I've taken longer than I intended to post the second part of this blog. Vacation will do that to your inbox; you return to a mountain where there was once a molehill.
It is now July and I hope that this blog will find you in time for your own summer travels. There are plenty of online resources for traveling with food, so I am providing you with a “what really happened” report.
One of the first things we found in planning our trip to Mexico is not all packaged foods are distributed outside the USA. No problem, we all know about ‘care’ packages being shipped overseas, so it seemed reasonable that we could pack food we know to be safe.
The most important resource is the Transportation Security Administration website - If you can’t get it past security, you can’t eat it. Then the airline’s website - If you can’t get it on the plane, you can’t eat it. Then Mexico’s customs website - If you can’t get it in the country you can’t eat it.
One by one:
1. TSA allows the transport of more than the typical 3.5 oz. of fluids in carry on luggage. It also allows for much larger quantities in checked luggage: http://www.tsa.gov/traveling-formula-breast-milk-and-juice
You will need to get a statement from your doctor describing the medical need for food / medicine in your carry on luggage. Checked foods simply need to be packed safely against leaks. All items contained within the cooler and the total weight of the cooler + foods need to be labeled on the outside, visible to a TSA inspector. United has a 50 pound limit before they charge for extra weight, but we were well within this limit.
2. Related to transporting food is the need to keep it from spoiling; United Airlines has a policy for packing perishables in dry ice (the FAA does not allow liquid gel coolants). They also have a policy for charging you. This was ridiculously expensive and it is considered a hazardous substance.
United Airlines fees for traveling with dry ice:
We found that United’s limit of 5.5 pounds of dry ice was more than enough to chill a 35 gallon cooler for a 4 hour flight.
3. Guidelines on what foods can be brought to Mexico:
I'm not sure what happened here. I understood from official websites that so long as meat was prepackaged, vacuum sealed, with U.S.D.A stamps that bringing meat from USA to Mexico was ok. I was angry when we arrived in Mexico to find my TSA approved lock and most of our food missing. Instead I found a crumpled up TSA inspection form and no explanation. Perhaps the lock failed and the cooler busted open on the conveyor belt; but there was a little of everything left; meat included.
Be warned, this was an expensive investment, but we managed to buy all we needed in Mexico.
As a side lesson, we found during our trip to Walmart that labeling in Mexico captures the Big 8 Allergens!
nueces de árbol
haba de soja
Next week I will detail our checklist; putting the plan on paper.
Blog entries to come:
· Travel Preparation Checklist
· Travel Plan Timeline