In-flight snacking tips

Did you know that most airlines allow you to take snacks on board (within reason)? Sure, many of them do serve food but sometimes it’s not substantial, may not fit into your eating requirements, or you’re at the end of the ‘chicken or beef’ queue and don’t get what you’d prefer. On some occasions, if the flight is very rough, cabin crew may not even be able to serve food. Or you’re on a low-cost carrier which requires you to purchase anything you eat and drink (at vastly inflated prices).

If you’re a hungry person, diabetic, or are travelling with children, we suggest packing some extra goodies to eat. Don’t be shy – if anyone looks at you, be assured that it’s probably because they’re wishing they’d also packed snacks. 

Good choices include:

  • Low in salt and sugar as these can cause bloating due to water retention.
  • Easy to digest so as to avoid the dreaded flatulence that many struggle with on flights. Dried fruit and broccolli may, therefore, not be the best idea. 
  • Have good flavour as research has shown that your sense of taste actually decreases when you’re on a plane. 
  • Are wrapped or properly sealed in a ziplock or plastic container. Pack an extra ziplock bag or two just in case; carrying an apple is ok but, once you’ve chomped on it, you need to put it in something. 
  • Foods that don’t involve much handling. Remember that you may not be able to clean your hands thoroughly before eating and you can get fairly grubby when travelling. 

Some great ideas: Rice crackers, mini rice cakes, biltong/jerky, dark chocolate, boiled or jelly sweets, dried fruit (unless it tends to ‘bloat’ you), snack/cereal bars, nougat, cracker breads, pretzels, muffins, cookies, trail mix, lollipops, and popcorn (less messy than crisps which tend to get mashed up in transit), processed cheese wedges, protein bars… Most things that can go into a child’s school lunchbox will work.

But you don’t have to be boring – you can get fancy and pack yourself a ‘cheese board’ with crackers, cheese, olives, and charcuterie. Or go healthy with fruit like apples, bananas, grapes, or naartjies.* A sandwich or take-away (e.g. a burger) is also usually acceptable but, again, make sure before you do it as different airlines have different rules.  

TIP! Take a couple of extra ziplocks or a lightweight plastic container along in case you don’t finish your snack. Hang onto it so you can bring a snack on your return (think of that hotel breakfast buffet!). 

Bad choices include: 

  • Anything messy, very noisy or smelly as this is inconsiderate to fellow passengers and flight crew. That means leaving your stinky egg-salad sandwiches at home. 
  • Peanuts or anything containing peanuts. People that are highly sensitive to these can get an anaphylactic reaction just from inhaling particles so your snack could end up killing somebody. Is that really how you want to start your trip?
  • Alcohol. OK, technically, you may bring sealed bottles purchased at duty-free (air side) onto the plane. However, we do not recommend cracking this open during the flight as this is against regulations. Only alcohol served to you in flight by the staff is permitted. Remember that people become intoxicated quicker when drinking at higher altitudes and bnd bear in mind that, should you become highly intoxicated and behave badly, you may find yourself arrested when you reach your destination.
  • Although not a total no-no, be aware that yoghurt in a plastic container has a tendency to burst at high altitudes. 


Fresh produce
Be aware that most countries do not allow you to bring fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, or dairy, honey, etc. This means that, if you don’t get around to eating them, you must leave them behind on the plane or you could find yourself paying a hefty fine. Processed foods like chocolate (which contains dairy) or a dried-fruit bar are usually just fine. However, always check on the destination country’s individual rules. 

Remember to stick to the 3-1-1 Rule for packing liquids. This includes anything from water to pastes, purees, puddings, gels, etc. so bringing a tupperware of trifle isn’t going to work. 

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