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TSA Carry-on Airline Restrictions

Updated on December 20, 2015
Hurry up and wait!
Hurry up and wait!

TSA has a myriad of requirements to prevent nefarious material from being carried on by a terrorist. The focus is on gels, liquids, aerosols for carry-on bags. The confusion is how TSA tries to instruct you and it can leave you still asking questions.

So, what can you carry on?

Each passenger can bring on gels, liquids, aerosols, if the items are in a clear, ziplock, ONE quart sized plastic bag. This means one such bag per person. All items cannot be over 3.4 oz or 100mL per item. You can try to fit as many items into the bag within reason. The bag of items must be placed on top so when inspected, the TSA person can easily see contents. Excess items of this size or larger than cannot fit into the single quart size bag must be in your luggage to be checked in. There are no restrictions for these same types of items in size or amounts if packed in your luggage (what the logic is, I am not sure. Aren't these items in larger quantities not dangerous in luggage and stowed? The recent downing of the Russian air carrier in Egypt was caused by a small bomb in the luggage stow area). A 4 oz. container that is half-full will not be allowed through! Non-prescription OTC things like pills up to 4 oz. may be carried on. In most cases, make-up should be packed in your checked in luggage.


Most people carry on food and snacks. TSA does not like any liquid or gel types foods of any type. Most solid foods of any kind are acceptable in any size or quantity, as long as they are in the original package and not opened. These include candy or health food bars, bag of pretzels, fruit, cheese, cookies, pastries, wrapped sandwiches, nuts. The key word for food is that it must be solid and wrapped or in its package\container. You can bring your empty water bottle and fill up after passing through. What you cannot bring are foods that are dips, liquid, semi-liquid, jelly, syrup, beer, wine etc., through screening.


Another obscure item are batteries. Loose lithium batteries are not permitted in checked bags. If your batteries are installed in a device (such as a camera), you may pack the device in either a checked bag or a carry-on, but loose spare lithium batteries may only be transported in your carry-on luggage. Certain quantity limits apply to both loose and installed batteries. The general rule is that if you lithium battery is in the device, you can either carry it on or pack it in luggage. If the battery is not in the device, such as, backup spare batteries for phones or devices, it is wiser to carry them on. However, stand alone batteries are must still be not more than 160 watt hours. You can arrive at the number of watt-hours your battery provides if you know how many milliamp hours and volts your battery provides:
mAh/1000 x V = Wh

Most lithium ion batteries sold to consumers are below 100 watt-hours. If you are unsure of the watt-hour rating of your lithium ion battery, use the above formula. If the battery is larger that 160 watt-hours, TSA has to decide. Most laptop batteries are less than 160 watt-hours. So, before you fly, have a full charge!

What is iPhone Airplane Mode?

I have always wondered why I should use Airplane Mode. Basically, it is all about peace of mind and becoming disconnected during the flight.

Once Airplane Mode is activated, your iPhone turns off both the Wi-Fi and cellular connections. This means you will no longer be able to make or receive calls, texts, or e-mails, or browse the Internet. One way to help avoid the extra roaming fees is to activate airplane mode on your iPhone and only use Wi-Fi hot spots while you travel. Turning on Airplane mode will save your battery!


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