For both frequent and less than frequent flyers, airports never fail to provide the same experience:
First, you walk brave and barefoot into an engine of scanners, conveyor belts, people yelling at you and then caressing you for that “suspicious object” that they saw when you passed through the security sensor.
Next, you walk hastily to your gate, glancing repeatedly up and down at your ticket while carrying a backpack or roller through a haze of anxiety because you showed up only 45 minutes before your flight and it's about to start boarding. No worries. You get there and your flight is delayed anyway.
As you sit down to attempt to relax, you realize your body is trying to tell you something. It wants food, and it wants food now. A few nice bites of something savory could be just the comforting experience you deserve after surviving thus far. So it’s time to make the move for food.
What are the options for food in an airport?
The most straightforward option is the food court. By design, food is everywhere in an airport so that it is easy to impulsively spend money. As long as it’s a reasonable hour, the challenge of airport eating isn’t actually finding food…
The challenge of eating in an airport is cost, diet and packaging.
To remedy these challenges it is most wise to pack your own food, and among all the things that one can bring it is unsurprising that the best food in your backpack is the same for both the trail and the airport.
Is backpacking food good for airline travel?
Yes. Backpacking food is good for airline travel because it is light, portable, TSA safe, easy to make and easy to dispose of. In addition, dehydrated backpacking food is often cheaper and healthier than the food available in the food court.
Using a few key methods, we’ll show you why eating backpacking food within the airport is the best and most straightforward way to enjoy a nice hot (or cold) meal while waiting for your next flight.
1. Pack food easily accessible, but not on top of other items.
In a backpack or other carry-on item, it's important to make sure that any dehydrated backpacking food is packed accessible so that it can be easily handled by security in case they need to examine it, but also for yourself so it is easy-peasy to remove when you go to eat it. It's also best to not leave food on top of many items as it can be hard for scanners to see through and may prompt a search of your bag.
I’ve had luck tucking the food along the side of my bag. If the food is packaged with a slim profile, it will fit nicely next to other items and will be easy to reach for. Just try not to mix it up too much with all your books, blankets, live lobsters, bug collections, bowling balls, hookahs and deer antlers that you’ve brought in your carry-on (yes, via TSA’s website all of these things are specifically mentioned as allowed on a plane).
2. Make use of free hot water.
Hot water, the magic elixir deeply valuable among backpackers and coffee addicts alike, is a key element to rehydrating food. Luckily for hungry airport inhabitants, hot water is everywhere and it's totally free.
This is the only step that requires any interaction with anyone else (good for all of you introverted eaters), and it’s quick and easy. Hot water is always free at any coffee stand or restaurant within the terminal. Ask politely, and you’ll receive piping hot water for no cost other than the energy it takes to rouse yourself from your chair and proceed to the nearest Starbucks.
When water is secured, it’s simply three more steps: Tear, pour, wait and voila! Delectableness delivered.
Bonus points if you save a paper cup by using your own water bottle for transporting the hot water. That brings us to our next tip…
3. Bring your own utensil.
Despite the plethora of plastic utensils that are abundant at different restaurants and shops throughout the average airport, we’d recommend bringing a personal fork or spoon packed in a carry-on.
Can you bring your own utensils on an airplane?
Yes, and it is best to do so to save on waste. TSA allows forks, spoons and “round bladed” butter knives on airplanes. This means that one can conserve plastic while traveling, a practice that serves in a small but certainly not insignificant way to help reduce the sizable carbon footprint of flying.
Morsel makes great durable and reusable utensils perfect for scraping and scooping the last bits out of any food container.
When selecting a fork or spoon to bring, it is best to use one with a long handle to clear the bag of food and avoid those “saucy knuckles” that will then brush all up and down your pants and shirt. On the trail it's customary (and fun) to let yourself get all food covered and grime ridden, but in the airport it may be a different story for those who may be trying to keep up the most basic of appearances. Though, we all know there is no better way to reduce waste than by using your pants as a napkin…
4. Don’t forget about water bottle fill stations.
For cold soak meals where hot water isn’t required, filling up a package for rehydration can be oh so satisfying when placed under an automatic bottle filling fountain. These well designed little sensor driven spigots are located at most airports, and they make acquiring water a total breeze.
Just tear open the packaging and place under the spout until you have the desired amount. For cold soak meals, these are ideal.
Prepared meals are prepared for takeoff.
Instead of waiting in line or continuing to eat underwhelming food with too much packaging, the option to eat dehydrated food is both savvy and in many cases much more healthy. In addition, it can be consumed easily both on and off the airplane.
Because dehydrated food is liquid free (duh, right?) there should never be an issue transporting backpacking meals on a plane domestically. This can be a little different internationally, as different countries have different laws governing what types of foreign foods can enter their country. As long as one intends to eat their food in the terminal before their international destination (and therefore customs) then there should be no problem on any international flight. Of course, it is always best to check with your destination's regulations regarding importing food, just in case there is a strict policy that applies.
When embarking on that next airline adventure, make sure to eat food as fly as you are. Dehydrated meals travel safe and light making it an easy choice for anyone looking for a go to alternative to airport and airline food. With vegan and gluten free options, many dehydrated backing meals are a diet friendly choice for those cuisine conscious travelers looking to cover miles without sacrificing snacks.