Last Updated on October 7, 2022
The core Transportation Security Administration hand luggage rules are pretty simple really.
- No weapons – nothing that looks like a weapon, or anything that could be used as an improvised weapon.
- No liquids in containers over 3.4 ounces.
If you can memorize just those two rules you’ll be able to figure out which items are not allowed in your carry-on bag without looking it up.
Of course, if you want you can get into the weeds.
When exactly an everyday object becomes a potential weapon in the eyes of the TSA isn’t always clear. Often the final decision is made on the ground by the TSA officer that inspects your luggage.
And it’s not always obvious whether something is considered to be a liquid or a solid by the TSA. Also, there are also a few exceptions to the liquids rule.
Prohibited Carry-on Items
The items listed below are not allowed on domestic flights in the US. Similar rules apply for airport security rules in other countries.
It’s impossible for the TSA to physically inspect every container of liquid to verify that it isn’t a flammable liquid in disguise. To reduce the risk to passengers you are only able to bring liquids on the plane in travel size containers in a single quart-sized bag.
- Liquids, gels, pastes, creams, and aerosols, in containers larger than 3.4 ounces are not allowed in carry-on luggage (Why?).
- Liquids that are not packed inside your one quart size bag won’t be allowed through airport security.
- If you can squeeze it, smear it, pump it, spread it, spray it, or spill it then it’s considered a liquid.
- Spreadable foods are considered to be liquids and must be packed in your quart size bag.
- Spreadable make up like cream foundation is considered to be a liquid
Spreadable foods can sometimes make it through airport security if they are part of a “solid” food. My favorite example of this is that peanut butter is restricted to 3.4 oz but chocolate peanut butter cups can be any size.
Also tuna mayo is restricted to 3.4 oz but a Tuna Mayo sandwich is good to go.
Exemptions apply for medically necessary liquids which do not need to be under 3.4 oz. You can ask for any liquid medicine to be screened separately.
Exemptions also apply for breast milk, juice, and drinks for infants.
Nobody wants to see violence in the plane cabin during the flight. Federal Air Marshals do not fly on every flight so the potential absence of law enforcement officers makes it vitally important that passengers are not carrying weapons.
Many of the dangerous items that are prohibited from carry-on baggage are permitted to be packed in checked luggage.
Some sporting equipment is considered to be a potential weapon.
Anything that is large and heavy could be considered to be a weapon. Particularly if it is easy to handle.
Don’t bring these items on the plane:
- Knives including pocket knives can only fly in checked baggage
- Axes and hatchets
- Bows and arrows
- Blades (disposable razors are permitted)
- Sharp objects
- Corkscrews with a blade
- Scissors with blades longer than 4 inches as measured from the pivot point
- Box cutters
- Makeshift weapons
- Baseball bats
- Hockey sticks
- Golf clubs
- Ski poles
- Hiking poles
- Tent spikes and tent poles
- Canoe or Kayak paddles
- Bowling pins
- Throwing darts
- Rolling pins
- Hand tools longer than 7 inches
- Power tools
- Replica weapons
- Toy weapons
- Squirt guns
- Toy guns
- Flare guns
- Brass knuckles
- Throwing stars
- Tactical flashlights
- Tactical pens
- Pepper spray
- Bear spray
- Tear gas
- Cast iron skillets
- Fire extinguishers
Some items are prohibited because of the fire risk. Explosive materials are prohibited from hand luggage and checked bags.
- Flammable items that are not toiletries
- Alcohol over 70% ABV
- Powerbanks over 160 wh (Powerbanks over 100 WH need permission from your airline)
- Blue flame lighters are prohibited but you can bring one regular lighter
- Aerosol insecticide
- Flammable paint
- Spray paint
- Gun powder
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7
The following items are not explicitly prohibited but you should not bring them on a plane.
- Carry-on luggage does not usually have weight restrictions but you should not bring luggage that you can’t physically lift over your head
- Items not permitted to pass through Customs at your destination country when flying internationally
- Items that are illegal on the ground are also illegal in the air