We all have the same thought when we pack for a trip: what am I allowed to bring on a plane? Sometimes, you can answer this internal question yourself in a matter of seconds. After all, air travel is a ubiquitous part of our lives, so you should remember. But every situation is different and the TSA restrictions are extremely rigid. You don’t want to have to throw out an expensive bottle of wine or be the subject of an investigation for trying to bring a banned item on board, so it’s important to know exactly what you can bring along with you. Different airlines do have differing rules on a number of items, but in general if it’s allowed by the TSA, it should be ok with the airline.
What’s Allowed By the TSA in Your Carry-on?
We’re all aware of the 3-1-1 rule (if you aren’t check out our primer on it), which allows containers with liquid no greater than 3.4 ounces in size to be put in a one quart-sized zip top bag. You may need a little more than toothpaste and shaving cream, but those items could be restricted or banned from being brought on board in your carry-on. Basically, if anything you want to bring on board is non-toiletry, you might want to be prepared to have to leave it behind.
Even for basic toiletry items we still might not be sure. Can I bring a razor in my carry-on? Is there a limit to how much food I can bring on a plane? Am I allowed to bring my medication on board?
Yes, disposable razors are allowed in carry-on luggage. Straight razors or safety razors (where the razor blade can be removed) are not allowed in carry-ons and must be checked. , not so much. Those, along with other sharp objects – such as a box cutter or switchblade – are only allowed in checked luggage.
Liquid makeup is allowed in carry-ons but must still adhere the 3.4 ounce rule, and it all must fit into one clear quart-size bag. Powdered makeup in all its forms is acceptable as well.
Tweezers are permitted in carry-on luggage.
Whether for a long flight or for your kids, food is sometimes an absolute must. You are permitted to bring food on the plane. These foods must be wrapped or in a container when going through security, and they will need to be X-rayed. Food containers may also be counted as your personal item by your airline, so be warned. Obviously, you can’t bring liquids (more than 3.4 ounces) through security, so any liquid food or beverage may not be carried on: alcohol, maple syrup, jams and jellies, salad dressing, creamy dips, yogurt, salsa, and soups to name a few. You can however bring on cake and fresh fruit for what it’s worth.
Airport security allows a lot of leeway when it comes to medication. In fact, the TSA recommends you keep medication in your carry-on in case you need access to it. If it’s liquid medication , you can bring more than 3.4 ounces (as long as it’s a reasonable amount – don’t try to bring 3 gallons of liquid tylenol onboard) and it does not need to be in a zip top bag. If it’s in pill or solid form you may bring an unlimited amount , it doesn’t need to be bottled, but different states have different laws regarding labeling.
Baby Food, Breast Milk, and Baby Formula
These items are also not subject to the 3.4 ounce liquid rule and do not need to be kept in a plastic zip top bag. You may bring as much as you need for your child. Be sure to let the TSA agent know that you are carrying baby food, breast milk or formula.
Most batteries for consumer electronics are allowed in cary-on luggage. Dry cell alkaline batteries, Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Nickel Cadmium (NiCad); typical AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, button sized, ect. (both single use and rechargeable varieties) are allowed. Consumer sized lithium ion batters (under 100 watt hours per battery) and up to two larger lithium ion batteries (such as extended life laptop batteries) may be carried on in their device. .
However, loose lithium batteries are not permitted in checked bags and MUST be carried on with you. Car batteries, wet batteries, or any other spillable batteries not allowed in either carry-on and checked baggage (unless they are being used to power a wheelchair).
Firearms are NOT allowed in carry-on luggage, EVER. If you are bringing a gun, see our guide to traveling with a firearm.
What Size Carry-on Bag Am I Allowed To Bring on A Plane? TSA and Airline Carry-on Specifications
Another good thing to know is in regards to your luggage itself. What size bag are you allowed to bring on a plane? How many bags can you bring? Typically, you are allowed one carry-on and one personal item – whether they are free or charged is completely up to the airline. There isn’t a set size and weight regulation by the TSA, allowable carry-on baggage size differs from airline to airline and even between economy, business and first class. For most domestic carriers in the U.S., the carry on bag max ranges from 45 linear inches to 51 linear inches and only Hawaiian airlines has a set weight limit (25 lbs).
Maximum dimensions for your carry-on bag by airline:
- United Airlines : 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels. (may not exceed 45 linear inches)
- American Airlines: 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches / 23 x 36 x 56 centimeters (including handles and wheels) (may not exceed 45 linear inches)
- Southwest Airlines: 10 inches x 16 inches x 24 inches (may not exceed 50 linear inches)
- Alaska Airlines: 24 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (61cm x 25cm x 43cm), including wheels and handles (may not exceed 51 linear inches)
- Delta Airlines: 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches (56 x 35 x 23 cm) (Carry-on bags may not exceed 45 linear inches in combined length x width x height)
- JetBlue: 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, including wheels/handles (may not exceed 50 linear inches)
- Hawaiian Airlines: 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (may not exceed 45 linear inches) Weight limit of 25 lbs per passenger (the only airline on the list with a weight limit for carry-ons)
- Spirit Airlines: 22 inches x 18 inches x10 inches (may not exceed 50 linear inches)
- Virgin America: 24 inches x 16 inches x 10 inches (may not exceed 50 linear inches)
- Allegiant Airlines: 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches (may not exceed 45 linear inches)
- Horizon Air: 24″ inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (61cm x 25cm x 43cm), including wheels and handles (may not exceed 51 linear inches)
- Frontier Airlines: 24 inches x 16 inches x 10 inches (may not exceed 50 linear inches)
- Sun Country: 24 inches x 16 inches x 11 inches (may not exceed 51 linear inches)
What’s Allowed in Your Checked Bag?
