What do you eat on travel days?
I make no great secret that when I get hungry I am not as nice a person to be around. Travel days just have this all set up. Early waking up means maybe missing breakfast. Always on the run means eating fast food or whatever looks good at the bakery. Sometimes.. horror.. you even miss meals all together.
In any trip there are days dedicated to being in a place, sleeping in a hostel or hotel and seeing the sites. There are also days dedicated to moving about. Overnight on a train, a day on a bus or a ton of time spent at an airport. These days are usually more stressful, not just because of trying to not miss connections, but also because eating habits are screwed up. Eating on those travel days can be difficult.
Stuck with Nothing
The worst thing to happen on a travel day for me is to be stuck without food. I don’t know what about sitting still for many hours inspires hunger, but it does. It is hard work sitting there and I get hungry. Being hungry makes stressful things even more stressful. Like missing a connection is bad enough, but doing so hungry can mean the difference between calmly finding another way and crying in a corner.
In Greece I got stuck for a number of hours in a bus station without money or ATM or much more than an apple and a coke to eat. My hunger led me to be far more worried about the last connection that I should have been. That meant a scrambled search for food in Delphi once I arrived.
This past week I talked to another friend of mine. She told me about a harrowing 14 hour trans Carpathian train ride. She and her friend were able to snag a loaf of bread and a bottle of water each before getting on the train, which had no dining car. This can be rough, especially if you are used to regular meals.
Supplying for a Trip
As a student I used every single opportunity to get to Europe. I did 5 study abroad trips between high school and two university degrees. When you are in Europe studying for a few weeks, the number of day trips and long bus rides to “experience things” is pretty high. At some point along the way, I just started stuffing packets of waffles in my bag. They were cheap and had enough calories to keep me from gnawing an ankle or a neighbor. Waffles here come in packets of 6-8 depending on the type and are fully cooked room temperature things encased in plastic. I was not packing frozen waffles around the European Parliment. I get hungry pretty regularly yet don’t eat much at a time, so this was a good choice.
Since then I have developed some other habits and no longer carry waffles on trips (too many crumbs). Although an entire loaf of white bread(Bimbo brand) made into nutella (black and white nutella) sandwiches and put back into the loaf bag got me the 24 hours back from Madrid to Freiburg on the train.
Don’t Forget the Water
First, hydration is nearly as important as food for keeping exhaustion away while traveling. Airplanes use recycled air, air conditioned buses and the wind of trains can all dry you out without really noticing.
Second, a lot of us use the last night in a place to party it up. Having an 8 am train is no reason not to down a beer or 10 with your hostel friends before you leave and maybe not see them again. Hangovers are the lack of water in the brain. You will feel better if you have some water.
Lastly, water is a good way to help reduce the hunger pangs if your food supply ended up running out.
Tips for Travel Day Eating
- Pesky Customs Officials: Although land based borders shouldn’t be much of a problem keep in your mind if you are flying that some places have “food import restrictions” especially for fresh fruits. Also the liquids rules could also be applied for pastes like peanut butter.
- Peanut Butter and Jelly: These are the ideal travel food for me. They can be made ahead of time and pack decently. Either toast the bread or do peanut butter on both breads and jelly in the middle to avoid soakage. They are both sweet and filling.
- Cheese and Rolls: Cheese and bread is one of my favorite travel snacks. Cheese has enough protein to keep me feeling full, and if you get enough it is easy enough to share.
- Fruit: An apple has survived in my bag for several days with only minor bruising. A piece of fruit can be a saving grace if you are caught out with an unplanned stop.
- Nut and Dried Fruit: In the marketplace here in Freiburg is a dried fruit stand that I like to visit before travel days. Nut mixes are a good snack to have on hand. My favorite treat from there are walnut filled dates.
- Granola Bars: A box of granola bars has become my new “waffles”. They pack easy, but aren’t so satisfying as a real meal. Even so, having them helps stave off the awful feeling in the stomach.
- Eat Breakfast: Even if you don’t normally do it. Ask if they can make you something the night before, if your hostel breakfast won’t be up before you need to catch an early flight or train..
- Plan the Night Before: Especially if breakfast isn’t going to happen due to an early train, add food to your packing regime the night before. Something from the bakery won’t be as fresh in the morning, but it is better than nothing.
- Think about the Facilities: That tub of prunes looked great and has keep you company, but think about the facilities of your 18 hour bus ride before you take it with you. Same goes for that third cup of coffee as you run out of the door.
- Night Trains: In a lot of the night trains that I have taken in Europe, mostly Germany to Italy, they offer a small breakfast if you are in a sleeper cabin. It is usually just a croissant, an apple and a cup of juice, but it is welcome. Especially if you get to your destination at 4:30am and nothing is open yet.
So what are your stories/tips for eating on your travel days? What do you carry for snacks? Do you eat along the way?
Romance of Train Travel – Indie Travel Challenge » Grounded Traveler
March 23, 2012 @ 9:44 am
[…] The best trains for a social experience are the ones with cabins. A few people in a journey for a few hours in a isolation from the outside world. Conversations start up and change as people come and go. Even in the big open trains with 4 seats around a table, that provides a good way to talk to people. Failing that, the bistro car with a beer is a good place to relax as well. Even if you have to bring your own, you can eat plenty on a journey. […]
April 3, 2011 @ 8:35 am
Great suggestion on eating while traveling. Sometimes I carry around a bag of bread and chocolate spread (great if you can find funny brand that is cheaper than nutella). Since Ryan and I traveling as a couple, and we don’t eat much, we love to cut the expense (and fat) by sharing just 1 meal. We are really bad about breakfast since we are late risers. Or maybe you can say that we do have breakfast, just happen during normal people’s lunch time because we wake up late 🙂
April 1, 2011 @ 6:34 am
I’m like you, being well planned for food is extremely important. My bitchy side comes out if I’m stuck hungry for too long. I try to always have snacks with me, but it varies greatly just depending on what’s available to me.
