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From Smells to Stipulations, Everything You Need to Know About Bringing Food When You Fly

Written by Suzy Guese

Food is often an integral part of travel. When you want to take home a slice of your destination or perhaps you want to arrive at a family event with a home-baked item, you can quickly meet a mess at the airport with getting those food items on a plane. Bringing food on an airplane involves key packing and preparation tips to ensure you can, in fact, take those fancy French jams from Provence with you or that pie you spent hours baking for your family reunion in Florida. We’re breaking down the ins and outs of bringing food on a plane so that you don’t have a breakdown at the airport over seized sushi.

When in Doubt, Check Itchecked_luggage

The easiest way to get food to where you’re going is to check it. You won’t have to worry if it will be deemed a solid or a liquid at the TSA security checkpoint as you would with carry-on luggage. From honey to hot sauce, if you aren’t sure, it’s always best to check it to ensure it will get to where you are going. By checking any food items in your checked luggage, you also won’t have to worry about amount limitations if it is a liquid.

If You Do Check It: Pack with Smells, Spills and Spoiling in Mindcarry_on-food

Checking your food items can be the easiest way to get food on a plane. However, it can also be the messiest as the bag is out of your sight being thrown, tossed, crushed and sitting on tarmacs for hours on end. To put your mind at ease, you need to pack with smells, spills and spoiling in mind. For smells, be sure your items are packed in containers or plastic sealed bags to ensure smells don’t seep out on to your clothing.

For spills, you should pack food in spill-proof containers like Tupperware. Once your food item is secured in a spill and smell proof container, you should surround the item on all sides with several layers of clothing. You never want to place food items on the edges, top or bottom of luggage as it can easily break during travel.

If you’re worried about spoiling, the best solution is to pack your food that needs to stay cool in a cooler that you check. If you’re worried about delays melting your ice packed cooler, you should freeze the food items ahead of time too. You can also pack items that need to be frozen with dry ice but you’ll be limited to just five pounds of dry ice in a properly vented and marked package according to FAA regulations.

Play By the Rules If You Have to Carry On Food


If you don’t want to check your food or checking those items isn’t an option, you need to play by the rules. Food that is going in your carry-on will face more scrutiny by the TSA, especially if it is a bit fuzzy as to whether it is a liquid or a solid. As a general rule of thumb, you can’t bring liquids or gels in your carry on over 3.4 ounces, unless of course its baby formula, breast milk or baby food. Items that are deemed a liquid or gel might surprise you like peanut butter or hummus.

If you bring an item on ice, the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when you go through security. If the ice has melted and there is liquid in the container, you won’t be allowed to bring it. Before you fly, you can check the lengthy list of food items on the TSA website. The list details what you can and can’t take along with any special precautions you might need to take for each item. Also, to ensure no problems at security, be sure to separate your food items into their own bin.

Don’t Forget About Neighbors and Noses.


You’ve made it through security with that cheese you had to bring back from Wisconsin, only to stink up the entire plane throughout your journey. Some people are extra sensitive to smells on planes. If you pack a stinky sandwich, you’ll probably receive a few side eyes. If you think your food might stink up the plane, try to pack it as you would in your checked luggage, in Tupperware or several plastic freezer bags to lessen the stench.

If You’re Unsure, Ask Beforehand

If you are still unsure about traveling with Grandma’s casserole or those ribs from Memphis, ask. The TSA has AskTSA social media accounts where you can send a photo of your food item or ask a question through Facebook or Twitter during business hours. In addition to getting the thumbs up from the TSA, you should also check with your airline if you plan on carrying on an unusual food item like for example a live lobster.

Have you flown with a special food item? 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