When someone asks for tips on traveling with kids, my number one advice is snacks, snacks and more snacks. You can’t go in without the best airplane snacks for toddlers, or you will fail. I have traveled to 9 countries and countless cities with my babies since my oldest was two, and snacks have been the secret to peaceful, tantrum-free travel, especially on a long flight.
But what are the best airplane snacks for toddlers?
Well, I have a short checklist just to help you narrow down your choices;
- Mess-free. There is no such thing as mess-free with little kids, but you need to get as close as possible to that term. The last thing you want is a baby smearing jam or puree all over your clothes or spilling trail mix on the plane.
- Familiar but novel. I highly recommend packing snacks that your child eats at home. However, add a few new snacks so they can get excited. Remember that feeling of having a snack you haven’t had in a long time or something new?
- Healthy. Too much sugar causes hyperactivity in young kids, while too much salt causes dehydration and frequent bathroom trips. Try to have a balance between fun and healthy travel snacks by packing more homemade or natural foods.
- Safe. Can the snack be a choking hazard, especially since you are moving? If so, this leaves out small fruits, popcorn and sweets. Nuts, such as peanuts, can be a viable option. However, you need to be cautious while taking them on the plane.
And before you ask, yes, the TSA does allow snacks for your baby in reasonable amounts. According to their website, you can take all solid food items in the checked or carry-on bags. They will be screened separately, so pack them with that in mind and take them out of the carry-on bag.
Baby food liquids are also exempt from the 3.4oz rule, so you can carry formula, breast milk and juices in reasonable quantities in your carry-on bag. You can also bring a freezer pack, frozen gel and ice packs to keep food fresh. But again, they will be screened separately.
That said, different countries have different rules, so you should check on the website of the country you are going to or check with the TSA before packing. For example, some countries do not allow fresh produce like fruits, so the child must eat them on the plane before landing.
So, without further ado, let’s get into what brought you here.
- Best Airplane Snacks for Toddlers
- Packaged Airplane Snacks for Toddlers
- Tips for Packing Airplane Snacks for Toddlers
- Managing Airplane Snacks
Best Airplane Snacks for Toddlers
1. Fresh Fruit
Fruits are a great snack because they are healthy, filling, and kids love them. For an airplane snack, however, you want a fruit that’s less messy and juicy. Think tangerines, apple slices, pears, bananas, peaches and berries. I love to cut grapes in half so they are easier to eat and not dangerous for younger children. You can also cut the other fruits into smaller sizes and pack them in a resealable bag or container for an easier time.
And if you are leaving the country, be sure to finish the fruits before landing or going through customs.
2. Home-made Wheat Snacks
I said homemade because you want to ensure the sugar content and ingredients in the snacks are healthy. Fruit or vegetable muffins, for example, make an excellent airplane snack, and you can freeze them the night before and have them ready to go.
Home-made cookies with nuts or healthy crepes are also a great option. I love that eggless crepes keep well even after they are cold, and the baby can have them with some hot milk on the plane or just plain. You can also add a few of these for yourself, so they come in handy.
3. Mini Sandwiches
Sandwiches are my favorite airplane snacks because we also pack a few for ourselves. Make them with white bread (and cut off the crust) and a few other mess-free ingredients. My firstborn loved turkey or chicken wrap sandwiches with or without a slice of cheese. You can also do salami, jam/peanut butter or beef brawn and try to keep them warm.
4. Home-made Energy Bars
Energy bars are a really filling snack besides being fun to eat and delicious. You can also pack a ton, add so many healthy ingredients and did I mention they are damn easy to make?
Choose whichever type your toddler likes, from granola bars to energy bites to protein bars.
If you have no time to make snack bars, pick up these chewy granola bars with 58 individually wrapped bars with 25% less sugar and real chocolate chips. Don’t be fooled by the 25% less sugar, though-they are still full of sugar compared to homemade ones.
I am yet to meet a toddler who doesn’t love sausages. Cook two or three in the morning and pack them for a surprise later. They are not the healthiest option, but they are a delicious, easy snack.
The last healthy option (though it can be messy) is yogurt, preferably homemade yogurt. You can also pick up a few yogurt tubes at the store if you are in a hurry. As you pack it, remember that yogurt is considered a liquid, so you should have it in the checked bag or carry a small container. Check the rules or consult TSA because I have occasionally passed with 500ml of yogurt.
