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 United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has established a set of rules for airline passengers at security checkpoints in airports about what they can and cannot bring with them as they fly.

New security check-in policies are periodically updated, including the items allowed and prohibited aboard aircraft. This general summary of information is not intended to substitute for FAA, TSA, or PHMSA regulations.

For updates and for more information, visit the Transportation Security Administration, call the Consumer Response Center toll-free at 1-866-289-9673 or email TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.

General Rules

The TSA has rules for eight categories of items you can bring with you as you fly, whether in the passenger cabin with you as carry-on luggage or in the cargo hold as checked bags. This list includes the rules that apply in every situation, as well as banned specific items as of February 4, 2018.

The number of carry-on items you can bring is established by the individual airline: most say you can bring one carry on, and one personal item. Pack your carry on in neat layers and place your liquids bag on the top.

Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) are not allowed on planes at all. Prohibited items include cooking fuels, explosives, and according to FAA regulations, some high-alcohol content beverages.

The 3-1-1 Rule

Liquids, gels, creams, pastes, and aerosols are only allowed as carry-on items according to the 3-1-1 Rule.

No container may be larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml). The travel containers must all fit in a single one-quart-sized bag and kept in your carry-on, to facilitate the screening process.

Exceptions to the 3-1-1 rule include medically-necessary liquids, medicines, and creams: you can bring larger quantities, and you don't need to put your medications in a plastic bag.

However, any liquid, aerosol, gel, cream or paste that sets off alarms during screening will require additional screening.

Flammables

Flammables are anything that can be easily set on fire. As you might imagine, many of those are banned completely from airplanes, but there are exceptions.

  • Acceptable Flammable Carry-Ons: cigarettes and cigars and safety matches, disposable and Zippo lighters, phone chargers, power banks, dry batteries, solid (but not gel) candles.
  • Checked Luggage Only: rainbow flame crystals, gel candles, and self-defense sprays.
  • Completely Banned: Any flammable liquid fuel, such as cooking fuel, butane, chlorine for pools, bang snaps, blasting caps, and firecrackers.

Rules for lithium batteries have significantly changed recently. Batteries with 100-watt hours or less may be carried in a device in either carry-on or checked bags. Loose lithium batteries are prohibited in checked bags.

Lithium batteries with more than 100-watt-hours may be allowed in carry-on bags with airline approval, but are limited to two spare batteries per passenger. Loose lithium batteries are prohibited in checked bags.

Firearms

In general, the TSA does not allow firearms or indeed anything that looks like or could be used as a weapon to be carried on.

Firearms including ammunition, BB guns, compressed air guns, firearms, flare guns, and gun parts, may be carried in checked baggage if you meet the guidelines for transporting firearms. Essentially, the firearms must be unloaded and placed in a locked hard-sided container, which must completely secure the firearm. When you check your bag, be sure to tell the airline agent that you are checking firearms.

  • Acceptable Fire Arm Carry-ons: Holsters, rifle scopes, empty shell casings
  • Checked Luggage Only: Ammunition, BB and compressed air guns, firearms, flare guns, gun parts, pellet guns, realistic replicas, rifles, shell casings, starter pistols
  • Completely Banned: flares, gun lighters, gunpowder.

Food

Liquid foods must meet the liquid standards to be carried on board, but in most cases, they can be brought in checked baggage.

Meat, seafood, vegetable and other non-liquid food items are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags. If the food is packed with ice or ice packs in a cooler or another container, ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when brought through screening. You can pack frozen perishables in your carry-on or checked bags in dry ice. The FAA limits you to five pounds of dry ice that is properly packaged (the package is vented) and marked.

Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements.

Water, formula, breast milk and baby food for babies are allowed in reasonable quantities in carry-on bags; see the special instructions for travel with children.

  • Acceptable Food Carry-ons: solid foods such as bread, candy, cereal, coffee beans; fresh fruit, meat, and vegetables; eggs, frozen foods if solid-frozen, baby formulas, and food
  • Checked Luggage Only: Liquids and creamy foods like honey, gravy, peanut butter, and creamy dips if they don't meet the 3-1-1 rules
  • Completely Banned: alcoholic beverages over 70% alcohol (140 proof).

Household and Tools

Household items, in general, may be brought aboard unless they have blades or could otherwise be used as a weapon (axes and blenders, cattle prods, crowbars, cooking spray, cast iron skillets). Most of those may be placed in checked baggage.

