Liquid on a Plane: Travel Hacks + Essential Info
If you want to travel with liquid on a plane, you will have to know a few things before leaving home or your vacation spot.
What’s considered a liquid according to TSA, the best way to transport them, and how much you can take are among the key things to be aware of. But first and foremost, we’ll share five travel hacks that will help you be a smarter, more efficient traveler when it comes to liquids on airplanes too.
We’ll even share how to travel with wine and what liquids are allowed onboard for the holidays.
Let’s dive in!
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post, which means we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase, at no cost to you. We truly only recommend hotels, products and services we personally use.
Liquid on a Plane Travel Hacks (That Take Away Gussswork)
We have four top travel hacks for traveling with liquid on a plane:
- Travel with a refillable water bottle
- Buy (and use) TSA approved travel container sets
- Pack your carry-on liquids in a 1-quart Stasher Bag
- Freeze liquids
- Pack your liquids in a checked bag
➜ Liquid Travel Hack #1: Travel with a Refillable Water Bottle
Our favorite liquid on a plane travel hack is to carry a refillable water bottle. This is a great trick if you want to stay hydrated while waiting for your flight, gateside. This way, you won’t have to pay $3 for a bottle of water.
We take our empty water bottle through security and then fill it up on the other side. Most airports have water filling stations, from JFK airport to RDU airport and beyond.
We love these because they’re flat, so a Memo Bottle fits in a pocket, on the side of a backpack, in a purse, etc., very easily and comfortably.
They’re insulated and keep the liquid at the temperature you added it to the bottle, for HOURS and hours. They rock.
We also love that the wide-mouthed bottles are easy to get ice cubes into. Use code “SOMETIMESHOME” for 15% off your order.
Collapsible Water Bottle
This Nomader water bottle saves a lot of space when rolled up and empty. The only reason we don’t carry one is because we’re worried about squishing it when it’s filled with water. But it’s a great option if it fits your needs.
➜ Liquid Travel Hack #2: Buy (and Use) TSA-Approved Travel Container Sets
The easiest way to travel with liquids on a plane in your carry-on bag is to get a refillable travel set.
The top three we recommend below all have the following features in common:
- Refillable 3.4-ounce bottles you can use and refill repeatedly.
- TSA-approved plastic bag of some sort, which isn’t necessarily waterproof but will do a better job of protecting what’s in your bag over a mesh case.
- All are leakproof, BPA free, and come with labels.
➜ Liquid Travel Hack #3: Pack Your Carry-on Liquids in a Reusable Quart-Size Bag
Our favorite quart-size bags to use for packing are also environmentally friendly and incredibly durable. They are Stasher Bags!
They are reasonably priced, and we have had the same ones for years. We put all our liquid and cream toiletries in one bag that’s easy to remove from our carry-on if TSA needs to check it further.
If you pack in a one-quart-sized bag, you cannot exceed the 3-1-1 rule for liquids on a plane allowance because it won’t fit more than its size!
➜ Liquid Travel Hack #4: Freeze It
Here’s another travel hack for you when it comes to airport travel with liquids: freeze the liquid.
However, there are things to be aware of when bringing frozen liquids through security that will make you think twice about taking advantage of this hack:
- The item must be frozen solid. If there’s any liquid (or slush) whatsoever in the container the frozen item is in, a TSA agent has the right to hold that liquid to normal liquid carry-on rules.
- This may be problematic if you have a significant drive from your home to the airport or your hotel to the airport. Because frozen liquids + time outside of a freezer = melting.
We advise avoiding bringing frozen liquids altogether, though the official word of TSA is that ice is allowed with the precaution we mentioned above.
Suppose you are carrying breastmilk or medication that has to be refrigerated. So you bring an icepack with you that starts to melt on your way to the airport. That ice block may be subject to TSA’s 3-1-1 rule (explained below) like any other liquid carry-on.
➜ Liquid Travel Hack #5: Pack Your Liquids in a Checked Bag
If you’re worried about TSA throwing out any of your liquids or that your bag(s) will end up exceeding the 3.4 ounces allowance, there’s another solution.
