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Do they serve food on trains?
Our big family enjoying some delicious takeout
we got from an underground Migros inside a train station in Switzerland
If you are frugal travelers like us, you probably aren't too keen on purchasing pricey airplane food. But we have found that in many situations, it can be the best option. Here's why...

In many cases, it's best to just go ahead and eat the airplane food. As discussed in a prior post, we find that the perfect time to arrive to a new city or country is one hour before check-in time.  But then my wife always asks this question, for our kids' sake, regarding any plan we dream up:  But what about lunch?!

Here are our reasons why, in many cases, the best option is to just eat the airplane or train food:

#1:  Brown Bag Fail
Before arrival in a new place, a big family should be sure to eat lunch. If you're arriving on a plane or train, you can try hitting up a grocery store before the trip so that you have supplies for a meal: maybe some bread or crackers or tortillas, some lunch meat or other protein like almond butter, some fruit, cookies, snacks, etc. Then all you have to do is assemble all that and it will make a decent lunch while you're all seated comfortably on the plane or train.

Even though we have successfully packed a lunch for a plane or train ride many times, we sometimes find ourselves short on time, without an opportunity to hit a grocery store before the airport - particularly if it is an early flight, or the airport is located a long way from the city. We've had flights that left at 6am (half-price tickets) and we didn't have time to eat breakfast before leaving, much less pack a lunch.

It always boils down to failure to plan (I guess we could have gone to the grocery on Saturday evening, if we had to leave for the airport Sunday morning before the groceries were even open). But on every trip, we'll have at least one time and place where we really need a packed lunch, and don't have one.  Then there's also the fact that after a series of packed lunches, everyone gets pretty tired of the "cold meat and bread" routine. You get to that "I can't eat another sandwich" place pretty quickly on a long trip!

#2:  Meal Times
Another reason to eat the plane or train food is the need to try to stick to the kids' meal times while traveling, to the extent possible. Low blood sugar and fatigue are a pretty bad combination in a five year old! And it's probably even worse when it's her dad! For some reason, when we're in the air, there's this temptation to say,

I don't need to eat right now [which is always at least partly because it's going to cost an exorbitant amount] I'll just wait a bit.  

But skipping lunch, when you happen to be in the air at lunch time, is just never a good idea, for us. Many times while traveling, one of us adults has found ourselves feeling out of sorts, frustrated, overly tired, and so on - and it all started when a (bad) decision was made to skip a meal.

Eating the airplane food on Air Asia
A big family can afford to buy the optional in-flight meals when your
tickets only cost US$25, like on this regional hop we took with Air Asia

#3:  Airport Food Is Not a Solution
If you lacked the time or opportunity to bring a lunch, you'll be strongly considering just purchasing some of that ridiculously overpriced airplane food.  Even if one of your rules as a frugal family is not to buy 4 dollar drinks and 8 dollar sandwiches, consider the alternative:  you'll soon find yourself, your spouse, and your kids all getting off the plane an hour after lunch time.

And remember - you won't be at your apartment when you get off the plane. You won't even be in the city of your destination. You'll be at the airport! This is usually quite a long way from anything like a good meal.

After landing, and then sitting while the plane slowly cruises around the airport a while, then waiting while everyone stands up, and waiting a while longer to debark, you'll then process through the airport for up to an hour, probably walking up to two miles inside the airport (no exaggeration, in some cities - ever been to Miami International?). Oh, and this will all take place while everyone is dragging their luggage. Is this a good time to eat? No way!

Then you may need a passport stamp, and that line might feature not only the passengers of your entire airplane but also those of several other large airplanes as well. This horde of several hundred travelers will be serviced by up to 3 or 4 passport control officers, if you're very lucky.  Maybe just one, if not.  I've yet to see a passport control line that seemed to be fast, or efficient.

And then, finally, after all that, then you might have a chance to eat airport food, which might even be worse quality, less appetizing, and possibly even more expensive than what they are offering on the plane.

Reasons why a big family should just eat the airplane food
Ah, the irony of waiting until you land at the airport to eat "real" food.
Edible food-like substances on offer at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.

But I do kind of want to know if the meat in "THE ENORMOUS" - described 
as BEEF/PORK, is beef, or pork, or both mixed together.

When you finally get done with all of the stamps and steps involved in trying to leave an airport, you will finally see a few last-minute airport food options:  more cold sandwiches, coffee shops, fast food - but nothing like what you all really need (a good meal).  Plus, everyone in the family will be in a hurry to get out of the airport as soon as you can, so you probably won't want to stop anyway!

#4:  Eating After Leaving the Airport 
So, maybe if you wait another hour after escaping the airport, then you might be passing by some restaurants, but picture it:  you'll still have all your luggage with you, and this will be while everyone is ready to get to your lodging so they can grab a shower or do some big-time relaxing on the sofa.

I've had many occasions where I told myself:  we'll stop and eat something after we get out of the airport, between the airport and our rental. But we never do. We end up going all the way to our rented apartment, still hungry.  We drop bags on the floor, walk around looking at the new place, but then have to face the fact that there's no food there, and we're all ready to eat. Past ready - really - "starving" as my kids might put it.  Eating between the airport and the city has just never worked out.

For one thing, the driver of your private minivan transport (which your big family definitely needs, as explained in this post) is certainly not planning on taking your family to eat anywhere, or even to pick up any to-go food. That's not in the itinerary for the driver's day. For another, we just don't feel like trying to eat when we are en route from airport to lodging. That part of the trip always feels like a race, so eating always becomes an "after we get there" thing, despite our hunger.

#5:  The Airplane Food Might be Awesome!
In fact, I can't remember the last time I had airplane food that I thought could be fairly described as "bad." Maybe, after years of cliches and jokes about terrible airplane food, the industry actually solved the problem.

We've had some airplane food that was quite delicious:  bacon on a soft roll on British Airways, banana milk on Korean Air, mango and sticky rice on Air Asia, bibimbap on Korean Air...

Should you eat the airplane food on your trip with a big family?
Like the service and everything else on Korean Air, the food was awesome!

So many times on our trips we've had these moments where I've had to announce:

Everybody, we either get to eat lunch now, or never. Your next chance to eat will be in about 3 hours.

We just go for it, and eat on the way. If you skip the chance to eat on that plane or train ride, then when exactly are you going to eat? We say, just get some plane grub and be done with it! Consider it a treat. It's probably not as bad as you think it will be.

What to eat on a flight to Europe on British Airways
Bacon Roll on British Airways - Num!

We have never regretted just going ahead and having a meal on a flight, even when it is sold as a separate purchase. Every time one of us, or the entire family, has tried to wait a couple more hours, it has turned out to be a mistake, without fail.

As Weird Al Yankovic Would Say:  Just Eat It!
Weird Al's advice
Lyrical genius Weird Al Yankovic
Image may be subject to copyright belonging to its original owner.
This is one situation where economizing sometimes just can't be sufficiently justified.  So:  whenever possible, Eat on the Way!

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What About You?
Do you eat the airplane food or train food, or brown bag it? Any tips for saving money on lunch while in motion?

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