Travel Fuel

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protein balls on a wooden table

I’m off to Kansas bright and early this morning.  By the time you read this, I’ll be somewhere in the air between Bangkok and Tokyo.  It was a last-minute trip, but I needed to see my family, and this is the right time to go.  Frank is back at home, busy with work and holding down the fort.

Completely unrelated to food for travel, last night I was zipping up my suitcase when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  When I looked up, what do you think was scurrying up our wall?  A lizard!  And not a baby one like the one we had last year.  This one was full-grown.  And fast.  We looked and looked for him, hoping to scoot him outside, so I wouldn’t have to be scared of coming across him when I left before sunrise the next morning.  No luck.  Hopefully he finds his way out the door on his own.

But about my travel fuel.

dates on a blue towel

After living in Bangkok, and traveling quite a bit since we arrived, I’ve got my system down when it comes to preparing for these long trips.  For me the secrets are 1) pack days in advance (with a final cut the night before I leave) 2) drink an absurd amount of water before I leave and while I’m flying and 3) pack some serious snacks.  Healthy, varied, and tasty snacks are a travel necessity for me.  I get grumpy when I’m hungry, but more importantly, I feel crummy if I eat plane food.  I usually eat the salads or fruit that they hand out, and dig into my own treats the rest of the time. Here’s what is in my bag on this trip.

Dried fruit and nuts, whole grain apple “straws”, wasabi snack mix (love that spicy stuff), oatmeal, wheat crackers, vitamin C, Airborne, and the date bites you see at the top of the screen.

snacks in bags for the plane

Variations on these chocolate date bites have been posted all over the web.  Mine were made with nuts, dates, chia seeds, oatmeal, and a bit of chocolate.  People sometimes call these protein balls, which seems fitting.  I also sometimes see them called cookie dough balls, but I would beg to differ with that classification.  They are delicious, yes.  And many do taste a bit like dessert.  But, cookie dough?  I can’t be fooled when it comes to cookie dough.

protein ball mix in a food processor

The ratios in my recipe weren’t quite right to share, but the web is full of other tasty versions if you want to make some for yourself…for travel, or otherwise.

German Chocolate Fudge Bites at Chocolate-Covered Katie (I’ve made these and love them)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Energy Bites at Sally’s Baking Addiction

Coconut Date Energy Bites at Daily Garnish

protein balls on a wooden table

Kansas, here I come!

(Hope you have a few of these in store for me.)



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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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  1. These look great! I have got to resign myself (and commit myself) to eating better and these snacks sound delicious. Safe travels!

  2. Great travel snacks suggestions! I’ve been looking for a reason to whip up a batch of these protein balls. Thanks for the heads up that they won’t actually taste like cookie dough 🙂

  3. Oh no! Looks like you forgot to pack the travel hummus, my friend! 😉 Have a safe trip and a great time with your family. xo

    1. Gotta stock up on travel hummus while I’m home, so it makes the next cut for travel snacks! I have some good stuff in there, but it definitely can’t compete with your stash of snacks – lol!

  4. Have a great visit with your family. I hope poor Frank doesn’t encounter the lizard in the middle of the night!

    I’m not a nice person when I’m hungry either so always travel with snacks. Your little pack puts mine to shame though.