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Kosher Traveling

Kosher Traveling

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I love food. I mean, I really love food. And as embarrassing as it is to admit, I spend a lot of time thinking about when I am going to eat, what I am going to eat and where I am going to eat. Some people need sleep. I don't. But boy, do I need to be fed. And as anyone who knows me will tell you, if I am hungry, stay away - far, far away.

When my husband and I were offered an incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity to spend a week's vacation on a remote beach island, I was thrilled. Mind you, this was a week without kids, in a beautiful home with exquisite scenery. But there was one problem. And for me, it wasn't small. Without a kosher restaurant or possibility of kosher food anywhere nearby, what were we going to eat?

Most people would grab a few cans of tuna and call it a dayI know, most people would grab a few cans of tuna and call it a day. But that just doesn't work for me. If I am going to vacation, and truly enjoy myself, I want to be able to eat. And well. So I figured I would need to find a way to be in this paradise and be satiated.

Fortunately, I did. And I would like to share my tips and learned lessons for great kosher traveling with you!

Now, my tips are based on our situation which included access to a fridge, freezer and a small grill. I realize that without such things it becomes more complicated, but if you do not have a freezer in your room, most often the hotel will allow you to use theirs. And many hotels will allow you to grill on a balcony, and small grills are inexpensive and easy to find.

Now while we did have the luxury of a grill, we also had a fourteen hour flight from start to finish and had to check in the food with our luggage under the plane. We had a five hour layover, and we traveled in June when it was hot (i.e.: with a layover, luggage is on the tarmac, not under the plane. Under the plane it is always very cold so there is no issue of potentially spoiled food). But as we happily discovered, with the right way of packing, our food made it intact.

So here are the tips:

  • Non-perishables. Always travel with some food that you can easily make on the plane or any stop along the way. This is in addition to whatever you plan on eating during your travels to your destination. You also want to make sure that you have enough food on you so that if your checked luggage gets lost or things spoil, you are not going to starve. We brought instant soups that only required hot water as well as boxes of flavored couscous which also cook with hot water. You can get hot water anywhere, and the best part is that if you ask for it in a large coffee cup, then simply make the soup or couscous in there and it is easy to move with. Both are filling (get instant soups with noodles) and guarantee a hot meal at any time or in any place.
  • Wraps are great for just about any sandwich
  • Another great and filling food to bring is flour tortilla wraps. They don't take up a lot of room, don't go bad, and are quite filling. Wraps are great for just about any sandwich.
  • Perishables. We were going for an entire week, ending with Shabbat. Meaning, we needed enough food for at least eight dinners for two people. So, we brought with us one soft picnic bag that was insulated and lined. I put freezer packs (make sure to put in plastic bags so they won't leak as they melt) and put them on the bottom and all sides of the bag. I then filled it with frozen meat including rib eye steaks, flank steaks, chicken breasts, cold cuts and hotdogs. Since everything was frozen, and then packed tightly together with another freezer pack on top, when we unpacked fifteen hours from the time we left, everything was still completely frozen.
  • While rib eye steaks are great, they take up a lot of room and are generally one per person. So they were reserved for Shabbat. The flank steaks are sliced thin and go a long way. One flank steak is more than enough for two people for dinner, with enough left over to have steak sandwiches the next day for lunch. The same is true for hotdogs. They pack small but are quite a few meals, don't need to remain frozen, won't spoil (I know, I know, filled with nitrates, but hey, our options were limited!) and can be cooked in boiling water if there is no other choice.
  • Condiments. We brought a small mayonnaise, ketchup, soy sauce, honey and olive oil. We made sure to get everything in small, plastic bottles. This was everything we would need for marinades and sandwiches.
  • Make sure to travel with lots and lots of plastic bags. If you have access to a microwave, anything double wrapped in plastic bags can be cooked.
  • Anywhere you travel, fresh fruits and vegetables are available. Fruits are all you need for breakfast. For lunch, you can eat salads and couscous which can be eaten hot or cold. Since you have plenty of plastic bags, use them to store couscous and mix salads within the bags. With cold cuts you can also have great sandwiches on wraps… and if you do bring that tuna, classic tuna sandwiches also work!
  • Dinner. Here is where the meat comes in. Grill the meat as well as fresh veggies that you buy. With things such as flank steak and chicken breast, they can be eaten hot or cold and used for sandwiches as well.
  • You will also need to bring wine or grape juice with youIf you will be away for Shabbat, make sure to travel with tea lights for Shabbat lighting (and find out the lighting time from the Chabad.org calendar before you leave). You will also need to bring wine or grape juice with you. This will have to go through your checked luggage. Do not travel with glass. Rather, pour the wine or juice into plastic water bottles, close tightly, then double wrap in plastic and put in the suitcase. You will also need challah. Buy small rolls that are easier to travel with and make sure to keep them refrigerated so that they don't mold. You will need a minimum of three.
  • Also make sure to pack in your luggage a sharp knife for cutting, a peeler and two sets of flatware. Chances are that you can buy disposables, but they may not be strong enough to cut well. Again, these will have to go in checked luggage.
  • While we chose not to do it, another option is also to travel with precooked food in aluminum pans. If these are double-wrapped in foil they can be reheated in any oven. Most hotels will allow you to reheat your food in their ovens.
  • Additionally, there are numerous kosher travel foods that are available, some with self-heating elements (if you use these on a plane, make sure that the crew is aware as smoke rises from these!) or double-wrapped meals that can be reheated in any microwave. While they are a great backup, we found that it was definitely more enjoyable to eat fresh food.

