Over the years, food options on airplanes have become more and more limited. Some airlines will only offer small packets of snacks and others have begun to offer food for purchase, such as snack boxes, fruit and cheese platters, and pre-made sandwiches. Unless you are traveling in business or first class, it's unlikely you'll have many options for food the next time you fly.
It's possible to buy food at the airport after you pass through security and take it onto the plane, but if you're short on time, don't care for the airport's food offerings, or have food allergies or other dietary restrictions, you might struggle to find something to eat. Additionally, food sold at the airport is typically more expensive.
If you want to save money on foods you know you like, the best thing to do is to prepare your own travel meals at home and bring them with you.
Understanding TSA Regulations
Before you start preparing your meals, keep in mind that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) prohibits all liquids and gels in containers larger than three ounces in carry-on baggage. "Liquids and gels" include peanut butter, jelly, frosting, pudding, hummus, applesauce, cream cheese, ketchup, dips, and other soft or pourable food items. However, the TSA will make exceptions for baby food, baby milk, juice for infants, and liquid medicine (with a written prescription). Whenever possible, pack your food in clear containers or bags.
This rule also extends to ice packs that exceed the volume limit, whether they are gel or liquid. Flight attendants may not want to give you ice from their freezer to use in your cooler, so if you want to keep your food cold, you'll need to get creative or pack food that can be kept at room temperature. You can use bags of frozen vegetables as ice pack substitutes or freeze water in three ounce containers to store with your food.
Plan Your In-Flight Menu
Sandwiches, wraps, and salads are easy to carry and eat on an airplane. You can make your own or purchase them from your favorite grocery store or restaurant. Be sure to carry them in secure containers to prevent leaks and remember to pack utensils.
Think about packing fruits that travel well, such as bananas, oranges, grapes, and apples. Before leaving for the airport, be sure to wash your fruit at home. Dry food such as granola bars, crackers, and chips are also easy to carry and don't require refrigeration. You can pack your own dips, like guacamole or hummus, in travel-sized containers or purchase to-go containers to bring with you.
If you are traveling internationally, be sure to eat or discard all meats, vegetables, and fruits you bring with you before you land. Most countries restrict imports of these items, so you will not be permitted to bring them past the customs checkpoint.
You can buy beverages in the airport terminal once you have passed through security. You will be offered a beverage on your flight unless you are flying through too much turbulence to safely serve beverages. Flights that last less than an hour are considered extremely short and might not offer in-flight beverage service.
To save money at the terminal, you can take an empty water bottle through the security checkpoint and fill it before you board.
Consider Your Fellow Passengers
Take your fellow passengers into account when planning your menu. Although peanuts and tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and more) make great portable snacks, many people are allergic to one or both types of nuts. And within the enclosed space of an airplane cabin, even the dust from a packet of nuts can trigger a potentially deadly reaction. If you pack nuts or trail mix, make sure to eat them in the terminal before boarding the plane.
You should also avoid foods with strong odors that might irritate your fellow passengers like pungent cheeses or anything heavily seasoned with garlic or onions.