When you’re heading out on a trip, having food packed can save money and moods when hunger strikes. These tips for packing travel food (and travel snacks!) will cover what to pack for easy eating on the go—and 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. And it also allows me to make sure I have easy food ready for my family whenever we get hungry—so we don’t have to rely on whatever happens to be available at the closest rest stop.
This is especially helpful when you have a baby or toddler and need to make sure you have options that are easy for them to eat too, right at the time that they’re hungry.
That said, 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!
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Best Tips for 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 are the foods that your kids love to eat and will help to keep them happy while you’re getting where you’re going?
- What sort of space do you have for food during your travel?
TIP: Eating while on the go is a temporary situation, so it’s okay if the kids don’t eat the same way or the same foods as they do at home!
Best Containers to Use When Traveling
These are my favorite containers to use for packing travel food. I find them easy to pack and to clean—and they’ve each lasted for years so were totally worth the investment of buying them once.
To keep things contained and easy to access during road trips or full travel days, 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 they easily nest and stack 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.
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.
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!
TIP: We love the Squeasy Gear pouch.
How to Keep Food Cool
I try to pack mostly 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 or cooler.
When we fly, I use a small cooler bag. If we’re in the car, I often use a small cooler and restock the ice as needed from a gas station.
Best Recipes for Travel Food
I like to pack foods that are relatively fuss-free and not too messy. These travel snacks don’t need to be refrigerated and hold up well when packed in a reusable container. Here are some of my favorites.
Best Travel Snacks to Take on the Go
You of course don’t have to make any snacks from scratch if you don’t want to since there are so many great options at the store. Here are my favorites.
- Applesauce pouches
- Cheese sticks or string cheese
- Crackers (made with whole grains or any your kids prefer)
- Dry cereal
- Diced fruit like strawberries
- Dried fruit like raisins or lower sugar craisins
- Fruit leather
- Fruit/veggie pouches
- Thin pretzel sticks
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Dino Bars snack bars
- Mini Larabars
- Milk (in the shelf-stable containers)
- Raw veggies prepared safely for little kids—thin strips or cut vertically—including bell peppers, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes
TIP: Find my full list of favorite healthy store bought snacks here.
What snacks can I bring on a plane—and what’s not allowed?
If you’ll be flying with your kids, you may be wondering what you can bring along. A common question is whether or not families can pack food pouches and the short answer is that TSA allows them in “reasonable quantities” and they should be fine.
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.
TIP: Many Starbucks and other airport kiosks 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.
- Pack any perishable foods with an ice pack or frozen applesauce pouch in an insulated lunch bag or cooler.
- Review airline and TSA food rules if flying.
- Pack water in a water bottle to keep the kids hydrated.
- For adults, some easy travel foods or road trip foods can include almonds, Greek yogurt, beef jerky, nut butters in pouches, carrot and celery sticks, dark chocolate, chips, turkey and cheese, and more.
I’d love to hear your best travel food tips so please comment below to share!
This post was first published April 2020.