Items such as butane curling irons may be carried on board but not in the cargo hold. Power tools and regular tools larger than 7 inches are prohibited from carry-on. Liquid items (detergents and deodorants, hand sanitizers) must follow the liquid 3.1.1 rules.

Most laptops and cell phones can be brought on board or in checked luggage. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is permanently banned from airline travel.

  • Acceptable Household Carry-ons (examples): cell phones, blenders, corded curling irons, coffee makers, detergents, computers, fidget spinners, game consoles, laptops, light bulbs, paintings, remote control cars, radios, sewing machines, staplers, tattoo guns,
  • Checked Luggage Only: axes and hatchets, drills and drill bits, hammers, heating pads, mallets, Magic 8 ball, nail guns, power tools and tools larger than 7 inches
  • Banned from Checked Luggage: butane curling irons
  • Completely Banned: alcoholic beverages over 70% alcohol (140 proof), cooking spray, engine powered equipment with residual fuel, Samsung Galaxy Note 7, spillable batteries, spray starch, turpentine and paint thinner

Medical

The TSA allows exceptions to the 3-1-1 rule for medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols. You can bring in reasonable quantities for your trip, but you must declare them to TSA officers at the checkpoint for inspection. It is recommended, but not required, that your medications be labeled to facilitate the security process: check with state laws about appropriate labeling. Used syringes are allowed when transported in a Sharps disposal unit or another similarly hard-surfaced container.

Personal medical oxygen cylinders are permitted if the regulator valve has not been tampered with or removed. Allowed carryons that require additional screening: nebulizers, CPAPs, BiPAPs, APAPs, unused syringes. If you have bone growth stimulator, spinal stimulator, neurostimulator, port, feeding tube, insulin pump, ostomy bag, or other medical device attached to your body, you may require additional screening. Consult with the manufacturer of the device to determine whether it can safely pass through the X-ray, metal detector or advanced imaging technology for screening.

See the TSA's Disabilities and Medical Conditions for more information.

  • Acceptable Medical Carry-ons: blood sugar test, canes, casts, contact lens solutions, contacts, crutches, EpiPens, external medical devices (with special, eye drops, inhalers, insulin, insulin pumps and supplies, life vests, liquid vitamins, liquid medications, pills, nitroglycerine pills, pill cutter, prosthetics, supplements, support braces, thermometer, unused syringes, vitamins, walkers, and wheelchairs.
  • Completely banned: Medical marijuana is prohibited in carry-on or checked baggage.

Sharp Objects

In general, you are prohibited from traveling with sharp objects in your carry-on bags; but all can be packed in your checked bags. Sharp objects in checked luggage should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors.

  • Acceptable Sharp Carry-ons: cigar cutters, crochet hooks, disposable razor, knitting needles, nail clippers, pencil sharpeners, safety pin, scissors if less than 4 inches from the pivot point), sewing needles, tweezers.
  • Checked Baggage Only: corkscrews, box cutters, ice picks and axes, knives, leatherman tools, meat cleavers, pocket knives, razor=type blades, sabers, safety razor with blades, saws, swiss army knives, swords, throwing stars.

Sporting & Camping

Sports and camping equipment are generally acceptable as carry-ons, with the exceptions of things that are classed as hazardous materials (such as some aerosol insecticides), things that could be used as weapons, liquids that don't follow the 3.1.1 rule and objects that are too large for the specific airline's guidelines.

Camp stoves are allowed in carry-on or checked bags only if they are empty of all fuel and cleaned so that no fuel vapors or residue remain. Please wrap cords and layer items in bags so officers can get a clear view of the items. You may bring a life vest with up to two CO2 cartridges inside, plus two spare cartridges in your carry-on or checked bag.

Sharp fishing tackle that may be considered dangerous, such as large fish hooks, should be sheathed, securely wrapped, and packed in your checked bags. Like other high-value objects, you may wish to pack expensive reels or fragile tackle that does not pose a security threat (small flies) in your carry-on bags.

