Carry on luggage in the overhead bin of an aircraft
The Transportation Security Administration has strict rules when it comes to your carry-on.
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / nnehring

Breeze Through Security with This Guide to TSA Carry-On Restrictions

Know the TSA Carry-On Rules Ahead of Time

One of the most difficult parts of traveling these days is getting through security. If you travel a lot, it eventually becomes second nature, but even the most savvy travelers can run into issues.

The Transportation Security Administration has strict rules when it comes to your carry-on, so packing with these restrictions in mind is essential to easily get through security and onto your plane. One of the most important tips for flying we can give you is to abide by the following TSA carry-on rules when packing for your next flight!

Carry-On Size Limits

TSA doesn’t set the size in terms of your carry-on bag — that’s regulated by the airline itself — however, if you’re flying domestic within the U.S., the nationally accepted carry-on size is 22” X 14” X 9”.

That said, if you’re pushing the limit, meaning it’s exactly that size, you may find that it won’t fit into the overhead compartment, so you’ll end up having to check it anyway. While you’re unlikely to be charged for this, things change frequently in the industry, so be sure to check your airline’s website in advance to find out the latest regulations.

Ideally, bring the smallest bag you can, or check it.

If flying internationally, always check the airline’s website to avoid running into problems as sizes can vary significantly from airline to airline.

Don’t Send Wrapped Gifts Through Security

Plan to wrap any gifts once you’ve reached your destination. While gifts are allowed through, TSA may ask to see what’s inside, ruining your pretty wrapping.

Once again, if you want to wrap your gift beforehand and don’t want to run the risk of having to unwrap it when you’re going through security, put it in your checked luggage.

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Liquids

If you can, pack all liquids in your checked luggage so you won’t have to worry about TSA issues. If there are some items you absolutely need to bring in your carry-on, you’ll need to know about the TSA liquid rules, also referred to as the 3-1-1 rule.

That means 3.4 ounce bottles or less for all liquids, gels and aerosols. Bringing any type of nut butter, jams, jellies, syrups, oils or sauces? Those are also part of the liquids rule, so it’s best to pack them in your checked luggage.

All your 3.4 ounce bottles should be placed in a one quart, clear, plastic, Ziploc-style bag. They say one bag per passenger, however, this is not always enforced.

Stick deodorants aren’t limited to 3.4 ounces, but spray deodorant and gels are.

Bringing back a souvenir snow globe? If it contains more than 3.4 ounces of liquid, it goes in your checked bag, or it doesn’t go.

Other Prohibited Items

TSA has a list of items that are prohibited in both checked and carry-on luggage. It’s fairly straightforward, but be sure to check if you have any doubt.

That includes things like flares, spray paint, fireworks or anything highly flammable (including those exploding Samsung phones), loaded guns and ammunition. Some things are okay in checked luggage but can’t go in your carry-on, such as knives, hammers, brass knuckles and spear guns.

You can bring scissors that are four inches in length or less, regular lighters, and tools that are seven inches or less in length, in your carry-on bag.

While you can bring your laptop or other electronic gadgets, they will have to go through security separately, and not inside your bags. Remove them and put them in their own individual bins.

Be aware that you may be asked to turn your laptop on.

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