Flying with a Cooler? (STX)
I know over the years I've read that some of you have done this? On my next trip back from the states, I want to bring back some frozen food items. I was thinking about getting a rolling cooler and packing it full of frozen items and freezer packs, but is that the best way? Have any of you done this?
Looking on Google and American Airlines they both say you can pack a styrofoam cooler with frozen items and dry ice, but it has to stay vented so you can't seal it - one site says tie a rope around it (!). I'd rather not get that complicated if I can avoid it.
Also wondering about TSA if I carry-on. I think if it's frozen they're okay with it, but, any one with experience please let me know.
Thanks for any advice!
I use a insulated shopping bag, like the ones from Cost U More and bring the blue ice packs in my checked luggage. Never have had a problem and most of it is still frozen when it gets down here. I have a freezer still full of Costco steaks and Taco Bell Burritos.
Oh that's a good idea! I didn't think about a bag.
I have a serious hankering for NM green chile. Bringing it back frozen. 😉
Most frequent visitors who bring foodstuffs with them use soft-sided coolers and don't even bother with ice or ice packs. If you freeze meats solid and wrap them well then pack them tightly, they'll still be solid when you get here.
we use a product called Polar Bear Coolers. Learned about them on another message board. A bit pricy, but in December it seems every year they have a 2-for-one sale, and we've bought ours then..plus one for each adult child, and now they have become my present for any new baby in the family..they will keep ice frozen (they say in 100 degree conditions) for 24 hours, don't leak and can also be used for hot food ...we like them for the beach, travel, etc...come in various sizes. Hubby uses the 24 can size as his 'personal item' carry-on to stx, and fills it up with frozen and refrigerated stuff...and then puts his rum bottles in it and then into his checked bag on the way up to the states, to keep them safe from breakage!
My biggest concern with checking food is lost luggage...we once had a suitcase get delayed for a week, with raw steaks inside...Luckily I pack well so no additional damage, but it took weeks outside for the suitcase to get rid of the smell afterward.
We have a soft sided "roll-aboard" cooler that we use to transport frozen meats all the time. It keeps meats frozen for a little more than 24 hours so there's no need for dry ice (which can't be used in carry-on luggage) or frozen "ice-pacs". Since the cooler is within the the carry-on dimensions for all the airlines there's no need to check it and thus we eliminate the possibility of "lost luggage".
We bought ours at one of the large "Sporting Goods" stores in the US like Sports Academy or Sports Authority or Bass Pro Shops.
I have returned with a cooler with frozen items 4 times in the last year---the last one was with Maine Lobsters and NE Steamers(items not frozen, but with an ice pack).
Only issue I had was one time in Boston they wouldn't let me take the dry ice. Had to remove it, and once thru TSA I went to one of the food vendors after TSA and asked for ice, which they gladly gave me.
The best method I found of returning is buy a frozen chicken, wrap with newspaper and use this for your ice for other frozen or not frozen items. I flew from Arkansas with a frozen chicken in the cooler and by the time I arrived on St Croix, man was every still ice cold---and some of the liquid items had frost on the bottles.
The last trip I had a 171/2"L x 12"W x11"H foam cooler(no handles) which fit perfect in the overhead. On the smaller AA plane from PR to St Croix, it didn't fit in the overhead, but fit with about 5 inches sticking out under the seat---the discomfort of leg space for the short flight was well worth a RI clambake of lobster and steamers I was able to do the first night on St Croix.
I carry a small roll of duct tape, so as soon as I get thru TSA, I use the tape to secure the cover, and even make a small carry handle out of it. Check with you carrier for carry on dimension. And any doubt if you can bring an item back, go to the TSA site. If not prohibited, should be good. Moreover, if in doubt, send TSA an email with the item in question, and TSA will get back to you. If YES in email, print it and have with you when you are traveling. One time I had an item local TSA was saying "NO", once I showed the email from TSA, it was "YES"(ie one of my war time memento from Iraq)
Good luck----------frozen chicken or Cornish hens as ice----------------you be feasting on items when you return.
Thanks everyone for the great advice! rmb2830, I checked out those Polar Bear coolers, and I'm definitely getting one - that's exactly what I need! Can you tell me if the the 24 can size fits under the seat or does it have to go in the above bin?
InnAPH, great idea on the frozen chicken! I was worried about fussing with dry ice or melting ice packs, no worries now! Just have to figure how much weight I can carry, ha ha!
I will have my green chile dishes this Fall, yes I will...I can't wait, ha ha! woo hoo!
My husband flies upgraded so I don't know about fitting in the coach area...and he would put it in the overhead anyway as he needs the legroom..but I believe even when he flew eagles he carried it on the plane, can't be certain though as we do not generally fly together. I know the smaller 12 can size fits inside my wheeled carry-on.
We generally fly upgraded too, but sometimes I save the upgrades and sit exit row. Mainly I'm wondering if I could get away with carrying it on as my "personal item" and also take my wheeled carry on. It sounds about the same size as my bag I usually take as my personal item and put under the seat, but if it won't fit they could get annoyed with me (rightfully so!).
It is interesting there's actually more room under the seats in coach - fewer wires and stuff under the seats to take up space. But First definitely has more leg room and the free wine...*laughs*
Last year I flew with a cooler backpack full of frozen items. It weighed about 19lbs, so I put it inside another checked bag with about 30lbs more stuff. When I arrived about 6 hours later it was still frozen solid. The fridge was broken when I arrived, & still it stayed frozen solid til it was working again. So maybe if the packing is good enough, the frozen stuff acts as the ice & makes the dry ice & venting a moot point.
My one worry is what rmb2830 said, if the luggage gets lost - I've only had that happen once though and it was only for 12 hours, so probably wouldn't be too bad. It's a trade-off on the weight for sure. Hm.
We checked coolers as baggage on AA several times during previous sailing trips to the BVI. The coolers we liked to use were the smaller ones that Omaha Steaks are shipped in. One big improvement we found for keeping items frozen was to shrink wrap the entire cooler. We were delayed one time and the items in the cooler were still frozen solid three days later. YMMV.
We always bring back a cooler of our favorite stuff we can't get here. We've had very good luck using packages of say frozen corn or squash as the "ice". Additionally, I've always carried on a semi-soft cooler 13" length X12" height along with a carry on bag. Never had anyone hassle me. Then, we'll also put things that don't need the ice in a suitcase which is also fine.