Your plane has been delayed for 2 hours and the kids are starving. You had planned to feed them with the breakfast service on the flight (rare these days, I know) – that’s out. But you are not worried because you’re a modern travelling mom who’s planned for every possible outcome. You’ve packed along healthy travel snacks for kids for your trip.
These days, in-flight meal service can be quite sporadic, if it exists at all. You can buy food items on many flights, but if your children are anything like mine, they need constant feeding and watering, which means – PICNIC!
As if you didn’t have enough to worry about packing, now you need to plan, pack, and carry a variety of road trip snacks or your own meal tray of healthy snacks to feed your hungry travelling family. Perhaps even before, during and after the flight.
Picnic-packing success is all about the planning done ahead of time. Key considerations include; the time of day of your flight or road trip departure, food likes and dislikes, food allergies, and basic practicality.
The Best Travel Snacks for Kids
If you’re travelling during the day and especially over a meal-time, items of more sustenance are really needed, accompanied by your choice of smaller snacks for toddlers to teens. We’ve had success with cold pizza, cheese, Nutella, peanut-butter, or mashed avocado sandwiches on firm, whole-grain bread. Home-made cheese quesadillas are big winners too.
I shy away from meat products due to concerns about potential spoilage and customs issues, though we love and pack beef jerky. Avoid tuna or egg salad for reasons of smell and spoilage. Your seat mates won’t be too impressed as soon as the smell of tuna hits their nose. Be a considerate traveller – it should be a golden rule. Note: If you’re booked on a red-eye or night flight to Europe, you do not need to pack a three-course meal. A few snacks should cover it.
Favorite Healthy Snacks for Kids
Here’s a list of some of our favorite road trip food ideas and snacks – just as perfect to enjoy at 30,000 feet.
Granola, homemade trail mix, chocolate or energy bars, dried cereal (i.e. cheerios), cheese-strings, beef jerky or dried pepperoni sticks, crackers, cheese snacks, sesame snacks, baby carrots, celery, dried fruit, fruit leather, real-fruit gummies, hard candy or lollipops, and bubble-gum (*this can really help if the kids suffer from ear-pain on the descent).
Leave at Home
Soft fruit: mushed pear in the bottom of your backpack? Yuck.
Meat products: Unless they are dried (i.e. jerky). Fresh meat products may be prone to potential spoilage, unless you can keep them well-chilled.
Over-processed pre-packaged snacks: Too artificial, too much sodium, too much fat.
What to do with Liquids
Liquid items are out unless you buy them in the airport once you’ve cleared security. Breast milk for babies is the one exception. We always pack empty water bottles to fill once we’ve done that, or you can buy water at an airport kiosk. Most airlines are pretty good with in-flight drinks service, but it never seems frequent enough to keep us all hydrated.
Packing Your Picnic
You might wish to divide up some of the food items to lessen the load on you. Individual Ziploc bags are really handy and keep things in tidy order. Give each family member a small food bag to fit into their backpack or shoulder bag if possible, with the promise that they have to share what’s inside with everyone else of course. (This can be difficult if Skittles or Smarties are involved.)
We like to pack some special snack items that we don’t normally have in the house for our trips, like hard candies or chocolates, as a special treat for the kids. They pack well and provide some good energy when needed. Springing them as a surprise treat has also been known to prevent travel meltdowns, which is an extra bonus.
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What are your favourite healthy travel snacks? Share your recommendations below.