Need snack ideas for traveling with babies or toddlers?
Since we live overseas, this post will be geared toward plane travel but it all works for for car trips too. The point is, it’s a long way and the last thing you want to worry about is who’s hungry, and whether it’s worth buying a $6 bag of chips in the air.
It’s a 15 hour trip from Rome to Orlando, where my in-laws live and much further to my family’s home outside of Seattle. That doesn’t include getting to and from airports, checking in, or retrieving luggage. Having done this a few times, here is my first tip: Bring a pretty big selection of snacks and meal items. Little kids are very distracted in new settings, especially under tiring circumstances. Tried and true favorites may crash and burn while new things suddenly become appealing. You won’t know until the mood strikes, unfortunately it’s not your mood so that makes things harder.
Tip 1: Everything doesn’t have to be “healthy”
On long trips with someone under 3 feet tall, ANYTHING can count as an activity. This is not the time to worry about whether food as an antidote to boredom will cause eating disorders down the road–it’s just one day. You can teach your kids healthy eating habits during the rest of their lives. With one caveat: For the sanity of your family and those around you, try to limit sugar as an anti-meltdown measure.
And a note about baby food. Even if you make your own all the time, don’t hesitate to buy some for a long trip. You won’t have to worry about saving containers, spills or the effort of pureeing extra food when you’re already busy packing.
Tip 2: Store-bought sNacks can be great
Normally I love making snacks at home, but when you’re packing for a trip you might not have time. Here’s what I’ve learned to take:
- Bring one box of raisins but not more. They’re a diuretic so don’t offer too many but most toddlers love fishing them out of the box and it counts as an activity for a few minutes. Also, its hard to make a big mess with raisins. (Ditto for any dried fruit. One container is good. More than that is bad.)
- Cheerios. Again, sort of an activity plus snack built in. Low sugar, not so bad for you. Again, not too messy. (And if your toddlers are old enough, they can make their own necklace to take on the plane.)
- Rice cakes. Some kids love them.
- Steamed and cooled edamame (soy beans)
- Plain bread, just slices of bread
- Babybel cheese, those little red round disks of cheese come inside a sturdy wax coating making them that much harder to squish.
- Box of Animal Crackers. The cute box is fun and the cardboard helps it resist getting squished.
Tip 3: Pack Meals that Don’t Need a Cooler Bag
- If your kids eat peanut butter yet, PB&Js will alleviate the hassle of a cooler bag. (Wrap them in foil to help prevent in-bag smashing.)
- Try cheese roll ups using tortillas. Add mustard, butter or cream cheese plus sliced cheese. Don’t cook; leave the tortillas soft. Thinly sliced soft cheese works great.
- Cubed cheese and loose kidney or cannelloni beans (cooked or canned). The cheese will help “solidify” things but it’s still a good idea to go easy on the beans.
- Make-ahead pasta cups, a mini meal to go: Italian style pasta cups or Broccoli & cheese pasta cups
Tip 4: If it’s a long flight, you might want to go ahead with meals with a cooler bag
These are the snacks that have worked best for us:
- Deli turkey rolled up with cheese
- Cubed rotisserie chicken or deli ham
- Cottage cheese in individual containers (but avoid yogurt; it’s messy and usually considered “liquid”)
- Frozen green peas. They’re not messy, most little kids like them as finger food; don’t have to be hot or cooked. Just let them thaw as you go.
- Cherry tomatoes
- Vegetable slices (carrots, cucumbers, anything they’re currently eating) and hummus.
- Apples, oranges or clementines. The peel will help prevent punctures and squishing. (But avoid pears and bananas, which are too easy to smash in your bag.)
- Oatmeal raspberry mini-muffins
- Pumpkin spice mini-muffins
- Oatmeal raisin scones
Tip 5: Don’t overpack but do bring strategic gear
Here’s what I always bring:
- 3-4 disposable bibs, OR two regular wipe-off bibs
- Wipes (keep these handy during meals so you’re less worried about messes)
- Non-spill cup; ask the flight attendant to fill it or buy your own water bottle and refill as needed
- 2 plastic shopping/grocery bags to put dirty clothes, used baby food jars, spilled on or soiled pants, etc.
- 2 bottles, both ready with powdered formula, if you’re a formula parent. Just add water when the time comes.
- 2 spoons. One will probably drop on the floor and you might lose them both so don’t bring anything special. I love this inexpensive set of spoons for just that reason.
- Baby food. Enough to feed the baby 2 jars/packets every 3 hours. It’ll seem like a lot but you’ll be happy to have extra if you hit delays. Airport security allows baby food but tell them about it before they see it in your bag.