Instant oatmeal makes a portable, filling in-flight meal (with gummy bears for the descent)

Lewellen solved the problem of kid food on the airplane like this:

Is this even a hack? It worked well for us and I was pleased with myself for thinking of it… On recent cross-country flights, I had to provide breakfast and lunch for my family of four, as JetBlue doesn’t provide any meals. Of course, the meals had to meet the new no liquids carry-on restrictions. I brought instant oatmeal in packets, and asked the flight attendant for hot water – two cups of hot water plus two extra cups mixed four packets of oatmeal. We even had ice handy for cooling the oatmeal down. It can be hard to get my kids to eat real food while on the plane, but they liked the oatmeal and I knew they had some hearty food in them before the snacks arrived.

We also offer them gummy bears for the descent – they're chewy enough to help clear ears and you don't have to worry about kids swallowing gum.

Man, when I think of the number of smooshed sandwiches I've served my kids on planes…this is a great idea.

What are your favorite foods to bring along for air travel?

No-spill car breakfast: oatmeal in an insulated mug
Plenty more ideas in the Travel/Going Out archive


  1. Debbie says

    What a great idea!

    My kids love freeze dried fruit (the gerber stuff, or the dried berries from whole foods), cheese, cheerios or puffed wheat, and crackers. We often pick up a banana or yogurt in the airport.

    I usually have a couple of the single-serving formula packets in my bag. My kids are both way past the formula stage, but since many airlines don’t have milk on board it gives us a “milk” option.


  2. Rivster says

    This is good for hotel rooms as well which often have the ability to brew hot water.

  3. Reiza says

    That is brilliant!

    We always bring LOTS of snacks on flights. We don’t usually have many sweet snacks at home and we try to stick to that. No one wants a sugar-shocked kid bouncing off the walls in an airplane.

    We stick with chips (the natural vegetable ones work well), veggie bootie, fruit snacks (again, natural with as little sugar as possible), cereal (we will splurge and put some sugar cereal in with their regular healthy stuff. It’s just enough to be a novelty, but not enough to make them hyper), and crackers. I like to throw 2 or 3 lollipops per child and save them towards the end. I can’t always get the kids to drink while we’re descending, but I can always get them to have a lollipop.

  4. Randy says

    Keep in mind that the flavored versions are about 1/3 sugar, which I think is excessive. I prefer to use the “regular” oats, and add a bit of sugar to taste.

  5. Miki Inosaka says

    Every year can be a challange traveling from Japan to Portland, Oregon but lollipops are a MUST for take off and landing! I always pack a lunch (rice balls, sausages,etc.) in a disposable tupperware container or ziplock baggies so we can throw them away when we are finished with them. And a couple of hand towels to pick up the spills and mess!

  6. Elana says

    We have to bring all our food on planes, regardless, due to allergies. The only thing they’ll allow us to bring now is soymilk, since everything else is not essential (and I make it clear that if I can’t have tea with soymilk, it won’t be a happy plane).

    We own lots of bento boxes, which make it fun. I’ll make veggie sushi (so I can make it earlier and it’s not a big deal if it sits around), chicken with rice, soy sauce and pineapple (strongly flavored enough to deal with the lack of taste that happens on planes), dried cranberries, lots of fruit (lots lots lots, it’s okay if it gets confiscated once you get there…it’s better to have too much than too little!). If they let us have dip, we would have lots of veggies and dip. You need strong flavors for the airplane because the pressure or the quality of the air messes with your sense of smell and taste.

    I’m wondering. Can you bring an empty thermos, and fill it with hot water once you’re through security? So you can have hot water whenever you need it on the flight?

  7. JT says

    We don’t give our kids sugar cereals often, so when we fly (which is rare), I make a mix they call simply “Snack.” It’s a combo of Fruity Cheerios, multicolored Goldfish, Teddy Grahams, and with an added bonus of some mini-marshmallows tossed in. The boys love comparing stuff that’s stuck together and who has what color Cheerio, Teddy Graham, etc, and the marshmallows keep them nibbling.

    It’s not the healthiest, but it keeps the peace!

  8. Kristina says

    I have had success carrying the Horizon individual sized milks onboard. (domestic and international flights) My youngest is 3 and needs to have milk to be able to sleep. I carry it in the zippy bag and tell the security ppl, it’s for the baby.

  9. Mommyprof says

    We don’t go overseas without a large number of (insert your favorite brand) nutrition bars. Handy for the plane as well as for times when safe food is not available.

  10. ashlye says

    I travel A LOT with my 2 year old daughter. My husband and I fly from the east coast to the middle of the US several times each year to visit family and take one or two vacations as well. This is a GREAT idea, one that I will put to good use in a few weeks. Thanks so much for the great tip.