Nowadays, air travel can feel far from glamorous. First you cram all that you can in your carry-on to avoid the $20/per bag checked luggage charges. Then you have to meticulously ration your conditioner, shampoo, and liquid make-up to make it through security. Finally, you get to the airport only to begin the process of disrobing – taking off your jacket, your shoes, unpacking your laptop… By the time you get to your gate, it can feel like you’ve already done a day’s worth of exercise.
So when it comes to flying, I like to treat myself to whatever creature comforts I can to reduce some stress and make it more pleasurable. The first step to making my trip stress free and happy is insuring that I have a full stomach. Airport restaurant prices are expensive and often the healthy and vegan options are lackluster or few and far between. Here are my top three tips for saving money and eating healthy in the air.
1. Pack an empty water bottle in your carry-on. Obviously a filled water bottle can’t be taken through security, but an empty one is fine. Once on the other side, fill it up at a water fountain. After you’re on the plane and settling in you can be sipping on water while everyone else is waiting to get to a cruising altitude for beverage service.
2. In addition to any fruits or chopped raw vegetables you might pack, bring along at least one item that is substantive and filling. My top picks are baked tofu, roasted chickpeas, black beans, and/or homemade or store-bought seitan. With these hearty bases, you can either snack on them on their own, or they can be supplemented with the things you can find in almost any airport like many varieties of veggie sandwiches, bagels, or salads. While a light green airport salad or 6-inch vegetable sub sandwich can be less than filling, when you add a cup of beans or slices of baked tofu, suddenly it’s a meal.
3. Before you leave home, spread your spread. If you have the time and inclination to bring your own bagel, crackers, tortilla, or sandwich, before you leave home slather on hummus, ketchup, mustard, jelly, non-dairy cream cheese, or almond butter. Toss your salad with dressing (but not copious amounts). Separate containers of hummus or salad dressing likely won’t make it through security because of rules about gels and liquid, but if they’re spread onto a sandwich or tossed on a salad, it gets the all clear. (If you really have to have your dip on the side, make sure it’s less than 3.4 ounces, and put it in a plastic zip-top bag with your other liquids.)
Airports seem to vary when it comes to how diligent/strict they are about liquids and gels. I went through just fine with packaged guacamole that was over 3.4 ounces in Des Moines, but a friend had to throw out her packaged hummus in San Francisco. For the sake of money, time, and patience, spread your spread and enjoy your sandwich. If you’re planning on bringing pasta onboard, I recommend doing something low on liquid like an oil and vinegar pasta salad. (Once I took pasta with a sparing amount of marinara through security in Los Angeles, and they did let me through but not without scowling at me first.)
Travel can be stressful enough on its own without adding a grumbling stomach to the mix. With these three tips, flying can be a bit more seamless.