This blog post was updated on June 12, 2020.
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, there can also be the most seasoned of fliers grumbling 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, 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
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.
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 flights arriving to the U.S. from international airports.
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 e-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!