Plane Picnics

Plane food is usually rubbery and inedible — and now you have to pay for it! — so do you ever bring your own snacks on board? I love the idea of delicious plane picnics (think: cheese, bread, salami) so I just wrote a post for Conde Nast Traveler about five food writers’ go-to picnics. I loved the suggestion to bring a clementine, not only to make you feel healthy but also to make you smell citrusy!

What’s your favorite plane picnic?

(Photo by Anna Wolf; also, I’m thrilled to say I’m one of Conde Nast Traveler‘s new bloggers xoxo)

  1. You are correct, unless flying privately the food choices will not be too great and often have a very limited variety, especially if you have a special idiet!! Making your own snack pack and brining it on flights can make any flight so much more comfortable. Sandwiches, fruits and nuts are often my go to flying foods when flying commercially or even privately.

  2. I usually from Atlanta to Milwaukee, so I don’t have to pack too many snacks. I do pack them because my little guy has food allergies and can’t have a lot of things in airports. French fries are always a safe option or fruit from Starbucks. I bring crackers and some food packages from Plum Tots. xx

  3. Ham and Cheese on a Baguette! Practical, portable, and delicious – Inspired by the Parisians.

  4. Wow awesome blog stuff shared here…

  5. Before liquids were limited on flights one of my aunts always used to take gin & tonics in jam jars. Classy and economical!

  6. Right now I wish I had an awesome plane picnic.

    I am somewhere between LA and NYC. There is a single open seat on my flight. It is the seat next to the guy next to me. Our conversation:

    ME: It looks like we got lucky.
    HIM: They told me it’s a full flight.
    ME: Well, we are somewhere over Vegas. I don’t think anyone else will be boarding.

    He is still sitting in the middle seat. Seriously???

    Thank goodness for in flight internet and your blog to occupy me!

  7. Doreen says...

    You obviously don’t fly Emirates.

  8. while in Austria I noticed this cute family take out containers with deli meats, cheese and fruit. Ever since then I try to travel in a healthy way like that too (rather than the twizzlers and doritos I might have snacked on before lol)

  9. My favorite airline dish (besides the cheese and fruit, obviously!) is the french carrot salad, travels so well, tastes great at any temperature, lasts for a long time. It’s so nice to have fresh veggies on the stuffy plane! On my last flight home to New York this week, I also smuggled some avocados from my folks’ back yard in California!

  10. WE always carry clementine’s when we travel! They are a great air cleanser. hah

  11. there was a great piece about this in the NY Times a couple years back. When I made my first international flight, I totally did this (I’ve only had two!). I made little sandwiches of fresh goat cheese, blood orange vinagrette and arugula, a salad, and I think even some fruit and a bit of chocolate. Good thing, too – we were stuck on the runway for an hour and a half, with the AC not working. Everyone was hot and hungry. I cracked open my dinner and shared my picnic with the delightful older British woman who was going home to visit family and see her great grandchildren! By the time the food service finally came, we were both fully sated and relaxing, with better nosh in our bellies.

    The added bonus of packing your own chic meal is that the stewards sometimes notice – and SOME reward good taste in food by bringing you a free bottle of wine. Or a better wine option. That actually happened on our flight – the drink service was just starting, but the steward popped back from business class to give my new friend and I bottles of wine to enjoy with our fine meal!

  12. clementines are my favorite quick snack lately. i opened my bag yesterday to find that i had somehow stuffed THREE of them in there haha

  13. Plane picnics are such a great idea….I’m planning on a midnight one for our trip next week. Traveling with a 20 month old on a flight starting at 11pm….why oh why did I book it?

  14. Congrats on the Conde Nast Traveler blogging job, Jo. I had noticed on your sidebar you’d started working over there. Fabulous! In fact probably my perfect job!