Packaged Airplane Snacks for Toddlers
Because we are not hypocritical here, we understand that making your own snacks at home is not always possible. Most of the time, I mix homemade and store-bought pre-packed healthy snacks to make work easier. Here are the snacks I recommend you pick from the supermarket before the next flight.
A small bag of chips will make your toddler’s day. Yes, I know about the salt content in store-bought chips, and that is why I’ve said a small bag. If you can make them at home or buy the salt-less bunch, even better.
If you want to go the healthy route, these Harvest Snaps vegetable chips are made of green peas and very little salt. They are an acquired taste, but definitely give them a try.
8. Fruit Snacks
These are delicious bars made from real fruit, and kids love them. Look for options that have no added sugar or other additives.
9. Beef Jerky
The bite-size beef jerky packs are great for toddlers and travel, and they are packed with protein.
They are fish-shaped crackers made of 100% cheese. Besides the delicious salty flavor, the smile and shape of these crackers will keep the toddler excited for a long time.
11. Animal Cookies
I love Annie’s organic animal cookies made of rice, corn and aged white cheddar cheese and no additives. They are so soft, and they melt in your toddler’s mouth.
12. Rice Cakes
We bought these when our youngest was two, and they have been addicted since, so they are also great for older kids. Rice cakes are a perfect travel companion and are healthy, especially when you get the lightly salted kind.
13. Juice Boxes
Finally, juice boxes will be your saving grace when the toddler wants something sweet to drink. Juice boxes are easier to pass through the checkpoint than water, and kids prefer them anyway. Plus, you can only carry so many empty bottles to fill up with water after the checkpoint, so I keep most of the water for us adults.
Tips for Packing Airplane Snacks for Toddlers
- Keep The Original Wrap. With store-bought snacks like chips, cookies and crackers, it’s better to leave them in their original container or plastic bags. Branding and packaging will make it easier to go through security.
- Use Resealable Bags. We call these ziplock bags, and they are your best option for homemade food. As I said, security will check each snack separately, so putting them in a transparent but safe separate bag is a good idea. This way, security doesn’t have to open food containers and contaminate your baby’s snacks. It’s also easier to pack a carry-on bag when snacks are in ziplock bags and their original snack bags.
- Bring a Snack Catcher. A spill-proof snack catcher prevents snacks from spilling when your toddler is eating them. In other words, you open the snack bag (original or ziplock bag) and pour the snacks into a toddler snack container.
I adore this little container with flaps because it’s collapsible, which means it occupies little space, and the lid flaps prevent snacks from spilling out. These stackable storage containers are also remarkable for small store-bought snacks like puffs, cheerios and crackers. My sister’s toddler is fascinated with trying to pull out snacks from the small holes of this tower container.
Do not forget an empty water bottle and a sippy cup for the liquids.
- Pack Wipes. Trust me; you will need wet wipes more than once during the trip. Everything from sanitizing their little paws before eating to wiping their dirty hands and face after eating the snacks will need wipes. You will also need them to clean trays and tables after your toddler is done snacking. I like to carry a pack of sanitizing wipes and a bottle of sanitizer as well. This however does not absolve us from going to the bathroom to wash our hands with water.
- Ensure Snack Variety. Besides keeping the child full, snacks in a plane are meant to keep the child busy and entertained for an extended period, so they won’t throw tantrums.
Lots of snacks variety is the way to go so they don’t get bored with one snack type. If you can pack one of each item we have listed above, good for you. After all, it’s better to pack more than you need than find yourself short on snacks.
- Always have a Sucker. Sucking on something helps prevent earache caused by air pressure as the plane ascends and descends. Breastfeeding and eating also help, but a sucker is the best option. Something like a pacifier or lollipop will help a lot.
Managing Airplane Snacks
It still fascinates me how well snacks keep babies busy and happy on the plane. Be ready to change their diaper and clothes much more frequently, though, because too much eating comes with dirty consequences. This is where a few extra clothes for you and the toddler come in, not to mention the wipes.
That said, even the right snacks won’t be nearly enough entertainment for energy-filled toddlers. Make sure you also pack other sources of entertainment like a tablet, stationery for some art, a few games and some toys. I also like to buy a new toy because new is always more fascinating, and I bring their favorite blankie or stuffy to help them sleep easier.