March 28, 2011 @ 8:26 pm
This post made me grin! I don’t do well when I’m hungry either. I always bring water and snacks when I travel, and make sure I have extra in case others forget. I don’t want them being buggers either! 🙂 I like dried fruit, roasted nuts, bread with sausage and cheese. 🙂
April 2, 2011 @ 1:43 pm
Yup, all of those are on my list. And good reminder about bringing enough to share.
March 28, 2011 @ 5:37 pm
I’m a huge fan of snack packs 🙂 Mode of travel doesn’t really influence it too much (except for liquids of course) since you can get stuck anywhere without time or a place to buy anything. And I get cranky without food…
I always try to have something sweet and something salty with me. For the sweet I like either sweet granola bars or snack size Mars, Snickers, etc. For the salty, I like nuts, crackers (if packed well), or little dry sausages.
I like your cheese idea! That will go on my next snack pack list 🙂
March 28, 2011 @ 7:46 pm
Yup, we are then similar with the cranky without food thing. I like the salty and sweet idea, and most snacks fall into one or the other category thankfully. Actually for both though make sure you have enough water.
By all means try the cheese. 🙂
March 28, 2011 @ 7:54 am
When traveling, I admit, I live on mandarines and crackers (if possible with philadelphia cheese). With this, every sorrow will go away…
March 28, 2011 @ 7:44 pm
OO tasty. Fresh or canned mandarines?
Life Lessons of a Military Wife
March 27, 2011 @ 5:38 pm
My vote is always for granola bars…discovering all the new ones in Belgium has been great. They don’t get squished or broken and create minimal crumbs. For some reason, I always pack Goldfish crackers cause they don’t tend to get squished as much as regular square crackers…and they have all the yummy flavors.
March 28, 2011 @ 7:47 pm
I like goldfish. I’d forgotten them as I don’t really see them in the stores here. Granola bars are fine and tasty, but often too small to stave off major hunger. Never a bad thing to have though.
March 26, 2011 @ 7:31 am
That Nutella looks so good. I haven’t eaten it in ages. I always bring food for traveling simply because I don’t want to pay the exhorbitant amounts that are charged at airports, etc. Bottled water plus peanuts or nuts is usually enough. Maybe even potato chips and/or a sandwich for a longer journey. And okay, maybe some cookies. Perhaps an apple. You’re right – sitting for hours and hours takes energy!
March 26, 2011 @ 11:46 am
It so totally does. My dad describes our travel days as hours of relative boredom and inaction punctuated by minutes of frantic running. And you are right, the cost is another reason to prep beforehand. Even if you are on a train with a dining car, the food is likely microwaved and still pretty expensive.
Nutella is such a great travel companion. A quick roll from a bakery(or stolen from breakfast) and you have a sandwich.
March 26, 2011 @ 12:44 am
We got very good at the bus snack game during out year away. The go-to was always a full bottle of water (meted out carefully depending on bathroom availability), a roll of Oreo cookies (funnily enough I haven’t had a single Oreo since returning), and some fruit and/or nuts if it could be found. You only need to go hungry once to realize the benefit of planning ahead…and who doesn’t like allowing cookies to be the meal for the day?
March 26, 2011 @ 11:43 am
The bathroom-snack/water relation is another one of those that you only tend to screw up once. Bus bathrooms are inhospitable at best and non-existent or totally repellent at worst. Mmm cookies are a good choice.
March 25, 2011 @ 10:53 pm
Excellent post topic! Travel days often present food challenges for us. You wouldn’t think a bus station would have little or no acceptable food options but we’ve encountered this heaps. Sometimes we find other days a challenge like Sundays in South America when hardly anything is open. Add heavy rainfall and you’ve got us holed up eating granola bars for dinner in our room.
March 26, 2011 @ 11:39 am
Maybe it is the American commercial mentality, but a bus/train station without viable food seems like a waste of opportunity. Especially as some of the things that I have seen are things like pizza or pasta that is really not portable if you only have a few minutes to change. Maybe it is a different mentality of time. I remember a stop that I thought was going to be a bathroom break that lasted over half an hour in Greece. I bought a sandwich and ran out to sit by the bus, worried it would leave and 30 minutes later people kind of wandered slowly back. The place was a restaraunt/deli thing that had a good selection of stuff though.
The Sunday closed thing is a problem in Germany too. Only train stations shouldn’t have that issue. Granola bars and beer, I’ve done that for dinner too.
March 25, 2011 @ 9:23 pm
I like to take snacks. Depends on what kind of traveling I am doing. My food choices vary but granola bars and crackers are always good to have.
March 26, 2011 @ 11:34 am
I’m glad you mentioned crackers. I like having them too. The one issue that I have yet to surmount is the crumbs. Between getting squished in a bag in the rush or just simply crumbling everywhere in your seat as you eat them, they can make a fair mess. Bread does this to a certain extent too, but not as much as crackers. Do you have a way to keep them intact?
March 29, 2011 @ 3:46 pm
For me, the best way to carry them is to put it in a lunch bag or a smaller bag that you can carry around. With my wife, she always has a purse so much easier to carry small things like crackers without having to stuff them in your bag.
April 2, 2011 @ 1:48 pm
So the trick is to travel with someone with a purse, it seems. 😉 I have that on order. The double bagging of crackers does make sense, but almost ends up in the “too much work” category and just would go for normal bread, but good to know it works.