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12 Items That Can Be Over 3.4 Ounces and Still Go in Your Carry-On

Finally, some good aviation news! Find out about these little-known loopholes in the TSA’s liquids rule.

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Read the fine print

Ever since 9/11, there have been plenty of changes and restrictions when it comes to flying. Shoes must come off when you go through security. No sharp objects are allowed on the plane. All liquids and liquid-like substances must be less than 3.4 ounces to go into your carry-on bag or they’ll be tossed. While we certainly understand the reasons for these seemingly weird airplane safety rules, they can be a little annoying when you’re traveling—especially that last one about the liquids. But we found a few loopholes in the TSA’s guidelines that could make your next flight a whole lot easier (at least in that regard). Once you’re up to speed, learn the new coronavirus-related rules you’ll have to follow the next time you fly.

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Breast milk and formula

This has long been a concern for moms of little ones, and chances are, you’ve heard a few airport horror stories about this topic over the years. The key to avoiding a similar hassle? Know the TSA’s actual rules—and consider printing them out and carrying them with you, just in case. All breast milk and formula, regardless of size, are allowed in your carry-on; you don’t even have to pop it into a quart-size bag. Need a few ice packs or frozen gel packs to keep that milk nice and fresh? Totally fine, though they will need to be screened. One caveat: The TSA does note that these liquids are permitted only in “reasonable quantities,” so if you have a lot, pack what you need and then either check or ship the rest. Don’t miss these other tricks that make traveling with kids less of a hassle.

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Baby food

All baby food is good to go in your carry-on! If your baby is a big eater and will likely eat more than 3.4 ounces during the flight—or you have a picky eater and just want some extra options—then bring more than 3.4 ounces. According to the TSA, the food can be in jars, cans, homemade containers, or anything else. Be prepared for it to be screened, and let the TSA agent know you are carrying baby food, as opposed to allowing it to be discovered during the security check.

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Closeup woman pouring medication or antipyretic syrup from bottle to cup.spukkato/Getty Images

Liquid medication

The TSA will never take away your medication—even if your carry-on is crammed with it. Pills and other solid medications are allowed “unlimited amounts,” as long as they’re screened. But if you’re bringing medication in liquid form, it should be in “reasonable quantities” and you’ll need to notify the TSA agent, letting him know that you have medically required liquids. These liquids will go through additional screenings, and you may be asked to open them. If you prefer that your liquid medication not go through the X-ray, you can ask for a visual inspection. Packing medication in a carry-on is actually one of the things smart travelers always do.

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Wife poring some hand sanitizer into her husband's hands.gilaxia/Getty Images

Hand sanitizer

OK, get ready for a totally new rule: Hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces can now go in your carry-on luggage. The TSA made the change in April during the pandemic, since many hand-sanitizer containers exceed the 3.4-ounce allowance. That said, your hand sanitizer (regardless of size) will need to be screened separately, so be mindful of this when you go through security and plan for the extra time it will take. Of course, hand sanitizer is a hot commodity right now. If you do find it in stock at a local store, make sure it’s not one of these 59 potentially hazardous brands.

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Jumbo disinfecting wipes

Plan on wiping down every inch of the plane before you get seated? Good idea! Bring as many wipes as you want, and stuff them into your carry-on bag. According to the TSA’s new pandemic rules, you can bring individually packaged alcohol or antibacterial wipes—or jumbo containers of the hand wipes. Bring some to share. On the other hand, these are the things you should never do on an airplane.

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STEB items

Never heard of STEB? Short for secure, tamper-evident bags, these one-time-use bags allow you to pack liquid items you’ve purchased at the airport in your carry-on. So, go crazy at the duty-free store and buy big bottles of liquor, perfume, and anything else your heart desires. As long as you don’t open it and it’s packaged in a STEB, you can bring it on board. Just make sure the containers inside are clear, according to USA Today; containers that are opaque, metallic, or ceramic aren’t allowed since security can’t check them properly.

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Gel-filled bras

Also known as silicone inserts, gel-filled bra helpers can be worn through security and onto the plane, even if they’re larger than 3.4 ounces, according to ThoughtCo. Discreetly let the TSA agent know about your “extra baggage,” and you may have an additional screening. Aside from that, though, there shouldn’t be a problem. Embarrassed about your underthings? Don’t be—check out the weirdest things TSA agents have found in luggage.

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Senior man pouring medicine out of bottle, close-upTom Le Goff/Getty Images

Cough syrup

Got a cough? Make sure that it’s not COVID-related, of course, and that you’re not contagious with something else either. Assuming you’re healthy enough to travel, your cough syrup can come on your trip with you. Non-prescription liquid medication is allowed in your carry-on, says ThoughtCo. But don’t simply go marching through security with a bottle of the good stuff. Let your TSA agent know you’ve got it, and expect some additional screening.

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Saline solution

Don’t worry about fitting your contact solution into a 3.4-ounce container. If you do manage it, then put it into a quart-sized, resealable plastic bag. But if you need to bring more, it will be classified as an over-the-counter medication. Just tell the TSA agent that you have it. Find out which 13 things are most likely to get you flagged by the TSA.

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Bottled water

Well, technically, you can’t bring bottled water on your flight—but your child can, according to What to Expect. It appears that children aren’t as patient as we adults are, and they may not want to wait for their water. So, feel free to bring them each a bottle in your carry-on. If asked, explain to the TSA agent that it’s for your child.

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Mixed Race boy looking at fish in bowlJose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Live fish in water

You may not be able to bring water for yourself, but you can bring water to keep live fish, well, alive. The fish and water just need to be in a clear container. A live lobster may also be allowed, as long as it’s transported in a clear plastic container, but check with your airline about that one, since some have specific rules regarding lobsters. And keep in mind that exotic animals are a whole other story and are usually never allowed on a plane—though that hasn’t kept passengers from trying to bring them. Here are the craziest things passengers have done to cheat the system.

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Ice packs

Need a bunch of gel ice packs to keep your medication or your baby’s food and drinks cool? Pack as many as you need, as long as it’s a “reasonable quantity,” the TSA says. The key, however, is that they need to be frozen solid when you go through security or else they’ll be treated as a liquid and will be limited to 3.4 ounces. (It’s OK if they melt post-checkpoint.) Let the TSA agent know you are carrying the ice packs before your bags are searched. Next, find out what a TSA agent first notices about you.

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Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff regularly covers travel, health and lifestyle for Reader's Digest. Her articles have also been published in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and other publications. She has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a master's degree in musicology from Oxford University in England. Danielle is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two children. See her recent articles at You can follow her on Facebook @Danielle.Karpinos, Twitter @daniellebraff, and Instagram at danikarp.