Everything you Need to Know About Travel Sweets

Best Travel Sweets

With school summer holidays now underway and many people jetting abroad, we collaborated with various experts to discuss all things on the topic of travel sweets!

Including: how taste is impacted by flying and which sweets to choose to ensure maximum satisfaction; which sweets can help with ‘ear-popping’ on a plane, and why; food allergens on planes; rules around international airport customs which may stop you from bringing your favourite treats on holiday with you; and the best sweets to try in different countries around the world, and rules for bringing them home. Read on to find out more…

Taste Changes on Planes

Dr Deborah Lee shared that airplane passengers experience changes to their sense of both smell and taste during the flight. At high altitudes, air pressure and humidity are lowered. The decrease in partial oxygen pressure plus the dryness of the air impairs the function of nasal cilia (tiny hairs) which normally work to pass mucus out of the nasal cavity. As a result, air passengers suffer from nasal congestion and stuffiness. In a 2013 research study, a significant reduction in the sense of smell was confirmed when formal olfactory testing was carried out at a high altitude.

Smell is closely linked to taste. Not surprisingly, as the sense of smell is impaired, taste buds also become up to 30% less sensitive on the plane journey. Taste also depends on the ability to chew food which is mixed with saliva and comes into contact with the tastebuds on the tongue. On a plane, a dry mouth with less saliva makes chewing more difficult. As the chewed food is relatively dry, it does not come into contact so well with the taste buds on the tongue, and the sense of taste is altered.

In a study by Lufthansa, in which they recreated an in-flight dining experience, sweet and salty taste are reduced – but not sour, bitter, or spicy. Interestingly, one taste that seems heightened is umami – which means savoury. This leads to cravings for salty food and drinks such as tomato juice. They commented that people drink as much tomato juice on a flight as beer!

However, this change in taste is not thought to be due to the taste buds, but more because of the loss of smell which occurs when flying at high altitudes. To try and redress the balance, aircraft food is often strongly flavoured and spicy. Chefs use potent seasonings such as cardamon, lemon grass and curry, and meals are often prepared with extra salt. Airplane food is often savoury and contains sauces or gravies to keep food moist. It also contains preservatives as it has to be stored for long periods and reheated, which can pose problems for those with GI conditions such as IBS and those with food allergies.

Sweets can Help with Ear Popping

Dr Deborah Lee added that when the plane ascends or descends there are changes in the cabin pressure. The Eustachian tubes connect the back of the throat to the middle ear. Usually, the air pressure inside the middle ear and outside in the ear canal is about the same. But when the cabin pressure rises or falls, it takes time for the pressure to equalise in the Eustachian tube. The tympanic membrane covering the middle ear is sucked in or pushed out quite suddenly, which can be painful and result in the sensation of the ear going to pop.

Many people feel a bit uncomfortable in their ears when flying and this is relieved when their ears pop. The best way to deal with this is to:

  • Get as much air as possible into the Eustachian tubes. You can do this by swallowing, yawning, chewing gum or sucking sweets. Children can be helped by drinking through a straw, and babies by taking a bottle or sucking on a dummy

  • Use the Valsalva manoeuvre is a technique to make your ears pop – take a mouthful of air, pinch your nose, and shut your mouth. Then force the air out into your ears until you hear the pop

  • Stay well hydrated, so keep drinking water

  • Some people find it helpful to use EarPlanes – special earplugs that help equalise the pressure in the ears. 

    Travel Sweets

The process of sucking and swallowing is well known to help Eustachian tube dysfunction. Doing this draws air into the upper airways and the Eustachian tubes and helps stabilise the pressure in the middle ear.

Note that an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) or an ear infection means the ear will be inflamed and more prone to rupture. Don't risk a ruptured ear drum from a flight, which is a serious event, causing hearing loss and permanent damage to the ear. It's far preferable to delay your flight.

Plane journeys can also trigger tinnitus, or ‘airplane ear’ which is the special name for barotrauma which occurs when flying. Some people are more susceptible to this condition. It causes a feeling of blocked, clogged ears, dizziness, ear pain, vertigo, and hearing loss. Those who suffer from this may need to take decongestants before flying and may use a short course of oral steroids as these are powerful anti-inflammatories. If you suffer from this condition, and in particular if you already have ear disease, you should take specialist advice from your GP or ENT Consultant before flying.

Allergens on Planes

1 in 11,000 passengers has an in-flight emergency, which means an emergency occurs in 1 out of every 604 flights. Allergic reactions make up 2%-4% of all medical in-flight emergencies. Anaphylaxis is the reason for 4% of aircraft diverting their route. Some allergy specialists believe that those with idiopathic anaphylaxis (cause unknown) are advised not to fly within 7 days of an episode and to take a course of steroids and antihistamines before travel.

Airlines produce guidance about flying with food allergies on their websites. For example, British Airways clearly states they cannot guarantee allergy-free meals, or that other passengers will not bring allergens on board. Typically, staff will announce to the other passengers that they have someone on board with a severe food allergy and ask them to be cooperative. 

However, BA commented that it is impossible to legislate about food allergies on planes because people can have anaphylactic reactions even to inhaling allergens such as peanut particles or dog hair from the air filtration system. Their staff are trained to manage anaphylaxis.

