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What Not To Pack In Your Carry-on Luggage per the TSA [Ultimate List]

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Christy Rodriguez
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Christy Rodriguez

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After having “non-rev” privileges with Southwest Airlines, Christy dove into the world of points and miles so she could continue traveling for free. Her other passion is personal finance, and is a cer...
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For travelers, it can often be confusing which items to pack in your carry-on luggage. For example, are you allowed to bring that jar of jam you just purchased on your travels? Not likely. Unfortunately, unless that jam is less than 3.4 ounces, you’ll have to put it in your checked luggage. What about your sports equipment to stay active on your vacation? It depends. Tennis rackets are allowed, but ski poles are a no-go.

There are also some items, like lighters and batteries, which are allowed in carry-on luggage OR checked luggage, but not both. Other items are not allowed on the plane at all, such as cooking spray and fireworks.

Confused by the carry-on luggage rules and regulations? Well, you’re not alone. To make it easier, we’ve made sense of the TSA’s extensive list and compiled a list of all the items you shouldn’t be packing in your carry-on luggage. 

Getting Through TSA Security Checkpoints

TSA has rules in place to make sure that your flight is safe and secure. For liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in your carry-on luggage, you’ll need to adhere to the 3-1-1 rule. This means that each item must be less than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) and all items must fit in a 1-quart-sized bag. You are also not allowed to bring on items that are otherwise deemed hazardous.

Liquids and Powders TSA Checkpoint
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Hot Tip: Want even more details? Check out how to easily get through TSA airport security for some other great tips. We also have tons of answers to your TSA airport security frequently asked questions.

What About Checked Luggage?

As we noted above, some items are allowed in your checked luggage, but not your carry-on, or not allowed in either your carry-on or checked luggage.

We’ll specifically call out those items in the list below, so you’ll know how to pack for your flight.

Carry-On Luggage Restrictions

Our list includes things that are strictly prohibited due to TSA rules and regulations, but keep in mind that there are other items that you’ll want to consider avoiding in order to be a good traveler. These include smellier items (think tuna fish sandwiches) and things that could cause an allergic reaction in other passengers, such as peanut butter or peanut-based products.

Also remember the 3-1-1 rule for liquids, creams, etc. — this means that many travel-sized versions of these items are perfectly acceptable to bring!

Lastly, if you are traveling with powders larger than 12 ounces (350 milliliters), the TSA encourages you to pack them in your checked luggage. This isn’t a requirement but could save you a bit of hassle going through security.

Hot Tip: Items purchased past security are not impacted by this list and can be brought on board in any quantity. However, if you have a layover and have to go through security again, you will be subjected to the list below.

All of the items below should not be included in your carry-on luggage, though additional clarifications as marked as follows:

*Less than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) allowed 

 ⁺Not allowed in carry-on nor checked luggage

^Special instructions/Check with the airline

Food and Drink

You’ll notice that certain things don’t appear on this list. That is because they are allowed. For example, breast milk, formula, and baby food are permitted on board and do not need to comply with the 3-1-1 restrictions.

In addition, items like frozen meat, seafood, ice cream, and other food are allowed, however, if the food is packed with ice or ice packs in a cooler or another container, the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when brought through screening.

All the remaining items should be placed in your checked luggage (unless you can comply with the 3-1-1 rules or the item is frozen solid).

  • Alcoholic beverages * (check with your airline regarding the allowable amount; must be in unopened retail packaging)
  • Alcoholic beverages over 140 proof ⁺
  • Bottled water *
  • Cheese (creamy) *
  • Chocolate (liquid) *
  • Coffee (liquid) *
  • Cooking spray ⁺
  • Cream *
  • Creamy dips and spreads *
  • Gravy *
  • Honey *
  • Hummus *
  • Jam and jelly *
  • Juices *
  • Maple syrup *
  • Oils and vinegars *
  • Peanut butter *
  • Pet food (wet) *
  • Salad dressing *
  • Salsa and sauces *
  • Soda *
  • Soups *

*Less than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) allowed  |  ⁺Not allowed in carry-on nor checked luggage 

Hot Tip: For more details check out our guide all about the TSA rules for traveling with food.

Toiletries

Most toiletries are liquid, gel, or cream and will therefore need to comply with the 3-1-1 requirements. Solid shampoo, perfumes, and soaps can be brought in any amount.

  • Cologne *
  • Concealer *
  • Conditioner *
  • Deodorant (aerosol/liquid) *
  • Detergent (liquid) *
  • Dry shampoo *
  • Eye liners (liquid) *
  • Foundation *
  • Hair gel *
  • Hair texturizer *
  • Hairspray *
  • Lotion *
  • Makeup remover *
  • Mascara *
  • Nail polish *
  • Nail polish remover *
  • Perfume *
  • Shampoo *
  • Shaving cream *
  • Soap (liquid) *
  • Sunscreen sprays *
  • Toothpaste *

*Less than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) allowed

Hot Tip: Hand sanitizer is allowed in greater quantities now — up to 12 ounces — due to COVID-19.