Obviously if you’re going to be gone for a while, you want your own full size bottles of shampoo and body wash. You probably know that these have to go in your checked bag, but what of products that aren’t related to personal care, such as the aforementioned bottle of scotch?
The TSA has very clearly defined rules when it comes to the transporting of alcohol on a flight. If the alcohol content is greater than 70 percent (140 proof) then it is not allowed on the plane at all. If it is between 24 percent and 70 percent, you are allowed to pack five liters worth of alcohol in your checked bag. Mini bottles are usually 1.7 ounces, and you are allowed to carry those on the plane so long as they are all in one quart-size zip top bag. The bottle must be unopened, and If it’s less than 24 percent, then it’s not subject to any hazardous materials restrictions. You are not allowed to drink alcohol that you bring on the plane, so if you want to get your drink on, you are going to have to push the call button for the flight attendant.
When it comes to firearms and ammunition, they are only allowed in checked baggage. The gun must be unloaded and locked in a hard container, and the ammunition to be securely locked as well. The only thing you’re allowed to carry on is the key to these containers, and a rifle scope should it be necessary.
What If You’re Traveling With a Pet?
If you’re someone who just can’t leave home without Fido or Fluffy, then it’s important to know that different airlines have different rules regarding traveling with pets. For example, Southwest requires that your pet be under a certain weight and be able to fit (and stay) in a carrier for the duration of the flight. This costs $95 each way, and they do not allow for pets to be “stowed.” There are numerous safety issues for you to consider when bringing your furry rugrats on a flight.
Other domestic airlines such as Delta, American and United all have the same rules. There is a weight limit for animals to be brought into the cabin, but they do allow larger dogs to fly in a crate in the cargo area, which costs $125 either way. Due to the press coverage of airline’s losing pets, they now offer the ability to track your pet throughout the duration of the trip. For stipulations on service animals and whether a veterinarian’s note is required, check your airline’s information page. Most will require at least 48 hours notice, or for you to mention it when booking your ticket if you wish to bring on a service animal.
Above all else, and you probably don’t need us to tell you as you likely already learned this from Russel Crowe, but do not try to bring your hoverboard on your flight. It well not end well.
TSA Prohibited Items 2016
There is a pretty substantial list of items that are never allowed through security or on a commercial aircraft. The TSA maintains a “prohibited item list”. Here are the items not allowed as checked bags or carry-ons:
- Aerosol Paint
- Blasting Caps
- Pool or Spa Chlorine
- Fire Extinguishers or other compressed gas containers
- Fireworks or Firecrackers
- Flammable Liquids or gels
- Flavored or other Recreational Oxygen
- Fuels – cooking ore any other liquid fuel
- Gas Torches
- Grenades (This should go without saying)
- Lighter Fluid
- Liquid Bleach
- Replica Explosives or Incendiaries (also real explosives or incendiaries)
- Spillable Batteries (wheelchair batteries excepted)
- Tear Gas
- Turpentine or Paint Thinner
- Vehicle Airbags
- Gun Lighters
- Gun Powder
Other Items Allowed as either Carry-on or Checked:
- Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigs) and Vaping Devices: Carry-on Only
- Lighters: Carry-on Only (Ok in checked bags if they are empty)
- Axes and Hatchets: Checked Only
- Drills and Drill Bits: Checked Only
- Saws (handsaws or power saws): Checked Only
- Tools under 7 inches in length (including wrenches, screwdrivers, and plies): Checked AND Carry-on OK
- Tools Over 7 inches in length (including wrenches, screwdrivers, and plies): Checked Only
- Baseball Bats: Checked Only
- Bow and Arrow: Checked Only
- Golf Clubs: Checked Only
- Hockey Sticks and Lacrosse Sticks: Checked Only
- Ice Skates and Roller Blades: Checked AND Carry-on OK
- Ski Poles: Checked Only
- Spear Guns: Checked Only
- Box Cutters: Checked Only
- Knives: Checked Only
- Scissors: Checked Only
- Any type of Sword or thrusting Weapon: Checked Only
- Brass Knuckles: Checked Only
- Mace, Pepper Spray or other Self Defense Spray: Checked Only
- Stun Gun or Taser: Checked Only
- Firearms and ammunition: Checked Only (for more detailed information on firearms, go to our firearm information page)
*The final authority on any item rests with the TSA Officer, so your mileage may vary.