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Best of the Hotline: Foods that Fly Well

Some questions on the Hotline have staying power, and for good reason—they cover the questions we ask ourselves time and time again. Join us as we revisit some of the most popular.

Today: The best foods for a long flight.  

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With airplane food, you're lucky if your meal includes a salvageable roll, butter, and a packaged cookie or two. And when the flight attendant plunks down a plastic tray in front of you on a long flight, it's likely that you'll see congealed pasta cooked into limp submission or mystery meat swimming in an even more mysterious sauce. To avoid the inevitable disappointment, the solution is simple: pack your own food. 

But not all foods are plane ready. Over on the Hotline, nzle asks the age-old question of what food to bring on an 11-hour plane ride—anything that's "filling, easy to pack, stores/ages well, and isn't too messy to eat," she says. While the in-flight entertainment might include box office bombs, you can control the eats.

From the deli case 

Onigiri

Savory, stuffed pockets 

Really eggcellent

  • Maggiesara says, "eggs are king when traveling" and loves Persian kuku, a frittata-esque dish "stuffed with just about anything," including herbs, barberries, and chopped walnuts.
  • Aussiefoodie mixes egg, cream, and fillings like cheese and mushrooms, then bakes it in puff pastry for "a meal in a single-serve portion." 
  • Maedl opts for the tried-and-true boiled egg

All the pasta(and grain)bilities 

Pantry Cookie

Sweet dreams 

What foods do you take on a flight? Tell us in the comments below! 

25 Comments

Katelinlee June 4, 2015
I make a big container of fried rice with whatever vegetables need to be used up.
 
Annie S. May 31, 2015
I had to share about food on planes. Some years ago an elderly many took out a sack of cold hot dogs and happily munched away! He was sitting next to my husband asked him if he would like a " weenie". Nothing seems to be off limits after that!
 
Gus M. May 31, 2015
Bananas, grapes, corn muffins with optional butter packets.
 
Margaret May 31, 2015
I was on a flight a couple months ago and the guy across the aisle from me started unpacking his TUNA sandwich. My thoughts were pretty much on murder for the whole flight. Who brings tuna on a plane? I tend to stick to salty things, though I have to admit I don't bring that much homemade food with me. I bring lots of crackers and veggie and fruit pouches for my kids. Hummus and veggies or pretzels are a good option (if you're eating them at the gate and not on the plane. And I have to say, I'm not a candy fiend, but there's something about airplanes and candy that usually makes me buy something from the news store.
 
Karl May 31, 2015
Agree with previous speakers about smelly food!<br />Easy and quick to make, these caramel oatmeal bars are quite addictive. Perfect to make ahead and to eat with your fingers without getting sticky :) Perfect to bring on a plane, except you would probably have to share.. ;)<br />http://blog.ingredientmatcher.com/gooey-caramel-oatmeal-bars/
 
Donna May 31, 2015
Onion pierogies with curry? Seriously? I do not want to sit next to you...
 
epicharis May 31, 2015
Boiled eggs?! Either you're being trolled or Food52ers are misanthropes.
 
Bunnee B. May 30, 2015
My son and his girlfriend just flew across country - long day of travel - starting at 7 AM. I made cupcake size frittatas, a quinoa salad with strawberries, oranges, and baby greens (dressing in a separate container less than 3 ounces), and raspberry danishes (thanks to Bintu for the first two items). Easy to pack, nutritious, edible at room temp.
 
Lesley May 30, 2015
Some great ideas here but I don't think some of these are very good suggestions- boiled eggs on a plane?! If someone started eating that next to me, I would gag from the smell. Meats and cheeses are also a little suspect due to the possible smell factor. Food on a plane should be as scentless as possible. You are in a tiny, enclosed, recirculated air space. It's bad enough people are either doused in perfume or cologne or have BO so let's not exacerbate the issue with smelly foods (no matter how fast you think you can eat it!)
 
sexyLAMBCHOPx May 30, 2015
So agree, Lesley. Hell to the No with eggs, tuna and Indian food.
 
