A Complete Guide to Every Food You Can (and Cannot) Fly With
Figuring out how to pack souvenirs can be a tricky business, especially when you’re taking home anything remotely edible.
Travelers have always been curious (or even a little confused) about what kinds of foods are okay to pack in their carry-on and which they should probably either put down in the shop, ship home, or eat before they head back to the airport.
Passengers have noticed that TSA has been cracking down on food items recently. As policies are being updated by the organization, it also means more and more travelers are having to remove food from their carry-ons in the security line, which can sometimes be more than just an annoyance for travelers.
Some travelers have resorted to clever tricks to get their foods approved by the TSA, like Chrissy Teigen managing to bring her homemade gravy on one of her flights. Other travelers end up not being so lucky and have to toss out souvenirs just because of their suspicious shape, like empty special edition Coke bottles from Disney World’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park.
The TSA actually has a handy list of foods that can and cannot fly with you on its website. You might be surprised at how many things you can actually bring along in your carry-on, like packaged snacks, hard cheese, chocolate, and even fresh eggs. It’s always important to note that, when it comes to food, it is often up to the TSA agent in your security line as to whether you can fly with it.
In many cases, certain creamy or liquid foods such as peanut butter, olive oil, and salsa, simply have to comply with the organization’s 3-1-1 rule, or be placed in a checked bag. You can still take a lot of these items home if you really want them as souvenirs, but make sure you know how to pack them.
Take It With You
Vacuum Sealed Meats or Hard Cheeses: Since both of these items are non-liquid, they are perfectly fine to fly. If you’re still unsure, get items that are in an unopened, vacuum sealed package. Shops all over the world have pre-sealed products or even equipment to seal it for you, according to My Recipes. This can be packed in your carry-on or checked bag. Creamy cheeses can be carried on if it's less than 3.4 ounces.
Spices: Since spices are dried, they’re generally good to go. Make sure they’re clearly labeled and unopened, so they are not mistaken for other substances. Pro tip: Opt for a spice that you can’t find at home if you’re looking for a good souvenir for a foodie. These can be in your carry-on or checked bag.
Dried Goods: This includes pasta, dry beans, grains, and other pantry items that contain no liquid. These can be in your carry-on or checked bag.
Packaged Snacks: Good news for travelers who want to bring home interesting junk foods from around the world. As long as everything is sealed and unopened, you’re good to go. These are safe in your carry-on or checked bag. Granola bars, nuts, chips, crackers, cookies, and the like all apply.
Chocolates and Candy: Confectionary candy and chocolate (hardened) is perfectly alright to carry on your flight, which will make your trip to Belgium or France all the more enjoyable. Keep everything neat and packaged, and feel free to pack in your carry-on or checked bag.
Bread: Yes, you can even take home that baguette. Ask the bakery to give you some flight-safe packaging so you can avoid crumbs in your bag, but otherwise, breads of any kind are good to fly in both carry-on and checked luggage.
Coffee Beans and Tea Leaves: Coffee beans, loose tea leaves, or dry tea sachets are all considered dry goods, so the same rules apply.
Cooked Food (Non-liquid): Tell your family that you’re good to take home extra Thanksgiving turkey, as long as you leave the gravy in your checked bag (more on that later). Cooked foods of any kind, as long as there are no liquids, are safe to fly in both carry-on and checked bags.
Dried Fruit: Fresh fruits and vegetables can be a little tricky, but in their dried form, they’re officially A-OK. The same rules for dried goods and packaged snacks can be applied here.
Fresh Eggs: Yes, even fresh eggs are okay in both carry-on and checked bags, oddly enough. Even though they’re technically liquid on the inside, they’re still a solid food by TSA standards. It can be a little risky to take them, though, for obvious reasons.
Baby Juice and Formula: There are special guidelines for parents traveling with baby formula and juices in carry-on bags. These items are fine in checked luggage, but if you want to bring them on the plane with you, they will need a special screening.
Pizza: Feel free to take that extra large pepperoni pie with you, because the TSA is pizza friendly. It might be a little messy to pack as a souvenir, but it’s good news for people who need a quick meal before getting into the security line.
Pies and Cakes: Pies and cakes are also cleared for take off as well, so holiday travelers can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s unclear how the TSA feels about fruit filling, but according to its website, these items are cleared in both carry-on and checked bags.
Protein and Energy Powder: Even though these need to be mixed with liquid to be consumed, they are still a dried good, much like a spice. Therefore, the same rules apply here. Just make sure everything is labeled and sealed properly.
Sandwiches: That episode of "30 Rock" where Liz had to scarf down an entire Teamster sub is actually correct. Feel free to stop by the deli before getting on your flight, but leave the liquid dipping sauce behind (if it’s under 3.4 ounces, that is).
Eat It, Ship It, or Leave It
High Alcohol Liquor: Certain alcohols have different rules, and anything over 70% alcohol (140 proof) is no good to fly at all. This includes liquors like Everclear, grain alcohol, and certain types of whisky, vodka, absinthe, and rum, so make sure you know what you’re buying before you fly. If in doubt, just ship it home.
Canned Food: Canned goods are fine to fly in a checked bag, but they also are usually subject to the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. This can be a big problem because most cans are more than 3.4 ounces and they would require additional screening. It’s best to check it or ship it home.
Oils, Vinegars, Honey, etc: Olive oil, special cooking oils or vinegars, honey, and like items make excellent foodie gifts but there’s just one problem: They’re all liquids. Feel free to put them in checked luggage, but if you want to carry-on you’ll have to either ship those items home or comply with the 3-1-1 rule.
Dips, Jams, Creamy Cheese, and Spreads: Sadly, the 3-1-1 rule isn’t just for liquids, it also applies to creamy or spreadable items, since they have a soft consistency (like a gel). Salsa, creamy cheese, dips, peanut butter, jam and preserves, or other items like these are all okay to put in checked luggage, but can only be carried on in containers less than 3.4 ounces.
Yogurt, Gravy, and Other Liquid Food: If you can bring these in their solid form, that’s great. But unless you’re Chrissy Teigen, liquid foods like yogurt or gravy aren’t allowed in carry-on luggage if they’re in containers larger than 3.4 ounces and are best put in checked baggage or shipped home.
**Fresh Fruits or Vegetables.:Packing these items needs to be done with care. Fresh fruits and vegetables are cleared by the TSA in checked bags, and most of the time the TSA is okay with bringing solid, fresh foods in carry ons. If they are soft, mashed, or liquid, they are subject to the organization’s 3-1-1 rule. Passengers flying from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot travel with most fresh fruits and vegetables. These rules may change for people traveling internationally.
**Fresh Meat or Seafood. According to the TSA, these foods must be packaged properly and be completely frozen at the time of screening. This rule also applies to ice and ice packs used to keep the food frozen in its container. If you comply with these rules, you should be able to bring these items in both carry-on and checked luggage.
**Wine or Other Alcoholic Beverages. Beverages, including wine, that are over 24 percent alcohol (but under 70 percent alcohol) are fine in checked luggage only. However, there is also a limit of five liters (1.3 gallons) per passenger. Mini bottles are okay to bring in your carry-on as long as they are under 3.4 ounces and fit comfortably in your single, one quart bag. But remember that the FAA restricts passengers from drinking alcohol on board planes unless it is served by a crew member.