Advice for long flight
September 3, 2019 5:37 AM   Subscribe

Going on a 10+ hour flight soon. Need help with audio and food. Details below.

Help me solve two problems before I get on a plane later this week.

1. My perfectly nice Sennheiser noise-cancelling overhead bluetooth headphones (about a year old) are too tight. They curve in too much (for me), putting enough pressure on my ears that I quickly tire of wearing them. Like, after an hour and the first flight is really long. (FYI, AirPods just don't fit comfortably in my dainty, shell-like ears. Sigh.)

You can stretch out shoes sometimes. Can you stretch headphones? I am worried about breaking them, which would be worse than the current situation.

2. I will not be buying any airline meals. Because of allergies (those of others), I no longer travel with nuts. Kindly keep in mind that A. I am traveling from Europe to the US and B. Lots of things I normally like (cottage cheese! hummus!) won't be allowed into the departure lounge because of security reasons.

Given those limitations, what tasty and easy things (I am also willing to cook in advance) would y'all recommend that would make it through security for meals/snacks during the flight? Thanks for your ideas!
posted by Bella Donna to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
On point 2, I'd recommend buying or bringing a sub/hoagie sandwich. I recently got sandwiches and a bunch of typical snacks (candy bars, pretzels, all sorts of fruit) through airport security to and from Germany/NYC. Much easier to eat on a plane than many things, no mess or smells to annoy seat neighbors with.
posted by shaademaan at 5:49 AM on September 3, 2019

For a snack, how about hard cheese? You can apparently take it on to a plane in any quantity (so cheddar, swiss, gouda etc. should all be fine). Whole fruit will also work as long as you consume or dispose of it before disembarking in the US - so whole apples, bananas, oranges etc. If you have a small insulated case, you can take hard-boiled eggs.
posted by peacheater at 6:13 AM on September 3, 2019

Dried apricots (the non-sticky kind, not glacé) are a favorite of mine for long flights. And also chocolate; larger bars that you can break off a few pieces at a time to eat.
posted by huimangm at 6:34 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you can't wear them for more than an hour comfortably, I'd say your Sennheiser cans aren't "perfectly nice" for your use-case. Sony's WH-1000M3 noise canceling headphones are great and fit my large head just fine. They're a bit spendy ($270 USD) but 100% worth it, if you've got the cash. Also, they're popular enough that you could maybe find a display in an electronics store to try and compare them (and maybe other cans) to what you've got now before you buy! You might be able to sell the Sennheisers second-hand and recoup some money.

You say you won't buy airplane food. Does this extend to accepting free airplane food? Every Europe-to-US flight I've been on in the past ten years has had one, if not two, acceptable meals included as part of service, so that might be worth taking into account so you don't have to pack to feed yourself for the entire 10 hours.
posted by Alterscape at 6:43 AM on September 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

Please don’t bring eggs, they smell and you’re in a very confined space.

I have no advice on headphones.

But you can bring anything dry/solid/easy to eat in confined space. I’d err on the side of dry because stuff gets dropped, there may be turbulence etc. You can stay hydrated by bringing a water bottle or two and filling them up. The crew will also provide drinks, even if you refuse the meal.

If you prefer something like a salad you can normally find packaged salads incl dressing in a departure lounge and there is nothing to stop you from bringing those onto the plane. You can also bring an assembled salad through security, even dressing, as long as it is packaged separately as part of your liquids and the container fits within the rules around liquids. That would probably also apply to hummus or cottage cheese if you could be asked to fiddle round with packaging/pare down any other liquids you want to take in your hand luggage. But these things can get much more messy if it goes wrong.

I’d probably stick to nice sandwiches, fresh fruit and perhaps raw veg to snack on.

Yes it’s 10 hrs but it’ll also be over again at some point.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:44 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Cut up peppers—not messy, don’t smell strongly, and taste refreshing during a long, dry flight. Plus if you happen to find hummus or other dips at the airport, you can pair them.

Really chewy fruit snacks like Haribo—they take a long time to eat.

Agreed with the suggestion of a sandwich you like (that doesn’t include anything strong smelling like tuna fish).
posted by sallybrown at 7:09 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding Alterscape, every international flight I've taken has offered two meals for free, and IIRC had multiple options for each one. Dried fruit and chocolate are both really good suggestions. Beef jerky could also be a possibility. Granola bars might be another good option for something relatively filling but also portable/snacky!

