When you’re heading out on a trip, whether by car, plane, or train, having food packed can save money and moods when hunger strikes. These tips for packing healthy travel food will cover what to pack but also how to pack it to ensure that the food is safe and in good shape come mealtime.
We always pack food with us when we travel, whether on vacations or simply on day trips because it’s a great way to keep our travel budget in check. It also allows me to make sure I have nourishing food ready for my family whenever we get hungry—so we don’t have to rely on airplane snacks or whatever happens to be available at the closest rest stop.
But packing travel food can be a little daunting, so I’m going to share all of my best tips to make it easier for you to fuel your family while on the go.
Tips to Consider When Packing Travel Food
Before you start packing food, you’ll want to keep these pointers in mind. These will help you to pack enough food and to think through what you actually put it in before you start.
- How long is your trip and approximately how many meals do you need to provide?
- Do you want to bring all of your meals and snacks or do you plan to purchase some?
- What sort of space do you have for food during your travel?
Best Containers to Use When Traveling
Bento Boxes: To keep things contained and easy to access, I recommend packing a bento-style lunchbox for each family member. I like that these fit a meal and two snacks for younger kids and they are stackable when full and nestable when empty. This makes it possible to easily fit 3 boxes in a backpack, even if you have other things to tote. And they don’t take up much space once the food is gone but you still need to store them on your trip.
Stackable Containers: If you prefer to have snacks in separate containers, which would limit the possible amount that can be spilled at once, look for a set that hooks together. They are super durable and attach to each other for easy packing—and finding in your bag.
TIP: Look for the Stackable Snack Containers from Replay Recycled.
Reusable Pouches: These are great to bring since you can rinse them out and reuse them for applesauce, yogurt, smoothies, and more. You can even use them at a restaurant to make it easier for your little to eat! We love the Squeasy Gear pouch.
How to Keep Food Cool
I try to pack shelf-stable foods when packing travel food, but if you need or want to pack things that need to be refrigerated, these thin ice packs are compact and light.
You can also freeze applesauce pouches and pack them as ice packs that the kids can eat with their lunch or snack later in the day! They usually thaw in 2-3 hours when kept at either room temperature or in a cooler bag.
Best Recipes for Travel Food
I like to pack foods that are relatively fuss-free and not too messy. These don’t need to be refrigerated and hold up well when packed in a reusable container.
- Blueberry Banana Muffins
- Soft-Baked Granola Bars
- Spinach Banana Muffins
- Breakfast Cookies
- Apple Cinnamon Bread
- Oven-Dried Strawberries
- Cheese Crackers
- Homemade Larabars
- Granola Clusters
- Strawberry Fruit Leather
Best Travel Snacks to Take on the Go
I have a few posts with my favorite store-bought snacks and food, in addition to my go-to simple healthy snacks, that will help to give you ideas for what to pack when traveling.
- cheese sticks
- dry cereal
- dried fruit
- fruit leather
- fruit/veggie pouches
- nut/seed butter sandwiches
- snack bars
- milk (in the shelf-stable containers)
- 25 Healthy Snacks to Take on the Go
- 12 Best Healthy Store Bought Snacks
- Best Healthy Snacks for Moms
- Top 10 Travel Snacks from 100 Days of Real Food
- 20 Best Road Trip Snacks
What snacks can I bring on a plane—and what’s not allowed?
Formula, breast milk, juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk.
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.
Many Starbucks and other airport kiosks now carry food pouches so in the event you can’t or don’t pack your own, you should be able to buy one. Same goes for milk.
What about tips for how to eat well once I get to where I’m going?
I have lots of those too! Check out my post on How to Eat Well When Traveling with Toddlers for specific tips.