That solution is simply packing your liquids in leak-proof containers and/or making sure that you seal liquids (like shampoo and lotions) in a reusable sealable bag (like a Stasher Bag), then check that bag.
Plan ahead if you think you’ll be packing a lot of liquid to warrant checking a bag. Checked bags often cost less if you pay for them before you arrive at the airport.
Vital Liquid on a Plane Information You Need to Know for Carry-On Items and Bags
Exactly what is considered liquid on a plane? Is hummus or peanut butter liquid? You may be surprised by the answer: yes!
We also share information about traveling with liquids during the holidays below, just in case you’re considering taking cranberry relish to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving or fresh flowers to a loved one for Valentine’s Day.
What Counts as Liquid on a Plane?
So much counts as liquid! I once tried to bring some fresh guacamole through airport security. I had avocados that were going to go bad by the time I got back, so why not travel with a healthy snack?
The TSA agent had to throw away my homemade guacamole! Whomp whomp. I’m sure it’s not surprising to hear that I never traveled with guacamole again.
However, you can actually travel with dips and salad dressing (considered liquids), as long as it’s an amount under 3.4 ounces. My half-pint of guacamole obviously didn’t abide by this rule.
Here are some items that fall under the category of liquids or creams that are subject to the 3.4 ounces or less container rule to get through airport security…
TSA Considers the Following “Liquids”…
There are exceptions to the rule when it comes to bringing liquids of certain kinds on a plane. The reason matters as well, like for baby food and breast milk.
For example, CN Traveler points out that you can bring live fish on a plane in more than 3.4 ounces of water as long as the fish is in a clear container that TSA can inspect. Who knew?
However, you cannot bring a mercury thermometer on a plane. (Mercury is a silver liquid. Red line thermometers are not mercury and are allowed in carry-on bags.)
Liquid Types + Liquid Volume Allowance on Airplanes
Any of the listed liquids above are allowed on airplanes. The key is the VOLUME of liquid you’re bringing on board.
Assume that the allowance for any of them is if they are in a 3.4-ounce container or smaller, with the exception of baby food and formula, breastmilk, and medication.❓Unsure if your item is considered a liquid or not? Either pack it in a checked bag or snap a picture to send to AskTSA on Facebook Messenger or Twitter. They answer questions on weekdays from 8 am to 10 pm ET and from 9 am to 7 pm on weekends/holidays.
Liquid Medicine on an Airplane
It’s often necessary to travel with medicine on an airplane. We do not recommend checking any medication. We advise you ALWAYS carry your medication in your carry-on bags.
The main reason is that even if you don’t need the medication during your flight, if your checked bags are delayed or the airline loses your luggage, there goes your medication.
But how much liquid medication can you take through TSA airport security?
As TSA states:
Medication in liquid form is allowed in carry-on bags 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 officer that you have medically necessary liquids at the start of the screening checkpoint process. Medically required liquids will be subject to additional screening that could include being asked to open the container.TSA Website
Liquid on a Plane: Carry-On Rules
Each ticketed passenger traveling through airport security is allowed one quart-sized bag with containers of 3.4 ounces or less. Some liquids, like beverages, are obvious. But some are not. Please refer to the extensive liquids list above for what is considered a liquid.
Generally, anything “spreadable” is considered a liquid, from cream cheese to makeup concealer.
If you are unsure about the size of the bottle your liquid is (if it holds a maximum of 3.4 ounces or less), don’t bring the bottle. TSA usually goes by what’s written on the label of a bottle instead of playing a guessing game.
If you’re in doubt and would be upset if your liquid was thrown out at security, put the item in your checked luggage, leave it at home, or make sure it’s in a container that’s marked with the container’s volume.Gels, liquids, creams/pastes, and aerosols must not exceed 100mL or 3.4 ounces per container to get through airport security.
What is TSA’s 3-1-1 Rule in the United States?
The 3-1-1 rule is simple: 3 ounces of liquid, within a 1-quart bag, per 1 person.
