Carry-On Luggage Rules: Everything You Can (and Can't) Bring With You on a Plane

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) carry-on rules and regulations can seem confusing, but this trusty luggage restriction checklist is here to make packing for your next flight a breeze.

carry on luggage restrictions
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What You Can Bring on a Plane in Your Carry-On

  • Small tools

    Certain small tools, such as screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers, are permitted, as long as they are 7 inches or less in length. You're also allowed to carry-on nail clippers, pill cutters, and small scissors with blades measuring 4 inches or less from the pivot point. All other tools should be securely wrapped (if sharp) and packed in checked baggage.

  • Nonflammable liquids, gels, and aerosols—including food, drinks, and toiletries—in quantities of 3.4 ounces or less

    Nearly all liquids (like beverages, contact lens solution, shampoo, makeup products, liquid medicine, nail polish, perfume/cologne, face toner); gels (like hair gel, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, face serum); and aerosols (products dispensed in a pressurized spray can or bottle, like hairspray, dry shampoo, or spray-on deodorant)—are allowed in your carry-on luggage. However, all liquid, gel, or aerosol items you carry on (including food and drink) must be in a 3.4-ounce or smaller container and fit together in one single, quart-size, clear, zippered plastic bag. So, if you have a 6-ounce tub of lotion, and you've already used more than half of it up, you still are not allowed to bring it through TSA security and onto the plane. However, exceptions to these rules can include medically necessary liquids, such as insulin and baby formula.

  • Matches and lighters

    Passengers may carry on common lighters and one book of safety matches—however, strike-anywhere matches (those that can be lit by striking against any rough, dry surface) are prohibited in both checked and carry-on luggage. No matches, including safety matches, are permitted in checked baggage.

  • Batteries

    You can pack dry batteries (AA, AAA, C, and D) in either carry-on or checked bags. Lithium batteries with 100 watt hours or less may be carried on the plane or checked, as long as they're in a device. Loose lithium batteries may be only be carried on and cannot be checked.

  • Knitting needles

    Materials for knitting and needlepoint are allowed in carry-on bags and checked luggage. Make sure any knitting needles are wrapped or otherwise protected to prevent injuring luggage handlers and inspectors.

  • Gifts

    Wrapped presents can be carried on board, provided the contents meet safety and security regulations. But since security screeners may unwrap gifts for inspection, it's advisable to leave presents unwrapped until you reach your destination.

  • Electronics

    Small, portable electronic items that are smaller than a standard-size laptop, such as cell phones and tablet devices, do not have to be removed from baggage during screening. Larger electronics, including laptops, full-size video-game consoles, full-size DVD players, must be removed from their cases, placed in a separate bin, and screened individually at security checkpoints.

  • Medication and medical equipment

    All prescription and over-the-counter medications can be carried on board the aircraft in unspecified quantities. Other medical necessities including but not limited to inhalers, EpiPens, canes, casts, blood-sugar test kits, crutches, liquid nutrition for passengers with a disability, and items used for medical or cosmetic reasons, such as mastectomy products, can also be packed in carry-on bags. These items must be declared to screeners before going through security and are subject to additional screening.

  • Baby food, equipment, and needs

    Baby formula, breast milk, juice, gel- or liquid-filled teethers, and canned, jarred, or processed baby food are permitted on board the airplane if a baby or a small child is traveling. These items do not need to meet the 3-1-1 rule like other liquids/gels do, but must be removed from your carry-on luggage, declared to screeners before going through security, and are subject to additional screening. In addition to food and formulas, baby wipes, child car seats, and baby carriers can be taken through security and onto the plane.

  • Expensive items

    Although not an official requirement, jewelry, currency, and other valuable items should always be carried with you, provided they meet security regulations.

  • E-liquids, electronic cigarettes, and vaping devices

    As long as the amount of e-liquid you're carrying onboard is less than 3.4 ounces, it is allowed through security—quantities larger than 3.4 ounces must be checked. However, battery-powered e-cigarettes, vaporizers, vape pens, atomizers, and electronic nicotine delivery systems can only be taken onboard the aircraft in your carry-on or on your person. The FAA prohibits all of these devices in checked bags.

