I’ll Never Travel Without These Packable Foods Again

My last vacation had me craving home. Here’s how I’ll get a taste of it no matter how far I go.

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July 02, 2021
By: Joy Cho


Photo by: Bruce Bennett/Getty

Bruce Bennett/Getty

More than any tourist attraction or activity, vacations in my family revolve around food — and our recent trip, the first since the pandemic began, was no exception. Weeks before we boarded the plane, my dad meticulously mapped out our restaurant hitlist, made the respective reservations and sent the week’s dinner itinerary to our family group chat. On the docket: a Korean-inspired tasting menu, an Italian pasta spot, fried seafood with waterfront views, sushi, a long-running establishment famed for its cioppino and more.

On the whole, all our dinners were enjoyable (and eating at restaurants again felt like a welcome step towards normalcy), but by the final day of vacation, I couldn’t shake an intense craving for homey, spice-forward Korean food — something simple, familiar and ladled out in bountiful portions. (I had finally reached my limit of buttery croissants and creamy seafood casseroles.) We decided on a Korean joint known for its braised short ribs and beef soup, and this spontaneous outing turned out to be my favorite meal of the entire trip, by a long shot. Each bite of pickled banchan; fresh sticky rice; saucy, spicy rice cake and fork-tender stewed potato was deeply satisfying, even euphoric — not to overdo the dramatics, but the experience truly went beyond comfort to one that fulfilled something in my soul. Sitting in that bustling, no-frills Korean restaurant, I found a taste of home.

Though I won’t be stashing banchan or rice cakes in my suitcase for my next vacation, I’ve learned my lesson and realized there are items I can easily pack, Korean or not, that still remind me of home — a mix of nostalgic, functional, and routinely-consumed packaged goods that bring a sense of normalcy and comfort. From a versatile, savory seasoning to packets of earthy tea, here’s my personal future travel packing list: items to bring on trips so that cravings are kept at bay and my version of home, no matter how far away I am, is always near.


Crispy-thin, savory sheets of seaweed make the perfect snack eaten on their own or (if you have it) wrapped around rice. The individual packs are conveniently portioned for grab-and-go travel, and satisfy the itch for something salty-but-light.


Hetbahn is nearly as satisfying as the sticky rice I’d make at home, turning out a fresh, single-serving bowl of rice in just 90 seconds. If I knew I’d have access to a microwave (and limited access to Asian food), a few of these compact bowls are a quick way to easy comfort.


This umami-packed seasoning enhances a variety of foods, transforming mundane dishes into a savory, flavor-filled experience. Whether sprinkled on eggs or plain white rice (even Hetbahn), furikake is my favorite food booster.


These chips will become your next go-to travel (and anytime) snack: each four-layered bite of goodness is delicate, oh-so-crispy and texturally addictive. With mouthwatering flavors like sweet bean, corn, chocolate churro, and flamin’ lime, you can’t go wrong, whether you’re hankering for something sweet or savory.


While we’re on the topic of snacks, gosomi, with its iconic yellow packaging, can’t be overlooked. This classic snack item is just-sweet-enough with a touch of savory nuttiness. The cracker-like biscuits have the ideal thickness and hit the spot for a quick pick-me-up en route to your next destination.


Though I love a good cup of coffee, sometimes I want something light-bodied, easy to drink and (importantly) non-caffeinated. Buckwheat tea checks all these boxes, and its comforting earthiness reminds me of the barley tea my mom would store in pitchers in our fridge. Plus, it’s a cinch to slip a few packets into my bag just in case opportunities for an impromptu tea break arise.


Like my dad, I always need something sweet to cap off my day, whether I’m home on the couch or on vacation somewhere. These chocolate-covered peanut butter cups do just the trick, satiating my sweet tooth without weighing me down, and the 2-cup packs make it convenient to get my dessert fix on-the-go.

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