Whenever I travel, I always make sure I have some kind of food on me (water, too!). I can’t tell you how many times this has saved me from going hungry or paying exorbitant prices due to limited options. So what makes a good travel snack? I have my favorites and have learned from experience what does and does not work in certain situations. Read on to learn what to think about, food suggestions, and tips. Plus, my number one top food item I never travel without!
When choosing the best food item(s) to keep in your suitcase or daypack, think about not only what tastes good but what is good for you. Travel is usually quite exhausting so the best travel foods give you energy and sustain your hunger for longer. Sugary snacks might give you a quick burst but that will be followed by a crash. Protein-rich foods are better for sustained energy.
Bang for Your Buck
I don’t just mean value for money here, though that is also important for budget travelers. I mean that the best travel snacks are filling and take up minimal space. Think about foodstuffs that won’t leave you hungry again in an hour that you can fit in your pocket. You don’t want to use up all the space in your backpack with a bag of potato chips that will leave you thirsty from the salt and craving more.
Avoiding a Melted Mess
Take the weather and if you will be mostly inside or outside into consideration. I’m a bit of a chocoholic but a long hot bus ride or summer hike will melt any such sweet treat into a much less appetizing goopy mess. Same goes for things like cheese and condiments in a sandwich. Things you normally need to refrigerate are generally not a good choice unless it’s winter and you will be outdoors a lot.
My tendency to pack in a carry-on suitcase for every trip, regardless of length, means my bags are often full to the brim. Foods that are easily mushed out of shape and not protected in a rigid container, therefore, are not a good option for me. Even if you do have room, you never know what you may bump up against or how things will shift in your bag, leading to an unshapely and unappetizing meal. Better to carry something that isn’t easily squashed.
Check Quarantine Restrictions
When crossing borders, even between states, provinces, or counties, be sure to check if there are any quarantine restrictions. While it is pretty rare, some countries attempt to control the spread of diseases and bugs by not allowing things like fresh fruits and vegetables across borders. I recently had to throw out a perfectly good apple when crossing between states in Australia for this very reason.
My Top Pick
So with all these tips in mind, the food item that I always have in my bag no matter where I’m traveling is:
My personal favorite is the Nature Valley Protein bar in Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate. There are lots of other options, of course, many with more savory flavors and/or higher protein levels. Protein bars are small and easily packed but have good nutritional value to boost and sustain energy. While some brands of bar or parts of the bar may melt or be squished slightly, I’ve found this to be minimal and contained easily in the packaging. They are still perfectly edible even if slightly warm and malformed.
More Travel Food Suggestions
Another great energy-giving food that doesn’t take up much room and doesn’t squish easily. Normally, pre-packaged trail mix or nut packets don’t get red flagged for quarantine restrictions but can sometimes be a no-no, so double check.
Energy bites are usually soft balls or squares consisting of dates, dried fruit, seeds, and/or nuts. Basically, trail mix put through a blender and shaped. They are compact but filling and energizing. Again, the quarantine factor may rarely apply to these and they may be squished slightly but not unappetizingly so.
Again, good bang for your buck in a small package and not easily squishable.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Another good protein source in a small package, hard boiled eggs can last longer outside the fridge than you might think (though maybe not the best for a long day out in super hot weather…). The shell might crack under pressure in your bag but the egg underneath will stand up to a lot.
Another suggestion better suited to colder weather, greek yogurt usually comes in a reasonably solid container, is good for nutrition and energy, and is filling. Mix in some granola, trail mix, nuts, and/or dried fruit for a bit more substance. I always carry a spork multi-tool for eating snacks like this on the go!
Baby Carrots & Hummus
Baby carrots are great veggies for dipping that are already bite-sized and won’t squish in your bag. Add a small tub of hummus dip to make them more substantial and energizing. Again, hummus does pretty well outside the fridge for a while, except maybe in super hot weather. And check quarantine on the carrots.
If you’ll have access to water, especially hot water, oatmeal is super easy to bring dry in a ziplock bag/individual package/cup and hydrate when you want to eat it. It’s very filling and packable. You can add one of the other items on this list, like dried fruit or pumpkin seeds, to give it some flavor.
Again, here’s something you can throw in your bag in a ziplock/small container. Or put the appropriate amount in an empty water bottle to go through airport security, then add water from a fountain to get that great energizing and filling punch in the smallest possible package.
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