    Love the post over there too :)

  15. Am I the only one who would pack and picnic and still end up eating (parts of…) the airplane food as well? …I obviously have zero willpower. :D

  16. Annie says...

    Never done it but will start next time I buy the tickets. Have to be something that doesn’t fight back: big Cheddar cheese sandwich in soft bread, slice of coffee-chocolate brownie, wrapped in linen napkin and carried in dinky paper carrier bag.
    If plane crashes, I will have something lovely to remember as we plunge…

  17. Clementine’s saved me on a 10 hour flight once! The man sitting next to me had the worst B.O. so I just kept peeling open my yummy little snacks and kept the peels to sniff along the way. Whatever works huh?

  18. Do you remember hannibal lecter’s plane picnic? Creepy but very elegant!!

  19. We just flew back to Paris and packed hard boiled eggs as part of our picnic (or knock, knock eggs as our four year old calls them). I panicked at first over the mess, but air sick bags are perfect for the shells! We also had bagels (for our teething 10month old), cheese sandwiches, apples, raisins, rice crackers, and Hello Kitty cookies (as an extra treat for our four year old).

  20. I absolutely love this post. I have always packed my own picnic since I could remember! PB&J is a staple, along with a banana, and a bag of trail mix. Holds me over until my arrival.

  21. I love this idea! each year my husband and I save to take one big trip. On our flight from Russia, we packed cheese sandwiches, clementines and these small, spiny Russian cucumbers. On our way to Sweden last year, we packed Muffeletta sandwiches, which are messy but travel well because they stay tasty at room temp (just cured meat, cheese and olive salad). This year we are going to Vietnam! It’s a 30 hour flight, so I might need to pack 3-4 plane picnics. Yikes! Thanks for these picnic ideas.

  22. Marghe says...

    I totally agree with Moonlight! Bringing our own food is a great idea… but nothing that smells too much.
    The smell of tangerines and oranges is something that makes my head ache.. don’t know why! Or for example bananas: I LOVE them, but when a pregnant woman on a train told me that it did disturb her, I started to bring other types of fruit.
    Having a pic nic is so cool… but having to sit near so many people does make it a tough choice on what food to pack!

  23. I love this idea!

    I actually did it once and people starred at us in jealousy… hehe The bad thing is that depending on others personal taste and lack of common courtesy it could be a bit smelly.

    Such a good idea to do a travel-inspired week! Your blog is very inspiring. Great job Joanna!


  24. here it’s considered rude to bring food on the plane… nobody wants to smell what you are eating, either because they like it and can;t have it, or because it smells too intensly and some people get nauseus, or because they dont like the smell of it.
    for example, half my family gets migranes from the smell of clementines and satsumas…. ;)

  25. jess says...

    This summer I read david lebovitz’s book The Sweet Life in which I think he describes his perfect plane picnic when leaving paris for the states. inspiring.

  26. I wish I had enough foresight to plan a plane picnic such as this! It looks MUCH better than those snack packs they offer lately. However, I did have a decent cheese and apple plate on Continental over the holidays, wasn’t Camembert or anything, but it wasn’t half bad and definitely a stale Hudson news granola bar!

  27. Back when I lived with my parents, my dad and I would *always* split a muffaletta (a big ol italian sandwich with olive salad and italian meats & cheeses) from Central’s Grocery in the Quarter when we were headed out of town. It’s seriously stinky, but DELICIOUS. I always figured the other people on the plane were either super jealous or super pissed when they got a whiff.

  28. I just took a 40-hour train ride across Australia, and that’s exactly what I did–picnic from the the Adelaide market: cheese, salami, bread, grapes, apples. Unfortunately the cheese started to smell so I had to eat it a lot faster than I had planned…I think I got off the train +5lbs :)

  29. The When Harry Met Sally picture made me smile. That movie will never stop being amazing.

  30. What about breadsticks? Sesame ones with some cheese are the best. I noticed that in long flights the bread tends to get stale.

  31. I think it’s a good idea to stay away from stuff that could stain your travel clothes! How terrible would it be if you hit some bad turbulence when you have that wine in your hand?
    And if you’re on a long distance flight, crumbs in your pants can be the absolute worst thing.

    Airplane food isn’t always so bad though. I fly regularly, and I find that Qantas and British Airways have some of the best meals!