- 3 ounces
- 1 quart-sized bag
- 1 person
This rule is a result of terrorism threats to the United States and discoveries by intelligence agencies that bad people, planning to do bad things, were plotting to create explosives with a disguised solution in water bottles.
So now, in the 21st century, we’ve all had to abide by liquid on a plane rules and regulations to keep everyone safe.
Carry-On Liquid Exceptions for Parents
If you’re traveling with children (or to meet children) and need to carry on any of the liquids listed below, you’re allowed more than 3.4 ounces.
However, you need to notify TSA personnel that you’re traveling with any of these items before you go through security:
- Breast milk
- Milk products
- Bottled water
- Baby food
- Essential non-prescription liquid medication
These items will be subject to additional security, so be sure to leave extra time to accommodate screening accordingly.
Holiday Air Travel: Common “Liquid on a Plane” Items
There are common items that TSA sees people try to bring through security or ask about for major holidays each year. We’ll go through the list below, including what’s allowed and isn’t allowed in carry-on luggage.
Bringing Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah Dishes and Liquids on a Plane
Common Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday meal items that are allowed on a plane include things like cooked turkey and stuffing. But things like cranberry relish, cranberry jelly, and gravy – which are liquid, are spreadable, or contain liquid – are restricted to the 3-1-1, 3.4 ounces in a container rule.
Pumpkin pies and macaroni ‘n cheese may be too questionable for comfort. Either pack them in a checked bag or leave that cooking and supermarket shopping to the hosts at your destination.
Jelly donuts, or sufganiyot, popular for Hanukkah, are allowed on a plane, but TSA recommends having them in their own container that’s easily removable from your bag for airport screening.
If you are traveling with menorah oil, you must also follow the 3-1-1, 3.4-ounce rule. If the liquid is checked in your bags at the airline desk before going through airport security, you can bring more than 3.4 ounces.
Traveling with snow globes? Make sure they fit in a quart-size bag and the liquid inside is less than 3.4 ounces (which likely means it’s a mini snow globe). We highly recommend packing any snow globes – checked in your luggage or taken to the airport in a carry-on – in bubble wrap pouches.
Valentine’s Day Liquids on a Plane
Valentine’s Day Chocolate on Airplanes
If you’re traveling with solid chocolate for Valentine’s Day, it’s allowed. But if you have liquid chocolate or liquid candy of any kind, it’s subject to the 3.4 ounces rule for carry-on items.
Flower Bouquets on Airplanes
Though you can travel domestically with flowers, you cannot bring a vase filled with water through airport security. Instead, moisten paper towels and wrap them around the stems until you can get them back in water.
You can bring empty floral water tubes to add to the ends of the flower stems once you get through security. Travel with the tubes in your carry-on, then fill the tubes wither water on the gate side of the airport terminal. Add them to the flower stems, and voila! Just make sure they don’t leak while you’re in transit!
Did you know you can get collapsible vases too? They are great to put the flower in once you reach your destination – pop the vase open and add flowers!
🌹 Flower Travel Solutions for Liquid on a Plane
Bringing Wine on a Plane
You can bring wine on a plane. But you’ll likely have to check it unless you have only 3.4 ounces or less. And that’s not even a glass of wine!
A bottle has to be checked in your luggage, and it has to be new and unopened.
But glass bottles placed in your suitcase is a risk. Imagine the breakage if your luggage is tossed on and off the plane and the luggage carousel. That’s why you should travel with these protective wine bags.
If you plan on buying a lot of wine, like on a dedicated trip to Bordeaux, you may want to travel with and purchase a dedicated piece of wine luggage for transporting bottles.Did you know: You can take a wine bottle opener (corkscrew) in a carry-on bag if it doesn’t have a blade or knife attached. If it does, securely wrap the corkscrew and place it in checked luggage.
When you’re traveling through airports, it’s simple to bring liquid on a plane if you know the rules and regulations and abide by them. If you are over the limit for carry-on size liquids, you can always check your bag.
Use our travel hacks and advice to get yourself a reusable water bottle, reusable liquid bottles for travel, or a reusable quart-sized bag, and you’ll be golden!