  • Disposable and electric razors

    Both disposable and electric razors are allowed in either carry-on or checked luggage.

  • Wedding dress

    You can carry a wedding dress through security and onto your flight, but take precautions first. Pack the dress carefully and thoroughly in a protected garment bag. Contact your airline to ask about their policy for stowing the garment safely in the cabin and whether it counts as your carry-on item (you may be charged extra). In addition, you should arrive early to the airport to ensure you get through security and to the gate early enough to talk with an airline agent about stowing the dress onboard.

  • Small pets

    Small pets are allowed to travel with passengers through security checkpoints, but it's your responsibility to contact the airline for their specific policy. Pets need to be taken out of their carrier (which will also need to go through security) and screened by security.

Restricted Items NOT Allowed on a Plane in Your Carry-On

  • Sharp objects

    Sharp objects include a wide array of items, such as box cutters, ice axes and picks, knives (including pocket knives, but excluding plastic or round-bladed butter knives), meat cleavers, razor-type blades, and scissors that exceed 4 inches (smaller scissors can be carried on). Note that any sharp objects in your checked bags should be covered or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors.

  • Sporting goods and athletic equipment

    With the exception of balls, many pieces of sporting equipment such as baseball bats, golf clubs, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, martial arts weapons, hiking poles, and tent spikes/poles, are prohibited from carry-on luggage and must be transported in checked baggage. However, some exceptions include tennis rackets, fishing poles, snow shoes, and longboards. Bicycles are sometimes allowed on flights, but it varies by airline—check with your airline for details.

  • Self defense items

    Self-defense sprays (like mace or pepper spray), and other items, such as billy clubs, black jacks, brass knuckles, kubotans, and other martial-arts weapons, are not permitted past security.

  • Gel-type candles

    While solid wax candles are allowed in a carry-on and checked luggage, gel-like candles can only be transported via checked bags.

  • Large quantities of alcohol (more than 3.4 ounces)

    Any beverage with over 70 percent alcohol content, such as grain alcohol and 151 proof rum, cannot be checked or taken onto the plane in your carry-on bag. However, if you want to bring more than that (like bottles of wine), you may pack in your checked baggage up to five liters of adult beverages (more than 24 percent, but less than 70 percent alcohol) in unopened retail packaging.

  • Guns and ammunition

    Well-packaged ammunition and well-packaged, unloaded firearms, BB guns, compressed-air guns (e.g., paintball markers), pellet guns, starter pistols, and replicas can be put in your checked luggage, but must be declared at check-in. Per TSA regulations on guns: "Firearms carried in checked bags must be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in." And on ammunition: "Small arms ammunitions must be securely packed in fiber, wood or metal boxes, or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition. Ask the airline about limitations or fees." When in doubt, ask your airline about specific rules and regulations for checking firearms.

Items You're Not Allowed to Check OR Carry-On, So Leave Them at Home

  • Alcoholic beverages over 140 proof

    Any beverage with over 70 percent alcohol content, such as grain alcohol and 151 proof rum, cannot be checked or taken onto the plan in your carry-on bag.

  • Flammable items

    Aerosol cans (except limited quantities of personal care items that are 3.4 ounces or less), butane, fuels, gasoline, gas torches, lighter fluid, strike-anywhere matches, flammable paints, turpentine, paint thinner, arc lighters, plasma lighters, electronic lighters, E-lighters, and replicas of incendiaries cannot be transported in any way on passenger airlines.

  • Explosive materials

    Passengers cannot bring items such as fireworks, flares, hand grenades, blasting caps, dynamite, and replicas of explosive materials onboard aircrafts.

  • Chemicals

    Chlorine, bleach, spillable batteries, spray paint, fertilizers, tear gas, and fire extinguishers are considered dangerous and are not permitted on commercial passenger aircrafts.

  • Outdoor and wildlife safety products

    Items such as bear bangers (intended to scare away bears without harming them) and bear spray are not allowed on commercial aircraft.

Penalties for Not Complying

The Travel Security Administration takes these rules seriously! The agency will impose fines of up to several thousand dollars for attempting to carry on certain weapons or other dangerous materials.

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