Our “SFRAW Jet Setter” Program & Travel Tip for Raw Feeders: Flying with Raw Meals

We have a number of SFRAW members that transport their frozen SFRAW Grinds/Formulas or ingredients to prepare their DIY Meals by air to their travel destinations. We also have members that live/travel outside the area either part or full time – with destinations ranging from as close as Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle to Massachusetts, NYC and beyond (Mexico and Europe).

Indeed, because of the popularity of this need within our community of SFRAW Members, some years ago, we established what we refer to as our “Jet Setters” Program. For an additional service fee, our Jet Setter’s program involves preparing custom orders of pre-packaged SFRAW Grinds/Formulas, custom meals or ingredients “flat packed” into vacuum sealed, thick mil bags that are easy to travel with via carry-on or as checked in a soft sided cooler or baggage. We deep freeze their packs in our -20 degree freezer for them to pick-up at a convenient time before their journey.

When it’s time for them to fly, they usually pack their bags up right here at SFRAW. We’ve even had a few leave their coolers here in advance for us to fill for them and store in the freezer. These days, we don’t usually have room for this, but if we do, we’re happy to oblige as a courtesy part of the service. This can be enough food for a quick weekend or for entire season – it just depends. Some members purchase and prepare enough food/meals to last the whole summer or winter season, but those on the west coast usually buy for about a month at a time.

We find our proximity to SFO makes this even easier for travelers. A lot of members seem to drop by before and after trips/air travel. SFRAW is also located just a few blocks away from Praxair, where members can buy dry ice for their trip.

But what if you want to prepare meals to bring on a flight with you yourself? That’s something we’re happy to advise on, too. We have a lot of experience personally and with members flying and traveling while feeding raw. We’re happy to share how you can do it easily and successfully. There’s no reason to discontinue fresh/raw feeding for your “Jet Setting” animals while traveling – it’s super easy!

Question: Good Morning Kasie, Branko, Rosalind, Maria, Jeff and everyone else…

I have a question. I’ll be flying out of town within the next two weeks and will be taking Tux with me. I’d like to prepare his food ahead of time, so that all is easy once I arrive at my destination. He’s 15-lbs and he needs one ounce each of his three different protein meals a day plus tripe. I’d like to put 4 oz of frozen food into a ziplock snack bag for each of the days I’ll be away. I need them to stay frozen at least 10 hours until they can be put into a refrigerator at my destination. What’s the best way to travel with his food? Will a plane allow dry ice in my luggage? Vacuum pack his food? I could really use some advice regarding my situation.. 

I would really like an answer within the next few days so that I can acclimate Tux before our travels to a different diet… which I’d rather not do..

Please call or write asap. Thanking you in advance..

Ms. Ali R Mayer  MS., CHES

Answer: Hi Ali, Thank you for your question in preparation for your upcoming trip with good little Tux. As you seem aware, traveling is no reason to stop feeding raw, fresh and healthy foods! You can accomplish this by preparing/packing up his food to bring with you, sourcing locally along the way or once you arrive, or it may be that a little of both is the best approachbut there’s never a reason to stop feeding your animals real foods or to switch to unhealthy, processed products just because you’re travelling.

I always say, “Wherever your destination, no matter where you go or how you get there, if you can feed yourself fresh foods while traveling, then you can continue to feed your dog/cat (real food), too!”

We’re happy to advise on this common question and have loads of personal of experience with doing so.

Yes, you can absolutely do what you plan for Tux – thanks for asking for suggestions!

First, keep in mind that the smaller the pack size, the quicker it will defrost. So, packing it all up into larger sized portions, whatever you can easily and practically mange, will hold up longer than smaller packages/portions. Using dry ice is not even needed for most short periods of travel – but for longer trips and trips outside of the country, dry ice is a great choice! When transporting smaller amounts (such as what Tux requires) for longer than a few hours, dry ice is a good idea.

Thankfully, SFRAW is right near Praxair, where you can pick-up dry ice for your bag/cooler.

Speaking of bags/coolers – we have used everything from our favorite of hard-sided marine coolers (we recommend those rated to keep drinks cold for 5 days or longer in up to 90 degree heat – this rating for insulation really does matter!) for road-trips, to insulated soft-coolers or insulated backpacks (super cool for traveling!), to just normal/non-insulated carry-on or checked luggage. They ALL can work super great for different carrying amounts of food, for different types of trips, and different modes of travel.

Remember that the tarmac can be downright HOT (depending on the time or year and where your plane lands), but the time spent in the air will be temperature controlled; while checked baggage can get very COLD (which is perfect for frozen food going long distances).

Usually, carry-on is the best way to transport your animal’s meals, unless you are bringing a large volume with you – which you are not doing. Be sure to pack his food up so it is not going to leak (yes, vacuum sealing is what we recommend) and so that it is well insulated (be sure to use an appropriately sized bag to just fit the food inside of and fill up any “air space” in the bag with material that will help insulate the frozen goods).

You can usually carry this on with you, so long as packaged well and kept frozen. We’ve done this many times ourselves and for those members that request us to do so as part of our “Jet Setter’s” program (Member pricing: $25 custom fee + $2/lb for packing meals into vacuum sealed “flat packs and deep freezing).

Below please find some great general recommendations on traveling by air and using dry ice for traveling with frozen food (original material edited here – quoted from here and here).

First, Check the Airline’s Restrictions

The TSA has no issue with passengers traveling with frozen food, either in carry-on bags or checked luggage, but check the airline’s guidelines if the frozen food is packed in dry ice. Major airlines generally allow passengers to pack up to 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) of dry ice if it’s packed according to the airline’s specifications.

