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Brown bagging for Airline travel?

Because we're far from the airport, we'll be leaving our house at 7 am for an 11:40 flight. Rather than spend a bundle at the airport (who knows how much time we'd have anyway) or ditto to buy nothing worth eating from AA on the plane, I'd like to pack a simple lunch. One that won't spoil in so many hours, and will pass through security!
Any ideas --- beyond peanut butter and jelly--- for sandwiches and/or snacks that are quick to prepare at home and good to eat later? I need all the consolation I can get on a plane flight! Many thanks for any brainwaves.

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  1. I like to bring things I can graze on rather than a whole meal so I bring things like pasta salad, cured meats, cheese that I either chunk of slice before hand, nuts and pretzels. All travel well and you can snack while you read.

    1. Instead of sandwiches use small dinner buns and make mini sandwiches. Make your own trio (honey ham, turkey,corned beef) with some kind of cheese like gouda or whatever. Have your veggies in a separate container. There's even some plastic containers that have a small compartment on the lid for dressings or dip. Finger foods are good in ziploc bags. Have something chewy like licorice for the kids (or yourself) when you are ascending and descending. The chewing action helps relieve the tension in your ears. If you want something fruity, bring dried fruits like raisins and craisins. I like to make my own trailmix with nuts and dried fruit. I think there's a thread about bringing pizza on the plane... not sure how that works lol. I did however bring a Mcmuffin on board. The smell wafted to another row where a guy asked if they were serving breakfast. He was really disappointed when the stewardess laughed and said no.

      1. You have to be really careful about what you try to take through security these days. And what will be allowed by one security person might not be allowed by another. Friends of mine recently had sandwiches confiscated because the security person didn't know what was in them and was unwilling to take their word for it. And salad dressing or veggie dips would have to fall within the 3 ounce limit and be in your 1-quart carry-on in the sealable plastic bag you use for toothpaste and stuff like that. To be certain you'll get on board with what you bring, stick with things like trail mix, pretzels, cheese, nuts, crackers, dried fruits, cookies, protein bars--things that can't possibly be considered gel or liquid or to contain a gel-like substance.

        9 Replies
        1. re: JoanN

          That shouldn't happen. If you're questioned, ask to see the rule or regulation that applies *in writing*. Not knowing what's in something is not a legitimate reason for confiscating something that is not otherwise suspicious. What do you want to bet the guy just wanted the sandwiches?

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            What do you want to bet if you give the Security people a hard time that they'll make you get off the line and will go through everyrthing ...Twice.
            Unfortunately, they don't need a reason. They hold all the marbles.
            I agree with JoanN's idea.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              That rings so true. One time we were going from Can to by car and because the oranges didn't have stickers.. he said we could not bring a small bag of oranges into the States. So I aske if we could eat them. They said sure so we gorged ourselves with the juicy oranges while the guards just stared at us blankly.

              1. re: sleepycat

                sleepycat: Assuming you're trying to say that you were coming into the US from Canada, that has nothing to do with TSA regulations; it's about border regulations. You are not allowed to bring produce not grown in Canada into the US. http://help.cbp.gov/cgi-bin/customs.c...

                1. re: irishnyc

                  Which is kind of ridiculous, considering most citrus fruit in Canada is from Florida or California originally.

                  1. re: KevinB

                    I know.. we did point this out to the guard. We only have igloos here.. There aren't any orange trees.

                    That's why we ate the oranges on the spot.

                    1. re: sleepycat

                      Well no, it's not all that ridiculous. The US has a very large citrus industry. We don't want anymore imported fruits than we already have, both for economical reasons, and for contamination reasons.

            2. re: JoanN

              it really is a crapshoot. i habitually bring cottage cheese and/or yogurt on board in my own container [i.e. not in the one it came in], and each serving is 4-6 ounces - obviously over the 3-ounce limit - yet and they've never taken it from me...but my mother had an unopened container of yogurt confiscated.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                agreed. You never know what they are going to take.

            3. First and foremost, PLEASE be considerate of your fellow passengers and don't bring anything that is remotely smelly. No matter how nice it may smell to you it is torture to those around you who have no way to escape, and the smell can linger in the enclosed space for ages.

