What Can I Carry In My Purse On A Plane?

Last Updated on December 2, 2021

Most airlines still allow you to bring two bags on to the plane.

That means you can usually bring a carry-on suitcase and a purse as your personal item.

But what can you pack in your purse when you are taking it on a plane?

Let’s find out.

TSA Purse Rules

The same 311 airport security rules that apply to your carry-on bag apply to your purse or handbag as well.

That means some of your typical purse items might be restricted when flying.

There are two types of items in your purse that can be restricted.

The first type of restricted item is sharp objects or weapons and the second type is liquids.

Liquids still pose a threat when flying so the TSA applied limits to how much liquids, gels, pastes, creams, or aerosols, that you can bring on the plane.

When going through airport security all liquids must be removed from both your carry on bags and your purse and packed in one quart size bag.

The maximum size of any container of liquid is 3.4 ounces. Check this post to see what 3.4 oz looks like, it’s a small travel size bottle.

If you need to bring more than 3.4 oz of a liquid you can split it into two or more bottles. But space in your one toiletries bag is limited. Containers larger than 3.4 oz need to be packed in a checked bag.

You can’t have liquids in your personal item when going through security screening.

You place this quart size plastic bag in a screening bin when going through the security checkpoint so that the TSA security agents can check it out.

What Size Of Purse Can You Take On A Plane?

Your purse will be considered as your personal item. The personal item size limits vary per airline but in general your purse must fit under the seat in front.

The allocated space is a lot larger than the typical purse size.

If you are flying on Spirit or Frontier you are not even permitted to bring a carry-on without paying extra and your personal item size allowance will need to cover your entire luggage including your clothes.

This means if you want to bring a purse it needs to be packed inside a larger bag that has your clothes while going past the gate agents.

What You Can & Can’t Carry In Your Purse On A Plane

I’ve done a little research to see what you ladies keep your purses and handbags and researched the TSA rules for each item.

Make Up

Solid makeup can stay inside your purse.

But some items that you might think are solid are actually considered liquids by the TSA.

If you can spread it or smear it then the TSA will consider it to be a liquid.

Some cosmetics products come in either power or cream versions. The cream versions will need to be removed from your purse at security and packed in your liquids bag.

The powered items can remain in your purse.

For a full discussion about which make up you can bring on a plane check this post.

Hand Sanitiser

The TSA has introduced a special rule allowing passengers to bring up to 12 oz of hand sanitizer. It doesn’t need to be packed in your quart size bag but you do need to remove it from your purse and place it in a bin when going through airport security.

Also consider sanitising wet wipes. They don’t count as a liquid and can remain in your purse.

Chapstick & Lipstick

You can carry lipstick or chapstick in your purse on a plane, you don’t need to remove these items for screening.

Lip gloss that is applied with a brush is considered a liquid and must be packed in your liquids bag.

Loose Change

You can keep loose change in your purse. It doesn’t need to be removed prior to x-ray screening.


Lotion is considered to be a liquid so it is limited to 3.4 oz and it cannot be in your purse when going through the security checkpoint.


Liquid sunscreen is not permitted to be in your purse when going through security.

You could however pack a solid block sunscreen and that would save space in your toiletries bag.

Always consider if there is a solid version of the product you want to bring. It will make packing your liquids bag easier since solids can remain in your purse or carry-on baggage.

Pens and Pencils

You can keep pens and pencils in your purse at the checkpoint. Only a tactical pen which is a type of weapon disguised as a pen would not be permitted in your purse.

Chewing Gum

Gum is considered to be a solid by the TSA so you can keep it in your purse.


You can keep small headphones in your purse at the security checkpoint. Large over ear headphones that are larger than a cellphone should be removed from your purse and placed in a bin for screening.


You can keep tissues in your purse when going through airport security.

Wet wipes, despite being wet, are not treated as liquids.

This makes wet wipes my top hack for helping to pack your toiletries bag.

Many liquid products come in wet wipe form. For example make up remover or sanitising wipes.