If you can, I would highly recommend picking up some noise cancelling headphones for longer-period wear. My Bose QC headphones are a lifesaver on long flights!
posted by caitcadieux at 7:12 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

carrot sticks, celery sticks, sliced peppers, cherry tomatoes
salami or another cured meat
aged cheese
a good half-loaf of bread, sliced
hulled strawberries, apples or pears
roasted almonds or hulled pistachios

sandwich idea: avocado, feta or sliced bocconcini, and roasted red pepper with mustard (I hate mayo) and lots of salt and pepper

potato salad with new potatoes and a mustardy vinaigrette. don't add chopped egg if you are worried about smells. tabbouleh or quinoa salad if you like them.

once, I tried to take overnight oatmeal and security wouldn't let me since it still had visible milk in it. I am still chapped about this, I left it at security and lost a perfectly good jam jar.

all the airports I travel through lately have a bottle station attached to a drinking fountain somewhere, so don't forget your water bottle.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:23 AM on September 3, 2019

@alterscape and others, actually some of the budget airlines like Eurowings do not offer free food or even free soft drinks/coffee on long haul international flights
posted by shaademaan at 7:35 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

La Vache Qui Rit packaged cheese and crackers? Spread the cheese with the back of a plastic spoon. Although cheese might smell. I know that when I grabbed a bunch of snacks out if the fridge before going to the movies once, when I unwrapped a slice of American cheese after the movie started, my sister was like, Put. That. Away. Maybe cream cheese?

posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:41 AM on September 3, 2019

I asked the same question (probably about the same airline! Norwegian?) a while ago.

My faves: cold lasagne; clementines; apple slices; frittata (can be made into splendid sandwich); tortilla roll-ups; baby carrots with ranch; bran muffins.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:54 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

cold lasagne

Cooked (al dente) and chilled tortellini (not in a sauce) would also be good, along these lines.
posted by sallybrown at 8:03 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Excellent choice to not eat the airline food. I don't have medical issues with it but always feel better when I don't eat their food, no matter how long the flight. Whatever you bring, be sure you have NOTHING leftover on your person or in your luggage when you arrive. If the dogs smell it you're in for an annoying lecture from the agricultural inspectors.

On headphones, after trying every possible noise reduction technology, I find that the best are the ones that use no technology at all like these.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 8:14 AM on September 3, 2019

If I had the money for new headphones, I would also have the money to buy meals (there are no free meals included in my ticket).

But I am broke. Is there any way to make my headphones stretch a bit? If you do not know, no need to comment.

Thanks to those who have responded to my specific situation. Will not respond again. Thank you.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:17 AM on September 3, 2019

Travel food is usually meant to serve three purposes: sustenance, entertainment, and comfort. Your restrictions are liquidity (both for security and potential mess purposes), smell, and the elbow room required to retrieve and eat.

I think sandwiches are very nearly the perfect format because they can supply novelty (a form of entertainment and comfort), tend to not get your hands greasy or make crumbs, can be cut into small portions for grazing and variety, can be filled with a wide variety of things that only have to please your palate, and the bread will suppress some smells so you get a little bit of leeway there. And if you have a rigid container for them (like a takeout, meal prep, food storage, or bento-type box), they survive pretty well in transit.

I suggest making four (sliced-bread-format) sandwiches. Two can be your basic nice sandwich format: ham or turkey with cheese type. Remember that food tastes duller in the artificial climate of an airplane, so add a little non-stinky flavor boost like spicy mustard, a little dash of hot sauce, a little black or white pepper, sharper cheese than you might usually choose, etc. Don't skimp on the meat and cheese, but also don't pile it so high it self-disassembles when cut into quarters. One sandwich should be maybe a less traditional personal favorite, the kind of sandwich you might only make when you're alone or a sandwich you've never had but combines several flavors you tend to crave. (When I was in college I used to get this sandwich in the student center that was cream cheese, apple slices, sprouts, and roasted sesame seeds. I still crave it every so often.) The final sandwich should be dessert: pb&j, butter and jam, butter and cinnamon sugar, breakfast cereal and marshmallow fluff, whatever will be a delight to know is in your bag when you really need it. This is probably too much total sandwich for your expected travel time, but then again you're at the mercy of a bunch of things you can't control, so four sandwiches could end up being the right amount of sandwich in the end.

As companions, bring durable salty snacks (pretzel mix, cheezits, something less crushable/shirt-destroying than potato chips), finger-safe small-piece candy (m&ms, individually-wrapped chocolates, gummies, Twizzlers), and if you want a fresh produce option you can do carrot sticks, radishes, snap peas, apple slices (and yeah, throw out any remainders of that on the plane at your final destination).

Do bring a refillable water bottle, and you can bring some of those little sleeves of drink powder if water tends to bore you (or, if you're superstitious, some packs of Emergen-C to ward off Airplane Disease). You could even bring multiple refillable water bottles if you absolutely don't want to buy anything in the airport and have room to transport them, and fill them at a water fountain if available or in the airport bathroom, as I find it difficult to get an entire bottle fill from the flight crew once I'm on board.