              Having said that, I find that something like a cheese sandwich works well, particularly cheddar, havarti, muenster, things like that. It will taste even better for having had time to warm to room temperature. Another option is to freeze sandwich-sized portions of roast beef or turkey in plastic wrap. By the time you're ready to eat them they should have defrosted and will still be fresh. Pack them separately from the bread, and assemble the sandwich just before eating so it doesn't get soggy. Grab a few single-serving packs of mayo or mustard from a local deli and you're good to go. Just remember to put the condiments in that 1-quart baggie when going through security.

              4 Replies
              1. re: BobB

                Not sure if this is acceptable. I sometimes bring cold KFC. Or slices of meat from smoked turkey drumstick. They keep me full and taste great cold.

                1. re: caitlink

                  Cold is fine, it won't smell much.

                2. re: BobB

                  That would be the same as perfume and colognes, etc.

                  1. re: BobB

                    To go along with what BobB suggested, I wholeheartedly agree with keeping any "smelly" food in mind. Frozen portions of food are also good to keep the food nice and cold in transit from your home to the time you eat it- can't be too careful with proper food temperatures!

                    Also, you can also always pick up condiment packets at a food court/take out place once you get past security, and that doesn't have to go in your 1-qt liquids bag. Just an idea, coming from my own experiences of packing the bag too full of toiletries to be able to pack anything else :o)

                  2. I don't care for schlepping prepared food around before a flight. But I often cart apples, string cheese and/or granola bars in a carry on bag. Also, small packages of almonds might be nice. And I think I've carried chocolate and hard boiled eggs as well. You can easily buy a bottle of water or a cup of coffee after going through security, to supplement your snack.

                    I hate airport food too! And refuse to buy anything from AA.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sueatmo

                      With all due respect, to me hard boiled eggs would be a huge offender if someone near me was eating them. They stink to high heaven.

                    2. Berkshire
                      For in flight munching,I also do the trail mix thing, using something like Basic 4 cereal, cashews, M&M's, sunflower seeds, raisonets,craisons pretzel nuggets, reese's pieces.Nothing salted. If I take an early flight, prior to heading to the airport I will have already checked to see what fast food breakfast places have terminal locations and where they are located. People can say what they want: Nothing beats the price and convenience of a BK or McD's breakfast when you're on the run. After I check in, I pick up something and eat it at the airport . One hint: Throw in a couple of small 3-5 oz dixie cups into the trail mix bag. You'd be surprised how many people will ask you if they can try it and the cups allow you to dip into your stash w/o letting someone else touch your food :-}
                      Note: If you have small kids, make sure to take a collapsable drinking cup in your bag. If the kids are thirsty they are so handy for getting a quick drink from the bathroom.

                      1. Has anyone used Skybus? I hear they don't allow their flyers to bring their own food onboard; I hope I've heard wrong! How would they even go about enforcing that?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mygirlbakes AL

                          Everything I've heard about Skybus is a complete joke, but I can't believe they wouldn't allow people to bring food on!

                          1. re: mygirlbakes AL

                            I've flown Skybus once (and had an excellent experience, btw). While their website does attempt to dissuade passengers form bringing food and drink on board, I did not experience any attempt to enforce it.

                          2. On my recent flight from LA to NYC, I baked some muffins, brought candy, and protein bars.
                            Next time I'd probably make up a simple cheese plate (with as many non-stinky cheeses as possible.) Cut into cubes or wedges, I don't think security would have a hard time letting them go through. Add some grapes,berries, and water crackers, you're good to go.
                            You need to get to the airport plenty early, so you should have time for a fast food breakfast or snack. I'd just pack enough snacks to keep you happy, but not a full lunch.

                            1. I've made muffins, bread (like banana bread - that I slice) and oatmeal cookies. I have been so happy to have these little bites of homemade goodness while waiting for a plane or sitting on a plane. They've saved me many times when my plane arrives late and I barely make my connection. I just have to remember to put them in the right place so they don't get smushed.

                              1. Do olives count as stinky food? I like bringing cheese, crackers, olives, sliced up apples with almond butter (and no, I haven't had any problems w/ almond butter passing through security so far. . .), chocolate, carrots, and other fruits/baked goods. If I have time, I might make some sort of pasta salad or room-temp-friendly salad.

