Traveling by air internationally with your dog can be a stressful event. If you home cook for them, preparing fresh meals can also be difficult. Some accommodations may not have full kitchens and finding the same ingredients that you typically use can also be challenging in a foreign country. This article will help you bring your dog’s prepared frozen food with you as a carry on while still complying with the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) security checkpoint rules. The following guidelines are from the TSA’s website and additional details can be found here.
“Meat, fish, vegetables, and other non-liquid food items are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags. If the food is packed with ice or ice packs in a cooler or other container, the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when brought through screening. If the ice or ice packs are partially melted and have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they will not be permitted.
Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.”
I successfully traveled with my dog’s frozen food by using the Igloo MaxCold Duffle Cooler shown below. This product is relatively inexpensive and available at many online retailers and local stores such as Target or Walmart. I also purchased a few gel icepacks and brought a few freezer bags with regular ice to ensure the gel ice packs didn’t melt on the way to the airport. Before going through the checkpoint I removed the freezer bags of ice, leaving the frozen gel ice packs in the bag. I informed the TSA security agents of the contents of my bag and that it was my dog’s food and necessary because she has severe food allergies. I passed through security and onto my flight. My food was still completely frozen even when I arrived at my hotel to store it in the freezer.
Here are some tips and tricks to ensure you have no issues getting your food to your final destination – and what to do if for any reason you cannot.
Make sure your final destination has an adequate freezer.
If you are staying at a hotel, check to see if they have ice makers in the building so that you can refresh your zip lock bags once or twice a day with cold ice.
When dumping your ice at the airport, which keeps your gel icepacks frozen solid for TSA checkpoint clearance, keep the zip lock bags. They can be refilled on the airplane with ice from any of the flight attendants. This is especially helpful if for any reason your gel icepacks have melted and are not permitted beyond the security checkpoint.
If there is room in your checked luggage, you can put the entire cooler with food and ice packs in that and there will be no issues with TSA, even if the ice packs do start to melt. It does take up quite a bit of room, however.
Remember that you won’t need 2 full weeks of frozen meals for your dog. There are several days directly after surgery where your dog will not be fed your home made food while hospitalized. The doctor at the clinic will let you know when you can bring your own food for your dog to the hospital.
Article written by Nate Estes, featuring Zoey Marie Estes