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The Best Travel Snacks for Packing in a Carry-on

The best travel snacks you can pack in a carry-on

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Can you bring snacks through TSA?

For anyone wondering about the best travel snacks that you can bring in your carry-on luggage, you need to also know the answer to this question.

And the answer is… Yes! Food and snacks from home or a restaurant can be brought through airport security and on flights, but food is subject to the same restrictions as other liquids, gels, and creams. 

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Food must be securely packaged going through TSA. This is to prevent spills or contamination of your food during screening.
  • Food will be x-rayed.
  • Liquid, cream, and gel food (e.g. salsa, peanut butter, jam) is limited to 3.4 oz. or less and must fit in your 3-1-1 bag with your other liquids.

Be sure to check the restrictions in all the countries you are flying to as some may have stricter rules than the USA’s Transportation Security Administration.

Our motto at Her Packing List is to never assume that all restrictions regarding luggage and flying are created equally around the world. Check, and double-check to be safe!

Now, let’s talk more about those great snack options for traveling.

What snacks are good for flying?

The best snacks for flying are ones that aren’t liquids, gels, or creams, that have minimal scent (travelers sitting near you will thank you!), and that avoid severe allergens like peanuts. 

The best travel snacks are also the ones that you like, agree with your body, and you’ll actually eat.

We recommend easy protein snacks, hearty granola bars, or a healthy homemade trail mix.

When it comes to what not to eat when flying, avoid overly salty foods. They can dehydrate you and exacerbate the effects of jet lag. You don’t want to spend the first day at your destination in bed instead of out exploring!

Snack Ideas for Your Carry-on

A packed snack box of travel snacks ready to go.
Simple snacks in a snack box may be great as long as everything is packed within TSA and quarantine guidelines.

Healthy travel snacks

  • Beef jerky
  • Trail mix
  • Protein bars
  • Carrot chips
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Cheese and meat stick combos
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Granola
  • Green pea chips
  • Fruit leather
  • Fruit pouch or cup (under 3.4 oz.)
  • Dried fruit
  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • Seaweed snacks
  • Vegetable sticks and 3.4 oz or less of hummus

Comfort food snacks

  • Candy bars without nuts
  • Cereal bar
  • Dry cereal
  • Cookies
  • Muffins/baked goods (nothing cream or jelly-filled)
  • Popcorn
  • Sandwich crackers (think about allergies before using peanut butter crackers)

Snacks that make a meal

  • Charcuterie bag with hard cheeses
  • Chicken or tuna pouches with bread, crackers, or pasta
  • Instant oatmeal in a bowl (May be hard to get hot water, especially in-flight. Will need to pack a spoon. Will take up a lot of room until you eat it.)
  • Grain bowl (any condiments need to be in separate containers and less than 3.4 oz.)
  • Cold sandwich (condiments in individual packets under 3.4 oz.)
  • Pasta salad (dressing in an individual packet under 3.4 oz.)
  • Bagged salad (dressing in an individual packet under 3.4 oz.)
  • Cold lentils with vegetables and vinaigrette (dressing in an individual packet under 3.4 oz.)

Snacks that might need to be quarantined

Whole fresh fruit and vegetables are generally not allowed to cross international borders and there are some restrictions between US states, but these may be allowed if they are consumed on the flight. Check the restrictions of the country or state you are flying to and from.

5 things to consider when planning your travel snacks

1 – Avoid smelly snacks

Some foods may be allowed by TSA but also may make the other passengers dislike you. Be a kind traveler and avoid smelly snacks like boiled eggs, tuna and other fish, salami, and other pungent foods.

These are probably best for eating before boarding or during a layover.

2 – Potential tummy problems

Time to get real for a minute. You may want to consider if certain foods give you gas and avoid those before and during flight. Other foods like chocolate and apple juice can function as diuretics or laxatives.

Part of your trip planning could include tracking how different foods affect you, if “tummy problems” are a concern.

3 – Quarantine issues

TSA allows fresh fruit and vegetables in carry-ons, but US Customs has many restrictions on importing produce. All fresh fruit and vegetables coming into the US need to be declared.

Also, whole fresh fruit will need to be washed before you eat it, it is harder to transport fresh fruit without bruising it, and it may leave your hands sticky when you don’t have a way of washing them. If you pack whole fresh fruit, be sure to plan for these challenges.

Similarly, some foods may be allowed by TSA, but not allowed to enter your destination country. If you’re planning on bringing whole fresh produce that isn’t obviously your snack for the flight, you may have to do a little extra research to find out if you’ll be allowed to bring it on the plane.

4 – Allergen concerns

Peanut and nut allergies can be severe for your fellow passengers, so you may want to avoid eating foods with nuts while on the flight. If you eat these foods during a layover, it would be considerate to thoroughly wash your hands before boarding.

5 – Additions to your liquids bag

Liquid, cream, and gel snacks (peanut butter is a cream) have the same restrictions as toiletries and other liquids. These food items need to fit into your 3-1-1 bag along with your other liquids.

You may get ideas for packaging your snack items using these tips for packing your liquid toiletries.

How do you pack snacks to take on a flight?

Snacks need to be in packages that can go through TSA screening, including x-rays. The easiest packages are what the food originally came in, especially for single-serving options like protein bars or condiments.

If you’re repacking, clear or easy-to-open and close containers are best, in case the TSA agent needs to inspect the contents.

For packing light in carry-on only, you may need to use disposable packaging like: 

  • Original packaging
  • Zip-top bags
  • Wax paper
  • Cling wrap
  • Paper bag
  • Vacuum-sealed, see-through homemade packages

If part of your packing planning included ways to reuse your snack packages after you’ve eaten their contents, then a reusable container might fit into your packing light goals. 

reusable containers for packing your travel snacks
Reusable containers for storing travel snacks: 1 – Stasher bags, 2 – Humangear STAX, 3 – Escape Bowl + Lid, 4 – Beeswax wraps

Some ideas for reusable containers are:

  1. Stasher bags – Get some on Amazon
  2. Reusable container with tight lid – Try the Humangear STAX containers
  3. Collapsible bowl or cup with tight lid – Try the Escape Bowl + Lid
  4. Beeswax wraps – Get some on Amazon

Other considerations for reusable containers:

  • Will the lid or wrap stay sealed while in my luggage?
  • Will the container leak after being tossed around in hand baggage or sent through airport security screening?
  • Is the lid or wrap easy to open and seal quickly?
  • How will I wash the container after use, especially if it will be a long time before I arrive at my destination?

Written by Jill

Jill Hames is a freelance writer, musician, and ESL teacher who, at the age of four, said she wanted to learn every language in the world. She hasn’t managed that yet, but is proud to have taught herself enough Swahili to understand context from native speakers. She's too busy having fun with music and language to be found online.

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