Traveling Internationally with Freeze Dried Food

traveling with freeze dried food

Travel enriches our lives in innumerable ways! But travel can also be daunting, especially if you head to a country that differs culturally or speaks a different language. Be a travel warrior, not worrier - and the best way to have a great time is by traveling prepared.

We’ve previously covered how you can easily bring freeze-dried meals on (USA domestic) air travel; let’s dive into traveling internationally with ready to eat meals!

Why Travel With Freeze Dried Meals

I will break this section into two different components - why to travel with freeze dried food from an airport/logistics side and then why to travel with freeze dried food with respect to being in a foreign country!

Airport Pains, Transportation Logistics, and General Travel!

Raise your hand if you’ve ever stood in the baggage drop off section holding your breath as you heave your (clearly) overweight luggage onto the scale. Been there, done that, have had to toss a few replaceable items and eventually sucked it up and paid the fine. When you're maximizing the amount you can bring against space and weight restrictions, opting for light food items are key!

Freeze dried meals are super lightweight (adios water weight!) Our lightest meal is 85g (or 105g with packaging.) 105g is equivalent to only .23 lbs or a quarter pound! So 4 of those meals weigh in at just under 1lb! Perfect for airlines that charge fees based on weight. My personal preference is to pack my freeze dried meals in my carry on luggage so I always have them on hand (without breaking my back carrying a week’s worth of food.)

airport breakfast options
I'll admit that I’m a bit snooty when it comes to airport food. I really do not enjoy pizza except for a handful of locations in San Francisco, and I’m not a fast food eater. I also don’t enjoy premade sandwiches as I’m very particular about bread - a sandwich should be made with toasted bread. Period. I know.. I know.. like I said, I’m particular. I struggle on long flights as I’ll choose to skip eating than eat food that will upset my stomach. My family lives over 3,000 miles from me, and I spend many long days in airports because of this! Fortunately for me, obtaining hot water inside the airport or on the plane itself is so simple which means I can enjoy a healthy freeze dried meal even on the most brutal red eye flights. I especially enjoy the Citrus Chia Morning Bowl on long travel days; this morning bowl has a generous serving of pineapple which is important as pineapple contains bromelain which has many anti-inflammatory properties and also aids in digestion. Air travel is hard on our bodies, and I like to give my internals a boost on travel days by eating this for breakfast.

Finally, transportation logistics can quickly become a nightmare when you’re hangry. I once had an 8 hour layover in Dubai from 11pm to 7am. Dinner options were nonexistent at that hour, and I spent a long overnight stretch listening to my stomach complain. Two years ago, my boyfriend and I spent 10 days traveling through the French countryside by train. If you ever have the chance to travel through Southern France, 110% do it! The summer we traveled had many transportation strikes, causing train delays and cancellations. Towards the end of our trip, we spent an entire afternoon sitting on the floor of a station waiting for trains to begin moving again And let me tell you from personal experience, when you’re quenching your hunger with coffee with no end in sight, tempers will flare!! I would have done almost anything for lunch. Now, I make sure I have my favorite freeze dried lunch stashed away for emergency situations like this!

traveling in southern france

Pretending to not be as hangry as I was while drinking endless coffee!

Ready to eat meals in a foreign country

One reason I love international travel is the food. I LOVE eating and experiencing how different cultures prepare similar, but different traditional dishes.

Many of my friends travel to developing countries as these places are often more wallet friendly; in America the majority of us are blessed with clean drinking water. Sadly, this isn’t the case for parts of the world, particularly developing countries. Tap water is not safe to drink due to microorganisms that will make you sick; travellers diarrhea, giardia, hepatitis A, typhoid and cholera are among the illnesses that can be transmitted with bad water. 

traveling to india with freeze dried food

In 2015 I visited India for a wedding; because I didn’t have many days on the ground, I avoided eating anything that wasn’t fried or cooked to be as safe as possible and avoid any chance of ‘Delhi Belly’. By the end of two weeks, my body was so starved for fresh vegetables and fruits! This trip partially inspired our Zesty Zoodles dish. Bring on the tomatoes, zucchini, fennel, and green sauce!!

You’re traveling to countries that are completely safe from a food safety and water contaminant perspective? Awesome! But have you considered any dietary restrictions. A vegan lifestyle is relatively easy in progressive San Francisco, but try eating vegan in Eastern Europe's countryside! It’s a little more difficult to find meals that meet this criteria; or if they do exist, simply communicating that you want no cheese, meat, etc might be a stumbling block. Traveling with vegan freeze dried meals can help relieve anxiety on the nights where you can only find brats and kraut.

Beyond just lifestyle dietary restrictions, traveling can be very difficult if you live with serious food allergies or intolerances. Compound that with stress from not being able to fluently read or speak the language, and you might spend meal time worrying. Many of our meals are made with ingredients that do not contain gluten, our most popular being the Unstuffed Pepper. Also, as of the time of writing the only nut we use within our meals is coconut.

And lastly, budget! The Nordic countries top my list on my favorites places to travel for both tourism and for backpacking and backcountry adventures! I prefer to bring my freeze dried meals for backpacking trips or road trips with me as it can be difficult to find places that sell shelf-stable meals abroad. Additionally, while Iceland is my spirit country, the crazy food prices break my heart, and if you’re trying to stay within a certain budget, supplementing freeze dried meals with fresh meals every few days will add up and let you save a few bucks!

traveling to iceland with freeze dried food

Do Produce Restrictions Apply?

This is a tricky question and not one that should be generalized lightly. While you should check each countries specific regulations before traveling and always declare your food honestly, I have yet to have an issue bringing freeze dried food into a foreign country because freeze dried food is processed. This is important because the food is no longer in its agricultural form.

The USA’s own Customs & Border Protection states that “As a general rule - if goods are cooked and in shelf-stable (does not require refrigeration) packaging such as cans or other hermetically sealed containers AND they are not from a country affected with various diseases such as Avian influenza, Mad Cow disease, Swine Fever, Exotic Newcastle Disease, etc., they may be admissible.” While this concerns bringing food INTO the USA, it’s a good general rule for understanding the ‘why’ behind the restrictions on bringing food into countries. In general, countries restrict food items, particularly raw meat, raw eggs, and raw produce because it could introduce diseases. Most diseases are killed by cooking food to a temperature of 165F or higher, which is why shelf-stable cooked foods are generally excluded from these restrictions.

The USDA states “The scientific principle of preserving food by drying is that by removing moisture, enzymes cannot efficiently contact or react with the food. Whether these enzymes are bacterial, fungal, or naturally occurring autolytic enzymes from the raw food, preventing this enzymatic action preserves the food from biological action.”

Also, it's worth pointing out to leave packaged meals packaged. Do not repackage your dried meals into ziplock or other unmarked bags. Most countries specifically state on their customs FAQ pages that processed/cooked food must be in its original commercial packaging as border control agents want to see an official ingredient list as well as country of origin!

Happy Travels!

Next time you’re travelling domestically or internationally, make sure to bring a selection of freeze dried meals with you!

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