woman's hand holding strawberry by airplane window
N K/shutterstock

20 Snacks to Pack to Avoid Airport Rip-Offs

View Slideshow
woman's hand holding strawberry by airplane window
N K/shutterstock

mile-high meals

Getting hungry while traveling is inevitable, but don’t let the travel industry pick your pocket. Plan ahead and bring travel-friendly snacks to avoid buying food at the airport or aboard the plane, where it might sell for more than triple the normal retail price. Even having a small snack on hand can be the difference between hours of hunger and dropping up to $20 a person on overpriced, often mediocre, food. Consider legal limitations when packing (AARP has a video), opt for foods that will stay fresh, and be courteous to others by avoiding foods that are smelly or require lots of fussing to enjoy.

Dried Peppered Beef Jerky Cut in Strips
Brent Hofacker/shutterstock


Whether it's classic beef, turkey, or even salmon jerky, soft and chewy dehydrated meats make excellent on-the-go snacks. Most come in shelf-stable packages and pack a lot of flavor and protein into a small portion size.

Cheddar Cheese Sandwich

hard cheese sandwich

Soft cheese tends to be stinky and gooey, especially when warming to room temperature, but hard cheese will stay put between bread and not release much of a funky smell when opened. A simple cheese sandwich with a bit of mustard or fig jam is a satisfying snack anytime.

All Natural Homemade Trail Mix
Brent Hofacker/shutterstock

trail mix

Homemade trail mix is cheaper than store-bought, and allows customization. Load up on chocolate chips if you're feeling indulgent, or stick to heart-healthy seeds and antioxidant-rich dried berries. Just beware rules against nuts that guard against allergic reactions.



A chocolate bar can ease the tension of flying with its decadent, comforting flavor. It takes up virtually no space in a carry-on, and you can easily wrap up and save part of it for later. When traveling to or from a warm region, keep chocolate next to a cool bottle of water so it doesn't melt (and perhaps in plastic bag just in case).

Piece of Fruit

piece of fruit

Fruit is a great source of natural sugar and energy, and most can be eaten at any temperature. Hard fruits such as apples and fruits that have their own shell, such as oranges, make the best travel companions. Avoid softer fruits such as bananas or pears that tend to mush in a bag.

Carrots and Celery Sticks
Pavel Korotkov/shutterstock

veggie sticks

Healthy and crunchy, veggie sticks are fun to munch on by themselves or with a small packet of dressing for dipping. Stick to vegetables that stay fresh for a long time without refrigeration, including carrots, celery, and bell peppers. Broccoli and cauliflower can get smelly, and cucumber wilts fast once peeled.


chips or crackers

Salty snacks including chips, pretzels, and crackers will stay fresh for an entire trip. Opt for packages that protect the product, or snacks that tend to be hard rather than brittle, to avoid ending up with a bag of salty crumbs.

Peanut Butter and Jelly
Brent Hofacker/shutterstock

peanut butter and jelly

This comforting classic satisfies any hunger craving, sweet or salty. The hit of protein from the nut butter provides long-lasting energy, while the sweet fruit offers a pick-me-up.

Healthy Homemade Mason Jar Salad with Egg Bacon Lettuce and Veggies
Brent Hofacker/shutterstock


Packing a salad for travel is all about layering ingredients correctly. Using the salad-in-a-jar method, place the dressing in the bottom of the container, followed by lettuce, then toppings. When it comes time to enjoy, shake to combine.


candy and gum

Stash a pack of gum and a favorite candy in a carry-on to have something to snack on during long waits. Chewing gum or sucking on hard candies can also help alleviate ear pain from pressure changes.

Instant Oatmeal

instant oatmeal

This indestructible packet of wholesome goodness just needs a cup and some boiling water — most flights offer it for tea — to become a nutritious meal.

Miso Soup Packet
Courtesy of amazon.com

miso soup packet

Freeze-dried miso soup comes in slender packets that can be mixed with hot water to create an umami-rich snack or light meal. Add other elements to the soup or enjoy simply as is.

Deli Wraps
Olga Nayashkova/shutterstock

deli wrap

Self-contained wraps can be an ideal travel sandwich. Ensure a wrap stays fresh for many hours by avoiding wet ingredients such as fresh mozzarella or roasted red peppers. Opt instead for flavorful spreads such as pesto and dry proteins such as grilled chicken.

Assorted Cookies
Steve Cukrov/shutterstock


Stashing a few homemade cookies in a bag will come in handy when a dessert craving hits at the airport coffee shop pastry case. Packed in a zip-top bag, they will stay fresh for up to a few days (although they are likely to run out before that).

Granola Bars

granola or protein bars

Bars have a high nutritional value in a small package, a handy hack for those who like to travel light. Slip a few bars into coat pockets for easy access at any time during travel.

Quinoa Grain Bowls

grain bowls

This hearty meal can be an alternative for those who dread airplane food. Choose a favorite grain; toss with vegetables and chicken or tofu; and dress with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Packed in a plastic container, it's a portable, no-fuss meal.

Pasta Salad

pasta salad

This picnic staple stays fresh for a long time. Ensure the best flavor and texture by using al dente pasta and a sauce based on olive oil and vinegar, not the more perishable mayo. Load it up with cheese and meats for extra satisfaction.

Alexander Demyanenko/shutterstock


Bringing cake or pie may be too cumbersome, but brownies are easy to stash for mid-flight snacking. Wrapped individually, they can go in a purse or pocket for even easier access.

Pita Sandwich
Slawomir Fajer/shutterstock

pita sandwich

Pita pockets help keep sandwich ingredients contained, since they have only one open side. Stuff the pita with favorite fillings, such as deli meat or Greek salad.

Cheese and Fruit Plate
VEX Collective/istockphoto

cheese and fruit plate

Pre-slice a few different cheeses and pack into a plastic container with some dried fruit, a small bunch of grapes, and some crackers for a bit of decadence in the sky.