Our Team's Best Tips for Traveling—Both Near and Far—with Food

September 15, 2015

Whether you're going on a picnic or a plane ride, here's how to eat well along the way.

Heidi Swanson x aplat

When you always need a snack (hi! us! the Food52 team!) and you always want to eat well—well, it usually requires some packing. Whether lovingly assembling layered salads, or packing yogurt-granola situations in spill-proof jars ready to tote to the office, or making the best darn in-flight snacks this earth has ever seen—our team is pretty practiced in the art of traveling with food. 

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But everyone has tips to share—which is why we were so excited to team up with the San Francisco artisan àplat and cookbook author and photographer Heidi Swanson, whose latest cookbook, Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel, is all about eating well wherever you are. To celebrate the launch of Near & Far, we worked with àplat to design an exclusive series of gray-and-cream-colored totes for wine and casseroles (or pies!). They're so hardworking and beautiful they make us want to carry food around with us even more than usual—to the park, to our pals' houses, to every fall picnic we attend. 

Our team shared their words of wisdom for successfully getting snacks from one place to another. Here are 16 of our best food transportation tips:

Jar salad

Essential tools:

  • Get a set of silverware (metal or otherwise) to keep in your bag and you will always be prepared. My mom got me a set of bamboo flatware that, while a little dorky, has saved me more times than I can count. —Caroline
  • I used to always keep an Opinel pocket knife in my purse before I (tragically) lost it, but it came in handy for so many impromptu picnics: Just buy a baguette and some cheese and you're good to go. On the same note (and especially in New York), I always carry hand sanitizer to get the subway off of my hands before said picnics!—Leslie
  • Deli containers are really great at spilling in your bag. Pick something with a more secure top.Ali
  • You know that little pocket in totes reserved for your wallet? Keep a tiny salt tin in there. So what if it makes you feel like a little bit of a snob. It will make your food better. —Kenzi
  • Packing stone or other soft fruits in a jar is a good way to avoid making them into jam in the bottom of your bag with your laptop. —Caroline
  • I always bring extra socks and ratty tee-shirts when I'm checking a suitcase while traveling. Bringing back wine is a lot easier when you can stick bottles in a few socks and line the edges of your bag with things that are easily replaceable in case tragedy strikes and your bottles break. —Samantha


  • Keep a cloth napkin (or a bandana) on hand. They'll save you every time you bite into drippy fruit, need a clean spot to sit or put your sandwich, or try to contain crumbs on the go. —Caroline
  • Buy good insulated bottles—you can use them for everything! Chilled Sancerre will make a trip to the beach with you. Hot coffee can be made at night and schlepped to the airport for an early flight. Soup can be road-trip food, especially chilled soup, when you can just sip it. —Amanda 


Pack this (and don't pack that):

  • Make dishes that pack big flavors, like ones made with olives and capers. Food always tastes more bland thousands of miles in the air. —Ali
  • I would advise against bananas. I've never had a good experience (Exhibit A: banana found, 48 hours into a trip, all squished and oozy at the bottom of my bag) unless I carry it in my hand and eat it promptly. —Sarah
  • My go-to travel food is a frittata. They can be eaten cold or at room temperature, and can be transformed into something more hardy when sandwiched between two slices of bread—like this. —Riddley
  • Pack food that comes in a specific number of pieces, like a sandwich or bagel. That way, you can pace yourself more easily (I'll have one half the first leg of the trip and the other half the second) to make sure you have food for your whole journey. —Ali
  • I always try to bring "real food": something that's fresh, isn't too pungent, and takes a knife and fork to eat (my go-to is a radicchio and napa cabbage slaw with grilled chicken) with a "real" dessert, like a homemade cookie, so I don't get stuck with some variation of one of those  "Under 100 Calories!" packs. It always makes me feel better on a long, stale airplane ride. —Leslie

Airplane snacks

And don't forget!:

  • Bring more food (particularly nonperishable snacks) than you think you'll need. —Sarah
  • I always spend way too much on stale nuts and dried fruit at the airport, and kick myself for not doing my snack shopping in the bulk bin aisle. Do as I say, not as I do. —Kristen

Photos of jar salad and sandwich by James Ransom; photo of picnic by Food52 editors; photo of airplane tray by Bobbi Lin

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nancy Botticelli
    Nancy Botticelli
  • Lianna Mills
    Lianna Mills
  • Pam
  • Caroline Lange
    Caroline Lange
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Nancy B. September 17, 2015
Love the canvas casserole carrier. Do you know where one can buy it?
Caroline L. September 18, 2015
so glad you like it! you can find it right here in our shop:
Lianna M. September 17, 2015
I disagree with Pam.
~ Salt Tin
~ Packing - sock! ratty tees!
~ To go flatware
~ Room temp food
~ Bandana
I have 6 of these (there are 5 of us in our family) -
Pam September 15, 2015
Um....these hints were not very good. Lunch bag let down!
Caroline L. September 15, 2015
we'd love to hear your tips! help us become better in-transit eaters!