Airport Security Carry-On Regulations

What You Can and Cannot Put In Your Carry-On Luggage

X-ray image of briefcase containing hand gun
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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) focuses its resources to improve the passenger experience at security checkpoints by applying new risk-based screening procedures and enhancing its use of technology. For passengers, this means that new security check-in policies may be periodically updated, including the items allowed and prohibited aboard aircrafts. The following information was updated on August 26, 2013.

Lighters and Matches

You can now bring one book of matches or one fueled lighter onboard in carry-on luggage. Most lighters are banned from checked luggage, although some are allowed under the terms of Special Permits.

Torch-type lighters and lighter refills cannot be carried onboard an aircraft, or packed in checked baggage, under DOT regulations.

Matches that must be struck on a prepared surface, such as boxes or match booklets, are permitted in carry-on baggage, but not in checked baggage.

Strike-anywhere matches, which can be ignited against non-prepared surfaces, are prohibited from all baggage and may not be carried onboard an aircraft.

Personal Care Items, Liquids, Aerosols and Gels

TSA has determined that liquids, aerosols and gels, in limited quantities, are safe to bring aboard an aircraft. As of August 13, 2013, carry-on baggage is limited to one bag per traveler. To expedite security check-in, travelers are advised to consolidate products into one bag, which would allow security officers to X-ray them separately from the carry-on bag.

The TSA 3-1-1 application for bringing personal care products on board flights should be followed.

TSA 3-1-1

  • 3.4-ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume).
  • Items should be placed in one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag.
  • One bag per passenger to be placed in the screening bin.

The one-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring.

The 3.4-ounce (100ml) container size is a security measure.

The 3-1-1 is for short trips. If you want to travel with your full-size aerosol containers of personal care products, you can do so by packing them in your checked baggage.

NOTE: Some personal care items containing aerosol are regulated as hazardous materials. The regulated items are summarized at Transportation Security Administration.

Baby Food, Baby Formula and Breast Milk

Baby formula, food and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding the 3.4-ounce rule and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.

Medication and Special Needs Devices

Medications must be properly labeled with a professionally printed label identifying the medication and manufacturer's name or pharmaceutical label. The prescription medicine must match the name on the passenger's ticket.

Medically required liquids are allowed in excess of 3.4 ounces in reasonable quantities for the flight. It is not necessary to place medically required liquids in a zip-top bag, however, you must tell the Transportation Security Officer that you have medically necessary liquids at the beginning of the screening checkpoint process.

Medically required liquids will be subjected to additional screening.

All disability-related equipment, aids, and devices continue to be allowed through security checkpoints once cleared through screening.

For more information on what to expect during security screening, you may want to visit the section written for Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions.

Electronic Devices

If you plan on carrying small electronic devices on board, carefully pack your electronics items, making sure all cords are wrapped and any DVDs, CDs, or cassettes are removed from their devices. While you can pack expensive, fragile electronics items in checked or carry-on bags, the TSA recommends packing them in your carry-on.

Laptop computers, full-size video game consoles, CPAP machines, full-size DVD players, and video cameras that use video cassettes must be removed from their carrying cases and submitted separately for X-ray screening.

Small and portable electronic items (iPods, iPads, cell phones, etc.) do not need to be removed from their carrying cases.

For items you wish to carry-on, you should check with the airline to ensure that the item will fit in the overhead bin or underneath the seat of the airplane.

Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.

In December 2012, TSA announced that it has encouraged manufacturers to design bags that will produce a clear and unobstructed image of a laptop when undergoing X-ray screening. A design that meets this objective will enable TSA to allow laptops to remain in bags for screening. To view the bags and for more information, visit "Checkpoint Friendly" Laptop Bags.

Sharp Objects

Any sharp objects in checked baggage should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors. Most sharp objects are listed as being prohibited in carry-on bags.

The sharp objects that are permitted in carry-on luggage are limited to:

  • Scissors: Metal with pointed tips and blades shorter than four inches. br>
  • Ostomy scissors: With pointed tips with an overall length of four inches or less are permitted when they are accompanied by an ostomate supply kit containing related supplies, such as collection pouches, wafers, positioning plates, tubing, or adhesives.


    Tools, such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers, seven inches or less in length, are allowed in carry-on luggage. Items should be sheathed or wrapped to prevent injury to TSA screeners.

    Food and Drinks

    Not sure about what you can and can't bring through the checkpoint? Here's a list of items that you should put in your checked bag, ship ahead, or leave at home if they are above the permitted 3.4 ounces.

