Airplane Snacks: Ideas for Packable Food You Can Bring on Flights

By Jessie Beck

Can you bring your own snacks on an airplane? Yes, absolutely! If you want to avoid spending money on expensive airport food or make sure you have lots of healthy options while flying, bring your own DIY snacks and food packed in your carry on or personal item.

No one wants to sit on an airplane for six hours feeling hungry. But with low-quality, unhealthy, or overpriced food the norm at airports and on airplanes, sometimes the only way to stave off your starvation is to bring your own airplane snacks or meals.

For health conscious and budget-savvy travelers, there’s even more motivation to pack your own airplane snacks. Bringing food from home helps you avoid unhealthy choices at the airport, saves money, and gives you something to look forward to on your flight. 

You don’t have to be a master chef to uplevel your in-flight food game, either. Many of our favorite in-flight snacks are quick to make and even easier to pack. If you’re not sure where to start, these packable, healthy, airplane food ideas will keep you and your travel crew satiated.

Can You Take Your Own Snacks on an Airplane?

Yes, you can bring your own snacks from home as long as they’re TSA compliant. Spreadables, like peanut butter, and liquids, like yogurt, must follow the standard 3-1-1 liquid rule. 

Foods you purchase after the security checkpoints at the airport do not need to follow the 3-1-1 rule. As long as you’re buying it in the airport, you can enjoy all the in-flight hummus and coconut water you want.

What Food Can You Bring on a Plane?

When we talk about food that’s not allowed on an airplane, we’re actually talking about food that’s not allowed through TSA. As mentioned above, you can bring solid foods like chips, crackers, sandwiches, and pasta through TSA in your carry on, but anything liquid or spreadable will have to follow the 3-1-1 rule. So, a 1.15oz squeeze pack of Justin’s nut butter is fine, but a 4oz tub of yogurt will be thrown out.

Once you’re past security, this rule no longer applies and you can bring liquids and spreadables of any size purchased in the airport. So, yes, you could technically bring a 16oz bowl of soup on your flight from an airport Panera. Whether you’d want to is a different matter.

Common foods you aren’t allowed to bring through airport security include:

  • Yogurt over 3.4 ounces
  • Any liquid (juice, coconut water, etc.) over 3.4 ounces
  • Any paste (peanut butter, hummus, etc.) over 3.4 ounces

If you have questions about a specific food item, check TSA’s snack regulations.

While technically allowed, you should also avoid smelly or noisy food — unless you want to annoy fellow passengers by unleashing a weird fish-smell with your food. And, for your own sake, skip messy foods you could easily spill. Foods to avoid bringing on an airplane include:

  • Tuna — it’s smelly.
  • Bananas — also has a strong odor.
  • Apples — they’re noisy.
  • Peanut butter or any peanut-based snack — someone with a severe allergy could be on your flight.
  • Burritos — flying already makes you gassy. Don’t make it worse.
  • Anything liquid — it’s likely to spill.

Also, a word about yogurt. We all know it’s a good last-ditch breakfast option when your airport has few healthy options, but it has a tendency to explode when you open it at high altitudes. If you choose to bring yogurt on your flight, open it veerrrry slowly to escape an in-flight disaster.

What Snacks Can You Bring on an International Flight?

For international flights, there are no restrictions on what you can or cannot bring on the flight. However, at some borders, there are restrictions on what you can or cannot bring into the country. For example, Australia has strict regulations on what travelers can bring past customs, and will confiscate any fresh produce or homemade meals you have in your luggage.

If you’re traveling internationally, be sure to eat your food in-flight or risk it being tossed at the border. If you want to pack something just in case you’re hungry, but aren’t sure if you’ll eat it, go for a packaged snack — like your favorite Trader Joe’s crackers or a protein bar.

The Best Snacks for an Airplane

The best airplane snacks are un-messy, un-stinky food you can enjoy at room temperature, like dried fruit or a sandwich. If you’re bringing anything from home, make sure it’s TSA compliant, and — for the sake of your fellow passengers — won’t stink up the cabin.

If you’re not sure what to bring, use this list of healthy, packable airplane snack and meal ideas — many of which even the least confident chef can accomplish.

Healthy, Packable, DIY Airplane Snacks and Meals

If you have the time and motivation, make one of these healthy, easy to pack airplane meals before you hit the road.

  • Vegan, dairy-free

For a quick in-flight breakfast that won’t get squashed, explode, or cause a mess, reach for one of these nutrient and antioxidant-filled blueberry oat breakfast cookies.

Banana Bread

  • Vegetarian

Another packable airplane breakfast option: banana bread. For health-conscious travelers, choose a whole-wheat recipe that uses coconut oil instead of butter. Whatever you don’t pack, you can freeze until you’re back from your trip.

Chickpea Salad

  • Vegan, dairy-free

This easy lunch recipe also works as a make-in-advance airplane meal. It’s healthy, TSA-approved, and doesn’t need to be reheated. It’s also a fairly flexible recipe: toss in some feta cheese or cucumbers, and make this meal your own.

Chicken and Vegetable Wrap

  • Dairy-free, gluten-free options

Wraps are one of the best sandwiches for flights. For a healthy option, make this chicken and vegetable filled version from New York Times. If you’ll be on a long flight, skip the lettuce to avoid a wilted mess at meal time.

DIY Fruit, Veggie, and Cheese Bento Box

  • Gluten-free, vegetarian, and dairy-free options

Fancy-looking but simple to make, a DIY snack pack is a versatile and easy-to-pack homemade airplane snack. Simply cut up a variety of fruits, cheeses, veggies, and meats. Also throw in a few crackers or a piece of bread if you’d like.

