Traveling with frozen soup.
December 18, 2011 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Can I fly domestically carrying frozen soup?

I know a similiar question has been asked before but I am not transporting shrimp, lobsters or ice cream. I just want to pack frozen homemade soup and have it with me when I land. Thawed, semi-frozen or however it ends up as long as it doesn't leak in my suitcase. I'm flying with AA. Yes I should call but being on hold gives me an instant headache. So instead I am going to ask you, the good people of metafilter. Any experience/inside information? Carry on vs in luggage? Leakproof container suggestions? But mainly, is it an issue?
posted by bquarters to Travel & Transportation around United States (12 answers total)
As long as it isn't partially frozen or slushy you'll make it through TSA. Anecdotally, I've done it without any problems.
posted by arnicae at 6:19 PM on December 18, 2011

In carry-on luggage in the US, "Frozen items are allowed as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 requirements." It's unclear to me whether, say, 8 ounces of frozen soup with just a little liquid at the bottom of the container would be treated as 8 ounces of liquid and banned from carry-on, or whether you could simply drain off the liquid and carry the remaining block of frozen soup as a solid exempt from the 3-1-1 requirements. Remember that TSA agents can and do use their discretion to interpret the agency's rules at the security checkpoints. (They can be maddeningly inconsistent—is a light, close-fitting cardigan "outerwear"? Depends who's staffing the checkpoint.)

If you decide pack frozen soup in your checked luggage, I would suggest double-bagging it in zip-top plastic bags. I've seen a lot of sturdy, well-sealed containers leak in luggage due to the changes in pressure, and I wouldn't trust a single plastic bag to do the containment. Two should be adequate, though!
posted by Orinda at 6:28 PM on December 18, 2011

This is also known as the Britney Spears rule, hastily crafted and grudgingly allowed by the TSA.

Anectodotal evidence indicates that the front-line TSA inspector may initially balk at allowing frozen items, but standing your ground, quoting TSA policy, and escalating to a supervisor will usually get you through.
posted by Dimpy at 6:42 PM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can't comment on the policies, but on the leak side I'd suggest using a container with a silicone-seal-ring top, like Lock and Lock or Snapware Glasslock (if you can stand the weight - they're super-tough, you don't need to worry about breaking it unless you intend to slam it against some walls), and then put *that* in a gallon or larger zip-top bag.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:48 PM on December 18, 2011

I have kept frozen NM green chile in my checked luggage several times, wrapped in several layers of ziploc bags and clothing for insulation. I have never had any issues, and in fact the green chiles are almost always still frozen at the end of the trip (I think because at 30,000 feet it is cold enough to keep it frozen in the checked luggage). So if you do this, I think you won't have any issues with your frozen soup.
posted by nasayre at 6:55 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, you guys are good!

I'm thinking checked luggage is the way to's not produce, knuckle-dusters, or anything else that's illegal, right?? And since I'm not Britney, I would hate for a TSA agent to use his or her discretion and make me throw it out right there if I attempted (and failed!) to bring it as carry-on.

Then the only issue is leaking. I definitely like the idea of the lock container IN a ziplock (or two). That is definitely doable. Thanks again. You guys are like speedy detectives! It's amazing.
posted by bquarters at 6:58 PM on December 18, 2011

If you do decide to carry on, print out a copy of the relevant TSA's rules from their website and have them with you. If you get hassled, just show them the printout.
posted by elizeh at 7:18 PM on December 18, 2011

I've flown many times with up to two bottles of wine in my checked luggage. Never a problem.

I get the 5gallon ziplock bags an double bag them. Never had one burst but the last thing I need is a bottle of cote du rhone on my clothes.
posted by sbutler at 7:29 PM on December 18, 2011

I have carried frozen food in checked luggage many, many times. My recommendation is to check the luggage, you won't have any problems.
posted by Argyle at 7:38 PM on December 18, 2011

I would definitely check it rather than bring it carry on. In addition to getting you around the liquid rule (which may or may not apply), it will stay frozen better that way -- making it less likely to leak even if the layers of container were to fail.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:26 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I bought an insulated bag to carry frozen breast milk on planes and they are amazing. I bought mine at random on amazon and it is perfect for grocery shopping and more general travel needs, well worth the $25. So I would recommend you get one of those to keep your soup frozen, since mine worked very well on a similar situation and has been very useful since.
posted by bq at 8:50 PM on December 18, 2011

In CHECKED luggage, it's unquestionably fine -- there's no liquid rule.
posted by kestrel251 at 5:46 AM on December 19, 2011

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