Contributed by Jennifer Dawson  

It’s no wonder that most airlines recommend that you arrive at the airport two or three hours prior to your flight… waiting times can be long, with airports like JFK in New York City having a combined security and passport control wait time of around 50 minutes! Of course, if you have connecting flights then you could be sitting in an airport for hours with an empty belly. Most frequent travelers will tell you that airport food can be costly, with a simple (and none-too-tasty) sandwich sometimes costing around $15! What’s more, many airlines are cutting costs in the way of meals, sometimes offering nothing more than a bag of pretzels or nuts! The good news is that with a little planning, you can pack the perfect meals and snacks. The following ideas will hopefully inspire you to enjoy an unexpectedly enjoyable time between flights.


Delicious Snacks

Not all airports are a pain to wait at. Online surfers rave about airports such as Incheon International Airport in South Korea, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia, and Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan. What makes these airports so special is the wide number of dining establishments in which you can enjoy national and international food alike. For instance, Incheon International Airport has a whopping 270 food establishments! Of course, even if you do splurge on a meal at an airport, an extended stay means you may get hungry later in the day and have a smaller budget for snacks. Airport prices for sandwiches and bags of chips can be notoriously high (sometimes around five times or more the price of the same item in typical stores) so make sure to pack snacks. Ideal treats that weigh little and fill hungry bellies include trail mix, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, fruit, granola bars, beef jerky, hard cheese, protein bars, dried fruit, wraps, and sandwiches.


Bean, Pasta, or Grain Salads

Salads made with macaroni pasta, quinoa, or red, black, or white beans are hearty and delicious served cold. Your salad doesn’t have to simply contain a few bits of chopped ham and corn; if you are traveling with your family, surprise them with gourmet salads such as pasta salad with homemade pea pesto and smoked ham, pasta and zucchini salad with fresh herbs and white cheese, or a caprese salad with seasonal cherry tomatoes, olives, and fresh basil. You can also create heartier versions of these dishes using ingredients like garden peas and chorizo. To add visual appeal to packed pasta dishes, remember to include a variety of colorful ingredients such as bright red tomatoes, green herbs, and white cheese.


A Delightful Bento Lunch

Bento boxes are tidy, appealing, and delicious, and they also save space. You can make your bento boxes using disposable containers or multiple-tier boxes that nest into themselves when empty, thus taking up less space. When packing your meal, keep security restrictions in mind. You won’t be able to pack any knives, so make sure to chop your food into bite-sized chunks. You will also need to avoid liquids such as soups, and make it a point to pack small amounts of condiments (keep it under three ounces) in a small plastic bag, so you can whiz through security. Avoid packing smelly foods containing fish, seafood, boiled eggs, or garlic. Ideal bento meals comprise foods like cheese, fruits, olives, a sandwich, fresh almonds, ham and egg roll-ups, mini quiches, vegetables, and hummus with pita bread and mini scones.


A Healthy Salad

When you’re traveling, it can often be difficult to find fruit and vegetable stores, and you can expect to pay a fine price for a simple banana or orange at your local airport. Get all the fiber you need and avoid going hungry by taking time to pack a hearty salad. Don’t keep it to a few lettuce leaves and pepper. Ensure your salad has good sources of protein as well. Feel free to pack your salad container with your favorite fruits and vegetables, plus turkey, black beans, chicken, or tuna. Dress the salad before you go, or grab a small, approved-size pack of dressing and place it in your liquids bag.


Hopefully, the above ideas have shown how easy it is to pack delicious, satisfying meals for those long airport waits. If you will be visiting an airport with a reputation for excellent gastronomy, then splurging on a meal you won’t be able to enjoy in a long time is worth it. However, remember to still bring an extra salad or snacks, in case your wait is longer than expected.