Containers

Fresh Foods

I am not sure whether it is the liquids rules or what, but so many people do not realize they can bring fresh foods through airport security. Please note that this is to board a domestic flight in the US or international flight leaving from the US where you plan to consume the food items before boarding or deplaning at your destination.  Many countries have restrictions on what may be brought into the country and international airports sometimes do not allow passengers to board with any food or drink (even water). Also, Hawaii, Puerto Rice, and the US Virgin Islands do not allow fruits and vegetables from the US mainland.

Fresh foods might include:

  • Fruit of any kind – our favorites: blueberries, cut strawberries, bananas, apples (try frozen), clementines, grapes
  • Fresh vegetables of any kind – our favorites: baby carrots, snap peas, small cucumbers, edamame, cherry tomatoes
  • Items for compiling a sandwich or wrap like bread, tortilla, lettuce, etc. (see spreads and liquids below)
  • Unopened packages of meat or hard cheese (also think string cheese)
  • You can also bring dried seasoning; just make sure they are easily identifiable. Here are some examples: Mixed spices, Salt & Pepper packets and Tony’s Creole packets
  • Breads, bagels, pita, flatbread, etc.

Easy Snack Foods

This is the “no brainer” category, but if are anything like me, coming up with new and interesting snacks that allure my kids more than whatever is being sold at the airport stores or flight attendant’s cart can be challenging.

Here are few items for kids and parents:

  • Dried fruit
  • Cereals
  • Chocolates
  • Candy – particularly ones that take time to eat – suckers, starburst, hard candies
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Protein bars
  • Nuts and seeds – I love Pistachios
  • Popcorn
  • Crackers
  • Chips
  • Trail mix
  • Jerky
  • Pretzels
  • Olives
  • Coconut chips
  • Sesame
  • Fruit snacks
  • Breakfast Cookies/Bars – Double Chocolate or Birthday Cake

Spreads & Liquids

Many spreads and liquids you might want to accompany a snack, salad, or sandwich are available in your grocery store. Amazon fills the gap when looking for an affordable version of these items in travel size packets. You can use small travel containers to contain small amounts of these liquids. These individually packaged options also eliminate any question as to what is being transported. Extras can be used in school or work lunches as well.


You can also bring cooked foods through TSA as they do not contain liquid.

Some ideas to consider:

  • Pizza – Use a collapsible pizza container
  • Casserole or Lasagna
  • Charcuterie – Pack crackers, cheese sticks or hard cheese, dried fruit, olives, jam or honey (as listed above)
  • Baked or steamed mixed vegetables – use your dry seasoning packets on the plane or season in advance; be considerate of smell in choosing your veggies
  • Pancakes and sausage
  • Scrambled Eggs with ketchup or hot sauce packets
  • Buy a yogurt at the airport, but add your own berries and dries cereal or trail mix
  • Taco meat, shredded cheese, tortillas plus the small guacamole and hot sauce packets listed above – lunch for your whole family.
  • Prepared fried rice
  • Cold noodles such as Takeout Style Sesame Noodles
  • Prepared Salads

Baked or Roasted Items

A little meal prep can solve the problem of spending and enjoying your airport and plane eating. Each item below links to a recipe:

Just Add Water

I have one child in particular who would choose an instant soup over most things. He is also the child that would spend the most at an airport on gourmet foods and snacks. This is an easy way to please us both.

Some of these items work great in your own refillable water bottle, a disposable water bottle or a glass of water from the flight attendant’s cart. You can also get hot water from the tap or the flight attendant for others. Consider reusable containers for mixing up those items.


For a container to make it into my bags, I need to know I will get use of it and when I’m not using it, it will not take a lot of space. Here are some of my suggestions depending on what type of food with which you plan to travel:

For small liquid and sauce portions:

 Liquids containers – steel with silicone lids

Toiletry size bottles

Meal or Bento Boxes

Stackable four compartment snack containers or three compartment meal containers we love these for easy storage after use

Collapsible Containers

Hot food option

For Snacks and Fresh Foods

Resealable, Reusable pouches

Snack pack to hook onto your bag with a carabiner

Travel Utensil Set

Final Thoughts:

Be sure to consider others when packing foods you plane to consume on a plane. Do not choose particular stinky or strong smells.

Separate your food from your other carry on items to make it easy for TSA to quickly check.

Very few airports have a method for reheating so only pack foods that you can comfortably eat at room temperature or plan to pack with completely frozen ice packs. If your ice packs are slushy or partially melted, TSA will require them to meet the 3.4 oz or less liquid rule.

There are other items that meet the guidelines, but are not allowed in a carry on including alcohol under 3.4 oz, fresh meats or fish, etc. For the full list, visit the TSA comprehensive “Can I Bring” page.

Entirely different rules apply to formula, breastmilk and food for babies and keeping them cool. Check out this TSA link to learn more.