What’s Allowed in a Carry On Bag? What to Pack and What to Leave at Home

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What Not To Bring in Your Carry On

Knowing what is allowed in a carry-on bag can mean the difference between breezing through TSA security and having items confiscated. Carry-on luggage rules determine everything from how much liquid you can take on a plane to what type of toiletries and sports equipment are permissible.

Travelers are often confused by TSA regulations. For instance, you can’t pack knives in a carry-on, but can you bring scissors on a plane? Can you pack glass items? What about vaping pens? This article will explain what is allowed in a carry-on bag and what items you should never pack.

Carry-On Liquid Rules

Let’s start with the TSA carry-on liquid rules, the regulations that affect the most people. All liquids must be in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces, and all liquid containers must fit into a one-quart clear ziplock bag. This includes any liquid, including carry-on toiletries and over-the-counter cold medication. Gels are considered liquids for purposes of travel.

Medically necessary liquids are exempt from this rule, as are liquid foods for infants. If you are packing such items in your carry-on, be sure to let the TSA security officer know.

For carry-on toiletries, the fewer liquids, the better. Pack solid soaps, deodorants, and shampoo instead of liquids if possible. You can buy liquid shampoo and toothpaste in travel size.

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For most carry-on bags, follow the carry-on liquid rules and pack your ziplock of liquids at the top of your bag for easy access. Some carry-on luggage include removable TSA-compliant clear toiletry bags which can be easily taken out and repacked during security checks, making them perfect for traveling with liquids. Examples of such bags include the Travelpro®  Platinum® Elite 21” Expandable Carry-On Spinner and the Crew™ VersaPack™ Max Carry-on Expandable Spinner.

Sharp Objects

Sharp objects are generally prohibited as carry-on, and almost anything sharp can be used as a weapon. Pocket knives, sharp sporting equipment, and other potentially dangerous items should be packed in checked luggage and not in your carry-on. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule:

Can You Bring Scissors on a Plane?

Scissors with blades shorter than four inches can be packed in carry-on luggage. Bear in mind, however, that the final decision lies with TSA officers, who may disallow and confiscate scissors based on their personal judgment.

Nail clippers and disposable razors are normally allowed in a carry-on, although the rules regarding such items may change from country to country. Knitting needles are also permitted, although again the TSA officer has the final say. While the TSA site does not make a distinction, wooden or circle knitting needles may be less likely to be confiscated than metal needles.

Can You Bring Glass Items on a plane?

Glass items, including glass picture frames, are among the items you can surprisingly pack in your carry-on. Essentially, if the glass item can be wrapped safely and fits into your carry-on, you’re allowed to take it on a plane.

Carry-on luggage is the safer option for glass and other delicate items, as checked baggage can be roughly handled. Be sure to wrap glass items securely to ensure nothing breaks during travel. You can wrap glass items in clothing to provide some protection. Bubble wrap offers more protection, but does have the disadvantage that it takes up more space in your carry on. For glasses and bottles, fill the glassware with paper or small, soft items of clothing and wrap in two or three layers of paper before wrapping in clothing.

Snow globes are subject to carry-on liquid rules and must be small enough to fit into your quart-sized ziploc along with other liquid containers. Larger snowglobes should be packed in checked luggage, as they would otherwise be confiscated under TSA’s liquid regulations.

Sporting Equipment

Sporting equipment is generally prohibited as carry-on, as items like baseball bats, ski poles, golf clubs, and pool cues could all be used as weapons. You can, however, pack roller skates, rollerblades, and somewhat oddly, ice skates in your carry-on, according to the TSA website. However, whether the TSA officers handling your security allow ice skates through depends on their individual judgment.

Self-Defense Items

While it's understood that travelers may want to protect themselves, self-defense items are not allowed in carry-on luggage. This includes pepper sprays and mace. By their very nature, self-defense items have the potential to cause harm and should be transported in checked luggage. Even then, you can only pack one four-ounce contained or self-defense spray in checked luggage, and it must have a safety mechanism that prevents accidental discharge.

E-Cigarettes and Vaping Devices

Given the rules prohibiting smoking on planes, you might think vaping devices would have to be in checked luggage. The opposite is true. You cannot pack e-cigarettes in checked luggage; all vaping devices must be packed in carry-on. Any liquids needed for the device must comply with carry-on liquid rules.

Please note that while you have to pack vaping devices in carry-on, you are not allowed to vape on planes. Doing so carries hefty legal fines.

What Can't You Bring on a Plane?

The list of items you cannot bring on a plane is too long to cover in its entirety here. Firearms, ammunition, and fireworks are prohibited, as are all knives and safety razors (including pocket knives and Swiss Army knives). Straight razors and replacement blades for straight razors are also not allowed. Most tools also cannot be packed in carry-on luggage, as they have the potential to cause harm.

Certain foods are prohibited if you’re traveling internationally or from Hawaii to the US mainland, including meats, vegetables, and plants. You may be able to take such food onto the plane to eat during the journey, but if you try to take it off the plane at your destination, it will be confiscated, and you may face fines or legal repercussions.

Check out the TSA website before packing your carry-on for a full list of what you can and cannot pack in carry-on and checked luggage. And if you’re looking for a new piece of carry-on luggage, be sure to join us as we put carry-on luggage to the test

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