To a kid, airplane snacks are more than just food — they’re a cure for whatever ails them as they sail through the clouds.
Whether they’re on a 45-minute flight in a puddle-jumper or a long-haul across the ocean, a kid’s gotta eat. Repeatedly. And the types of airplane snacks you pack might be the difference between groaning “I’m never flying with them again!” and having a pleasant trip through the friendly skies.
If you’re about to take a flight with a child, grab a carry-on bag with plenty of snack space, because we’re about to run through the different airplane snacks that can have a huge impact on your little traveler’s varying moods.
Your child is complaining of an upset stomach, maybe from turbulence or the fact that they were woken up early to get on the plane. You’re already panicking that they might have to use the motion sickness bag in the seat pocket and you need something — anything — to avoid air vomit.
Best airplane snacks: Things that are nice and bland, like dry crackers or pretzels. This isn’t the time for fun flavors! Plain varieties only. Be sure to tell them these particular crackers or pretzels have been proven to settle stomachs. (I once gave my kids saltines for nausea, and now they staunchly believe in those things being a cure-all for any tummy stuff. Mind over matter, folks.)
Worst airplane snacks: Now is not the time for a sweet or greasy treat that could come rushing back up.
Your child is famished. No, starving. If they don’t eat in the next five seconds, they might dramatically sprawl across the aisle, but the flight attendant with the food trolley is at the opposite end of the plane. (Even when it arrives, it might be sold out of anything your child will eat.) Thankfully, you have a bag stuffed with options.
Best airplane snacks: Now’s the time for a filling snack that can serve as a mini-meal, like a sandwich, wrap, cold mini pizza, etc. Yeah, yeah, we all give Lunchables a bad rap, but those things are perfect for a situation like this.
Worst airplane snacks: Anything that won’t fill them up, like candy, or they’ll be crankier when the sugar crash hits.
Your child is whining. They may or may not be annoying the other passengers, but they’re 100% annoying you. If they’re cranky but not hungry or sleepy, now is the time to break out the De-Crankifying Snack Hoard.
Best airplane snacks: The good stuff! Their favorite treat, doled out one at a time until their mood is boosted. This isn’t real life. It’s airplane life. Do whatever it takes to get through your flight.
Worst airplane snacks: This is not the time to offer apple slices or baby carrots. It will only make them crankier.
Your child has never been so bored in their entire life. When is the plane landing? When? How many more minutes? Why does it smell funny in this plane? Who are they? Why is that guy wearing that? Are we there yet?
Best airplane snacks: Something that takes a lot of time and/or effort to eat. Then maybe put it inside a lockbox with a complicated code they need to break? No, in all seriousness, regular lollipops work, but if you really want to kill time, pack one of those jawbreaker lollipops that takes hours of persistent licking to get through all the colored layers. Kids can’t talk when their tongues are glued to a lollipop.
Worst airplane snacks: Anything that can be eaten quickly. They’ll wolf it down and keep whining.
Tired (but shouldn’t sleep)
Your child is tired, but they can’t sleep yet. They just can’t. You need them to stay awake until later in the flight, or until you board the connecting flight, or until you land and load them into the car. Your mission is to distract them from their sleepiness, no matter what it takes.
Best airplane snacks: Open mouth, insert Pixy Stix (you know, the powdered candy that comes in a straw). Feed them anything that will pep them up — candy, chocolate, gummies, soda — and just pray it won’t turn them into a human bouncing ball, pinging around the airplane with wild, crazed eyes.
Worst airplane snacks: Slow, sleepy foods. Yogurt. Applesauce. When no chewing is required, they might just … drift … off.
Tired (and you want them to sleep)
Your child needs to sleep. They may or may not be tired, but that’s besides the point. They’re comfy in their PJs, they’ve got their pillow and blanket and stuffed animal ready to go. They just need a little bedtime snack, and then they can drift off to sleep so you can spend the rest of the flight in peace.
Best airplane snacks: Bananas contain magnesium and potassium that can help ease them off to dreamland. Cheese sticks and other high-protein snacks will keep their tummies full so they don’t want up too quickly, whining about being hungry.
Worst airplane snacks: Anything with sugar. Just don’t do it. Be strong, and think of how awesome it will feel when they’re sound asleep and you can watch a movie with zero interruptions. We’re crossing our fingers for you!