An allergic reaction can cause an asthma attack, dermatitis, urticaria, angioedema (swelling) or a full-blown anaphylaxis. The most common allergens are peanuts, tree nuts and seafood or allergy to medications. Less commonly it can be caused by an insect sting or use of an insecticide.

Best Sweets Around the World

While sweet and creamy candies are common ones in the UK and most of the western world, different countries do have different flavours that they prefer. For example, in the Eastern world, it's common for people to give kids candies that are intensely sour. To those cultures, cola bottles might look a little odd.

Here are a few of our top sweets from around the world

  • Lactra – Brazil

  • Salt Water Taffy – Atlantic City, USA

  • CÔTE D’OR – Belgium

If you are willing to try something more unusual, here are some rare sweets from around the world:

  • Lightning Bugs Gummy Candy – China 

  • Gummy X-Ray Fish – USA

  • Wasabi Kit Kats – Japan 

Here are some more sweets you’ve probably never heard of:

  • Botan rice candy – Japan 

  • Matcha KitKats – Japan

  • Mariannes – Finland 

  • Pocket Coffee – Italy 

  • Bubu lubu - Mexico

At the end of the day, it’s important to check out and enjoy sweets from all over the world, and you will be impressed with the differences. Some use specific ingredients from that region, which means the taste can be very different to what you would normally expect!

When travelling to the US, you’ll want to stock up on your favourite treats to

USA Sweets Cup

avoid the ridiculous prices in the United Kingdom. UK Customs does not consider American candies to be a prohibited or restricted item, so fear not, you can basically bring an unlimited amount home. The hardest part is deciding what your favourite sweets are to take home. Or maybe you should just bring them all?  

The following list is the best American sweets to bring home from your holiday! We’ve ranked them from favourite to least favourite. However, to be honest, they are all equally as tasty. Ultimately, what you think are the best sweets will depend on your personal preference:

  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Sweets (found in our Reeses Chocolate Bouquet!)

  • Sour Patch Kids

  • Swedish Fish

  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate

  • Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Cream bar

  • Mike and Ike

  • Almond Joy

  • Candy Corn

  • Tootsie Rolls

  • Milk Duds

  • Skittles

  • Butterfingers

  • Goetze's Original Caramel Creams

  • Columbia Jumbo Mint Balls

  • Jelly Beans

  • 3 Musketeers Bar

  • Jolly Ranchers

  • Warheads

If these suggestions have your mouth watering, why not check out our Huge American Sweet & Chocolate Box!

Food VS Customs

Continuing the theme of bringing treats back from holiday, travel expert Mercedes Zach shared that despite what your end destination is, when it comes to carrying items in the hand luggage – you are only allowed to carry small consumable items (such as snacks and sandwiches) and processed foods (like chocolates, candies or cookies). And remember the liquid limit, too! 

You can no longer take products of animal origin, such as any food or drink contain meat or dairy, or plants and plant products into the EU in your luggage, vehicle, or person – this rule has been set ever since Brexit. 

The rules of each country might differ, and some countries like Australia or New Zealand do not allow any animal products at all (not even in check-in luggage!). The overall notion is that processed foods like chocolates, candies, cookies, and canned goods are usually allowed into most of the countries. However, they must be declared upon arrival, and in some cases, you may even be asked to open them for inspection. It's worth keeping in mind that while some countries would allow this, Mexico does not allow bringing in homemade food packed in jars.

Travel creator Sonya Barlow noted that there may be tax implications for taking larger quantities of your favourite treats away with you – so pack light on the chocolates and sweets! 

Mercedes continued to explain that the rules are stricter when it comes to bringing the food in, rather than bringing it outside of the UK. When it comes to bringing chocolate and confectionery, processed and packaged plant products (in grams, no liquids) as well as packaged items (such as packaged soup, biscuits, bread, and pasta) - there are no restrictions at all. However, there are quite strong restrictions on bringing animal products (meat, dairy, fish) and even fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds into Great Britain from abroad. 

Probably the most important rule to note is that you cannot carry any meat, meat products, milk, or dairy items if you are traveling to the country from outside of the EU zone. If you are bringing food from within the EU zone, according to UK customs regulations, you are allowed to bring up to 10kg of meat, fish, or dairy products in your check-in luggage. 

You are allowed to bring in small quantities of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds from the EU zone for your personal use. If you are traveling to the UK from outside of the EU zone, you will be required to show a plant health certificate from the plant health authorities upon your arrival. 

If you have some canned food to take, I advise you fit it in your check-in bag, since canned food tends to be tricky as it typically contains some kind of liquid in them, which must follow the liquid limitations rule. It is also important to note, however, that there are different rules if you are intending to bring food or animal products into Northern Ireland.

Some interesting facts – do not try to bring soft French cheeses made from unpasteurised milk (such as Brie de Meaux or Roquefort) to the USA - they are illegal there. Also, Singapore does not allow the import of chewing gum in large quantities, unless you have just a few packs for your own personal use. 

It’s also worth noting that the import of certain items fully depends on the jurisdiction of a country you are traveling to. For example, despite the fact that you may purchase alcoholic beverages in duty free while at the airport of the country you are flying from, you will not be allowed to bring them in if you are traveling to Saudi Arabia - Saudi law prohibits the importation of weapons, alcohol, narcotics, pork and pork products, and some other items.


  • *Expert advice correct as of August 2023

  • With thanks to our third-party sources for their insight for this article: