How Much Liquid Can You Take on a Plane: A Simple Guide

How Much Liquid Can You Take on a Plane: A Simple Guide

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Do you need to know the answer to the question: how much liquid can you take on a plane? Take a look at our easy to understand guide to learn about all the rules you have to follow regarding flying and liquids.

How Much Liquid Can You Take on a Plane: A Simple Guide


One of the common questions new travelers have is, “how much liquid can you take on a plane?” It’s a fair question, and there are some official rules pertaining to liquid.


There are a few different variables when it comes to liquid and travel. You have carry-on rules, checked bag rules, and international rules. Ahead, we’ll take a look at all of these rules together so you can better understand the liquid travel stipulations.

Carry-On Bag Rules


When most people ask the question, “how much liquid can you take on a plane?” they’re referring to the amount of liquid they can bring with them in their carry-on luggage.


Airlines strictly limit the amount of liquid you can bring on a flight through your carry-on bag since this is where many of the problems would take place.


The TSA states that all of your creams, liquids, aerosols, gels, and other personal care items need to be 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or smaller to be able to come with you on the plane. You’ll need to keep anything larger in a checked bag or leave it behind.


The TSA carry on bag rule is called the 3-1-1 rule. This rule refers to the 3.4-ounce maximum capacity requirement in a 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic bag. The TSA also only allows one of these bags per person. If you’re traveling with two other passengers, each of you can bring one bag.


One element we should note, here, is that it doesn’t matter how much is actually inside of the items you bring in your carry-on bag. You might have a bottle of lotion that isn’t full, for instance and is technically less than 3.4 ounces.


This distinction doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the size of the container. You could, in theory, have a nearly empty bottle of lotion or mouthwash in your bag and still need to keep it in your checked luggage.


What Can You Bring?


Other than the size and amount restrictions, the TSA is relatively liberal with what they allow you to bring with you on a plane. Liquids encapsulate almost the entirety of the self-care genre, including toothpaste, mouthwash, hair products, and everything in between.


The size constraints can seem like a problem at first, but the market has reacted to the flying stipulations that the TSA put in place. There is no shortage of retailers that offer travel-size toiletries. You might even be able to find some travel-size items you wouldn’t expect.


You’ll be able to take all of these things with you – provided they meet the requirements we outlined above. There are, of course, some banned items you can’t bring with you, but most people won’t be surprised by most of the items on the list.


If you want to be sure, you should take a look at the full outline of the ban/allowed items on the TSA website. You can take a look at this long list by clicking here. We suggest taking a look at this list just to be sure before you start packing.


Any liquid or similar product that raises red flags during a screening will need further investigation. The TSA agent will remove this from your bag and inspect it further. You shouldn’t have too much of a problem with this, but there are always a few people who have to leave something behind at security.


Exceptions to the Rule


Of course, every rule has a few exceptions. The TSA knows that not everyone is able to find 3.4-ounce containers of everything they need with them on a plane. People with medical conditions, for instance, might need liquid, gel, or cream medication on hand while they’re flying.


There is an exception for those fliers in the TSA rulebook. Medications – even over the counter medications – are one of the noteworthy exceptions to the 3-1-1 rule. You can bring these in your carry-on bag without getting into trouble at security.


The same exception exists for those traveling with children and babies. It’s not as though retailers sell 3.4 ounces of baby formula – if that would suffice anyway. Baby formula and breast milk are two of the more common exceptions to the 3-1-1 rule. You can bring these on in reasonable amounts through your carry-on luggage.


Items like contact solution are allowed in larger amounts as well. In essence, the TSA will allow anything that is necessary for you to bring with you.

How to Bring These Items With You


Just because you have a prescription or a baby doesn’t mean you can waltz right through security with an unlimited amount of your required liquid. You will need to declare it, first, before you’re able to get through the checkpoint.


You will need to separate the liquid from the rest of your carry-on luggage and declare it with a security officer. The liquid you bring will probably also be subject to additional screening.


Make it easy on yourself and have the liquid readily available so you don’t have to make the security officer dig through your things.


Checked Bag Rules


Any amount of liquid, cream, gel, or other item that falls into the category and exceeds the 3.4-ounce mark will have to go into your checked bag. You should review the list of banned items, but there shouldn’t be much of an issue if you bring traditional toiletries.


We suggest that you double and triple-check the sealing on each item you place in your checked bag. Airlines aren’t known for being gentle with checked luggage, and your bag will undoubtedly get tossed around during the flight and transport.


Don’t be the person who has to buy a new vacation wardrobe because the liquid in your bag destroyed everything. Be as careful as possible while packing these items, and always make sure they’re sealed appropriately.


Inbound International Flights


Inbound international flights have different rules than domestic flights that will stay in the US. You can carry more liquids on a plane with you while you’re entering the country, which is good news for those who want to buy their friends and families certain gifts and souvenirs.


These items must have been purchased internationally. You will have to be entering the US through a connected flight as well. These items get a lot of scrutiny from US Customs officials.


You’ll have to keep the receipts with them and have them in tamper-free bags provided by the retailer. If the screeners notice any tampering, or if the item raises alarms, officials will not allow you to bring it with you on the plane.


Since these items will raise a lot of flags when you put them in your carry-on bag, the TSA recommends placing them in a checked bag anyway. Studying these items can be a large hassle for you, and you might have to leave them behind. Putting them in a checked bag significantly reduces the possibility of this happening.


Are Liquids Really a Threat?


As annoying and unfortunate as these restrictions can be, they are necessary. A TSA official outlined their necessity in a “Talking TSA” post from 2010, and his words are still true today.


Liquid explosives are dangerous because they don’t look any different from regular liquids. An X-ray monitor won’t distinguish any problem with the liquid, meaning TSA agents will either have to send these possible explosives onto the plane or stop and check every single one.


Security is essential to keep travelers safe, and security often comes at the price of convenience. Of course, the exceptions to the rule mean that TSA understands that people have specific needs while they’re flying. It isn’t difficult to find toiletries in travel-size containers, either, so the restrictions aren’t too much of a problem for most travelers.


Flying with Safety and Knowledge


Hopefully, we were able to give you an answer to the question: how much liquid can you take on a plane?


Knowing these restrictions will make traveling a lot easier for you, especially if it’s one of your first times. Security checkups can be a massive hassle for new fliers and can be the difference between making or missing your flight for some.


Those who have any questions about what they can and can’t bring with them on a flight should check the TSA official page that we linked in a section above. There might be a few surprises on this list for you, and it’s important to avoid bringing banned items to save yourself a lot of time and hassle.


Security is essential in the flying experience. The TSA is trying to make bringing liquid with you on a plane as feasible and safe as they can. Now, it’s your job to work within the rules.

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