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Bringing fresh cream cheeses on plane from NY to California - how to keep from spoilage

I travel often between New York and California and I often bring back bagels from New York for myself and friends. I would also like to bring back some flavored cream cheeses, but don't know how to keep them fresh for the hours in the airport and on the plane.
Checked luggage seems best, because I have more space and less TSA restrictions.
From what I have heard gel packs or ice is not allowed.
To those who bring back perishables on a plane. What are you methods to prevent spoilage.

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  1. I am puzzled by your question. Surely they have flavored cream cheese in California? To me, the question is how to keep the bagels fresh. NY bagels - the really great ones - are that great because they don't have dough softeners to keep them soft. After a few hours, they start to get hard and crunchy and then the only way to eat them is to toast them. The joy of a NY bagel is getting one just or shortly out of the oven. I dream of a marriage between Krispy Kreme donuts and a good bagel shop in my town - they bake throughout the day and turn on the neon sign when the bagels are coming out of the oven. Unfortunately, we don't have the foot traffic - even downtown - to make that viable.

    So I'd be worried about the bagels, not the cream cheese. But if you are really worried about the cream cheese, have the store ship it FedEx on gel packs. I order fish from Russ & Daughters and that's how they send it. But honestly...for flavored cream cheese - not worth the expense. And again - is it possible that California does not have flavored cream cheese?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Just Visiting

      hey even day-old NYC bagels are usually better than fresh ones in CA...

      the why of the cheese question does sort of stump me too. anyway, the cargo hold at 30,000 feet is already pretty darn cold without the need for ice or gel packs

    2. You've heard no gel packs in "checked luggage" or carry-on? I think you can check gel-packs.

      If not, take a thermos, ice it down, then put your cream cheese in it. It will hold chill for some time.

      If you're checking it, it doesn't much matter. Buy some water bottles. Freeze em with water in em, then pack them in a plastic bag (just in case something goes awry) and sandwich the cream cheese.

      Like Just Visiting said, the bagels to me would be the larger concern...

      4 Replies
      1. re: Emme

        you can't bring water bottles through security.

          1. re: Stephanie Wong

            Especially any food item with a smooth viscosity that resembles Tovex. Bad idea, even in checked baggage.

          2. re: smartie

            Packing cream cheese in *checked* luggage has no bearing on going through security... I wasn't suggesting bringing the water through security, but checking:

            "If you're checking it, it doesn't much matter. Buy some water bottles. Freeze em with water in em, then pack them in a plastic bag (just in case something goes awry) and sandwich the cream cheese."

        1. you can bring gel packs on the plane (carry-on) so long as each one is less than 3 oz. a few months ago i brought a few sections of those tear-away gel pack blankets you can get at Target. Once you get on the plane, you can ask the flight attendant for some ice to supplement if needed.

          seems like it would be easier to make your own flavored cream cheeses though.

          1. Is this some kind of special cream cheese that is not available in California? I wouldn't risk it for an item that surely can be found elsewhere.

            1. I totally DO understand why you might want to pack along the cream cheese -- it's fun to get picked up by a friend at airport, or taxi to their house, and unpack a mini-spread without having to find a local market, or take over their kitchen to mix up stuff. Feels like a festive hostess gift. :)

              In checked bags, I've packed frozen gel packs, frozen water bottles, even ice cubes to keep treats cool, never an issue. I have a cheap little squarish semi-insulated ordinary dollar-store lunch bag that I use; I line it with a couple of grocery store thin plastic sacks and a couple of layers of paper towels. Icy pack of choice is laid in place (ziplocked double to prevent leakage) and ziplocked cold stuff in the middle as possible. (All ziplocks are reusable! -- don't waste.)

              There's also an entire science and ritual to getting NY bagels to location in acceptable shape. :)

              1 Reply
              1. re: DuchessNukem

                Call/e-mail/text/skype friend. Hey - I am on the 3:45 flight from JFK. Have fresh NY bagels. Buy some flavored cream cheese, pick me up, and we'll stuff our faces!

              2. the cargo hold is cold enough that the cream cheese will not spoil. that stuff would be ok, even at room temp, for several days. don't overthink this.

                2 Replies
                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I agree once in the hold it's cold enough but there could be waits for luggage sitting on the tarmac either direction plus checking in and travel time to and from the airport. I'd want to use icepacks. I've brought smoked salmon back from England in my checked bags ziplocked and with gel packs and it's been perfect - total trip time about 14 hours.

                  1. re: smartie

                    smoking fish was a preservation method invented before refrigeration, lol.

                2. I totally understand the desire to want to bring both the Bagels AND the cream cheese.....Sometimes it's about the superior flavor, .....nostalgia.....or the " I brought it special from NY" bragging rights factor..
                  Either way. pack the cream cheese in your checked bag. double bagged in large freezer ziplocks, encased in frozen gel packs for best results upon arrival.
                  I would not risk it as carry-on even if you did conjure up a way to keep it cool. One assumes you will take more than 3 oz....and the chances of having a diligent TSA worker assigning the cream cheese a "gel-like" moniker would be too chancey for me.

                  1. I agree that gelpacks in the checked luggage shouldn't be an issue, and also that cream cheese in the carryon might be a bad idea--I know you're not supposed to bring yogurt, because it's a "gel," and cream cheese might be an issue for TSA as well.

                    This is, however, a rare chance to share one of the few clever tips I've ever managed to invent for myself. Frozen vegetables are a good sub for gelpacks in the carry-on luggage. On our return home from Hawaii we bought sandwiches for the plane. To keep them cold in our little insulated bag we threw in a couple of bags of frozen peas. No problem at security, and when we got home (more than 12 hours later) the peas were still partially frozen.