So, I hope the above is helpful. Feel free to add your own tips in the comment section below. Have a great trip and Bon Appetit!

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Samantha Leon Dumfries August 10, 2015

If you're driving more than a day or two you'll find that most rest stops and gas stations sell kosher snacks. Reply

Anonymous July 24, 2015

Self Heating Meals Self Heating Meals may never be used onboard an aircraft (Crew Member here) as they can actually reactivate after use. You can imagine if one of these ends up in our garbage cans and has this happen. The fire danger this would pose. Please do not use these onboard. Reply

Sara Esther Crispe September 4, 2014

Re Frozen Meat I packed it separately in a carry-on only with meat. All meat was double wrapped in ziploc freezer bags and since they were frozen solid and all packed tightly together they remained frozen a very long time. That would also work for check-through and remain even colder as luggage is stored under the plane. Just make sure to properly wrap everything and you do risk your luggage being lost in which case your food would spoil... Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn August 17, 2014

Frozen meat When you packed the frozen meat, did you bring it on hand luggage or pack in your checked luggage? If in your checked luggage, how did you pack it in your suitcase that it shouldn't leak at all? Reply

Irma toronto, canada October 23, 2011

good comments thank you very much Reply

Lisa Miami, FL July 1, 2011

Just in Time for summer vacation! Thank you so much for these practical and very do-able tips for eating kosher on vacation. I think you have changed the way I travel for good! Reply

orli Bolingbrook, IL USA June 27, 2011

Good ideas although heating food in plastic bags that are never meant to be heated will leach chemicals into the food. Reply

Golda Watertown, NY February 23, 2009

Kosher Traveling My husband is a "Kosher Consultant" and sometimes I travel with him. The notorious "hotpot" purchase for about $10 is our main travel tool. I found that an electric fry pan/electric wok is invaluable! Anything can be cooked/or warmed in either. Vacuum sealing meat and veggies/pasta can be very handy. Buying a few eggs or asking the hotel kitchen for a few raw eggs (instead of their free breakfast) also works. Don't forget the raw pressed fruit and nut bars..not just granola bars. Precut raw vegetables last at least a few days and when the lose their "charm" make a soup with them. Of course when it comes to international travel, remember an extra electrical converter for these appliances.Have a great time while being creative. Reply

s. kasowitz s. Paul, Mn February 18, 2009

boxed grape juice containers available, as well. ziploc bags, work very well. you gave helpful tips. Reply

Anonymous August 9, 2007

More ideas Here are couple of things that worked for me -
1. Contact the local Chabad house if there is a Chabad and see what they can tell you about local products, local kosher symbols and supervision (some shluchim are also kosher supervisors), markets, etc. Also, there's a good chance they're less than 6 degrees of separation away so you may have friends in common.
2. Bring a travel size liquid dish soap (washing up liquid for you Brits) in a plastic container.
3. The companies that did kosher meals for the airlines may still be around and could sell you double wrapped meals.
4. If there's a local market, check it out. You may be surprised by what you find with a kosher symbol.
5. If you put things in the hotel freezer, put your room number on the bag/box and insist on going along to see where your items are put. In a large hotel with 6 walk-in freezers, kitchen staff from the next shift may have no idea what your items look like or where they were put.
6. Ask for a refrigerator in your room even if one is "included". Some built in ones are designed for soda cans and small bottles and you may even automatically be charged for it if you remove one. Reply

