How to Take Food on Airlines


Determine how much food you will need to bring on board depending upon length of flight and the amount of room available in your carry on. You may only need a few snacks for a two- to four-hour flight, one full meal plus snack for a four- to eight-hour flight and two meals plus snacks for an eight hour or longer flight.


Prepare your meals in advance. You won't have access to either a microwave or a refrigerator, so plan to bring food that does not need to stay cold for long periods of time or be reheated. A small, insulated soft-side cooler can be packed with a sandwich, cut fruit and vegetables and dip. Meal replacement bars, granola and fruit bars, trail mix and crackers are options for snacks that don't need to be kept warm or cold.


Wrap your food securely in plastic wrap to prevent spills. Since food must go through the same security x-ray machine as other carry on items, the Transportation Security Administration requires that travelers wrap their food in order to contain potential messes. Whole natural foods such as uneaten fruit may be left unwrapped.


Purchase beverages in the secure boarding area once you've passed through security. The new guidelines concerning liquids as carry-on items disallow bringing bottled water or other drinks through the security checkpoints. Instead, bring money to buy bottled water or juices before you board your flight. You may bring a packet of drink mix crystals to flavor your water, if you desire.

Tips and Warnings

  • Eat before boarding your flight and plan to eat soon after landing so that you can minimize the amount of food that needs to take up room in your carry on.
  • Pressure changes in airplane cabins can make eating heavy foods uncomfortable on your digestive system. High-fiber foods and plenty of water can offset the effects of pressure on your system.
  • Check with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine if any foods you have packed are not allowed in your destination city. This may include homegrown fruits, meat or dairy products or other regional specialties. While you can still bring these foods on board, they must be eaten before landing.
  • In order to save on expenditures, many airlines have stopped providing meals on their flights. Shorter domestic flights and longer international flights both may leave you hungry or having to purchase a meal on board if you don't bring your own food. Since food is not listed on the Travel Security Administration's prohibited items list, you are allowed to prepare and bring your own meals, saving you money and assuring that you will have something to eat that corresponds to your dietary needs and preferences.