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The TSA’s Current Rules for Carry-Ons and How They Affect You

Abstrack blur people check in at airport,
Written by Suzy Guese

This blog post was updated on September 28, 2022.

If you haven’t flown in a few years, or even just a few months, you might be shocked to see some changes when you go through security with your carry-on bags. There is always that person in line who hasn’t flown since the ’90s and doesn’t know they need to remove their shoes or dispose of their liquids.

At the same time, even the most seasoned of fliers might grumble when the TSA agent asks them to remove all their food items. Trust us, you don’t want to be one of those travelers who have to throw out a bunch of items, or hold up the line. In case you need a refresher course before your next vacation, we’re outlining the most common items in carry-on bags and what the TSA rules are behind each and every one of them.

Liquids, Gels, Aerosols, Creams, and Pastes

Passenger Puts Liquids Into Bag At Airport Security Check

The liquid rules for carry-on baggage haven’t changed much since they were first implemented. However, passengers still forget the ins and outs and end up having to throw away items that don’t meet TSA guidelines. Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes must be placed in a clear plastic 1-quart bag. You can have one of these bags per person. All of the items within these bags must be in 3.4-ounce containers or less.

You’ll also have to remove this clear plastic bag from your carry-on luggage and place it in a separate bin to be screened. While the liquid rules are pretty straightforward, there are some exceptions to the amount you can bring when it comes to formula, breakfast milk, and juice for toddlers and infants, along with certain medications. Even if you are bringing these items, always let an agent know you have them, and as it would be in most cases, more than 3.4 ounces of them.

Related: How to Pack Light No Matter the Occasion


If you can’t live without your protein powders when you travel, you might want to listen up. The TSA has made new changes to the rules regarding powders in carry-on luggage. If you want to bring baby powder or even just make-up powders, you might want to be careful with how much you bring. You can bring up to 12 ounces of powder, but if you have more than this amount, you’ll face additional screening. You’ll probably need to remove the powders from your bag, as you’ll need to with liquids.

So, that means if you were planning on bringing lots of new make-up or spices back home with you, you’ll have to be mindful of how much you’re taking in your carry-on. It may be better to put most of your make-up in your checked-in luggage. If the TSA can’t determine what the powder is, you’ll be expected to toss it or put the powder in your checked luggage. These rules on powder also apply to international flights arriving in the United States.


Man Puts Digital Tablet Into Tray For Airport Security Check

Most travelers know they have to remove their laptops when going through security. However, in recent years, the TSA has also implemented a slight change to electronics. You might have flown a few years ago when you only needed to remove your laptop, not your ebook reader or tablet. Now, the TSA requires you to remove any electronic device larger than a cellphone. You’ll have to place these electronics in separate bins to be screened. This rule doesn’t apply to items like hairdryers and electric shavers.


While most common food items are allowed in your carry-on bag, how they’re screened can vary. The TSA doesn’t have a concrete policy that foods must be removed from bags and placed in separate bins to be screened, but more and more travelers are seeing this happen at airports. You might be asked to separate your food items as they can sometimes obstruct the X-ray images.

If you want to avoid a delay or having your bag additionally screened, you can remove your food items just in case you get a TSA agent who imposes this practice. In terms of what food you can bring, check the TSA’s online database and search for the food item you want to bring to be sure it isn’t prohibited. Items like peanut butter might face the 3.4-ounce limit, so it’s always best to check before you pack it in your carry-on bag.

What other TSA rules were you surprised to find out when you went through security? Share your experience with us in the comments below!

About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at