Will Chocolate Melt in Checked Luggage?
Transporting chocolate can be a challenge when flying, whether it’s bringing home a souvenir, or selecting it as a gift for someone. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit another region of the world, you may have considered bringing chocolate home with you to share with others or to savor yourself. Certainly bringing a bar or two in your carryon requires little thought, but what if your haul is a bit more generous? Is it safe to pack chocolate in a suitcase?
Generally you have two choices: carrying the chocolate with you, or storing and “checking” your baggage. Depending on the weather at the time of your travel, you might be concerned about your chocolate melting during the trip. Luggage that is checked will be stored in the belly of the aircraft, which is generally kept at a “safe” temperature of less than 65’ F. Chocolate prefers cool temperature, preferably room temperature or less and should be comfortable in the cargo section of the plane. In general, your chocolate will be safe in either scenario.
As with most situations, there are caveats, or exceptions to the rules. For instance, do all planes maintain the same temperatures? How does local weather or flying altitude affect the chocolate? What measures can be employed to safeguard your chocolate? What is the difference between storing your chocolate in an overhead bin vs. checking it as cargo? What happens if my luggage is lost or delayed? Read on to consider these questions.
Since chocolate is an important part of my life, I am on the constant lookout for trends, new flavor profiles, and local offerings in various parts of the country and the world. Chocolate is a universal language and so it makes sense that we would want to share it or stash some away for ourselves. My experience shows that there is little risk in storing chocolate in a suitcase if you follow a few guidelines.
Most of us generally fly on jets whose cargo is climate controlled. The temperatures generally range from 45-65’, a safe zone for chocolate. These temps are well above freezing and well below the chocolate’s melting point. There is some variance as the area where pets are kept, is generally warmer than where the luggage is stored. Altitude does influence the temperature in the cargo area, but not enough to be a determinate.
How can I Protect my Chocolate from Melting or Freezing?
While your main concern might be about your chocolate melting, you can be reasonably assured that it won’t freeze either. Regardless, it’s not a bad idea to store your confections in a hot/cold bag sold in many grocery stores. If you have the resources, a small cooler will also work. Additionally, you can invest in light-weight cold packs sold on the internet, specifically made for shipping. They claim to keep foods cool for up to three days.
What if My Luggage is Delayed or Lost?
The extra step of storing your chocolate in a heat/cold resistant bag will serve you well if your luggage is delayed. Generally, you can expect your late luggage to arrive and be stored in the “lost luggage” office near the baggage claim. At room temperature your chocolate will be safe. If your luggage is delivered to your destination and sits on your doorstep for several hours in the heat, then you might have a problem. Luckily, lost or delayed luggage is just an occasional occurrence and shouldn’t be a significant factor in your planning.
What if I am Traveling From a Hot Climate?
Your chocolate will most likely be threatened by sitting on the tarmac. Your bag might be balanced on the top of a convoy of bags waiting to be transferred on to the plane or into the airport. If you are leaving from a particularly hot climate, you might have need for concern. If this is the case, and you have the room, the carry-on luggage option might be a better choice. The cabin is at a comfortable temperature for both you and your chocolate. You can assure that your suitcase doesn’t get jostled and you maintain complete control over your items though you lose space for other important carry-on items. Plus, you run the risk of eating your gifts as they are just feet away!
There is a reason why many candy/chocolate companies do not ship during certain months, or require an extra fee to cold-pack your items. Chocolate does not like extreme temperature, particularly the heat. If you are traveling via airplane, chances are in your favor that your chocolate will arrive at its destination unscathed. If you want a guarantee, consider sacrificing room in your carry-on case. While ice packs are not necessary, a hot/cold bag from the grocery store will provide you with a little more insurance. Happy chocolate discovery!
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore