There seems to be some confusion about what food we’re allowed to bring on planes, which makes me sad because it sounds like people are proceeding cautiously and just bringing nothing at all. It doesn’t have to be this way! Please don’t settle for overpriced, over-packaged plane or airport food.
There are two checkpoints that limit what foods you can bring past: security and customs.
You can bring pretty much whatever you want through airport security, with one caveat: the rule against more than 100 mL (3.4 oz) liquids/gels still applies. This prevents you from bringing larger quantities of beverages, soups, stews, dips, spreads, and sauces. However, in my experience, if the spread/sauce is already part of food (such as on a sandwich or in a bowl) it’s fine to pass through security. Nobody will ask you how many mL of mustard you have on your sandwich.
Here are some examples of saucier foods I’ve brought through security without issue:
sandwiches with hummus, nut butter, and chickpea salad (not all together… that would be gross)
burritos with guacamole
dressed salad greens
bowls with sauce mixed in
Solid foods are all perfectly fine to pass through security. We bring bowls, tofu sandwiches, fruits and veggies (like apples, oranges, peppers, cucumbers, etc), oat balls, crackers, trail mix, etc.
If you’re travelling with small children, you can bring breastmilk and infant food. And in my experience (although double check, because this kind of thing can change and vary) travelling with kids under two gives you leniency around non-solids. I was allowed to bring a container of hummus, for example, for my toddler. Even security officials understand that feeding children can be a pain in the butt.
Customs rules vary by country, but they’re mostly similar, aimed at preventing the spread of disease (although check the specific rules of where you’re going if you want to be sure). Canada, for example, restricts fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and animal products, if applicable.
This generally isn’t a problem for us because customs usually follows the flight, by which time we’ve eaten any of the fresh foods we were travelling with. The only time this requirement is a bit of a hassle for us is in the rare situation that customs is before the flight. Vancouver and Toronto airports, for example, have US pre-clearance customs on the ground prior to departure. In these cases, we generally just bring packaged snacks (like crackers), baked goods (like muffins), or produce-free sandwiches (like peanut butter).
Have you ever been given a hard time about flying with food? Tell me your stories, I’d love to hear.