Travel Hacks for Food Fun While Flying

Flying can be stressful. You can multiply that stress by the number of kids you have if you’re traveling with the family. (And then multiply THAT by 1,000.) Between the clothes and toiletries, stuffed animals they can’t go anywhere without, and of course, the snacks, it can take days just to pack for a 5 year old. Take a deep breath; there are some simple tips that can help parents when it comes to kids’ food and snacks while traveling.

Annie Hacohen, mom of two young boys and food blogger at WifeLife, offers her wisdom as a seasoned parent. In addition to Hacohen’s pro tips, Asia and I’lah Frazier provide some real-world food hacks that may be able to take you all the way to your destination without a snack meltdown.

Cook Simple Snacks on the Plane

Don’t fret if your child is a picky eater. With this hack, it’s easy to bring their at-home favorites on the plane. According to the Fraziers, you can make a variety of meals on the plane by simply asking for hot water when the flight attendant comes around.

Using an insulated bowl or water bottle — or even mom’s travel coffee cup if that’s what you have at home — throw in a pack of oatmeal and hot water. This savvy meal hack can be used with hot chocolate and noodle cups as well, so your child will always have something warm to fill their belly.

Multi-Purpose Food

We’ve all experienced that earache during takeoff and landing. That earache is caused by the “stress exerted on your eardrum and other middle ear tissues when the air pressure in your middle ear and the air pressure in the environment are out of balance,” according to Mayo Clinic, and may be relieved by continued swallowing, chewing gum or yawning. These activities may help equalize air pressure, making for a more enjoyable flight. But since giving young kids gum is a choking hazard, you might need a chewy alternative.

“It’s very important to me to have something they can eat or chew when we’re taking off [so their ears don’t hurt],” Hacohen says. “I get them peanut butter cereal and they eat them one at a time and it takes them a very long time.” When their little fingers are focused on eating cereal one by one, they’re chewing and swallowing throughout the entirety of takeoff or landing, therefore missing the painful earache. Snacks that help encourage continuous swallowing include applesauce and other fruit pouches.

Make Snack Time More Active

Kids can get restless on a plane, all cooped up with nowhere to go. For some, that’s a recipe for temper tantrums. Good thing just a little parent prep can help ward off even the scariest tantrum.

Making snack time a more active time can be fun for your child before the big trip, and even more fun to eat when they’re high above the clouds.

First, you’ll prepare snack necklaces, which are easy to do with some twine and food you can use as beads. Consider pretzels, cereal, candies, crackers — you name it. Let your child craft a necklace or two using what they want to eat, and simply pack them in containers ahead of the flight. The only challenge is not eating them beforehand!

Another tip from the Fraziers is to have your kids pack meal prep containers with you. By encouraging your kids to help organize and pack their snacks, you’re helping them feel like they’re chefs, and ensuring they’re packing what they truly want to eat.

mother and daughter packing food

Consider a “Zero Snack”

Sometimes kids aren’t even hungry, but need a distraction. That’s when Hacohen breaks out her secret weapon — something she calls a “zero snack.” This is anything, “That doesn’t fill you up with carbs, doesn’t fill you up with sugar,” she says. In other words, if your child ate all their snacks and they’re whining for more, you give them a zero snack. Things that fall in that category are rice cakes, puffs cereal snacks, or even some cut-up cucumbers or tomatoes.

Create a Restaurant Kit

Dining out starts on the plane and doesn’t end until you get home from your trip, which can be tricky with kids. Building a custom, homemade restaurant kit can be fun and results in a helpful item you’ll use long after your flight.

To start, get a reusable container large enough to hold a few items. You’ll want to customize the kit based on your child’s needs, but to start, fill it with a set of toddler-size utensils, a bib (if needed), wet wipes, some paper, and crayons. Having these essentials on you at all times will eliminate the stress of eating or snacking from the second you get on the plane until the moment you walk back through your front door.

Remember these tips when you you’re packing and the journey could be as fun as the vacation itself. As Hacohen says, “The key to a peaceful day, the key to a peaceful flight, are the right snacks.”

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