  • Acceptable Sporting Carry-ons: baseballs, basketballs, footballs, bocce balls, bowling balls, bicycle chains and pumps, boxing gloves, empty coolers, divot tools, fishing rods and poles, football helmets, golf balls, golf tees, hand warmers, helmets, longboards, navigation GPS, nerf guns, rocks, sand, skates, sleeping bag, small fishing lures, snowboards, snowshoes, sports cleats, tennis rackets, trophy, vacuum sealed bags.
  • Checked Baggage Only: baseball bats, bowling pins, bows and arrows, canoe/kayak paddles, cast iron cookware, crampons, cricket bats, golf clubs, hiking poles, hockey sticks, kubatons, lacrosse sticks, martial arts weapons, nunchucks, pool cues, shoe and snow spikes, ski poles, snow cleats, spear guns, tent spikes, walking sticks
  • Completely Banned: bear bangers, small compressed cartridges
  • Check with airline: antlers, skateboards, tents, umbrellas, fishing rods, bicycles

Miscellaneous

Several items categorized by the TSA as miscellaneous items require special instructions to be brought on board or checked in luggage.

  • Car engine parts and other car parts without fuel or traces of fuel are allowed in carry-on or checked bags. Car engine parts may be placed in checked bags only if the parts are packed in their original box and free of gasoline and oil.
  • Cremated remains may be carried on board, but some airlines do not allow cremated remains in checked bags, so please check with your airline to learn more about possible restrictions. To facilitate screening, we suggest that you purchase a temporary or permanent crematory container made of a lighter weight material, such as wood or plastic. If the container is made of a material that generates an opaque image, TSA officers will not be able to clearly determine what is inside the container and the container will not be allowed. Out of respect for the deceased, TSA officers will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.
  • Musical instruments must undergo screening whether transported as carry-on or in checked bags. Inform the TSA officer if your instrument requires special care and handling. Pack brass instruments in your checked bags.
  • Realistic toy guns are not allowed in carry-ons, but since the technology doesn't currently exist to create a real lightsaber, you can pack a toy lightsaber in your carry-on or checked bag.
  • Parachutes should always be packed separately from other baggage. If a TSA officer determines that a bag must be opened to inspect the parachute, you must be present to assist in the inspection. If you are not within the screening area, you will be paged using the airport intercom system; if you are not present to assist with screening the parachute, the parachute will not be allowed on the plane. For this reason, passengers with parachutes are encouraged to add 30 minutes to the airlines' recommended arrival window. TSA is not responsible for repacking parachutes. All parachutes should be thoroughly inspected at their end destination to make sure that the equipment is still safe to use.
  • Small pets are allowed through the checkpoint. Please check with your airline for their policy. Please remove your pet from the carrying case and place the case through the X-ray machine. You should maintain control of your pet with a leash and remember to remove the leash when carrying your pet through the metal detector. Animal carriers will undergo a visual and/or physical inspection.

Acceptable Miscellaneous Carry-ons

  • For Babies And Children: carriers, seats, wipes, stuffed animals, snow globes, harry potter wand, glow sticks
  • For Adults: makeup and haircare (bobby pins, chapsticks, cologne, concealer, conditioner, dry shammpoo, hair clippers, hair dryer, hair gel, hair straightener (flat iron), hair texturizer, hairspray, jewlery, laser hair remover, nail polish, nail polish remover, powder makeup,shampoo, lipsticks, makeup remover, makeup wipes, mascara, mirrors, soap (bar), soap (liquid), solid makeup, perfume, tobacco, tobacco pipes, toothpaste, flowers, electronic toothbrushes, sunscreen sprays, wet wipes, foundation
  • Clothing: belts, clothes and shoes, shoe horn, shoe tree, blankets, body armor, handcuffs, steel-toed boots, electric blankets,
  • Electronics And Hobbies: television, digital cameras, books, electronic cigarettes and vaping devices, binoculars, camera monopod, pens, putty balls, planting seeds, plants, headphones, Geiger counters, power charger, power inverters, tattoo inks, adult toys, artificial skeleton bones, shock collars, Xboxes, bread machine, car parts

Banned Miscellaneous Items

  • Banned From Checked Luggage: electronic cigarettes and vaping devices, live coral, live fish, power charger,
  • Banned Completely: Replicas of explosives, such as hand grenades, fertilizer
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Your Citation
TSA. "Airport Security Carry-On Regulations." ThoughtCo, Feb. 23, 2018, thoughtco.com/airport-security-carry-on-regulations-973274. TSA. (2018, February 23). Airport Security Carry-On Regulations. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/airport-security-carry-on-regulations-973274 TSA. "Airport Security Carry-On Regulations." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/airport-security-carry-on-regulations-973274 (accessed April 27, 2018).