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Liquids and Carry-On Luggage

Updated on April 1, 2016
Your bottled drink is not allowed through security but you can buy one on the other side of the checkpoint for about $5!
Your bottled drink is not allowed through security but you can buy one on the other side of the checkpoint for about $5! | Source

TSA and Liquids

First, let's talk about what is considered a liquid by the TSA when it comes to your carry on and cruising through security in a problem-free manner.

There are four main categories of items that might be considered a liquid by TSA:

  • food
  • toys
  • make-up and bathroom items
  • other (snow globes, breast milk, medication)

This is an example of what is NOT allowed.
This is an example of what is NOT allowed. | Source

What Food Does TSA Consider A Liquid?

Packing Food In Your Carry On - These items are a list from the TSA website that could cause an issue for you:

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
  • Gift baskets with food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings)
  • Gravy
  • Jams
  • Jellies
  • Maple syrup
  • Oils and vinegars
  • Salad dressing
  • Salsa
  • Sauces
  • Soups
  • Wine, liquor and beer

If you wish these items to return from your trip, you will need to ship or place in check-in baggage any items that exceed the limit of 3.4 ounces. Remember, ALL 3.4 ounce containers must fit in ONE quart-sized bag... That's a quart sized bag, not a gallon-sized bag. Many travelers make the mistake of packaging their liquids in the wrong-sized bag.

Jello, pudding and yogurt is just not allowed. Neither is any gel-based food. Baby food is separate category (see below for more information).

Your pet sea-monkeys are not allowed on the plane!
Your pet sea-monkeys are not allowed on the plane! | Source

What Toys or Make Up Does TSA Consider Liquids?

Some Toys To Consider When Packing Your Carry On:

Some toys have liquids in them:

  • magnetic fish bowls
  • oil and water drippers
  • spiral liquid timer toys
  • glitter lamp keychains
  • liquid paperweights

Some Types of Make Up and Bath Products Are Considered Liquids:

  • hair spray
  • hair gel
  • hair detanlger
  • lip gloss
  • liquid foundation
  • perfume
  • mascara

Not all TSA agents are created equally.  Prepare for the worst (and some are God-awful) but hope for the best!  Some are actually nice folks who happen to have a horrible job.
Not all TSA agents are created equally. Prepare for the worst (and some are God-awful) but hope for the best! Some are actually nice folks who happen to have a horrible job. | Source

What Other Items Does TSA Consider Liquids?

Bath Items In Carry On Luggage:

  • shampoo/conditioner
  • liquid soap
  • liquid aftershave
  • perfume/cologne
  • aftershave gel
  • toothpaste
  • mouth wash
  • gel-based creams, topical lotions, etc.

Snow Globes In Carry On Luggage:

While many people pack food as a gift item, some bring snow globes... Before you pack your carry-on with that snow globe to give to your loved one when you return from your travels, think again.

According to TSA...

"Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis ball size) will be permitted if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit in the same one clear, plastic, quart-sized, re-sealable bag..."

We have in these guidelines the word "appear" and TSA agents are notorious for their "interpretation" of guidelines not exactly conforming to normal common-sense definitions. So, it's up to you if you want to take this chance before boarding your flight.

Breast Milk In Carry On Luggage:

  • bottled breast milk, baby formula, baby food and juice with a 3 oz. limit in reasonable quantities (TSA will inspect these separately for clearance and "reasonable" remains undefined by TSA.)
  • baby teethers with liquid inside might not be allowed (depends on your TSA agent's mood, I guess!)

*** Flyer Warning: TSA is notorious for causing serious delay if you want your breast milk brought aboard and not scanned but inspected manually. It can create a delay of hours, according to passengers who have missed flights waiting for breast milk to be inspected manually. However, the more people that bring breast milk aboard, the more TSA becomes better at handling it. A screaming baby waiting on the other side of security might also increase the chances of TSA screening the breast milk faster (one hopes).

Bringing Breast Milk Through Security - A Nightmare For This Woman

How Does TSA Treat Medication In Carry Ons?

Medication In Carry On Luggage:

These items are allowed but must be inspected by TSA during the security screening process and presented as follows:

  • blood sugar treatment with an 8 oz. limit of liquid or gel (Medication must be properly marked with standard identifying information that is issued when distributed by doctor or pharmacy.)
  • diabetes related medicine/equipment (This includes insulin, insulin-loaded despensers, jet injectors, pens, infusers, preloaded syringes, an unlimited number of unused syringes when accompanied by insulin, insulin pumps and pump supplies. Any form of insulin and/or dispenser must be properly marked with standard identifying information that is issued when distributed by doctor or pharmacy.)
  • Nitroglycerine spray for medical use (Medication must be properly marked with standard identifying information that is issued when distributed by doctor or pharmacy.)

What Is Not Allowed In Carry Ons

I am only referring to liquids and gels (which are considered a type of liquid) on this "not allowed" list because there is an even longer list of things not allowed to be brought aboard a plane in your carry on luggage that are not liquids.

Not allowed by TSA:

  • gel shoe inserts
  • gel type candles
  • flammable liquid, gel or aerosol paint
  • depending on who you get that day, snow globes
  • any flammable items in liquid/gel form
  • self defense items (pepper sprays, mace sprays, etc.)
  • as mentioned in the food section, gel-like foods (jello, pudding, yogurt, etc.)

Some TSA Approved Travel Containers

Clear Cosmetic Bag Black Trim Airplane
Clear Cosmetic Bag Black Trim Airplane

This is a good choice for the traveler with minimal liquid needs.

 

Rules For Liquids In Carry On Luggage

These airline guidelines for carry ons from the TSA are commonly referred to as "3-1-1." Doing this ahead of time will really allow you to go through security in a faster manner.

You are allowed to bring your liquids on carry on luggage in this manner:

3 - 3 oz bottle or squeeze tube (or smaller)
1 - 1 quart size see through Ziplock bag (for all the bottles/squeeze tubes to go in)
1 - 1 bag per passenger

**Flyer Warning: If you have very few liquids to travel with, do NOT package them in a sandwich bag. Though many TSA agents will allow it, some do not and will not let you through security on the grounds of not having a quart-sized bag! Just do yourself a favor... Buy the quart-sized bag and use it.

This is the general idea but I prefer refillable travel bottles for their durability.
This is the general idea but I prefer refillable travel bottles for their durability. | Source

Tips On How To Pack Liquids

Liquids are really affected by air pressure and can leak through their original packaging, particularly because many bottles meant for at home do not have industrial caps that will eliminate liquid leakage mid-flight. So, repackage your liquids. Besides, you don't need a bulk supply of hair gel for your vacation needs. Just take one of the small containers sold for travel purposes (made of stronger, better plastic and reusable materials) and fill it with your liquid needs. Some people prefer refillable squeeze tubes instead of refillable travel bottles. These refillable squeeze tubes are generally sold online.

When you fill the container, be sure your container can only hold 3 oz. or less. ALL your small 3 oz. containers (tubes or bottles) MUST fit in ONE quart-sized bag per passenger.

If you see yourself traveling often by air, you might consider an ALOKSAK bag instead of a freezer bag. Get the name? It's a "lock-sack." It proves more airtight then some freezer bags. This bag doubles in that it provides you a place to put your containers but it also serves as as a place to make "instant" food that you mix with water or toss a salad you just chopped up on your hotel counter. The product description even states it can be blown up with air to use as a travel pillow or filled with ice as an ice pack. How convenient! Just be sure to purchase their quart-sized bag (their bags come in many sizes).

While traveling with liquids can be a challenge, hopefully this information will assist your preparation in doing so. Good luck!

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