Traveling by plane often raises questions about what items can be brought on board, and food is no exception. Whether you're a frequent flier or embarking on your first flight, understanding the rules and regulations regarding bringing food on a plane is essential for a smooth journey.
In this article, we will briefly explore the policies set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) concerning food items and provide useful tips for packing food. That way, you'll be well-prepared to make the most of your next airborne adventure and enjoy it fully.
TSA main rules
Here is an overview of the main product groups you are allowed to bring through the TSA checkpoints and the respective restrictions.
If you are in doubt about the allowed quantity and size of liquids, there is a simple rule of thumb you can memorize and follow. The so-called 3-1-1 rule specifies that each liquid or gel you bring on board of the plane must be limited to a maximum of 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters, and all your liquids must fit within a single quart-sized bag.
Water and non-alcoholic drinks
There are no restrictions on bringing water, soda, juice, or other non-alcoholic beverages in your checked baggage. However, if you wish to carry a water or soda bottle on board, you should adhere to the 3-1-1 rule, so we would recommend purchasing a drink after passing through the security checkpoint.
When transporting alcohol on a plane in the US you have to abide by the following rules:
- you cannot bring alcoholic beverages over 140 proof (more than 70% of alcohol contents);
- you can bring maximum 1.3 gallons (5 liters) of alcohol between 24% and 70% in your checked bags (in its original, unopened packaging);
- you can bring small alcohol bottles (not exceeding 3.4 ounces / 100 ml) in your carry-on bags.
If you are traveling out of the U.S., we advise you to check the specific guidelines of your airline and destination country, as they may differ from the TSA rules. For example, the European Union and the UK allow a maximum of 0.2 gallons (1 liter) of over 140 proof alcohol to be brought in checked luggage.
The TSA food rules are quite detailed, so if you’d like an extensive list of the requirements and restrictions, you can consult the official TSA page. We will not discuss every food item but here is a general overview of the rules you should follow if you are planning to bring food through TSA.
Most of the food and snacks are also subject to the 3-1-1 rule, if they are considered a liquid, gel, paste or cream. That would include the following groups of foods:
- creamy dips and spreads like cream cheese, guacamole, hummus, pâté, etc.;
- salad dressings, salsa and sauces;
- jarred spreads like peanut butter, jam, honey;
- jarred soups (or soups in any other type of container);
- yogurts and smoothies.
If you are traveling with your baby or toddler, there is good news: you can bring baby food, baby formula, breast milk and juice for babies/toddlers on board of the plane as they are exempt from the 3-1-1 rule. Additionally, you can also bring ice packs to keep these food items cool.
Solid foods are not subject to any restrictions, so you may freely bring a homemade sandwich, croissants and pastries, fruits and vegetables, pasta, salads, crackers, chips, nuts, etc. through airport security, as long as you can fit them in your carry-on bags.
Tips for TSA approved foods and snacks and how to package them
Here are some useful tips for snacks you can bring on your flight and on how to organize and package them.
Ideas for TSA approved plane snacks:
- Granola bars, energy balls or protein bites;
- Nuts and trail mix;
- Dried fruits;
- Salty crackers and rice cakes;
- Veggie sticks with hummus or another dip of your choice (up to 3.4 ounces);
- Cheese (solid) and crackers;
- Beef or turkey jerky;
- Sealed sandwiches or wraps;
- Salad or pasta salad.
SkyRefund’s tips for food packaging:
- Choose predominantly non-liquid and non-perishable items.
- Pack in airtight containers or resealable plastic bags.
- Take pre-packaged food or individual-sized portions to save time and ensure convenience.
- Pack your food in an easily accessible part of your carry-on bag to avoid rummaging through your belongings during the flight.
- Keep your liquid/gel/paste foods separate from your solid snacks and packed according to the 3-1-1 rule to make screening easier.
- Be kind to your fellow passengers and do not pack foods with strong smells (pungent cheeses, eggs, heavily spiced dishes).
Understanding the rules for bringing food on a plane is crucial for a hassle-free and enjoyable travel experience. By following our tips, you can pack your food efficiently and in accordance with TSA rules. Sky Refund still advises you to check the requirements of your airline and destination country if you are traveling outside the U.S. in order to avoid unpleasant surprises at the airport.
The next time you embark on a journey, remember to plan ahead and pack wisely. SkyRefund wishes you happy and enjoyable travels with your preferred snacks on board!