Snacks are an essential part of travel. They keep hunger — and impulsive, hanger-driven decisions — at bay, sustaining long days on the road (or on your feet). They also offer a tiny piece of home, whether it's the familiarity of a pack of peanut M&Ms when you're in a foreign country or the knowledge that you've got your go-to granola handy for breakfast.
With snacks and travel on our mind this month, we reached out to five road warriors, people who are away from home as often as not. They've got snacking down to a science — and they're sharing their tried-and-true tips.
I've known Mollie Chen, cofounder and advisor at beauty disruptor Birchbox, since we were assistant editors together at Conde Nast Traveler. And basically every memory of her involves snacks in some shape or form. When I worked through lunch, she delivered sweet treats to my desk; when we rode our bikes through rural Virginia, she was in charge of keeping us fueled with LUNA Bars and Greek yogurt; when we took a trip down to New Orleans, she made sure we figured out a way to pack a muffaletta for the plane ride home.
In short, I can't think of anyone more qualified to talk about snacks than Mollie. Here are a few of her best tips, as well as her go-to snacks (ice cream — shown, but not mentioned — is a given).
Mollie's Snacking Tips
1. Know yourself.
I go a little crazy when I haven't eaten enough, and I'm also pretty picky about food. I want things to be delicious, fairly healthy, and made with real ingredients. A wilted salad or processed cheese spread is not going to cut it. I also love thinking about food more than anything, so I like the challenge of provisioning snacks that will withstand a journey (or just being jostled about in my handbag) and keep me happily satiated in between meals or trip legs.
As much as I love granola and nuts, I'd go crazy if that's the only thing I had on an eight-hour plane trip. When I'm packing or buying snacks, I try to think ahead to what types of food are going to make me the most happy (because that's the most important thing, right?).
I try to have a mix of things: nuts to keep me full and satisfy the crunchy, salty urge; granola or dark chocolate for something sweet; fruit for both sweetness and crisp hydration. I'm also a big fan of DIY trail mix because it's less soggy than the store-bought stuff. A friend turned me onto this superfood combo: pistachios, pumpkin seeds, dried mulberries or raisins, and goji berries.
3. Rely on fallbacks.
I could spend hours in a well-stocked Cibo (much to my husband's exasperation), but it's also helpful to know the pre-packaged foods that won't make you sad when you're 20,000 feet in the air. For me, it's Sabra Hummus Cups, a non-green banana, raw cashews or almonds, and plain dark chocolate. Simple and good. Stay away from anything with soy protein isolate.
4. Edible souvenirs are the best kind.
Snack provisioning is especially fun when you're heading home from a particularly delicious place, as it gives you an excuse to check out the local groceries and farmers markets. I usually look for interesting dried fruits or nuts (persimmons! Mulberries!), pastries, or meats and cheeses. I have extremely fond memories of a focaccia and mortadella sandwich situation that I brought with me on a return flight from Rome.
5. Pack light (unless you're driving).
When flying or trekking around, think light and non-crushable. But when you're driving, you can go a little crazy. I pack small containers of peanut butter and carrot sticks, zip-top bags of sugar snap peas or frozen grapes, half sandwiches, overnight oats, you name it. It helps that I'm usually in the passenger seat.
What are your fallback snacks when you're traveling by plane, train, or car?