What You Can (and Can't) Bring on a Plane

No matter what kind of trip you have coming up — an impromptu vacation with the girls, a business trip or a romantic getaway — there is always the matter of what (and how) to pack. If you’re a seasoned traveler, you know how important it is to be prepared if you want to avoid inconveniences like extra baggage fees and rearranging your luggage in the middle of check-in.

From your checked luggage to your carry-on and personal item, airlines keep a close eye on sizes and weights. Plus, you’re sharing the overheard bins with lots of other travelers, so it’s important to be considerate. Not to mention, you’re going to have to lug those bags through the airport, so you want to keep things as manageable as possible!

Luggage size allowances differ slightly across airlines, and the type of ticket you purchased will also play a role. Whether you’re on a strict budget or not, no one likes surprises at the airport, so we put together this handy luggage guide to help make sure you — and all your belongings — make it on the plane and to your destination.

What You Can Bring

Whether you’re a minimalist or a bring-everything-you-can-think-of type of packer, there will always be a few necessities you absolutely cannot go without. Remember, foreign countries may have slightly different rules, so be sure to double check the regulations so there are no surprises on your journey home. Here are a few things to remember while you pack for your next flight:

Toiletries

You can take liquids such as shampoo and body wash in your carry-on, but they must be in 3.4 oz (100mL) containers or smaller. All your liquid containers must also fit in a clear one-quart sized zip-top plastic bag or case.

You can fill up reusable containers with the liquid toiletries you want to bring or purchase travel-sized versions of your favorite products. This is the perfect time to put those toothpaste and mouthwash samples you get at the dentist to good use. Stick deodorants are allowed, but if you use a spray, gel, cream, paste or roll-on deodorant, make sure they are no larger than 3.4 oz (or just put it in your checked bag instead). Liquid makeup, like foundation, is included in your one-quart allowance.

If you’re going somewhere warm for longer than a weekend, chances are you’re going to want to bring a razor along. Although you can bring electric and disposable razors (meaning the blade is attached to the handle) through security, you can’t bring straight razors in your carry-on. If you have to bring them, put them in your checked luggage.

Medications

Wondering if you can bring the liquid antibiotics your pediatrician just prescribed for your son’s ear infection? You can, and it doesn’t count toward your total liquid allowance. You can pack any medications — liquid or not — in your carry-on or your checked luggage. Generally, any medication carried on will need to go through the x-ray machine (which is perfectly safe), but let security know if you would prefer they inspected it separately, and they will accommodate.

Traveling with kids

According to TSA, there is a different security procedure for kids under 12. Babies and toddlers can be carried through the metal detector, and children are permitted to leave their shoes, light jackets and any headwear on during screening. If your kids are old enough to pack their own personal item for the flight, do a quick check to make sure they didn’t pack anything that will cause delays at security.

Snacks like granola bars, dried fruit, crackers and cookies are all allowed through security, but avoid liquids like juice boxes and yogurt. There are always plenty of places to buy snacks and drinks in the terminal, but if you’d prefer, you can bring an empty water bottle and fill it up after you get through security.

Baby formula and breast milk are also exempt from the liquid limitations and are permitted in reasonable quantities. Pack them in a clear, well-sealed container that can be easily removed from your carry-on for inspection. The TSA officer may need to test the liquid for explosives, so be prepared to open the container if asked. You also do not need to be traveling with your child in order to bring breast milk on board.

When it comes to oversized, child-related equipment like booster seats, strollers and baby carriers, rules vary by airline. Confirm beforehand which items you can bring into the cabin and which items you’ll need to check. Any equipment you bring through security will need to go through x-ray, or if it’s too big, undergo a physical inspection by a TSA agent.

What You Can’t Bring

When it comes to checked luggage, you have a lot more freedom with what you’re allowed to pack, so if you’re unsure, throw it in your checked bag instead of your carry-on. If you have any liquids over 3.4 oz (which includes aerosol cans and certain foods like peanut butter) in your carry-on, the TSA agent will have to open your bag to find and dispose of it. This will slow down your progress a little — and with kids to entertain, every second counts.

Sharp objects can be a bit of gray area when you’re packing your carry-on. A few common items that absolutely can’t go in your carry-on include corkscrews, knives and loose razor blades. You can bring tweezers, sewing needles and scissors, as long as they are less than 4 inches long from the pivot point.

If you’re unsure about a particular item, sometimes it’s best to just leave it behind. TSA also has a handy, searchable list where you can find the definitive rule on just about any item — they’ve pretty much seen it all. We are also big fans of their very responsive, sometimes very entertaining Twitter account.

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re packing for a flight, and if you can keep it simple (yes, even when you have kids), getting through security, onto the plane and to your destination can be a smooth, stress-free process.

Enjoy your trip!