                                1. put instant steel cut oats in tupperware... get hot water from stewardess or from starbucks while waiting in the gate area, then add in some brown sugar and cinnamon.

                                  lentil/couscous/quinoa/bean salads

                                  hummu/pita for lunch

                                  olive oil based potato salad or pasta salad

                                  jam and graham crackers

                                  zen bakery fiber cakes or bran muffins from tj's

                                  yogurt w/ a side of bran/fiber/cluster cereal to mix in or applesauce

                                  personally i crave protein, so i bring protein shakes or a chicken breast with me generally

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Emme

                                    With all respect:
                                    After reading your suggestions I found myself smiling.It's so interesting to see how people think. About 95% of your list would be things I'd never, ever consider bringing! Mostly messy, some ummm...rather 'strongly scented. Some would be hard to wash out of containers.Several would really not do well w/o being kept chilled. About the only item that might be practical would be the bran muffins, however depending on your digestive system, coupled with the length of the flight, those could also be somewhat problematic. :-}

                                  2. Thanks so much to everyone. Consensus seems to be finger foods (to personal tastes) and lots of Ziplocs. Back in the dark ages (before airplanes, does anyone else go back that far?) people traveled by train. It took two or three days to go from NY to El Paso, TX. My mother made lots of wonderful fried chicken, which we ate for about a day and a half. (And lived!) The rest of our food was consumed in the dining car, with white tablecloths and what to a kid was a dead ringer for silver. Awesome. Guess I was unconsciously hoping someone could come up with some kind of Chowhound delight to suit our very different (and reduced) circumstances these days. Alas, it is not to be. But you all encourage me to be a good sport and do the best with the way it is now. Sleepycat's mini sandwiches have a kind of gourmet ring! Oh, and I'd forgotten all about string cheese, which I like, it's like playing with your food. Once again, thanks to all!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                      Hi Berkshire,

                                      Not sure if it's too late for you, but I have used this site as a resource for work lunches- if you look around a bit, you can find some great tips for travel-friendly food. Most of the foods are based around the blogger's child's food, but the majority of the information can probably guide you towards something better than Cinnabon.. haha.


                                      1. re: gyozagirl

                                        GG, doomo arigato! This site is wonderful. Made me miss Japan all over again. Don't know if I'll actually manage anything creative like she does, but it certainly stimulates the imagination. Leftover pasta frittata, hmmmm. Fried rice, hmmmmm.

                                    2. Flying out (or back from Japan): styro "bento" box with musubi (rice ball with ume) or inari zushi, teriyaki chicken or beef, Japanese marinaded vegetable or spinach salad.

                                      Flying back (food usually packed in different sized plastic bags): sticky rice and laab or sausage (Lao); roasted eel and rice (Vietnam); fresh tortillas, chili flakes and Oaxaca cheese (Mexico); bresiola, different cheeses, olives, bread (Italy); breakfast tamales (Guatemala); wurst, kartofflesalat (Germany); bagles, lox, capers, cheese (no onions--NYC); smoked fish and rice/bread (a few different places around the globe).

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        You must be the only person on the plane back from Guatemala without a bucket of Pollo Campero, Sam. ;-)

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          Right! I would take a PC salad--they're good and often the only way to get a good salad in Guatemala. Plus there are 50 of them on the way to the airport--coming from any direction. I buy the tortillas from the ladies at the door, and eat the chicken salads as burritos. Could easily do that on the flights Guatemala-Panama-Cali.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            "there are 50 of them on the way to the airport"

                                            --and one *in* the airport. Never tried their salads.

                                            "I buy the tortillas from the ladies at the door"

                                            --Great tips. Will do both on my return flight this July. Thanks.

                                      2. Pepperoni rolls are great at keeping and very good. You can get a recipe if you google I am sure. The recipes from the Fairmont WV area will be the authentic ones.

