What snack foods can survive a plane trip from Canada to Australia via the USA?
January 16, 2011 7:23 PM   Subscribe

What snack foods can I take on the plane (for personal consumption) for a trip from Canada to Australia with a short layover in the USA?

I will be flying from Canada with layovers in Denver and San Francisco before heading on to Australia (Sydney). In an effort to be health and budget conscious, I'd like to pack some snack foods for the flight. It would be my intention to consume the snacks I brought on board before landing in Sydney.

I found this page from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as this from the Australian Government Quarantine & Inspection Service that was linked to in a question asked previously.

I'd prefer to avoid taking things like prepackaged potato chips or ultra processed bakery items along. I don't have any strict dietary restrictions.

I'm also trying to be courteous to fellow passengers, as I realize it's a long ass flight with recirculated air. Should I steer clear of all nuts, given the potential allergies of those around me?

Any insight would be most appreciated!
posted by nathaole to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I think you are over worrying this. Generally no one is going to hassle you much for snacks. They seem much more concerned over liquids.
posted by bitdamaged at 7:26 PM on January 16, 2011

Last time I had a long flight this thread at The Kitchn gave me some good ideas.

I ended up taking dried fruit, chocolate and a tasty sandwich that I made. But there are lots of good ideas.
posted by grapesaresour at 7:32 PM on January 16, 2011

I've had good luck with fruit in the past - it meant I was far less thirsty, an important consideration in these days of $5 bottles of water. Grapes and carrot/celery sticks travel well. Stay away from oranges and apples, though. You get sticky and are potentially stuck with rinds or a core you can't ditch.
posted by SMPA at 7:45 PM on January 16, 2011

Anything you don't eat on the flight can be thrown into the quarantine bins in Aus before you go through customs, so getting through the US is the bit you need to worry about. I've always taken manufactured/packaged muesli bars (granola bars) because it doesn't matter if they get squashed etc and I like them, but you should be fine taking something home made. I like baked goods for a flight because they're relatively easy and tidy to eat while still being filling, and can be slipped into my jacket pocket so I'm not going in and out of the overhead bins a lot. Anything ele that fits that profile for you would work too.

I would avoid nuts just to be safe since there are plenty of other options so why take the risk? Also avoid anything that has a strong smell like dried fish or whatever, which is probably pretty obvious anyway.
posted by shelleycat at 7:48 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

$5 bottles of water

1. Empty your water bottle before you go through security
2. Go through security
3. Fill up your water bottle
posted by clorox at 7:48 PM on January 16, 2011 [7 favorites]

One thing to consider with taking fresh fruit is that the beagles at Australian customs will notice the residue smell in your bag even if the actual fruit has been eaten or thrown away (according to many many first hand accounts of the beagles here). So having fruit on the flight makes it a lot more likely you're going to get attention at the other end. Which is fine if you've been careful about not having any fruit left (easy enough to do), you're not going to get in trouble, but it may slow you down.

Personally I'm paranoid and wouldn't take the risk just in case I lose a grape in the bottom of my bag or something because the fines are pretty serious, although on the other hand I've always wanted to make friends with a customs beagle because they're uber cute.
posted by shelleycat at 7:53 PM on January 16, 2011

Just make sure you throw out any snacks containing banned items before entering quarantine inspection in Sydney (after you pick up your luggage). Declare all food (even allowed food). They don't normally take allowed food away from you, but they do want to know about it. They are quite serious, and will make your life miserable.
posted by defcom1 at 7:57 PM on January 16, 2011

You should be aware that you can not take an ice pack (or frozen gel pack) carry on, UNLESS you have medications that require refrigeration. If by chance this is your situation, you can carry your meds next to your perishables quite happily, but expecting a manual check of your bag.
posted by kch at 8:02 PM on January 16, 2011

Just wondering if you are trying to avoid airline food, or worried that there won't be any? Even inexpensive transcontinental flights will feed you twice or more, and it's not usually that bad. (I'm thinking specifically of my experience on LA--Nadi--Sydney flights with Air Pacific.) I usually take some chocolate or dried fruit and a water bottle (filled after clearing security as above).

Also nthing don't worry about Australian quarantine since there are big bins in the airport where you can discard anything that you aren't allowed to bring into the country. So long as you don't mind throwing away any leftovers, no worries. I've never been called on "fruit smell residue".
posted by equivocator at 8:03 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you going through Customs in the US? I'd recommend against fruit. I've been stopped for an orange at Customs going from the US to Canada (or vice versa?) (which I proceeded to eat while waiting for someone to see me). For the same reason I'd probably avoid bringing any vegetables either.

I would recommend, in spite of your preference to avoid overly processed foods, to bring stuff in packages that have ingredients listed. Another time I was pulled aside in Customs the guy in front of me had some homemade food and the agents gave him a hard time.

I bring things like bread, cheese, hummus, tzaziki, crackers, salami, all still in their original packages. And an empty travel mug for water or coffee. If you look around the airport you can usually find prepackaged fruits or vegetables, preferred because you can dip them in the dips you've brought!, or a salad as a last resort. Dried fruit is also good and I'll bring my own (good quality) chocolate.
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:04 PM on January 16, 2011

You'll be clearing US customs and immigration in Canada before your first flight. I've never tried bringing in fruit for a snack, especially since there's the check box explicitly for food on the US customs form. Always seemed like more trouble than it's worth. But I'm not as health-conscious as you are.