Each carrier has its own restrictions, however. For example, American Airlines allows a container with dry ice as a carry-on, while JetBlue says that containers with dry ice must be checked. On the international side, Air France allows passengers to travel with dry ice, but only if they seek authorization first. And some airlines won’t allow passengers to travel with certain foods on international flights, so it’s important to remember to check.

Next, Prepare the Container

Two different packing methods will work for transporting frozen food.

  1. To travel with a small amount of food as a carry-on, place it in a soft-sided cooler bag and surround it with ice packs. Note that the ice packs must be completely frozen at the time they go through the screening checkpoint or the TSA will reject them. You’ll have to toss them, potentially ruining your frozen food. To keep ice packs and food frozen on a long trip to the airport, pour ice cubes into the container before you set out, then dump the cubes outside or in a sink within the terminal after checking in. Make sure there’s no liquid/water inside your bags at all, things need to be frozen to be permitted through TSA.
  2. To pack a larger amount of frozen food, or to pack food that must remain fully frozen during a long flight, use a vented, leakproof container and dry ice. We recommend lining the interior of your bag with a heavy garbage or plastic freezer food bag. Note that your airline may not allow standard plastic foam containers for this purpose. When the food is packed, seal the container and clearly label it with a description of the food inside, the weight of the dry ice and the words “dry ice” or “carbon dioxide solid.”

Finally, Inform Airport Staff

Upon arriving at the security checkpoint with a bag of frozen food, tell the closest agent that you have a bag containing ice packs. The bag of food will need to be screened either by hand or using the X-ray machine.

To fly with a checked container of dry ice, consult an agent at the airline’s ticket desk. It may be necessary to pay a checked-bag fee for the box, and it will need to be carefully screened by security. But as long as it’s properly labeled, expect to be reunited with the box at the baggage carousel in your destination airport.

We like using dry ice pellets for use in coolers!

TraveLing With Dry Ice

Plan on using 5 to 10 pounds of dry ice for every 24-hour period traveling. Place items to carry in an insulated container that makes the most sense for your trip and the amount of food you need to keep frozen. For larger containers and longer traveling times, increase these rates. The ideal traveling container when using dry ice dry ice is a three-inch thick urethane insulated box tested to lose only 5 pounds for a 10-quart storage area every 24-hours (sometimes we have these available at SFRAW from things that have been shipped to us in this way/received – ask and we may have one available or you can purchase online or in a local office supply or shipping/packaging store).

When packing items in the container fill the empty space with wadded newspaper or a paper bag. Any “dead-air-space” will cause the Dry Ice to sublimate faster. Dry Ice sublimation (changing from a solid to a gas) will vary depending on the temperature, air pressure and thickness of insulation. The more Dry Ice you have stored in the container, the longer it will last. Dry Ice, at -109.3°F or -78.5°C, will freeze and keep frozen everything in its container until it is completely sublimated. These frozen items will still take extra time to thaw because they are so cold.

FOLLOW the roadtripping travel adventures of @halflionhalfpup on Instagram!

Roadtrips (by auto)
Plan to pick up the Dry Ice as close to the time it is needed as possible. Carry it in a well-insulated container such as an ice chest. If possible pack insulating items such as sleeping bags around the ice chest. This will stretch the time of the Dry Ice lasts. Important! If dry ice is transported inside a car or van (not in the trunk) for more than 10 minutes make sure there is fresh air entering the car! This is very important – cracking windows and allowing fresh air circulation when dry ice in in your vehicle is necessary or you and your animals will experience physical symptoms (shortness of breath, increased heart rate) that are not healthy or safe! Traveling with the container/cooler with dry ice strapped to your roof-rack or otherwise secured to the exterior of your vehicle is ideal.

Flights (by air)
Pick up Dry Ice as close to departure time as convenient. Carry it in a well-insulated container such as an ice chest or insulated soft pack. If it is transported inside a car or van for more than 10 minutes make sure there is fresh air available. Most airlines will not let you carry more than two kilograms (4.4 pounds) of Dry Ice on the airplane. Because Dry Ice will sublimate continuously from the time of purchase, you can confidently declare that there is no more than two kilograms at the time you check in at the airport. If the container is checked in as baggage and not carried on board, it will sublimate faster due to the lower pressure of the baggage compartment. Make plans to refrigerate or add Dry Ice when arriving at your destination.

BTW: One other thing I highly recommend for traveling is Rescue Remedy – it comes in a spray or little 10 ml bottles which can be carried on so you can give to Tux before, during, and throughout the trip – it’s a great, safe way to maintain balance in both the body and mind during exciting or stressful times/events, like traveling. I always pack Rescue Remedy with me and use with my animals and it’s super helpful.

I also fast my animals on travel “day one” or at the start of big travel days because – this just makes everything so much easier and less stressful for them! This greatly reduces or eliminates potential problems associated with motion sickness or nervous travel tummy troubles. While fasting or traveling, give a few drops of Rescue Remedy as often as every 5 minutes or just 6x/day – use in their water, as needed.

After getting them situated in their destination for the night or for the trip/stay, I feed them once we arrive. Once settled, make an effort to maintain any of your usual mealtime rituals/habits as much as possible. Enjoying a nourishing, healthy meal before resting for the night, be it in the car, hotel room, place you’re staying – with family or friends – or campsite, is a real comfort and happy end of day travel reward. After a fasting period, getting a healthy meal served at their destination helps them to acclimate and feel more at ease in the new location so it’s a real win-win. This has always worked super great for us for many years, with many dogs.

Hope this helps! Have fun and let us know if you have any more questions. These are just a few tips that most apply to Tux and your upcoming trip from the many things we’ve learned over the years. 

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