Getting saucy for long haul flights

I’m flying to London!  I am so excited about the coming trip, a chance to get out of Pennsylvania and see at last somewhere I’ve dreamed about since childhood:  ENGLAND!


Flying out of my local regional airport and connected at Washington DC Dullas, the main flight will be approximately ten hours in the air.  Door to door time: eighteen hours.  How much will United feed me?  A snack on the flight to Dullas and probably just one meal of unknown design maybe two hours into the main flight plus a follow up snack (if I’m awake to get it).  That’s a long time without food.

Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on  bag has been with me on every flight I've ever taken.  It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.

Gifted to me when I was 18, this soft-sided carry on bag has been with me on every flight I’ve ever taken. It readily fits under the seat in front of me on even the smallest plane.

Following the advice of many travel blogs and my own flying habits since the airlines both decreased overall services and started charging for nearly all of the ones that remain, I plan on packing most of my carry on bag (oddly enough the one gifted to me for high school graduation more than 20 years ago) with FOOD.  After all, when I get really hungry, nausea tends to follow and no I really don’t want to deal with that on a ten hour flight!

Now yes, I’ve seen a dozen guides about using the carry on as the one and only bag — understandable given how much airlines now charge for a checked bag — but I’ve always seen the carry on as what I need on the plane itself and okay, fine, I’ll pay the fee to check my bag.  For me, this has two very important benefits:  1)  I am able to use the above soft sided carry on and keep it under the seat in front of me (important when you are short and cannot reach the overhead bins), and 2) I have much more flexibility about what I can and cannot bring on trip because many items not allowed in carry on luggage are allowed in checked luggage.

For me, using the checked bag is just less hassle.  Plus on most international flights, the first checked bag is FREE.  So use it and keep the carry on to stuff you actually need close at hand during the long flight.

This established, here are some key things I’m bringing:

Pack medicines and first aid kit into the carry on.  Band-aids, prescription medicine (B2 & Feverfew are dr. prescribed for me), motion sickness pils, and anti-allergy pills are critical.  I also packed plastic cutlery, a seafood fork for my veggies, and a soda can opener.

Pack medicines and first aid kit into the carry on.

napkin power strip

  • Band-aids.  One is in the photo, but I packed about 20 in assorted sizes.
  • Any supplements or medicines you take daily.  For me, B2 and Feverfew are prescribed to control my severe chronic daily migraine.
  • Anti-allergy pills.  Often packed to help you sleep on the plane, this is obvious to anyone with a food allergy.  No, I don’t care to die mid-air!
  • Motion sickness pills.
  • plastic cutlery
  • a seafood fork — yes it’s metal, but it’s TINY and likely to pass the TSA.  And if not — it was cheap and I can throw it away.
  • A soda can opener.  Especially when I really need a beverage I have difficulty opening bottles and cans!
  • A linen napkin.  Linen is durable, washable, and less hassle than paper choices.
  • Travel power strip (people love you when you share)
  • Comb, hair pins, and pony tail holders.

That is all the front pocket stuff I’m bringing.  On the outer back pocket goes a folder with photo copies of my passport pages (as recommended by the US State Department), my state issued identification, original copies of key documents, and a print out of all important names, addresses, and phone numbers. Adding a copy of both outbound and inbound flight information is very helpful too, especially traveling out of the US so you can prove when you are returning to USA.  My outer pocket also holds my in flight reading material which I want to keep close at hand.

All this is pretty mundane.  But what about food?  That is, after all, the bulk of what I’m bringing in my carry on.  And what about the TSA 3-1-1 rule which limits liquids, gels, and creams to not more than 3 ounces (100 ml) per item and not more than what fits in a sealed 1 quart zipper bag?  Since most of the usual items are in my checked bag, this is filled almost exclusively with foodstuffs.

1 oz tupperware cups for allowed foodstuffs and 2 oz disposable salad dressing cups for USA only sauces and salad dressings readily fit in your 1 quart zipper bag.

1 oz tupperware cups for allowed foodstuffs and 2 oz disposable salad dressing cups for USA only sauces and salad dressings readily fit in your 1 quart zipper bag.

Here you want to be thinking about what is allowed within the USA and what is allowed at your destination — the UK in this case.  Under UK law, no meat or dairy products may be brought in from a point of origin outside of the EU.  That means that anything I bring for consumption on the plane itself has to be thrown out before I land at Heathrow.  The solution:  disposable salad dressing cups (2 oz.).

As you can see from my TSA bag, I have three 1 ounce tupperware containers which I’m using for pickle juice (a common muscle spasm remedy). Two disposable salad dressing cups will be filled with ranch dressing and thrown out during my flight.  My one ounce hand sanitizer also goes in there per TSA rules.  Hand sanitizer is an effective eyeglass cleaner, believe it or not.  Finally I’m including a small tube of toothpaste as a just in case.

jerkyapricotsThese of course go into the main section along with zipper bags of fresh mushrooms, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, and perhaps some broccoli if it’s fresh at the store.  Fresh veggies are a great choice for long haul flights because 1) they are healthy, 2) their high moisture content helps stave off jet lag through hydration, and 3) they are not messy to eat.  In addition, I’m also bringing trail mix, dried fruit, and a bag of beef jerky (which yes, must be consumed before I land in London).  Two empty bottles for water also make the essentials list.

And then what?  That depends on remaining bag space.  By focusing on in flight needs, I lighten my bag, make it easy to keep under the seat in front of me, and reduce my travel stress.  That makes a truly bon voyage!


4 thoughts on “Getting saucy for long haul flights

  1. Good article. Facts are nice to know with all the new rules if you haven’t traveled by air recently. Even if you have traveled, tips are always a help. It’s very easy to overlook little things when there is so much going on planning a vacation. That being said, I have couple suggestions to think about adding to your list.
    Saltine (aka soda) crackers- I have found them to be very helpful to nibble on if you are nauseous.
    Individually wrapped cheese (natural cheese, not processed)- good for a protien boost and satisfying hunger.
    Seedless grapes- easy, non-messy, sweet, refreshing, help keep you hydrated.
    Apple slices- like grapes but just a little messier and a bit more work than the grapes but I like them. If tossed with a little citrus juice (lemon, lime) they won’t turn brown very quickly.
    If the airlines allow them:
    Moistened towelettes (antiseptic) for cleaning hands, minor scratches
    Individual foil ‘to go’ packets of antibiotic ointment to go with the band-aids.
    Lens cleaning wipes for eye glasses and device screens.
    I hope this helps.

  2. Individual moistened towelettes ARE allowed through TSA and many people advise using them. They are also EXPENSIVE. While shopping for the trip this week at RiteAid I found they wanted about $5 for a couple dozen towelettes. Baby wipes (another popular option) were not available for less than $2, even at Dollar General, for the smallest package. Some of these smaller packages went for, kid you not, closer to $5! Plus these individual towelettes have fairly short shelf lives. So if you don’t use a lot of them on the trip, you are throwing most of them away.

    Lens wipes also cost a lot more money than you need to spend. Walmart sells them for $3 for just 60 and they don’t last; they expire very quickly.

    Though you would think there’s something special about lens cleaner, it’s simply a solution of alcohol and water! A DYI recipe is at That’s why I’m using the hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is CHEAP and can be used to clean both your hands and your glasses. It’s a little messier than a sprayed solution, but given that all your carry-on liquids, gels, and creams must fit into that 1 quart bag for TSA, it’s definitely the smarter choice.

  3. Pingback: UK Holiday: UK rules for personal foodstuffs less strict than USA rules | Laurel A. Rockefeller Books

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