Soy sauce, beef jerky, tea bags, instant noodles: the comfort foods – and drinks – travellers can’t live without when they are on the move

One advantage of carrying culinary “essentials” at the expense of clothing is that your luggage gets a little lighter each day. By the end of the trip, there will be plenty of room for souvenirs.

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Savvy travellers will always find room in their rucksacks for dried fruit.

Raisins, dates and apricots are as nutritionally dense as fresh fruit but weigh less and come in compact, travel-friendly packaging.

Oodles of noodles

Perfect for sprinkling on instant oatmeal, another healthy favourite that is available in space-saving sachets.

Huge numbers of holidaymakers fill their bags with instant noodles. They are the most popular item among Asian tourists – according to one survey, a whopping 31 per cent of Chinese holidaymakers will not leave home without them.

This despite Chinese President Xi Jinping, while on a 2014 trip to the Maldives, urging his compatriots to eat fewer instant noodles while abroad and experiment with local cuisines.

More than half of all travellers from Japan said miso soup paste is their must-pack food. Photo: Shutterstock
The ubiquitous convenience food benefits from the addition of flavour-boosting side dishes, which means pickled vegetables, sausages and dried seaweed are squirrelled away in suitcases as well.

Instant noodles might seem an odd item for tourists to haul around when they are available almost everywhere – but will they stock my favourite sea urchin and squid ink flavour in North Macedonia, I hear you ask.

Noodles are not top of every nation’s list of tasty travel treats though. The savoury snack in a cup was invented by a Japanese businessman, and yet in one holiday company poll, more than half of all travellers from that country said sachets of salty miso soup paste are their top must-pack food.
If you pack fish sauce, keep things light by not carrying a glass bottle of it with you. Photo: Shutterstock

Cases of condiments, sackfuls of spice

East and Southeast Asians are most likely to stash a (plastic) condiment bottle somewhere in their suitcase.

Buried in the baggage of Thai tourists, expats and students, you are likely to find a travel-sized container of fish sauce – a few drops of which, combined with some dried chilli flakes (also from home), transforms tasteless “foreign” fare into lip-tingling meals reminiscent of home.
In fact, dried chilli flakes are a frequent addition to many Asian holiday packing lists. Singaporeans, Malaysians and Indonesians all stock up with spices before setting off to “bland lands” while Hongkongers find space for chilli powder and soy sauce, along with as much Chinese pork or beef jerky as they can carry.
Biltong is often used as a snack in South Africa. Photo: Shutterstock

Staying with salty dried meats, there is a good chance the South African sitting next you on the plane, train or bus has a supply of biltong in his bag. The cured meat, which is marinated in salt, vinegar and spices, might be beef based but is just as likely to be ostrich or zebra.

Before setting off to faraway places, Britons cram their carryalls with as many tea bags as possible and can become jittery as supplies dwindle, especially if a local supplier cannot be found (more on this later).

Forward planners send SOS alerts so that family members or friends can collect, curate and consign a care package in the nick of time.

The food parcel could also include a jar of Marmite, but only for 50 per cent of British holidaymakers, as the gloopy black yeast extract divides the country almost as much as Brexit.

Many Britons pack tea bags when they travel. Photo: Shutterstock

It is almost compulsory for Australians to pack a jar or two of Vegemite, a Marmite-like yeast spread, and a supply of Tim Tam chocolate biscuits.

Aussies are not the only ones craving cookies, though. Greeks make room in their luggage for Caprice cocoa and hazelnut wafers along with Greek coffee (must be the Bravo brand) and as much extra virgin olive oil as they can lug – or should that be glug?

Bags bulging with bread

Talking of coffee, Malaysians keep homesickness at bay by stuffing their suitcases with OldTown 3 In 1 white coffee packets, while Singaporeans load up with Milo chocolate malt drink sachets, rather than bulky baggage-allowance-busting tins.

Malaysians keep homesickness at bay by stuffing their suitcases with OldTown 3 In 1 white coffee packets.

New Zealanders reluctant to rely on family members to send supplies can place orders with professional care package specialists such as Kiwi Corner Dairy, which ships much loved Antipodean products around the world.

According to the Auckland-based company, Peanut Slab (a chocolate-covered peanut bar) and Pineapple Lumps (sweet chewy confectionery) are the two most popular tastes from home that overseas-based Kiwis crave.

Globetrotting Finns will not travel far without a stockpile of wholegrain rye bread – so much so that addicted expats urge friends and relatives to bring loaves of the bulky bakery staple when they come to stay.

A stroopwafel is a wafer biscuit made from two thin layers of baked dough joined by a caramel filling. Photo: Shutterstock

The Dutch ask visitors from the old country to bring stroopwafels – biscuit-sized waffles filled with buttery caramel syrup – and American holidaymakers make it their business to know where the nearest source of peanut butter and popcorn kernels is.

Canadians sew a maple-leaf flag onto their backpacks so that they are not confused with American tourists; many also carry small jars of maple syrup to drizzle over pancakes and porridge, and to give as presents.

Sooner or later, your cache of comfort food will run out. Cue bouts of panic, homesickness, insatiable cravings and vulnerability to dubious rumours the item has been spotted on the shelves of a local foreign-products store.

Only 50 per cent of British holidaymakers would pack Marmite. Photo: Shutterstock

However, by the time you head along to investigate whether it is possible to buy the delectable treat by the dozen, it has sold out. Staff reassurances that “we’ll be getting another shipment very soon” turn out to be hollow.

If this leaves you heartbroken and inconsolable, it could be time to head home for a while. Or, if having a steady supply of the food you grew up with is that important, it might be better to limit your travel to day trips.

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