  32. Fruit, nuts, veg sushi. Why unwrap the clementine though? It’s already wrapped by nature.
    be careful about byob- I once had a flask of gin (before security tightened) that the flight attendant almost confiscated. They have to serve all drinks, apparently.

  33. I always pack the standard trail mix kind of snacks..but I always manage to find the LOUDEST packaging. I usually travel early, like 6:30-7am and it’s always so quiet…except me and my loud snack. [I get really anxious about getting ON the I don’t usually eat before]

  34. Definitely. I’m a huge fan of Luna Bars and Starbucks instant coffee (quite palatable, and much better than what they brew in flight!), as well as most of the things mentioned. I bring a large empty water bottle and fill it once I get through security.

    I’ve never had trouble getting things through security, though be prepared to have leftovers confiscated upon arrival when going through customs!!

  35. Do you watch Pan Am…it’s one of my favorite shows! It looks like flying was quite the lovely experience back in the ’60s… sigh… :)

  36. what a lovely post. i really have nothing new to add… my airport snacks usually consist of similar things to those listed… cheese, a mini la brea baguette, some figs, bruschetta, etc. what i have not tried, however, is bringing mini alcohol bottles. i’m thinking some rum next time, to add to the complimentary coke!

  37. Too bad we can’t bring our own wine too! =)

  38. Anonymous says...

    This is a great idea! I recently took a trip on Spirit and had to pay for my overhead (OVERHEAD!) as well as water! Taking a yummy picnic is a fantastic idea and I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before. I love salt and vinegar potato chips, but I must say that the idea of a bagel with scallion cream cheese and my own mini vodka with airplane tonic is a no brainer. :) Also, nuts or chex mix!

  39. I often bring snacks to eat at the airport (usually junk food, I must confess), but I’ve never had a picnic on a plane. If I am flying at mealtime, I generally just grab some fast food at the airport, where prices are, surprisingly, not all that marked up.

  40. I always pack myself a pretty intricate lunch and snacks for plane rides. It makes me happy to cuddle up with a book and eat food I actually WANT to eat. Love that you’re doing a travel wkee!

  41. I love travelling with my aunt who always prepares plane picnics just like that pictured! Mid flight she will produce a large baguette, cheese, tomatoes and selection of fresh cut salami and hams to share between everyone in the travelling party. She even has a little bottle of olive oil under 100 mls for the ultimate mediteranian picnic :)

  42. I love this idea! The last time I flew my seatmate pulled out a persimmon! Kind of random, right?

  43. Anonymous says...

    What kind of cheese is that in the photo??!?? I want it!!

  44. always! I get so hungry and crappy plane food you have to pay for is no option. flew yesterday and my older sister made me a nice sandwich :)

  45. I never think to bring food because i’m always worried it might cause drama with security. I like the citrus idea. I wouldn’t eat it on the plane for fear of spraying my neighbor when peeling, but it’d be nice at the gate!

    I love the mini bottle idea too. A tiny bit of alcohol always makes dealing with people at the airport a little easier. It never occurred to me that they make the requirements for liquid!

  46. jo, in sf, we usually call bi rite and tell them we’re getting on a plane and they pack something delicious up for us.


  47. Holly says...

    I always stuff trader joe’s whole wheat mini pitas with prosciutto, cheese (maybe fontina) and baby spinach. The fats are filling but the prosciutto is flavorful so you don’t need to eat a lot. I bring a bunch of these in a ziploc and they don’t get smushed because the pitas are thin. Add some mini carrots, fruit and a bar of dark chocolate, and I’m good to go (supplemented by wine, coffee, and plenty of water ordered on the plane).

  48. So far I flew with Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and Qatar Airlines. All of them offer free delicious food. Not saying this only because I’m Turkish but Turkish Airlines has the best gourmet dishes. Also you can choose vegetarian, low calorie etc. food while booking your ticket. To me it’s a part of good service.
    Bringing food with me to the plane is not my thing. I can’t eat while other people don’t so I’d prefer to starve. :)

  49. Wow this is such a great idea!! I used to be that person everyone hated because I brought McDs on the plane but no more haha!!

