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Jul 262012
 July 26, 2012  Posted by  Travel

Once upon a time (this, however, is no fairy tale) airlines served full meals on real dishes with real utensils — even on short flights.  Jokes about the quality of airline food abounded but, hey, it filled you up and helped you pass the time on the flight.

Then came a certain airline that made its reputation serving peanuts. Later other airlines realized they could charge for corporately produced sandwiches, and a whole new revenue stream was born. Now, on many airlines, even snacks have a price tag.

That once little upstart airline is still serving peanuts and, with some airlines eliminating free snacks, that’s often as good as it gets.  Don’t expect those peanuts to assuage your hunger pangs. On a recent flight we noted the net weight of the tiny treat was a whopping .75 ounce.  An accompanying bag of cheese nips was bigger in size but actually weighed less — not very satisfying on a three-hour flight.

The cost of in-flight snacks can be painful. A la carte items — say a mini-can of Pringles — are often $2.50. Snack packs, with miniscule amounts of items you may not even like, are $6 to $8. If you’re traveling with your family, the cost of snacks can set you back the price of checking a bag.

Here’s a better (read cheaper) way to deal with in-flight hunger: Bring your own snack pack.

A few days before your flight, hit the dollar store. We found nuts, raisins, crackers, cookies and — yes! — chocolate bars in single-portion, individually wrapped packets for just a buck.  These usually come in packages with six to eight single-serving packets. If you get one package of each, you will be out only $4. Of course, you can add more items depending on the selection and your own preferences.

In a quiet moment, assemble your own “snack pack.”  Use a rigid container to hold your snacks. A clean food container from the deli recycles well. In a pinch, a paper lunch bag — or a reusable cloth lunch bag — works, but take care that the contents don’t get crushed in transit.

If you’re traveling with a spouse, friend or kids, make up a snack pack for each person. With six to eight of each snack you bought, you’ll have enough to make snack packs for everyone.  For $4 or $5, you can create at least six custom snack packs. What a saving!

If you’re flying solo, throw some extra packs into your carry-on — there’s no telling when you might be stuck on the tarmac for hours or when you mig need a pick-me-up at your destination. Or, stash them in the cupboard for a treat when you return home. Either way, you’ll come out way ahead on those pricey snacks the airlines would love to sell you.

Even better, you determine the items and amounts in your packs. Love peanuts? Throw in extra packets. Your daughter craves those crackers with the cream cheese inside? Give her two or three packets.

Kathie Sutin

Kathie Sutin has covered everything from construction to transportation. Features, however, are her specialty especially those about travel, food, health, parenting and people. Her work has appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Midwest Traveler, Southern Traveler, St. Louis Parent, Hooked on the Outdoors, Missouri Life, St. Louis Magazine, Air Tran’s flight magazine and Sauce Magazine and websites including and At her last fulltime gig, public relations writer for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, she developed a vast knowledge of all things St. Louis as she spread the gospel about free and things to do in the Gateway City. That came in handy when she launched St. Louis On The Cheap as did her lifelong strategy of paying less whenever she can.

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