David Schaps B''nei B''rak, Israel August 9, 2007

Gets you out of the bubble The fresh fruits and vegetables that Mrs. Crispe mentioned have another advantage: they get you to a place (the market) where the locals are being themselves instead of catering to tourists. You don't have to know the language -- it's enough to point to the food and have the seller point to (or write down) the price. And of course, after a few trips you start to learn some of the language, which you wouldn't at your hotel. However -- not every place has fresh fruits and vegetables. In Japan they are exorbitantly expensive: a gift-wrapped melon, my wife was told while starving there, is considered an appropriate wedding present. Reply

Sarah Zeldman August 9, 2007

Another Suggestion I have found a sandwich maker to be very helpful on trips -- I make eggs in them! As long as you can get to a supermarket or convience store, you can have eggs! And of course, you can use them to prepare no-leak sandwiches to take with you for lunch. I have also brought along muffin mix and made muffins in it too! (Just mix everything in a ziploc bag if you dont have a big bowl :)



Reply

Sarah M via baischabad.com August 8, 2007

Hello China traveler, I travel for business too. Kosher food is not five hours away, but two hours is also insurmountable, given the time pressure I am under. I have used a water kettle a few times, and it is a pleasure to have really hot food (tea!!). But traveling in Europe means bringing a full kit of transformers - every place is different. Depending on packing space I sometimes use hot water from the sinks, it works. Matzah keeps on longer trips, for shorter ones we bring lawash bread, it is flexible so it doesn't break. I also make use of my old camping supplies/containers. I don't usually have access to a freezer or fridge, but I can buy any produce in the markets. Which brings me to one of the side benefits of travelling this way, We see the food markets, and really get a feel for a city/country/region, and part of how the people there live. It is a real advantage, I wouldn't give it up for anything! Reply

Anonymous August 8, 2007

business people have no time for steaks Your travel trips are high class rib eye steaks, flank steaks etc. My mouth waters as I am reading this in my hotel on business in China with the closest kosher retaurant 5 hours away. While on business in urban areas, there is no place to grill. So, ready made "schnitzel" if packed frozen and placed in frezeer upon arival can last for 2 weeks. But always bring a salami as back up. Mayonaise always leaks, cling wrap it well. For Shabbos bring a thermos or better 2 small ones One will stay closed and retain heat for the day. Matzos are light and serve for the two necessary pieces needed. If you pack it well they wont break. Powdered potatoes are very light weight. If you are a regular traveller, find a 2 cup water kettel. Small electric cookers are very handy but they weigh a lot. But then you can cook lots of locally bought stuff. Some countries don't have paper goods or other things people are used to at home. So if its important, never say, "we can always find one when we get there" You may not. Reply

Judith Cowen West Hartford, CT August 6, 2007

Kosher Travelling Thank you for an informative way to kosher travelling. Other ways to travel as adults who enjoy kosher eating, but not necessarily meat, include taking home cooked frozen food such as manicotti which can be warmed on a one-plate burner in small aluminum pans. We have also brought, fresh salmon, which is frozen for travelling and then thawed when ready to cook and did it in the room with soy sauce, fresh garlic and ginger. By taking bigger alum pans, you can use them as containers to make a variety of salads and can pack things inside of them for easy travelling. Reply

Bayla Toronto, Canada August 6, 2007

AWESOME AND AMAZING I just love the effort you put into this. Eating healthy and the right food is so important to me as well.
Reply

sarah michlin w. bloomfield, mi/usa via baischabad.com August 6, 2007

I travel for business, keep kosher and am mostly vegetarian (I eat fish). Light plastic dishes (and soap to wash them) are lighter and take less space than "enough" paper. Breakfast before work, and veg/fruit for lunch keeps me going in the day. Dinner is larger. Along with the soups & couscous, take packs of oatmeal or cream of wheat. I am flexible as to what I eat at which time of day. Nuts are good to travel with, they are filling, once eaten stay with you a long time, and don't jab you from inside the backpack. Make sure no one near you is allergic. I never thought of a grill, the hotels I stay in aren't resorts. (They think I am odd, never going out to eat on the expense budget!.) Cheese can be packed as described for meat. It makes a salad a meal. I bring dressing, and buy the salad onsite. Cheese depends on where I am. Above all, make sure nothing leaks, I wrap item in absorbant paper (napkins) then plastic, to contain leaks. Security checks everytime, privacy is nil. Reply

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