Sharp Objects

While this category seems self-explanatory, there are still a few common allowable exceptions. For example, tweezers, disposable razors, scissors (less than 4 inches from the pivot point), and knitting needles are allowed. Leave the rest of these items with your checked luggage (or at home).

Box Cutter Knife Not Allowed in Carry On
Image Credit: Pixabay

  • Box cutters
  • Cigar cutters ^
  • Corkscrews (with blade)
  • Darts
  • Ice axes/ice picks
  • Knives
  • Meat cleavers
  • Pocket knife
  • Razor-type blades
  • Sabers
  • Saws
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Swords
  • Throwing stars

^Special instructions (check with the airline)

Flammables

Under airline rules, passengers are allowed to take a lighter or a pack of safety matches with them onboard. Battery-powered e-cigarettes and vape pens are OK to bring on board.

Regarding batteries, they are actually only allowed in your carry-on luggage (not your checked luggage)! This includes the common dry-cell batteries (like AAA, AA, C, D, etc.) as well as lithium batteries. Power banks used to charge your electronic devices are also OK to bring in your carry-on luggage.

  • Bang snaps ⁺
  • Blasting caps ⁺
  • Butane ⁺
  • Chlorine for pools and spas ⁺
  • CO2 cartridge ⁺
  • Dynamite ⁺
  • English Christmas crackers ⁺
  • Fire extinguishers and other compressed gas cylinders ⁺
  • Firecracker ⁺
  • Fireworks ⁺
  • Flammable liquid, gel, or aerosol paint ⁺
  • Flammable paints ⁺
  • Fuels ⁺
  • Gas torches ⁺
  • Gasoline ⁺
  • Gel-type candles ^ (Note: solid wax candles are permitted)
  • Hand grenades ⁺
  • Lighter fluid ⁺
  • Liquid bleach ⁺
  • Lithium batteries ^
  • Party poppers ⁺
  • Pepper spray
  • Propane ⁺
  • Rainbow flame crystals
  • Realistic replicas of explosives ⁺
  • Realistic replicas of incendiaries ⁺
  • Recreational oxygen ⁺
  • Sparklers ⁺
  • Torch lighters ⁺

⁺Not allowed in carry-on nor checked luggage  |  ^Special instructions (check with the airline)

Household Items and Tools

Many household tools can also be used as weapons. Other items are considered flammable or hazardous. Many of these items will be allowed through only at the discretion of the TSA agent that you interact with. To be safe, include these items with your checked luggage.

  • Axes and hatchets
  • Bug repellent *
  • Cast iron cookware
  • Cattle prods
  • Crowbars
  • Drills and drill bits
  • Electric fans ^
  • Engine-powered equipment ⁺
  • Freezer packs ^ (Note: allowed if completely frozen)
  • Hammers
  • Heating pad (gel)
  • Magic 8 Balls
  • Microwave ^
  • Mixer ^
  • MREs ^
  • Multi-tools ^
  • Nail guns
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 ⁺
  • Screwdrivers longer than 7 inches
  • Spray starch ⁺
  • Spray paint ⁺
  • Tools
  • Turpentine and paint thinner ⁺
  • Wrenches and pliers ^

*Less than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) allowed  |  ⁺Not allowed in carry-on nor checked luggage  |  ^Special instructions (check with the airline)

Sporting and Camping

Not only is most sporting and camping equipment big and bulky (making it hard to carry on), some can also be used as a weapon. This means checking in these items is your only option.

  • Aerosol insecticide
  • Baseball bats
  • Bear bangers ⁺
  • Bear spray ⁺
  • Bicycles ^
  • Bowling pins
  • Bows and arrows
  • Canoe/kayak paddles
  • CO2 cartridge for life vest ^
  • Crampons
  • Cricket bats
  • Golf clubs
  • Hiking poles
  • Hockey sticks
  • Kubatons
  • Lacrosse sticks
  • Martial arts weapons
  • Nunchucks
  • Parachutes ^
  • Pool cues
  • Shoe/snow spikes
  • Skateboards ^
  • Ski poles
  • Slingshots
  • Small compressed gas cartridges ⁺
  • Spear guns
  • Tear gas ⁺
  • Tent ^
  • Tent spikes and poles
  • Walking sticks

⁺Not allowed in carry-on nor checked luggage  |  ^Special instructions (check with the airline)

Hot Tip: Check out the ski and snowboard airline luggage policies for 70+ airlines!

Firearms

Unloaded firearms can be transported in a locked hard-sided container as checked baggage only. Make sure that you declare any firearms and/or ammunition to your airline when checking in your luggage. The only part of a firearm that is allowed to be brought on with your carry-on luggage is a rifle scope.