Grapes and blueberries are good options for fruits. For cheeses, stick to something low-odor and hard, like parmesan. For meat, go for a dried salami, which is preserved and doesn’t need refrigeration. 

Kale Chicken Salad

  • Gluten-free option

Salads, the world’s go-to for a healthy meal that’s still tasty at room temperature, are another good healthy airplane food option. To make sure your salad isn’t a mushy mess by the time you board, keep your dressing in a separate (smaller than 3.4oz) container. Also opt for a heartier green like kale, shaved brussels sprouts, or cabbage, which won’t wilt like lettuce or arugula.

Cold Asian Noodles

  • Gluten free and vegan options.     

You’re an intrepid eater, so why not give your airplane food an international twist with an Asian-inspired cold noodle dish? Sesame soba noodles are a simple classic, but if you want more ideas, check out Brit+Co’s line-up of cold noodle dishes.

Vegan Pasta Salad

  • Vegan

For vegans and omnivores alike, recipes like this creamy vegan pasta salad from Love and Lemons are a great food option for air travel. Not only is it delicious, but meat and dairy free dishes don’t require refrigeration. Even if you don’t end up eating it until halfway through a long flight, it’ll keep.

Chickpea Pan Bagnat

  • Vegetarian

A French picnic classic, the pan bagnat is an easy and delicious make-in-advance sandwich option that actually gets better (not sad and soggy) the longer it sits. However, the original recipe has tuna — a major airplane no-no. Instead, try this vegetarian twist with chickpeas to make one of the best sandwiches for long flights.

No-Cook, Healthy Airplane Snacks

For short flights or just-in-case-I’m-hungry moments, toss one of these healthy airplane snacks in your carry on:

  • Dried fruit. Unlike real fruit, you can’t crush these babies. If you’re crossing time zones, go for dried berries. According to some, berries can help lessen jet lag.
  • Popcorn. The perfect accoutrement to your in-flight movie binge.
  • Almonds. A protein-filled snack to keep you feeling full for longer.
  • Crackers. Go for a healthful whole-wheat option that’s great for kids and adults alike.
  • Fruit and veggie slices. Pack a bag of snap peas, apple slices, or any other fruit or veggie you love. 

There are also a few snacks you can make with hot water from the drink-service, like:

  • Miso soup. For a warming in-flight snack, bring a packet of instant miso soup. Just be sure to keep your cup ¾ full, or use a thermos with a lid to avoid any turbulence-induced soup burns.
  • Instant oatmeal. Grab a packet of oats, or throw some quick oats in a thermos with your favorite toppings.
  • Instant noodles. Choose a low-sodium instant noodle, since salty foods exacerbate the dehydration caused by air travel. Again, keep your bowl or food jar only ¾ full.

How to Pack Food for Air Travel

With most homemade airplane meals, your food is only as portable as the container it’s in. When packing your lovingly-made sandwich, salad, or noodles, make sure to choose a leak-proof container that will keep your food — and everything else in your carry on — in tact. 

Collapsible food container by Vremi ($15)

Vremi’s line of collapsible tupperware are leak-proof and will keep your food safe in transit. After you’ve finished your airplane snacks, it collapses flat so you can stash it in your bag without it taking up as much room as traditional tupperware.

Chopsticks: Snow Peak($38)

Prefer chopsticks with your noodles? Grab a pair of portable, chopsticks from Snow Peak. Made from high quality stainless steel and bamboo, these chopsticks break in half when not in use and, when put together, form a full-sized chopstick. Though it’s a relatively high price point (compared to the $3 spork), they’re incredibly well-made and designed to last. My partner, Jon, has been using his for over 10 years (yes, I’m chopstick jealous).

Food jar: Zojirushi Food Jar ($25)

Japanese brand, Zojirushi, makes an affordable but high-quality line of thermoses and food jars designed to keep your warm food warm and cold food cold. If you prefer sturdier tupperware, or want to keep your food hot or cold in transit, use Zojirushi’s food jar to transport your pastas, salads, or snacks.

Reusable ziplock bags: Stasher ($8 – $20)

Use a reusable, silicone bag from Stasher to transport your sandwich, pretzels, dried fruit, or any other snack you’d normally toss into a Ziploc bag. These will pack even smaller than collapsible tupperware, and be there for you to reuse during your travels or on your return flight home. Like Bee’s wrap, they’ll also help you create less trash while you travel.

Reusable wrap: Bee’s wrap ($15 – $18 for 3)

Unlike foil or plastic wrap, you can wash and reuse these natural, beeswax covered wraps — a pro for eco-friendly travelers who want to reduce the amount of trash they create on the road. Use them to transport sturdier foods, like sandwiches or carrot slices, and pack them on the outside or top of your bag.

Camping spork: Humangear ($3)

If you’re bringing a dish like noodles or salad, you’ll need something to eat your food with. Toss one of these petite BPA-free sporks by Humangear in your bag, instead of relying on plastic forks and spoons from airport stores. Light My Fire’s titanium spork is another good option.

Snacks on a Plane

Can you bring your own snacks on an airplane? Yes, absolutely! If you want to avoid spending money on expensive airport food or make sure you have lots of healthy options while flying, bring your own snacks and food in your personal item. Just make sure your food:

  • Follows TSA’s 3-1-1 rule: especially for spreadables, liquids, and liquid-ish foods like hummus, yogurt, and nut butter.
  • Tastes good at room temperature: for example, sandwiches, cold noodles, and salads.
  • Isn’t smelly or messy to eat: just say no to in-flight tuna or bananas.

When packing airplane snacks, consider using eco-friendly collapsible tupperware, beeswax wraps, silicone sandwich and snack bags, and camping sporks you can reuse throughout your travels.