5 Tips For Eating Healthy on a Budget When You Travel

My husband and I love to travel and we do a lot of it.

Travel time can be exhausting when it comes to reaching your destination. One of the things I make sure we plan ahead for is having healthy, nutritious food with us. When you’re tired and hangry, you don’t make the best nutritional decisions and your wallet takes a hit in the process.

I’ve also found over the years that if Jake and I are not prepared with healthy snacks or meals, one of two things will happen:

  1. We’ll find a healthy option and pay for it.  $$
  2. We won’t find a healthy option and we’ll still pay for it (and then some).  $$

Eating clean is an important part of my diet and training lifestyle. I’m also a very frugal individual. Add the two together and you’ve got yourself a dehydrating queen who brings a food bag filled with snacks and meals with her everywhere she goes. #sorrynotsorry

Here are my top 5 tips for becoming a healthy, frugal traveler!

Tip 1: Bring a Food Container

Sounds weird, but bringing a food container is my number one travel tip for a reason. If you want to save money and eat healthy on the go, a locking food container will do just that. You can cold soak or add hot water to cook up delicious meals (see tip 2).

The Ziploc brand “Twist n Loc” containers are my personal favorite because they don’t leak and are easy to clean.

containerTip 2: “Could I get a cup of hot water, please?”

I never travel anywhere without my oatmeal. I ask this question almost every time we’re at the airport or on the road. Some places might charge you 50-75 cents for hot water, but regardless, that’s a cheap meal!

If I’m on the road, I will stop at a fast food restaurant or gas station along the way and ask for hot water. After receiving the cup of hot water you can either cook your meal in the cup itself or transfer the hot water to your food container.

Here are some easy, healthy meals to cook on the go – just add hot water!

  • Couscous: there are so many variations you can do for couscous meals. I prefer to buy plain couscous and add in all the fix-ins I like. The Near East brand is really yummy too. Here are some of my go-to combos:
    • Tuna packet + dehydrated vegetables
    • Parmesan Near East Couscous + dehydrated cherry tomatoes
    • Curry Powder + milk powder + dehydrated vegetables
    • Pine Nut Near East Couscous + raisins
  • Organic Dehydrated Lentil or Bean pre-made Soup Mixes
  • Instant Brown Rice: add in dehydrated beans, dehydrated vegetables + dehydrated salsa. I would also bring an avocado along for this meal. Delicious.
  • Quaker Instant Barley – add in organic soup mixes, dehydrated vegetables, or tuna
  • Oatmeal, Grits or Muesli: add dried fruit, nuts, seeds, nut butter.


Cook time usually takes around 20 minutes to soak up. And make sure the meal you are planning to cook can be easily re-hydrated. Look at labels stating cook times that are under 5-10 minutes OR items that are truly dehydrated or “instant.”

For the more adventurous, “hiker-trash” folk – try cold soaking. If you’re in a rush or don’t have access to hot water, simply soak with cold water instead. The only two meals I would recommend cold soaking that have worked well for me are couscous and oatmeal. Not everything cold soaks well; and regardless, this process takes more time to “cook.”

Tip 3: Carry a Water Bottle Everywhere

Part of a healthy diet is being well hydrated. When I travel, my senses are overloaded because I’m in “go-go-go” mode. My attention is focused on getting to my next flight, studying our arrangements for when we land, touching up on my Spanish (like that’s really going to help). I forget to drink and the last thing I want to do is pay for water.

Along with my water bottle, I always try to remember to bring a couple tea bags with me. If you’re traveling long distances, its a nice, soothing treat to have a cup of hot tea. You just have to locate hot water and you’re good to go.

Tip 4: Pack Fresh Fruit and Vegetables – because you can!

If you’re flying within the United States, there is nothing really off limits when it comes to food. If you check the U.S. Transportation Security Association’s website, you’ll quickly find a long list of foods and whether or not it is ok to travel with those foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are free game.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a game changer during travel. I would rather eat a whole avocado than spend $10 on a pre-made turkey sandwich from the quick shop cooler display.

One tip I strongly advise for anyone bringing food on a plane, is to always keep a food bag separate in your carry on to easily pull out for when you have to go through the security check. Most likely, they will set your bag off to the side and test a couple of items for explosives. Oatmeal apparently looks criminal on the TSA imagining, so I always have to stand off to the side to have my oatmeal swabbed.

For a list of food items safe to travel in your carry on, check out TSA’s website: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/food

Literally, you can take a live lobster on the plane with you… I can’t make this stuff up.


Now, if you’re flying outside the United States, there are restrictions to what food you can bring into the Country as well as other imports. To learn more about customs and import restrictions, go to Travel.State.Gov to look up the Countries you will be traveling to.

Tip 5: Healthy Snacks

Having snacks prepared with you saves money. I will never pay $4.75 for a Kind bar at the airport and neither should you.

I bring snacks regardless of how long I will be traveling, because sometimes you need a little something to hold you over. The last thing you want to spend time doing is going on a food hunt when you’re hangry. Poor choices are bound to happen.

Here are my go-to favorites for pack-able snacks and lunch items.

  1. Fruit and nut bars like Kind bars, Lara Bars, or Rx Bars.
  2. Sandwiches – the classic peanut butter & jelly never fails
  3. Snack baggies filled with trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, or granola.
  4. String  or Baby Bell single cheeses with whole grain crackers
  5. Lots of whole pieces of fruit or cut up vegetables. I like to bring a bag of carrots, cut up peppers and celery.
  6. Lastly, one of my favorite go-to snacks when traveling:

Please leave a comment or questions below.

And Happy Travels!





2 Replies to “5 Tips For Eating Healthy on a Budget When You Travel”

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