    All food must go through the X-ray machine. Spilled food can damage the security equipment and other passenger's belongings, therefore it is not allowed at the security checkpoint if it is unwrapped.

    • Cranberry sauce
    • Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
    • Gravy
    • Jams
    • Jellies
    • Maple syrup
    • Oils and vinegars
    • Salad dressing
    • Salsa
    • Sauces
    • Soups
    • Wine, liquor and beer
    • Gift baskets with food items.

    You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but they are subject to additional screening.

    Items purchased after the security checkpoint have been pre-screened and can be taken on the plane.

    Wrapped Gifts

    While wrapped gifts are not prohibited, if a bag alarms security officers may have to unwrap a gift to take a closer look. The TSA recommends passengers wrap gifts after their flight or ship them ahead of time, to avoid the possibility of having to open them during the screening process.

    More Special Items and Carry-On Policies

    Alcoholic Beverages

    Alcohol beverages less than three ounces can be carried onto a plane. Alcoholic beverages purchased after clearing the security checkpoint are permitted aboard aircraft.

    • Batteries and Devices

      Keep batteries and equipment with you, or in carry-on baggage - not in your checked baggage. In the cabin, the flight crew can better monitor conditions, and have access to the batteries or device if a fire does occur.

    • Currency, Coins, Precious Metals, or Valuable Jewelry

      If you are carrying valuable items such as large amounts of currency, coins or jewelry, it is recommended that you ask security officers to screen you and your carry-on luggage in private. This will maintain your security and avoid public scrutiny.

    • Firearms and Ammunition

      All firearms, ammunition and firearm parts, including firearm frames and receivers, are prohibited in carry-on baggage. If you plan to travel with a gun or ammunition, read the Traveling With Firearms and Ammunition information on the TSA website before you travel.

    • Hunting and Fishing Equipment

      Most outdoor gear, guns and camping items are permittedĀ but must be prepared and packed in checked baggage. The exception to this is fishing rods, which are permitted as carry-on or checked baggage.

    • Knitting Needles and Needlepoint

      Knitting needles are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage, with the exception of circular thread cutters or any cutter with a blade contained inside, which cannot go through the checkpoint and must go in your checked baggage.

    • Musical Instruments

      You may carry one musical instrument in addition to one carry-on and one personal item through the screening checkpoint. This is a TSA Screening Policy. Airlines may or may not allow the additional carry-on item on their aircraft. Check with your airline before you arrive at the airport.

    • Paintball Equipment

      You cannot bring markers, also known as paintball guns in your carry-on luggage. Pack them in your checked baggage.

    • Parachutes

      You may bring skydiving rigs with and without Automatic Activation Devices (AAD) as carry-on or checked luggage. Since inspection of the equipment may be required, it is recommended that skydivers add at least 30 minutes to the airline's recommended arrival window when they are traveling with their parachutes.

    • Scuba Equipment

      Select scuba gear is permitted in carry-on or checked baggage, including regulators, buoyancy compensators, masks, snorkels, and fins. Passengers who choose to bring regulators and buoyancy compensators through the screening checkpoint are encouraged to submit these items separately from other accessible property to expedite the screening process.

    • Service Dogs and Monkey Helpers

      If you have a service animal, you are encouraged to inform the security officer that the animal accompanying you is a service animal and not a pet. This will provide you with an opportunity to move to the front of the screening line since more time may be needed to check you in.

      It is recommended that persons using an animal for assistance carry appropriate identification. Identification may include cards or documentation, presence of a harness or markings on the harness, or other credible assurance of the passenger using the animal for their disability.

      At no time during the screening process will you be required to be separated from your service animal.

      For other policies regarding service animals, visit the TSA Service Animal webpage.

    • Sporting Equipment

      Select items, such as baseballs, soccer balls and basketballs, and tennis rackets are permitted in carry-on bags.

      Any item that could potentially be used as a weapon is not, including bats, golf clubs, pool cues, ski poles, hockey sticks and spear guns.

    Prohibited Items

    For more details on items prohibited in the security areas or on planes, see the list below:

    • Personal Items
    • Medication and Special Needs Devices
    • Electronic Devices
    • Sharp Objects
    • Sporting Goods
    • Guns, Firearms and Ammunition
    • Tools
    • Martial Arts/Self Defense Items
    • Flammable Items
    • Disabling Chemicals and Other Dangerous Items

    The above information is not intended to substitute for FAA, TSA, or PHMSA regulations. For updates and for more information, visit the Transportation Security Administration, call Consumer Response Center toll-free at 1-866-289-9673 or email