    Jo I love reading your blog, we are new members and you always have such great articles!!

    Love, Laura & Sarah

  50. haha, WMBG, yes, nothing too stinky! no tuna fish, haha!

  51. benson, that’s awesome!! jenna, you can typically bring food through security — just not drinks. so you could bring cheese, bread, fruit, whatever….i always think it would be delicious to bring a pasta with tons of vegetables, like a classic pasta primavera.

  52. Hi Joanna,

    I’m loving your travel posts. I wanted to ask you for advice. My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Paris/south France for the summer. We’re thinking 10-14 days. If you have suggestions for tour groups (should we use one?) or places to stay that won’t break the bank. I’d LOOOVE your opinion!


  53. This idea is simply divine! Why didn’t I think of it before?? Bringing some cheese, meat and bread and perhaps some grapes or clementines sounds like the perfect way to travel, combining both taste and nutrition.

    I would echo what others have written about not bringing anything too smelly. As someone who get terrible, terrible migraines (which can be triggered by smells) it would not be pleasant to be trapped with strong odors for multiple hours at a time. : /

    Callie @ A Chance To Die

  54. i think the idea of runny cheese is just as ill cconsidered as egg sandwiches! no? bagels-smoked salmon perhaps-is a nice idea.

  55. we plan to do this the next time we take the train! cheese, wine, and the chicago skyline!

  56. I’ve been bringing my own snacks/meals on longer flights for a while – especially since I developed lactose and gluten allergies. Depending on the airport (Vancouver offers the healthiest selection), I find sometimes I can just buy something healthy in the foodcourt, and carry it on with me.

  57. Peanut M&M’s. Did you say it needed to be healthy? :)

  58. Emilie says...

    Congrats on your new gig!
    Your Meg Ryan/Billy Crystal photo got me thinking… wouldn’t it be cool to do a post about your favorite NYC movies? I’d love your opinion and think it could make for some interesting feedback. One of my all time favorites is You’ve Got Mail. An ode to the Upper West Side, it captures the beauty of NY so brilliantly. What do you think? :)

  59. Normally I take with me crisps or some sandwiches.

    But here’s a little something you can make as well:
    Buy a Turkish bread, slice it in half (like you would do with a baguette or a normal sandwich), put some spinach leaves on it, black olives, feta cheese and sprinkle on some olive oil (to make it less dry) and pepper.
    Just wrap it up in tin foil (or how do I write this…?) and you can have a perfectly healthy, delicious sandwich on your plane. Plus: it makes you feel like you’re on a holiday instantly because of the mediterranean taste!


    PS In Europe you can only take food with you but no drinks. They will grab it out of your handluggage immediately and throw away in the bin.
    PPS You can take with you the food you like, from your home, no problem. But not too smelly otherwise I’m sure the flight attendant would kindly ask you to hand over the smelly fish (of whatever you have – some fried for instance) and he/she’ll throw it overboard :)

  60. My favorite thing to do it make a dinner the night before that would be equally good cold the next day – like some kind of pasta salad – and take my leftovers on the plane along with a snack or two. I travel a lot for work and DETEST airport food, so that works well for me. :)

  61. Anonymous says...

    I thought you weren’t allowed to bring your own food or drinks through security?

  62. Crikey – is it just me who gets all food and drink confiscated at security? What am I doing wrong? *boo*

  63. Anonymous says...

    I just keep it simple. I make a frozen or homemade pizza the night before and put it in the fridge. I put a few slices in a zip lock bag and take it along. No mess, no waste.

  64. Such a great ideabc the bread and cheese holds well- AND plane food is so stale and processed.

  65. I love all the suggestions here – great ideas for the next time I fly. One of the best meals I had on a fight was to South Korea. They gave us the option of an American dinner or a Korean dinner & I chose Korean. So glad I did – it was delicious bi bim bop! I like to think that was the start of my love of Korean food.

  66. :) I brought clementines on the trip back from Paris to US (grueling 9 hours) and people were thanking me for the fresh new air that peeling them created…such a welcome treat (and smell!) during such a long journey.

