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?