Redefine airplane food with our inspiring recipes and TSA-approved tips.
meatloaf sandwich
Credit: Linda Pugliese

It's no secret that summer is the most popular travel season. With unappealing and pricey airline meals and airport dining options, bringing your own food on the plane makes sense. What can you pack that's allowed according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) restrictions while also remaining fresh and tasty? As it turns out, you have a surprising number of great options.

TSA Restrictions on Food

There are no restrictions on the type of food you can bring on a plane. Fresh fruit, an open box of crackers, and sandwiches are all acceptable. There are restrictions on the size of carry-on liquids and gel foods, such as yogurt, pudding, and even that souvenir bottle of maple syrup. Just like cosmetics, all liquid or gelatinous food must be under 3.4oz (with the exception of medically-necessary liquids). "Liquids, gels, and aerosols pose the greatest threat to aviation security," says Lorie Dankers, public affairs manager for the TSA. Dankers notes that 3.4 ounces (100 ml) is an international standard and that restriction applies no matter where you are traveling to or from. Pack that jar of artisanal jelly or Grandma's famous cranberry sauce in your checked bag to avoid having to toss them out.

Flying with Food Allergies

The TSA does not place restrictions on allergy-prone ingredients such as peanuts or gluten, notes Dankers. While airlines do not restrict flyers from bringing nuts as a snack, most airlines no longer serve peanuts due to allergy concerns. If someone in your party has a severe allergy, alert the flight attendant for possible accommodations.

Packing Food for a Flight

Dankers notes that packing food in your carry-on luggage may require additional screening, particularly if the product looks oversized or suspicious. To expedite the process, pack all food at the top of your bag so it's easily accessible and "be mindful of the officers and people around you," says Dankers.

Travel Snack Ideas

Have a shorter flight or just want something to munch on in between meals? Consider food that will be energizing and can stay at room temperature for hours. Pack snacks like cut veggies, granola bars, or trail mix like Quick Cranberry-Pumpkin Seed Trail Mix and Coconut Trail Mix. You could also take a homemade sweet treat to-go, like S'mores Bars or Big-Batch Triple-Chocolate Brownie Bars. Avoid bringing anything too fragile that will crumble easily.

Homemade Meals to Bring on a Plane

If you're looking for something heartier that will satisfy you until you land, pack sandwiches, breads or savory scones, or a bean, grain, or pasta salad (light on the mayo). For an easy handheld meal, this make-ahead Pressed Sandwich with Prosciutto and Broccoli Rabe is just the thing. Jennifer's Meatloaf Sandwiches are certainly hearty and can safely be served at room temperature.


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