By packing the wipes you won’t need a travel size bottle.

Nail Clippers

Nail clippers don’t need to be removed from your purse. Nail polish or nail polish remover would fall under the liquids rule and need to be packed in your quart-size bag.


Small scissors like nail scissors can be kept in your purse. Larger scissors with blades longer than 4 inches as measured from the pivot point are not permitted on the plane at all.

Water Bottle

You can bring an empty water bottle through airport security. You can keep it in your purse and refill it once you have passed the checkpoint.

You can also bring an empty thermos through security and fill it with hot coffee before you board the plane.


The best place to pack your inhaler for a flight is in your purse. Never pack your inhaler in your carry-on bag. If the plane is crowded and the overhead bins start filling up your carry-on bag can be gate checked. And checked luggage sometimes gets lost or delayed.

Your inhaler does need to be removed from your purse for additional screening, but it doesn’t need to be packed in your quart-size bag.

Since your inhaler is medically necessary there are no limits to how many inhalers you can bring but they do need to be placed in a bin for screening.

Sewing Kit

You can leave a sewing kit in your purse. Sewing needles are permitted on the plane. Only a circular thread cutter would be prohibited since it has a blade.

Pepper Spray

Although pepper spray or Mace is designed to be used for self-defence it could also be used as an attack weapon.

That means that pepper spray is not permitted to be brought on a plane in hand luggage at all. So remove any pepper spray from your purse before you go to the airport or it could be confiscated by the TSA.


You can your bring keys on a plane and your purse is the best place to keep them. You don’t need to remove them from your purse for security screening.

Carry-on bags can be gate checked and subsequently lost.

Keep any valuables like keys in your purse.


The same goes for your wallet. Your wallet can and should stay inside your purse when going through security.

Cell phones

Your mobile phone can stay inside your purse during the security screening process, you can bring multiple cell phones on the plane but any electronics larger than a cell phone must be placed in a screening bin.

This is because large electronics sometimes block the x-ray machine. If you leave any large electronics in your purse of carry-on bag then your bag might need to be searched by TSA officers.

Tablets Or E-Readers

Because tablets or your kindle are larger than a cell phone you need to take them out of your purse and place then in a separate bin.

Power Banks

Power banks are not allowed to be packed in checked bags.

The best place to pack a power bank is in your purse if you have room. That way it will be handy during your flight to charge any devices.

Generally a power bank can remain inside your purse during screening. There is a size limit of 100 watt hours.

You need airline approval to bring portable chargers that are larger than 100 watt hours.

Power banks that are over 160 watt hours are never permitted in carry-on luggage or checked luggage.

Lighters & Matches

You are permitted to bring one disposable, standard or zippo lighter on the plane. You can keep it in your purse at the checkpoint.

You can also bring one book of safety matches.

You are not permitted to bring a blue flame torch lighter.


Solid medications like pills can stay inside your purse. Liquid medications must be placed in a bin. They don’t need to be packed inside your quart-size bag and can exceed the usual 3.4 or less liquids limit.


Solid snacks can stay in your purse they are handy to bring if you don’t like airline food.

Even where a snack has a non-solid filling they still count as a solid. So you can sneak jam on the plane if it’s inside a donut!

Liquid snacks like yogurt or peanut butter must go in your quart-size bag.


You can pack drinks smaller than 3.4 oz in your quart-size bag if you have room. You can’t keep them in your purse.

You can pack shooters or nips in your quart-size bag, just don’t let the flight attendant see you drinking them on the plane.

If you are traveling with an infant you can bring drinks larger than 3.4 oz. Remove them from your purse and put them in a bin for screening.

The Verdict

The items in your purse are treated the same way as the items in your carry on bag.

That means that any liquids must be removed from your purse when going through airport security. After you have passed through the security checkpoint you can repack your items where you prefer.

Your carry-on bag will end up stowed in the overhead locker and there is the outside chance that it could be gate checked if the overhead lockers are full.

So it makes sense to transfer any items that you might need during the flight to your purse.

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