The exact phrasing (yes/no questions) for edibles on the US customs declaration form is:
11. I am (we are) bringing
(a) fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, food, insects:
(b) meats, animals, animal/wildlife products:

Looking at that, if you are bringing any food, they want to know about it. Of course, I've never checked yes to either of these, even though I've brought some candy or cookies or something from time to time in contravention of (a). And I've worn leather shoes. They don't seem all that worked up about it, although I suppose they could nail me for technicalities. Customs and immigration officers still mostly seem to be concerned with actual problems facing their country, as opposed to the TSA/CATSA agents who are following knee-jerk arbitrary rules for no real reason.

You can also pick up stuff at the airports, depending on transfer time. SFO has a few Japanese places with edamame (at airport prices, natch), for instance.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:27 PM on January 16, 2011

If you do have food going through US customs from Canada, and declare it, it won't be a big deal. They ask what it is, you say, and possibly show it to them (probably not), they say ok, you carry on. I generally only bring packaged things though, not sure about homemade food but I suspect it's the same, especially if you have a boarding pass for your next flight in your hand.

Pretty sure I've also wandered across the US/Canada border with mandarin oranges... I don't remember whether or not I remembered to declare them. (They are also great flight food.)
posted by equivocator at 8:50 PM on January 16, 2011

A few tips from a kind of 'scientific' perspective, plus a couple more from experience:

When you're at altitude, the air pressure in the cabin is less than at ground level, meaning that any gases in your stomach will expand, due to the application of Boyle's Law (I think that's the right one). For this reason, avoid any flatulence-inducing foods, including anything eaten in the 12-24 hours before your flight. You'll save yourself a bit of potential discomfort & hassle, and your neighbours should also thank you for it.

Another digestion-related one: I've maintaned for years that airline food is deliberately designed to be constipating (so that people use the toilets less), and I find that I often get blocked up for a day or more after an intercontinental flight. I suggest you pack snacks with some fibre, eg the muesli / granola bars that people have mentioned.

Chewing gum is awesome for helping your ears deal with pressure changes during takeoff & landing. Failing that, some kind of long-lasting candy to suck.

Also, ditto on bringing your own water bottle (empty it before passing thru security). Apart from filling it up in the lounge, there'll be a tap on the plane that you can use. They never bring nearly enough drinks around. A smallish one that can fit into your seat pocket is ideal.

Airline coffee is awful, and the tea is hardly any better. Just be warned. You might be able to get away with your own teabags or coffee paraphernalia & try asking for plain hot water, but I haven't tried this yet myself.

If you have access to a fancy airline lounge, that can be a good way to stock up on food & drinks for the flight.

Note that you might not be able to carry duty-free alcohol onto flights into Australia (check carefully before buying) but the duty free shops at Sydney airport are always open for arriving passengers - you can't miss them.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:59 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mini babybel cheeses. They keep great, don't melt unless it's super hot ( unlikely on a plane) and bite sized so you can take as many as you feel you'll eat on the plane. Also high protein and you know how mefites love their low cal hi protein snax
posted by sweetkid at 9:02 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Beware of any semi-solid food items. A TSA agent confiscated my tube of tofu (my well-meaning mom gave me a bag of really random food for the plane) because it was considered a gel/liquid and was more than three ounces.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:14 PM on January 16, 2011

I was not allowed to take whole fruit across the Canada-US border. (Goodbye, beautiful apples from the farmer's market!)

Dried fruit, sandwiches, and cheese are all a-ok.
posted by desuetude at 10:28 PM on January 16, 2011

I think that given the fact that most airlines don't seem to care that some people in the world can go into anaphylactic shock if a peanut is even a few feet away from them, and still serve nuts as snacks over the course of a flight, you not bringing any nuts onto the plain would make you a hero in my book.

Worst case scenario re: you bringing food through to the plane? They make you throw everything out.
posted by patronuscharms at 10:49 PM on January 16, 2011

Australia has really strict quarantine laws. Whatever you plan to take, be prepared to bin it on arrival. Declare everything - I've found it quicker to declare and be processed, than wait in the "Nothing to declare" line.

Also, the dogs are very cute. But if they sit down next to you, its not for a pat!
posted by dantodd at 11:59 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read all food labels. The beagle went crazy over my bag last time I arrived. I did not quickly respond to the handler of said dog (my little boy was trying to climb onto the baggage carousel) and so was marked for a full baggage inspection. Luckily the customs officer designated for the search was really nice, and we found that the soft jubes I had bought at the organic store in Paris had pork as the thickener. He threw them away, and I didn't get fined.
posted by bwonder2 at 7:55 AM on January 17, 2011

I like clif bars, personally. Hardly any mess, good protein, different flavors. You can fit quite a few in your purse and if you get in at an odd time with no available food sources otherwise, they make a nice snack.
posted by jillithd at 8:32 AM on January 17, 2011

Lots of helpful answers here. Thanks for taking the time to respond!
posted by nathaole at 11:34 AM on January 17, 2011

You're going to go through U.S. customs in Canada, so you will have to throw out whatever fresh fruit you have before you get on the flight to Denver.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:28 PM on January 17, 2011

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