Sunday, January 10, 2016

Plane friendly food to save money on vacation with kiddos!

The kiddo and I just returned from a wonderful trip! I had a conference to attend that was conveniently located just a block from Disneyland. This happened to be a VERY kid friendly conference so he got to join me. We then added a day to our trip and spent two days enjoying the magic of Disney.

Anyone who is traveling on a budget knows that food can be a huge expense. Eating out can eat into your budget and may leave you with limited choices . And when traveling with a growing 4 year old, you need to have lots of snacks on hand. A hungry kid is usually a grumpy kid. We take much of our own food when we are on road trips (I need to do a post about traveling with my crockpot) but air travel can be a bit more challenging. 

When traveling by air, you have limited refrigeration options and are limited in the sizes of liquids and gels that you can carry. I generally do not check bags when flying but if flying with my kiddo I've found it to be a necessity. It is less to deal with in the security line and it allows me to pack some liquids/gels in the checked bags. 

I'm very pleased to have spent a whopping $15 on food in the parks over the two days (on foods I was really wanting to try) thanks to bringing food with us. We only spent another $11 in hotel food. That $26 in food over 4 days was due to some serious planning and hauling food with us. I should also note that the event we attended had lots of appetizer type foods which helped too.

Here is a quick list of what we traveled with to give you some ideas. 

Carry on that needs some refrigeration:

  • Cheese - frozen so it keeps longer
  • Gogurts - frozen 
  • Uncrustables sandwiches (or homemade) - I pack just enough for day 1 and 2. They get dried out if they are defrosted much longer than a day. 
  • Lunchables packages (or homemade) - I like to take home made ones with salami for something the adults can enjoy. Just know that with lunchmeat you need to be sure it is kept cool.
Carry on needing no refrigeration:

  • Crackers - I like the small tubes
  • Crackers with cheese or peanut butter filling
  • Peanut butter (the little to go packages) - we add these to crackers and oatmeal
  • Tuna salad kits - just don't open this on the plane, please.
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Almonds for Mom
  • Cheerios or other cereal boxes - I have a tough time finding the boxes in non-sugary options so we just take a container of Cheerios. 
  • Oatmeal packages - I always keep these in my carry on. You can use the hot water from the coffee maker to make this in your room. 
  • Mac and cheese packages - I prefer the kind in a bowl so you don't have to worry about dishes
  • Hot chocolate mix - end of day treat you can make with a coffee makes to reward food kiddos
  • Snack sized treats - I found Disney themed rice krispies so those were a daily treat
  • Chips 
  • Fruit snacks - also found Disney themed ones. These should really be called sugar snacks, so don't think these are a substitute for fruit. 
  • Fresh fruit - pack this carefully. We have had luck with bananas and apples. Berries don't handle the transport well. You also may be limited with fresh fruit if you are traveling out of the state.
  • Protein bars for Mom
  • Microwaveable popcorn - a great late night snack to enjoy while watching fireworks from your room
  • Utensils! You do not want to forget these! We didn't need plates or bowls on this trip which saved some space. 

  • Apple sauce squeeze packets
  • Mixed fruit squeeze packets
  • Mandarin orange cups
  • Green beans - now can be found in individuals cups! Corn is an option too.
  • Microwaveable pasta/ravioli - the kind that are microwaved in their own package
  • Juice boxes - for a traveling kiddo these can be a great treat to keep them hydrated
So what kind of meals did we make with this?
  • We had oatmeal each morning with peanut butter added. We make it in the disposable hotel cups so the kiddo can eat it to go if needed. 
  • I'm not sure that we ever had a sit down lunch in the 4 days we were gone. We did uncrustables for day 1 and 2 and then just snacks the other days. Especially while in the park, I gave him snacks while we waited in lines and while waiting for shows/parades. We did enjoy an amazing corn dog in Disneyland and a meat stick too. We did not buy any food at all while in CA Adventure (mostly because it was raining). Not having a sit down lunch also frees up time in the park to go other things. 
  • For dinner we had macaroni and green beans one night, ravioli and green beans another and got a personal pizza at the hotel for the third night. 
Macaroni and raviolis do require a microwave. So they may not work for you if your hotel won't have one. Even if the hotel does not advertise a microwave, you can often request one.  

This isn't the most healthy food ever, but is probably close to as healthy (or better) as most fast food options you would find. I push the fruits and veggies first and the other snacks later. 

Have you ever had luck hauling food with you on a plane? I would love to hear what you took or your suggestions on what else I can take!