  67. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that you are not allowed to bring your own food or drinks through security at the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport? You can purchase food items once past security and bring THOSE on the plane. Is it true you can bring your own snacks? It’d be so nice to bring your own picnic and not have to pay a fortune inside the airport for a small greek yogurt and bag of chips. The security at major airports such as Atlanta is so strict… I can never keep up with all the rules!!

  68. Katie says...

    I always bring my own food when I fly (especially important on international flights, when you would otherwise suffer through not one but two bland and nearly unrecognizable meals). I like to bring a sandwich from my favorite bakery (last time I got Balsamic chicken salad on fresh baguette- delicious) plus homemade trail mix with raw almonds, dried cherries and dark chocolate chips for dessert, and a larabar or two for breakfast. I’m actually getting ready to fly back to England for university in a couple days, and now I want to bring a little brie and salami to make all my seatmates jealous :)

  69. Miss Becca says...

    I forgot to add that I use these awesome Urban Picnic Rolls from Etsy ( and add a smaller horn spoon for yogurt. Also, not sure if all the Trader Joes have them, but my local TJ’s has perfectly wonderful single servings of goat cheese – ideal for travel!

  70. Smelly cheeses are a big no-no though… your fellow travelers won’t be amused about your Stilton sandwich…

  71. I would love to do that… But unfortunately living on an island (Ireland) doesn’t allow for meat or dairy produce to be transported (apart from checked in luggage, but what use is that!).

  72. ooh great idea! Mine would definitely be cheese and bread:)

  73. Such a brilliant idea and I totally agree about clementines. I can’t stop eating them since the Holidays:)Have a fantastic day. xo

  74. And plane food is so expensive too. It really only makes sense to bring your own.

  75. I love bringing sandwiches! And… an empty water bottle to fill up at the drinking fountain once you get through security.

  76. sushi,frozen edamame to keep sushi and other stuff cold, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate! and yes, CITRUS…smells and tastes so fresh when you find yourself on a stuffy airplane.

  77. Anything but egg salad! I was once snuggled in between a pair of older ladies who had brought a bag of bread and a tub of egg salad along for the 5 hour ride. Not my favorite flight experience!

  78. oh goodness! this is such a lovely (and yummy) idea!

  79. what a great idea this is (and also a reminder to watch harry & sally another time).

  80. I wonder if my fear of flying has more to do being unable to escape the vile food than the unlikely possibility of falling from the sky.

  81. My go-to plane food is always babybel cheeses (so fun to unwrap!), a big bag of grapes, and dark chocolate. On a flight to Egypt with a bunch of friends I made soft pretzels the night before & they were a huge hit – easily portable and delish!

  82. Think it’s a great idea after last summers ham and coconut rolls!!

  83. I frequently fly with Air Canada from the UK to Vancouver, and find that I’d rather pay a little bit extra to fly with them over a budget airline, as all soft drinks and food is free. Not only that but the food is GOOD!! plus you get a couple of snacks, pretzels and as many leftovers you want if they have them. This christmas when I flew I had a full meal, 2 wraps, 5 bags of pretzels and 2 cookies! Perfect for that long 10 hour flight :) Plus they gave me extra for a snack later on whilst still traveling onwards from Vancouver! Fantastic :)

  84. Such a great idea Joanna! And congrats on the gig, that’s awesome!

  85. I fly first class when I can – the food is much more edible.

  86. P.S. Congrats Joanna!

  87. Anne says...

    excuse the intersting spelling (a “hile mile” sounds intriguing, though…) baby alert!

  88. Oo, yes, I love bringing my own food! I like to bring string cheese since it’s nicely wrapped and water crackers, dried fruit (like Trader Joe’s mango), and something sweet.

  89. I almost always bring a snack when travelling. You rarely find anything healthy in the airport and never on the airplane! I usually bring dried fruits and crackers and sliced cheese. I also don’t like to fly, so I allow myself candy too. A special treat seems to help! Nothing too crazy, but there is nothing worse than starving.

