Can You Bring Food on a Plane? TSA Rules You Need to Know
Whether you want to take snacks on your flight or bring home edible souvenirs, knowing these TSA food rules will help you breeze through security
Don’t ignore these TSA food rules
Sometimes the most stressful part of flying is getting through airport security. Do you keep your shoes on or off? How about a belt? And how many ounces of liquid can you take on a plane? What about what I can take on a plane in checked luggage? Then there’s the issue of snacks and drinks. You hopefully already know that it would be a travel mistake to bring a bottle of water through security, as it’s one of TSA’s most confiscated items.
But what about if you’re not flying on an airline with the best food and want to bring a bagged lunch or snack so you don’t have to purchase overpriced food from the airport—can you bring food on a plane?
Whether you want to bring dinner with you for a long flight, you’re traveling for the holidays with goodies or you’re returning home with edible souvenirs, we’ve got the answers to all your questions about TSA carry-on rules. Don’t leave home without reading this list of the top foods you may be tempted to bring on a plane and the TSA food rules that govern them.
Can you bring food on a plane?
The short answer is, yes, you can bring food on a plane and you can take food through TSA, but … not all food. According to the travel experts at Next Vacay, it helps to remember these two general TSA food rules: If it’s a solid item, it can go through a checkpoint. However, if it’s liquid-based and greater than 3.4 ounces, it should go in a checked bag.
After that, things get a little trickier. Can you bring food like a sandwich on a plane? Yes. What about cheese? It depends. PB&J? Yes, for the combo on bread, but as for the individual ingredients, maybe not. Confused? We understand, and we’ll go into the specifics below.
One important note: Most of these rules apply only when you’re traveling within the United States; international rules may vary. If you’re traveling abroad, you’ll also want to check with customs about declaring any foods you’re bringing back from another country. The TSA’s website has a complete list of food items that you can and cannot bring on your upcoming trip. You may be shocked to learn that these surprising items actually made it through security.
Can you eat on a plane?
First things first. Before you start packing a mile-high picnic, will you even be able to eat it in the air? Yes! As you may already know, on April 18, 2022, the national mask mandate on public transportation was lifted, meaning you’re no longer required to wear face masks on planes or in airports to prevent the spread of COVID-19—though the risk is still there, as new variants continue to develop. With that being said, you’re allowed to eat and drink on planes freely again, whether those are provided by the flight attendants or they’re some of the approved foods and beverages below.
Can you bring a sandwich on a plane?
Feed the family while you fly with homemade sandwiches, because PB&Js are cleared for takeoff! So is ham and cheese, bologna and mustard, a hoagie you buy at the deli, avocado toast and more. If it fits in your bag and has layers of food in between bread, you can bring it through TSA and onto the plane, although your neighbors will probably be thankful if you leave the egg salad and other fragrant options at home. (That’s just one of the things you can do to be polite when flying.)
While yes, you can bring snacks on a plane, note that something you spread on bread, like mayo or mustard, is fine in sandwich form, but you can’t bring a big jar through security unless it’s under the TSA’s liquid limits. You can, however, purchase it at the airport and bring it onto the plane. More info on that below.
Can you bring spreadable foods on a plane?
What if you want to bring peanut butter and jelly on board, or a jar of mayo or mustard, to make your own sandwich while in transit? Not so fast. According to the TSA, creamy dips and spreads, as well as jelly and jam, fall under the “gel” section of the “liquid, gel, aerosol” 3-1-1 rule: 3.4-ounce containers that fit in a single one-quart bag. Or, as the TSA helpfully says: “If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it,” then check it.
So keep your PB&J in small containers, check it or leave it behind. The same goes for your onion dip, hummus, cream cheese and even brie—yup, brie is spreadable, says the TSA, although you’d be fine bringing a hunk of cheddar. Note that if you’re flying from one domestic airport to another, you’re allowed to bring any food you buy in the airport on board to consume.
Can you ever bring drinks on a plane?
Any liquids in containers larger than 3.4 ounces are off-limits to bring through security, which means you can’t bring a super-sized drink from home or outside the airport. But if you manage to come up with small bottles of 3.4 ounces or less and they fit in your single one-quart bag, you can take them through security with you. Of course, once you’re through security, the world of high-priced airport beverages is at your disposal. Everything from a latte to a smoothie, bottled soda to overpriced water, is OK to bring on board and to your airport seat to imbibe.
If you want to avoid spending money at the airport, there is one workaround: ice. Water or juice in solid, frozen form is actually allowed through security since it’s not a liquid … yet. So, you can freeze a water bottle or juice box, take it with you and then drink it after it’s thawed. However, says the TSA, if frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet the 3-1-1 liquid requirements.
So perhaps consider a reusable water bottle instead, chug it before you get to security or arrive with it already empty and fill it up after you’ve been cleared. Additionally, according to the TSA, “medically necessary gel ice packs in reasonable quantities” are allowed, regardless of their physical state of matter (melted or slushy). The same holds true if you’re bringing baby supplies. (See below for more on that.)
Can you bring holiday food on a plane?
Whether you’re in charge of bringing the gingerbread house, you’re traveling with gifts of the edible variety, or you can’t resist taking home leftover stuffing, it’s important to know what’s good to fly.
First, the good news: Gingerbread houses are fine to bring, as are cakes, pies, cookies and other baked goods. So are meats (including the holiday ham), fresh fruits and veggies, and yes, stuffing. Casseroles are fine to bring too (though probably a little tough to transport). However, runny icing, cranberry sauce, eggnog, canned sugar plums and other canned fruits have to be less than 3.4 ounces or they’ll need to go into checked luggage.
And while you might be your family’s designated Christmas ham carver, remember that sharp objects won’t make it through security, so it’s best to leave those at home. Of course, any holiday sweets bought at the airport past security are fine to bring on the plane.
Can you bring alcohol on a plane?
Just about the only flat-out no for food and drinks you can’t bring on a plane? Alcohol over 140-proof. It won’t make it through security in your carry-on or your checked bag. Less potent mini-bottles under 3.4 ounces can be brought through security, and anything larger should be checked.
Alcohol you purchase in the airport, like at a duty-free shop, can be brought on the plane, but it needs to be stored for the duration of the flight and absolutely cannot be consumed in the air. Believe it or not, it’s actually illegal to drink your own alcohol that you bring onto the plane while en route, so keep those minis securely stashed in your carry-on.
Can you bring baby food on a plane?
Thankfully, the TSA makes exceptions to the 3.4-ounce liquid rule for parents of young children. As long as you notify an officer, you can bring formula, breast milk and juice for babies and toddlers onboard in “reasonable quantities,” as long as you’re willing to put them through extra screening.
According to the TSA, “Inform the TSA officer if you do not want the formula, breast milk and/or juice to be X-rayed or opened. Additional steps will be taken to clear the liquid, and you will undergo additional screening procedures, to include a pat-down and screening of other carry-on property.” This is also one of the few times passengers can get away with going through security with partially melted ice packs.
Can you bring a pizza on a plane?
A Domino’s pickup sure is cheaper than any meal options you’ll find in the terminal. Luckily, the TSA gives its official thumbs-up to pizza … though good luck getting a whole pie to fit in your carry-on. You’ll probably want to stack the slices in a smaller container before going through security. Of course, any pizza purchased in the airport is safe to fly with.
Now that you know which foods you can and can’t bring on a plane, find out what you should never wear on a plane, according to flight attendants.