                                        I always take goldfish crackers because I love them. And Granola bars. I often take fruit too (if travelling internationally I eat it before we arrive).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ktmoomau

                                          I cheat on my pepperoni rolls, and use frozen bread dough. Just cut pepperoni into 4 inch long pieces, then cut that piece into 6 length-wise pieces. (You should have 12 strips of pepperoni) Divide the frozen bread dough into 12 pieces. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or two shredded cheese, add the piece of pepperoni, and wrap the dough around everything, pressing to seal. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350. I make these all the time - never thought about taking them for a flight, but they'd be perfect because they keep for a day or two at room temperature. (Recipe courtesy of my w. va friend Shirelle)

                                        2. I love fresh fruit, but fruit that has a hard shell so it doesnt mush in my bag. Apples and oranges are my favorite.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: CookforFun

                                            Oooh, I know I've said this before on other threads, and others may be saying this as well, but oranges are just that kind of smelly food that can be unbearable for the person next to you.

                                            I love eating oranges, but for reasons I do not understand, the smell of them when others are eating them is really unpleasant.

                                          2. I just remembered that my Japanese friend would make onigiri with various fillings when we'd travel. Does anyone else think these might fit some bill or other? Must they be made with freshly cooked rice, i.e. if leftover from last night would it still work? Any filling suggestions? I think there are experts among this group ---

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                              I think onigiri would be great for travelling- compact, filling, and not smelly, assuming you're not putting gobs of tuna salad inside... haha.

                                              Leftover/frozen cooked rice works fine, but I'd recommend warming it back up in the microwave just to get it more pliable. Personally, I freeze single servings of rice in plastic wrap anyways, so I just use the same plastic wrap to mold onigiri once I put fillings in.

                                              Salmon flakes or any sort of meat would be good, I think- mini meatballs (like the frozen ones at Trader Joe's) or sausage might be more filling. It's basically a personal preference I think- hey, if it tastes good for you, go for it!

                                            2. This will probably gross everyone out, but I love cold pizza. When we have a long flight ahead of us, I will order pizza or make it the night before for dinner as we are usually busy trying to get ready, then wrapped leftovers individually in plastic. I have a small thermal lunch bag that keeps food cold for most of the day with a hard blue ice brick and just put the whole bag in may carry-on. I also have taken sandwiches, fruit, and cold chicken plus always some kind of trail mix or nut mix. Coming home from trips, I just buy something in whatever town I am in, pastries, sandwiches, cheese, bread, fruit, ect...I keep a ziploc in my thermal bag with napkins, plastic forks/knives and WetNaps for cleaning up. My husband always teases me that I can't go anywhere with out a meal planned, but he always ends up eating whatever I pack! Imagine!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: jodymaryk


                                                "This will probably gross everyone out, but I love cold pizza"

                                                It doesnt sound gross, but while room temp pizza can be ok, I have to admit the thought of cold/chilled pizza doesn't sound all that appetizing. :-}
                                                I too carry a zip-loc "food kit". I like sharing, but I have to admit I'm getting just a tad peeved at the increasing number of people who are obviously seasoned travelers, asking me if they can "borrow" a towelette or plasticware
                                                Borrow???... Like I really want used towelettes and utensils returned to me!

                                                1. re: Tay

                                                  That's funny! I think as service on planes gets less, more people will plan ahead as some of us do. And your right, No, I don't want that towelette or knife back!

                                                  Happy flying!

                                              2. For long-haul (trans-oceanic/trans-continental) flights when I am not flying in a forward cabin, I bring either a 'bento' style meal in a disposable bento box, or a French lunch of baguette, pate (with condiments), nicoise salad, and cheese & fresh fruit for dessert. I also bring along a disposable cloth for a table cover and mini S&P shakers. The little effort and planning it requires is worth it because I control the quality of what I eat and can truly enjoy my meal. I have also been known to bring aboard a side of smoked salmon to share with the crew. Once the passengers are fed and content, I slip back to the galley and share the 'snack'. It makes for a flight for everyone.

                                                1. What finally happened: LunchinaBox.com (thanks to gyozagirl) came through. Two "bento boxes" (actually Hefty disposables), one with fried rice, the other with a ham sandwich done lunchbox lady's method, lightly toasted bread lined with cheese on either side, mustard and ham in the middle (anti-sog). Trimmings of radishes on one, cucumber on the other, romaine leaves as edible dividers, and snack bags of M&M's on top. Odd, maybe, but very satisfying. Next time --- onigiri research, or Spanish tortilla, something like that. Find it amusing that the best answer for us was "thinking inside the box," not outside! Thanks to all, lots of interesting ideas here.