  90. Especially now that I am usually traveling with my 3 year-old, I pack one entire carry-on bag full of snacks. I pack up on our Trader Joe’s favorites– PB pretzels, carmel bites, honey sesame cashews, yogurt stars, etc. And then I also pack a meal food for myself. I love taking a huge salad! I always feel a little funny pulling out my huge tupperware, but it feels good to eat something healthy in addition to all the snacks. I put the dressing in a little ziploc inside the tupperware so there aren’t any liquid issues at security, and then I just pack a napkin and a plastic fork too. So I wouldn’t say I plane picnic so much as I full on eat an entire meal.

  91. Miss Becca says...

    Apples and an orange, almonds and granola bars – I NEVER board a plane without them. My husband’s favorite is Trader Joes ‘Just a Handful’ little sacks of almonds, cashews and cranberries. A little bar of chocolate is always welcome too.

  92. I recall Lufthansa used to present a very palatable smorgasboard of cheese and cold cuts to accompany a glass of wine on their European short-haul flights (may have only applied to Business Class)… delish!

    A recent long-distance flight with Delta involved three meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast was meant to be a Full American, Shepherds Pie for Lunch and some pasta dish for dinner. All looked and tasted identical. Eugh.

  93. Anne says...

    love the topic! i’m so in hope for some inspiration for my next flights! since i’m a vegetarian and a rather picky one for that matter (can’t eat anything that smells funny like plane food usually does), i have been bringing my own food for…hm.. ever, really. one of my favourites when travelling with company is picnic bread, which goes perfectlly with your idea of a hile mile picnic, haha!

  94. My fiancé and I brought a wedge of Camembert on a flight once … boy did it stink up the cabin! Delicious, but I recommend leaving the really strong cheeses down on the ground.

    Big congrats on the new gig! How dreamy.

  95. Amanda Hesser has a great chapter about plane picnics in her book Cooking for Mr. Latte – I suggest checking it out if you haven’t already!

    I’m definitely a plane picnicker – usually homemade trail mix of some kind, maybe a bagel or small sandwich, and definitely some kind of citrus.

    Great post!

  96. An orange is a great idea! Who wouldn’t love to smell fresh citrus on a stuff plane?!
    I like the little proscuitto and mozzarella rolls at Trader Joe’s. Add some bruschetta and some bread rounds… YUM!

  97. I like to travel with a Chipotle burrito. I just need to leave the house 15 minutes earlier to grab one before I take the train to the airport.

  98. As a recent frequent flier (long distance relationship)and someone who was stranded in an airport for nearly two days (as a vegan) with little to no food options. I now always,ALWAYS pack at least a sandwich or 2, 2-3food bars, 2bananas,1apple,”snack cheese”(as coined by my boyfriend)

    But now I will be packing something a little fancier next time,and what a great idea to bring a few extra cookies along for neighbors. Thanks for this great idea and fantastic picture.

    (congratulations on a great article for Conde Nast Traveler, love reading your work)

  99. i’m all about this. nutella on crackers, cheese, fruit, nuts. and calling it a plane picnic makes it so much cooler.

    just one tiny suggestion: nothing TOO offensively stinky because we all share the same air up there. right?

    and congrats on the new gig. i can’t wait to read up on all the amazing things i know you have lined up.

  100. My mom used to make us (and sometimes still does) japanese rice balls filled with tuna or chicken or pickled plums—these are then wrapped in dried seaweed so your fingers don’t get sticky. I myself never have the wherewithal to do that, so it’s roasted almonds and apples and gruyere cheese.

  101. great post-my go to snack cheese and apples.

  102. Yep. I’ve taken my own food for more than 25 yrs. I used to get weird looks but no longer. I usually have something packed in the city where I’m travelling from to home. My favorite is always coming from Italy home. It takes some of the sting out to untie pkgs of cheese, panini, fruit, fruit, pastries & cookies. And I always bring extra because whoever is in the other seats – I feel so awful to sit there & eat when they look so sad.:)


    PS: Congratulations on the new gig!

  103. Ohhh I love them too! Great idea for post :)