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How Not To Pack Frozen Food on a Flight

If you know Paris, then you know why I packed frozen food on a 23-hour flight. The question was whether or not it would actually get home – in edible condition.

So the story goes something like this. While I was visiting Paris, I managed to get into a conversation with my cousin, a resident of the city, about gourmet French frozen food retailer Picard. (It’s been described as a frozen Trader Joe’s on French crack.) My obsession with food being unwieldy, I hit upon the wild genius idea to try to bring some back home. Like, it turns out, 40 euro worth of food.

There’s a couple of things you’ve got to know if you’re going to attempt this. This is clearly not the same as bringing your own food on the plane to eat. Most importantly, you need to know the customs law of the country you’re trying to bring the food into before you even think about anything else. The U.S. (surprise!) is generally pretty strict, so you can forget about fresh fruit, dairy and meat. In Hong Kong, most things fly by. Since I’ve lived in Hong Kong for nearly two years, I proceeded to step two of my thought process.

Packing it. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but checking in the food is definitely your best bet. Preferably in a well-insulated thermal bag, tucked away in a suitcase. The cousin declared this method has worked effortlessly on flights from New York to Paris without a hitch, a flight that lasts approximately seven hours. Airplane cargo is supposedly kept cool and this will work to your advantage. If you’re thinking about adding dry ice, it’s important to know that it is needs to be labeled with the amount because of its properties; most airlines won’t allow it on.

The next step is to consider is your itinerary. My flight from Paris to Hong Kong wasn’t direct, meaning I’d be laying over in Doha, Qatar for nearly 10 hours. Meaning my food would be sitting out in the sweltering Middle East for 10 hours. This wasn’t necessarily Canada I was laying over in. The actual flight itself was about 13 hours, meaning the total travel time was going to be nearly a whole day. Though, apparently the foodie in me wasn’t going to be denied.

There were a few issues: My bag was already packed to the brim as it was. Since I was too cheap to shell out more money for extra protection, I grabbed a thermal bag and checked it in with Qatar Airways, sans suitcase. I made a pointed effort to tell the check-in agent there were perishables within; she made me sign a disclaimer making the airline free from all liability. Clearly, that would not reassure anyone.

Flash forward to twenty-four hours later, hunched over on a baggage carousel. A slightly undone zipper did not promise me good things. To my dismay, I found most of the food mangled in their carton boxes.  Later the next day, I attempted to eat a bit of it; this was after all, 40 euro worth of food.After all, it wasn’t the presentation that mattered.

How did it go? Well, I’m still writing this, stomach intact. Some of the food turned out to be less than stellar, but I suspect that’s because I was expecting Picard to be better than what it actually was. (Some of it did turn out to be delicious, so worth it!) Though, in the end, I did end up throwing away about 4 euro worth of food. But the rest remained edible, almost frighteningly so.

Would I do it again? You know what, I’d probably stick to dry goods.

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