What’s Allowed in Hand Luggage: TSA Rules
Packing for a trip can be a daunting experience. You want to streamline your stuff so you can pack light, but you also don’t want to be so stripped down that you end up buying the essentials you forgot when you should be enjoying your trip.
Maximizing your carry-on baggage allowance is a great way to ensure you travel light without skimping on what you actually need. But, you’ll want to make sure you’re packing items that won’t hold you up at the TSA security checkpoint. There are some TSA carry-on baggage rules and regulations that you should be aware of when packing your carry-on, such as how much liquid you can actually bring on board or if your disposable razor is allowed through.
If you’re hoping to optimize the way you pack your carry-on luggage, you’ll want to read on. We’ve outlined everything you need to know about what’s allowed in carry-on luggage – and the best carry-ons to consider for your next trip.
What is hand luggage?
Carry-on luggage ranges in style and size – from hard-shell suitcases to soft-sided weekend bags. However, the bag will need to comply with your airline’s size regulations. In fact, carry-on baggage allowance is not determined by the TSA, but rather by individual airlines. Generally speaking, most airlines have a maximum size policy of 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches, including wheels and handles.
Your baggage allowance may also depend on your ticket type. Some basic economy tickets only allow one personal item, such as a handbag, rather than carry-on baggage. When it comes to bag weight, you’ll want to make sure you can comfortably lift your carry-on and place it efficiently in the overhead compartment. However, some airlines – especially low-cost carriers – limit the weight of a bag.
Ultimately, if you plan to bring carry-on baggage on board, be sure to check your airline’s policies. Once you have determined your carry-on baggage allowance, you will then need to pack it with TSA-allowed items.
What is allowed in your hand luggage?
If you want to avoid checked baggage fees, you can often travel with just a piece of hand luggage. Here are some of the most notable items you can pack in your carry-on without worrying about getting stopped at airport security. You can find the full list of permitted items on the TSA website.
Alcoholic beverages are permitted in carry-on baggage as long as they are 3.4 ounces or less. The mini liquor bottles in your carry-on should also fit comfortably in a liter-sized bag. However, keep in mind that airline alcohol policies are strict and the FAA prohibits travelers from consuming alcohol on board an aircraft unless it is served by an agent. on board. In other words, alcohol that you can put in your hand luggage cannot be consumed on board.
Baby food and equipment
Baby food, baby formula, breast milk and juice are all allowed in reasonable amounts. Formula, breastmilk, and juice should be removed from your bag and strained separately. Additionally, ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs, and other accessories needed to cool formula, breast milk, and juice are permitted in your carry-on baggage. Additional items such as infant carriers and child car seats are also permitted as long as they fit in the overhead compartment of the aircraft or under your seat.
Cooked meat, seafood, vegetables and other prepared foods
Cooked meat, seafood, vegetables, and other meals and prepared foods are allowed as long as they don’t exceed the 3.4-ounce liquid limit. If you are departing from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands, note that most raw vegetables are not permitted in the continental US due to the risk of spreading invasive plant pests.
Disposable razors are permitted in carry-on baggage. However, loose razor blades, such as box cutters or those not in a cartridge, are not permitted in carry-on baggage.
Most personal electronic devices, such as hair care products or portable devices, are permitted in carry-on baggage. Adult toys are also allowed in hand luggage.
Lighters and matches
Passengers are allowed to take disposable lighters in their hand luggage. Additionally, a book of safety matches (not struck anywhere) is allowed as carry-on baggage. However, matches without taking a position are prohibited.
Non-flammable liquids under 3.4 ounces
Non-flammable liquids, gels, and aerosols (such as shampoo or deodorant) are permitted in carry-on baggage as long as they meet the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for liquids. This means you can bring a liter-sized bag of liquids limited to travel containers of 3.4 ounces or less per item.
The TSA allows larger quantities of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols, but you must declare them to TSA security officers and expect to be removed for further inspection.
External batteries and portable chargers are only permitted in hand luggage. However, they must be rated at 100 watt hours (Wh) per battery or less. You may bring two larger spare batteries (up to 160Wh) if you have airline approval.
Vitamins and supplements
FDA-approved vitamins and supplements are permitted in carry-on baggage.
What is not allowed in your hand luggage?
There are obvious no-fly items – like weapons and full water bottles – and then there are no-fly items that might surprise you. Here’s what you’ll want to put in your checked baggage or leave entirely at home. You can find a complete list of prohibited items on the TSA website.
Self-defense articles, ammunition and sharp objects
Self-defense items, including ammunition, are prohibited in carry-on baggage and, in some cases, also in checked baggage. This also includes most martial arts equipment, pepper sprays, firearms, chef’s knives, corkscrews, and other sharp objects.
Flammable or explosive material
Flammable or explosive materials such as fireworks, flares and replica explosive materials are strictly prohibited not only in carry-on baggage, but also in checked baggage.
Sporting goods and equipment
Certain large sports items and equipment, such as golf clubs or hockey sticks, are not permitted in carry-on baggage. However, basketballs, soccer balls and other small sporting goods are generally permitted.
Our favorite hand luggage for easy travel
Familiarizing yourself with what is – and what isn’t – allowed in carry-on luggage is the first step to clearing security. But you’ll also want to make sure your carry-on allows you to streamline your trip for a comfortable, stress-free journey. Here are some of our favorite carry-ons that will make your trip even smoother.
Away luggage has become a travel industry darling for its clean aesthetics and sturdy design at a fair price. According to our tests, rolling carry-on presents the “Rolls-Royce of luggage wheels”. In fact, this bag earned the top spot in our books for the best hard-shell carry-on.
$299.99 $235.64 on Amazon
The Delsey Paris Hardside Collection was our second pick for best hardside luggage thanks to its chic design and affordable price. Sleek carry-on may look delicate and sophisticated, but this hard-shell spinner can take a beating. We hauled this carry-on through low-cost international airlines and domestic flights and it held up extremely well throughout.
$159.99 $139.99 on Amazon
Featuring an all-polycarbonate shell with a micro-diamond texture, the Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Spinner is a great option for those who tend to fit as much clothing as possible in a carry-on. The unique design can hold a lot without becoming bulky or too heavy.
$139.99 $109.99 on Amazon
Looking for a basic design that will last a long time? The American Tourister Belle Voyage hardside luggage offers a lightweight design that provides ample storage space. The feather-light design also comes with four oversized spinner wheels that will make racing through the airport a breeze.
$76.62 on Amazon
The Amazon Basics 21-inch Hardside Spinner offers surprising longevity considering its affordability. But that can be tricky for those looking for a carry-on with enough space and organization pockets. The basic design is pretty aesthetically pleasing, but you’ll want to avoid checking out this bag at all costs. We found the ABS shell to be prone to scuffs and scratches.
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