For the headphones, you can try stretching them over a box, but it may not hold the stretch much (then again, you might only need a little stretch to make them significantly more comfortable). I have improvised padding for mine, with some folded-up fabric under them an inch or two above my ears, which could be secured to the headphones with rubber bands, zip ties, velcro, or maybe just twine. But my primary complaint is how hard they clamp my ears, they're not really pressing into my head.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:52 AM on September 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

I like to make food before trips -- extras can go in baggage. Mini quiches can put all sorts of things in and feel like fun. Banana bread is good too. Hard cheeses. Remember that things taste less strongly, so go for heavier salt and spice.

You can add fruit slices or herbs to your water bottle.

I'd also bring anything I could to help me sleep.
posted by jeather at 9:00 AM on September 3, 2019

Pasta that is good at room temperature. White rice mixed with some sesame oil and a packet of roasted seaweed. A self-sealing bag of crackers and cheddar cheese. I don't know if string cheese is just a U.S. thing, I suspect it is, but single serving cheese in general is awesome. Nth-ing chewy sour things -- Haribo gummy bears. Not as delicious at room temp, but very easy to pack (it's flat!) are cheese quesadillas.

When I travel, I bring a lot of food that people have objected to in this thread due to strong smells, but I eat them AT the departure gate, right before boarding (tuna & caper pasta; hardboiled eggs). It's not as enclosed of a space, I can find a quiet corner of the floor and set up a picnic on top of my rollie carry-on suitcase. Beef jerky and hard salami are great but imo they also are quite strong smells.

As for your headphones, where do they squeeze you? I have a similar problem and I'm contemplating adding a tiny bit of foam or padding where they dig into my head. You could maybe experiment with padding. I also am contemplating wrapping a scarf or something around my head for the same effect. I can't say these work as my flight isn't til October, but it seems like they could help.

[oops I see now the issue is squeezing your ears, nevermind]
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:05 AM on September 3, 2019

Can you wear your headphones in a different position, like with them resting on the back of your neck instead of up and over your head?
posted by theredpen at 10:28 AM on September 3, 2019

you can stretch out headphones but i don't know how long you'd need to do it for to have it be feasible for your comfort. i've done it with cheap gaming headphones, i left them stretched around a wide couch arm for over a month (possibly closer to 2 months but not sure) and they were wearable in the end (although it turned out that the discomfort was also coming from the shape of the earpads as well as the tightness, so i ended up just getting new ones).
posted by poffin boffin at 10:30 AM on September 3, 2019

I like to bring as many raw fruits and veggies as I have space for in my carry on. They fill you up some, but more importantly they get more water and fiber into you and help break up the monotony of the flight. Clementines, cherry tomatoes, cut up apples and pears, cut up peppers and carrot sticks are all good. Note that you'll probably have to finish all of them on your flight so you don't run afoul of customs regulations on bringing plants into a country.
posted by EmilyFlew at 10:31 AM on September 3, 2019

Would any of these recipes work for you? If not, there are plenty more on the website, the search function should pull them up.
posted by Tamanna at 10:54 AM on September 3, 2019

You can stretch your headphones. I've done it. I don't know if it made a HUGE difference, but it did make a difference. Here's a quick article about how to think about it.

As for snacks: We always bring nuts, dried fruit, string cheese, red peppers. I really don't get hungry even on long flights. My body sort of shuts down. So snacks like this are usually enough for me even if I'm flying for 10+ hours. Of course your experience may vary.

Hydration is the more important factor for me. I drink a lot and pee a lot (which gives me an excuse to get up and stretch my legs)

For me the movies and tv on the screen on the back of the seat are best because they are in the right position relative to my head. If I try to watch my phone or an ipad I get a headache from looking down slightly. I always stick to whatever they're showing.
posted by crapples at 12:43 PM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Our household standard long haul flight meal is a roast chicken leg, roast (sweet) potatoes and/or squash, and some sauteed greens or green salad. Security has never hassled me about any of this and the meal will still be tasty after being stored for a while at room temperature. I avoid bringing foods with fresh dairy (safety/palatability degrade over time), pungent flavors (out of respect for fellow passengers), and anything prone to becoming really soggy (my preference). For snacks I like to bring a piece of fruit, a cookie, brownie, or some chocolate, and something to satisfy salty/crunchy cravings like chips or seaweed crisps. Since you are avoiding nuts, if you have access to a Trader Joe's try their Giant Peruvian Inca Corn Nuts as a substitute.
posted by 4rtemis at 9:15 PM on September 3, 2019

I like to bring lots of fruit and vegetables on airplanes - the dryness of the airplane air makes fresh foods extra appealing. I tend to do easy things like baby carrots (could also do carrot sticks), celery sticks, snap peas, sliced bell peppers, apples (whole or sliced), tangerines, grapes, etc.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:55 PM on September 4, 2019

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