Whether you're packing your child's lunch box in the morning, heading out in the car and need to bring along some snacks for your kids, putting together a picnic, or stashing some reliable favourite snacks in your carry-on for a long flight, it's very helpful if you have some good snack- and food-containers to use.
Here are some great, reusable options to help keep edibles fresh and mess-free.
If you want to bring along something that needs to stay either warm/hot or cool, an insulated container is a must-have. I've used the Thermos brand for my kids, and I really like their containers: easy to fill and empty, easy to clean, and they keep foods hot for a very long time.
Note for flights: Any liquid food such as soup or yogourt will count as a liquid, and might not be allowed through security. Also, stainless steel containers will probably attract attention when going through the x-ray machine: take them out of your hand-luggage before sending your bag through the scanner.
Snack-bags and pouches
These kinds of soft containers won't protect your snacks from getting crushed in your bag (a big problem on flights when your carry-on might get man-handled a bit), but they will help keep snacks fresh. They can also be easier for your child to use, and easier to store at home, since they take up less space. Just make sure you get a brand that can be washed properly!
Stainless steel snack- and food-containers
Many people are getting worried about the chemical contents of plastics, and are choosing stainless steel containers instead. These are also easier to keep clean. Lunchbots has several sizes and types of containers, including ones with separate snack compartments in a single container. They'd be a great choice for any kind of travel.
Note for flights: Going through security, it might be a good idea to take these stainless steel tubs out of your carry-on, just in case they will require extra attention from the screeners.
Plastic snack- and food-containers
I use the Lock&Lock containers for a lot of the snacks I bring along on trips, and also for my kids' lunch-boxes. They keep snacks from getting crushed and flattened if they're in your hand-luggage on a flight, which is a big perk for my family. They're also easy for the kids to open and close on their own, and come in a great variety of sizes. The Klip It containers are similar and look great as well.
For snacks like sandwiches, rollups, and bagels, a reusable food-wrap is a great idea. These reusable and washable products are a great substitute for plastic wrap and tinfoil. Wrap-N-Mat and Planet Wise are just two of the many companies that make reusable wraps. Lunchskins makes pouches that can be used in a similar way as well.
Reusable water bottles
Reusable water bottles are a great alternative to purchasing water bottles that cost a lot of money, and (despite your best intentions) might end up in the garbage. I always keep one in the car, and have started to bring one along on flights as well: sometimes I have to empty it out before going through security, but it's worth that small amount of trouble.
I always bring antibacterial hand-wipes along on flights, and insist that the kids use them before eating anything on board the plane, or at the airport. It's really helped cut down on the amount of colds and flus we catch on our trips. Keep some wipes or hand-sanitizer in your purse and car as well, for on-the-go meals and snacks.
Note for flights: I prefer the wipes on flights, rather than the sanitizing gels. Gels count as liquids, which can be a problem in airport security. Also, the wipes can easily be used to clean up small spills, wipe sticky faces as well as hands, and they can be used to clean tray-tables and armrests.
Ice-packs help keep the food you're bringing nice and cold. I keep a supply of them in my freezer so they're always ready to go into snack-bags or lunch-kits. A frozen juice-box or water-bottle will do in a pinch as well!
Note for flights: Ice-packs will count as liquids, so it's probably better to avoid bringing them on flights.
My kids both have insulated lunch kits that they bring to school, and I also have several small coolers that I use when we head out for hikes, picnics, the beach, or long drives. I don't usually bring one on board when we travel by plane, because it's just too much hassle with the ice-packs. Still, they're very handy to have for any other kind of travel. Some brands, like the PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag are actually freezable themselves, and don't require an extra ice-pack. I might be picking up one of those for future travel!