  • Ammunition
  • BB guns
  • Cap guns
  • Compressed air guns
  • Firearms
  • Flare guns
  • Flares ⁺
  • Gun lighters ⁺
  • Gun powder ⁺
  • Parts of guns and firearms
  • Pellet guns ⁺
  • Realistic replicas of firearms
  • Rifles
  • Shell casings ^
  • Starter pistols
  • Toy guns and weapons

⁺Not allowed in carry-on nor checked luggage  |  ^Special instructions (check with the airline)

Medical

“Reasonable” amounts of medically-necessary items are allowed through TSA security. In all instances, we recommend presenting items to the security officer when you reach the checkpoint so that they can be screened separately. Keeping items in their original containers isn’t necessary, but may help speed up the screening process.

  • Contact lens solution *
  • Eye drops *
  • Liquid vitamins *
  • Medical marijuana ⁺ (Note: while illegal under federal law, the TSA doesn’t specifically search for marijuana; it will refer to local law enforcement, so ultimately this depends on the state)

*Less than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) allowed  |  ⁺Not allowed in carry-on nor checked luggage  

Miscellaneous

Here are a few other items you might consider placing in your carry-on luggage. If you are checking a bag, include these items there versus keeping them with you in your carry-on luggage.

  • Brass knuckles
  • Cremated remains ^
  • Drones ^
  • Dry ice ^
  • E-liquids ^
  • Emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) ^
  • Fertilizer ⁺
  • Foam toy swords
  • Glow sticks
  • Guitar ^
  • Hoverboards ^
  • Night sticks
  • Non-spillable wet batteries ^
  • Metal detector ^
  • Musical instruments ^
  • Segways ^
  • Snow cleats
  • Snow globes *
  • Solar panels ^
  • Stun guns/shocking devices
  • Tattoo inks *

*Less than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) allowed  |  ⁺Not allowed in carry-on nor checked luggage  |  ^Special instructions (check with the airline)

Bottom Line: If you’re considering packing something and it’s not on this list, check out the TSA’s website to check if it’s allowed or you can even tweet the TSA @AskTSA.

What About International Travel Rules and Regulations?

When traveling internationally, most countries (and even a few domestic destinations such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) prohibit you from bringing in meats, fruit, vegetables, plants, and other agricultural products. While the TSA will allow you to bring a fresh snack, such as an apple or carrot sticks, through security and onto your flight, make sure you eat it on the plane. Otherwise, you could run into issues upon arrival.

Duty-free alcohol, perfume, and other liquids that you buy from the airport are allowed on your airplane in your carry-on luggage. However, remember to leave the receipt inside the security bag. In addition, if you have a connecting flight at another airport, you may have to end up putting it in your checked luggage for the next leg of your journey.

World Duty Free UK storefront
Image Credit: World Duty Free UK

Other destinations may have rules regarding the types of items that you are allowed to bring into the country as well, including currency, medication, weapons, etc. This is always good to research before leaving for your trip.

Final Thoughts

Using this list can help you be realistic about what you need to take on your vacation and also let you know which items you might need to purchase once you arrive.

Knowing what items to pack and what items to avoid packing in your carry-on luggage can help make your trip through TSA security quick and painless. Following this list is especially important if you’re only traveling with your carry-on luggage!

Frequently Asked Questions

What items are allowed and not allowed on an airplane?

There are many allowable items in your carry-on luggage! You must adhere to the 3-1-1 rule for liquids, creams, and gels, and not bring things that can potentially be hazardous. Check out the list above for carry-on luggage guidelines.

Can you take sunscreen on a plane?

Yes, sunscreen is allowed in your carry-on luggage, but must be in a 3.4-ounce-sized (or less) container. You’re allowed to take as many travel-sized liquids as can fit into 1 quart-sized bag.

Is toothpaste considered a liquid by the TSA?

Yes, toothpaste must adhere to the 3-1-1 rule for liquids and gels. Toothpaste can be brought through TSA security in your carry-on as long as it is 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less and placed in a 1-quart bag. If your toothpaste is bigger, put it in your checked luggage or purchase some upon arrival.

Can you bring metal in your carry-on?

Yes, metal is allowed in your carry-on luggage. In fact, when you are going through the metal detector at TSA security, you are often asked to remove metal items (such as your belt, shoes with metal, etc.) in order to avoid setting off the metal detector. This will pass through the x-ray machine for further inspection, but is allowed to be brought on the plane with you.

Can I bring a razor in my carry-on?

Electric and disposable razors (and replacement cartridges) are both permitted in your carry-on luggage. This is what the majority of people use, per the TSA.

Single razor blades or razors with removable blades must be packed in your checked luggage.

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About Christy Rodriguez

After having “non-rev” privileges with Southwest Airlines, Christy dove into the world of points and miles so she could continue traveling for free. Her other passion is personal finance, and is a certified CPA.

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