Barb May 31, 2015
Boiled eggs have a smell? You're kidding, right? I probably would stay away from the tuna or Indian though.
 
sexyLAMBCHOPx May 31, 2015
Boiled eggs, smell? YES!
 
Gus M. May 31, 2015
Yes, boiled eggs have a smell.
 
Wenonah L. June 1, 2015
I find boiled eggs don't smell as long as they are not overcooked. Once they are overcooked and get that grey ring around the yolk that sulfur smell is terrible! I sat near someone on a plane who was eating some of those and I just don't get how oblivious people are!
 
Donna May 30, 2015
These are great tips, but(!) if I may say one thing about the boiled egg suggestion — the smell is generally hard to bear in enclosed spaces (I've had to suffer through many a flight next to a passenger eating eggs like this), so I'd love to encourage some consideration toward less funky foods. :)
 
sexyLAMBCHOPx May 30, 2015
Right on Donna.
 
garlic&lemon May 30, 2015
I always have nuts, usually almonds, even on shorter flights. You never know when you will need a quick pick up between delayed connections, picking up the rental car, getting to where you are going, etc. AND, this is my "special treat" part, a little baggie with bags of PG Tips tea. Nothing like a good cuppa on the plane. Then if the flight is longer, I include dried fruit, kale chips, spicy nuts along with the plain ones, rolled up slices of any cooked meat or charcuterie, and a bar of dark chocolate. If I have home-made cookies in the freezer, I might take some, but I find that there are too many carbs while traveling anyway. All of these, along with extra napkins & wipes, go in baggies that easily fit in the nooks and crannies of my purse or carry-on.
 
Gus M. May 31, 2015
I'm allergic to nuts, so if I die because you brought nuts into our shared enclosed space it's your fault.
 
Stephanie P. May 30, 2015
I make "packaged" meals by filling rice paper spring roll wrappers with non-traditional fillings, like crispy kale, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed garbanzos, and pesto. Being gluten free, most gluten free sandwich breads don't hold up well when packed away for a long time. And when I'm rushed for time while packing for a trip, I don't have time to make my own bread. The spring rolls hold their shape for at least 24 hours, and putting a thicker sauce inside makes it easier to eat in cramped spaces.
 
Peony May 30, 2015
Pieces of toasted nori cut into cracker size (brushed with water and baked for 10 min in low oven, can add salt or a bit of sesame oil if you like but the oil makes it a bit messy), container of sushi rice (homemade or takeout) and some avocados. Easy to assemble as many snacks as you want. We've been doing this for years and is our favorite thing to bring. Also becomes a fun activity for kids to assemble on a flight. Kale salad with some sort of grain also does well because you can dress it and it's fine for hours. Cut-up fruit also great to bring.
 
Panfusine May 30, 2015
My choice of long distance food that travels well is idlies - Steamed rice & Urad dal cakes. Instead of the traditional lenticular trays used to steam them, I use the silicon ice cube trays. the resulting dice shape is fun for the kids plus the optimizing in terms of stacking them is perfect. I can fit a whole days worth (time taken for a transcontinental flight to Mumbai from EWR) in a rectangular food container that slips in easily into my handbag. <br />http://www.panfusine.com/2013/11/quick-post-tutorial-on-idlies.html<br />
 
ChefJune May 30, 2015
my next flight will be a very early morning one and I'll be packing a couple of hard cooked eggs, already peeled with salt and pepper in the baggie, and some chunked up seasonal fruit.
 
sexyLAMBCHOPx May 30, 2015
If I was seated next to you my gag reflects would be in action. Too smelly.
 
Gus M. May 31, 2015
If you wrap up a dog-poop sandwich in cellophane it's easy to get thru TSA. I look forward to our next flight together, June.
 
Bombayfoodie May 30, 2015
I always take popcorn with me on flights.