But then there’s the major downside of not always knowing what you’re eating. For example, I ordered something in Vietnam that was definitely chicken, but it still had some feathers on it and hardly any meat. Not my best meal to say the least.
Traveling with food helps you avoid some of these moments where you might go back to your accommodation hungry. We don’t recommend packing entire meals! However a few items might help your trip go a bit more smoothly.
Why Pack Your Own Food?
There are lots of reasons as to why you might want to pack food for a trip.
- If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, as I do, it can supplement your meals until you can find an appropriate alternative.
- You might be a long term traveler who wants to carry food to cook to save money on meals out.
- You also might be a picky eater who wants to be sure of what they’re eating. Or you’re afraid of getting sick.
- Packing your own food prevents hanger, which affects even the best of us. It’s how I ended up eating Burger King in Bangkok at 10 pm after a 12 hour bus ride. I worried that everything was closed, irrationally forgetting that the city is always busy, especially with food stalls. Had I thought for a moment or had some food items with me, I might not have made this mistake.
How to Pack Your Own Food
Consider the types of food you can pack:
Certain types of food work best and you shouldn’t expect to carry an entire pantry with you.
Look for dried or powdered packets at your local grocery store. Outdoor stores also carry meals that can be quickly cooked with boiling water from brands like Backpacker’s Pantry. Powdered soup, oatmeal, and ramen noodles are a safe bet. If you’re looking for more substantial items, pasta and rice work well in many forms. I also like to pack instant grits (a Southern thing!), instant coffee, Pique tea crystals, dried fruit, nuts, and granola bars.
Consider how you’ll actually transport these items:
I’ve carried Tupperware containers of snacks on trips as they can be reused or tossed if necessary. Sea to Summit makes collapsible containers that fold flat for storage. Just make sure they’re leak free! Utensils are also a must, including a spork, but make sure it won’t get taken at airport security.
I also travel with a reusable mug, which can be used for your morning coffee or your dinner. A cooler might also come in handy. Just remember to put liquids in your checked luggage. Look for lighter containers like packets instead of cans.
Consider how you’ll go about cooking it:
If you’re staying in hostels, most will have kitchens, but some won’t. Have a few items that don’t require heating. It’s generally easy to find boiling water, as I even found on trains in Asia.
>>Learn how to travel like MacGyver: pack these items that solve problems.
When Not to Pack Food
The most important time you shouldn’t pack food is if there are strict quarantine laws around food items from other countries. Australia, New Zealand, and Canada all have laws of this sort, as does the state of Hawaii. You might be told to ditch it all upon arrival.
You also shouldn’t pack food if it’s going to take up too much room or weight in your bag. Remember that most countries will have stores selling what you need. I’ve found dairy free options in Israel, Guatemala, and everywhere in between. Give it a Google search before you leave.
Did we leave anything out? Have you packed food for travel?
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