How to stay out of trouble with the TSA

How to stay out of trouble with the TSA

The United States’ Transportation Security Administration has a comprehensive list of items that are prohibited for whenever you are planning to take a flight, whether it’s domestic or international. They’re divided into the following categories:

Explosive or flammable items
Self defense
Sharp objects
Sporting goods

Some of  the items under each one of these categories might be allowed if you pack them inside your checked luggage.

The screening process will be a lot easier as long as you pack properly and you plan ahead. This can make your travel experience more comfortable and hassle-free. Even if one of the items mentioned here is generally permitted, it may be subject to even more screening or it may not be allowed at all through the checkpoint, if it happens to trigger an alarm during the process of screening.  This is also the case if the item appears to have been tampered with or poses security concerns.

Let’s take a look at some of the items that are prohibited according to each category:

It is okay for you to take electronic cigarettes and vaping devices with you in your carry on luggage, but it’s not okay to store them in your checked items. This is prohibited by the FAA. Battery-powered e-cigarettes, atomizers, vape pens, vaporizers and electronic nicotine delivery systems may only be carried in the aircraft cabin. Different airlines may have different restrictions. All electronic cigarette and vape-pen devices should be removed from carry-on bags if checked at the gate or planeside. The same thing happens with lighters. The ones that have no fuel are allowed in checked baggage. Those with fuel are prohibited in checked baggage unless they comply with the limit of up to two fueled lighters if properly enclosed in a case approved by the TSA.

If you want to carry non flammable liquids, gels or aerosols you are limited to up to 3.4 ounces or 100.55 milliliters or less, as long as it fits in one clear plastic quart sized resealable bag. If you need to travel with more than that amount, you must check it in.

One book of safety matches is permitted as a carry on item but no matches are allowed in the checked luggage. You can also take small compressed gas cartridges, up to two in life vests and two spares. The spares must accompany the personal flotation device and presented as one unit.

As far as the TSA goes, these are all the  flammable items that you can take with you in your carry on luggage.  You may definitely not carry any sort of firearm, ammunition, gunpowder or even realistic replicas of firearms in your carry on luggage. This restriction also applies to self-defense items such as brass knuckles, martial arts weapons, nunchucks, self-defence sprays, stun guns, shocking devices or throwing stars. The only sharp object that you are allowed to take with you in your carry on luggage is a disposable razor.

Ticket to Ride_carry on luggage_aviation law_shahram shirkhani
Image courtesy of Daniel Miller at

In the case of food there is something in common with the non-flammable liquids that we mentioned earlier. You have a limit of 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters of alcohol, creamy dips and spreads, gravy, jam and jelly, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, salad dressing, salsa and sauces, soups and yogurt. A couple of exceptions to the 100 milliliter limit applies to fresh whole fruits and pies and cakes. Good news for pastry lovers!

If you love sports, we regret to inform you that you may not carry with you and baseball bats, bows and arrows, cricket bats, golf clubs, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, pool cues, ski poles or spearguns, but there is one exception that will interest you if you practice skating. You guessed it right: skates!  This, of course, includes ice skates and rollerblades.

And if you are a craftsman,  you will have to face the fact that the only item that you are allowed to take with you in the carry on luggage is a screwdriver. Or  a wrench. Or pliers. Any of these items cannot be longer than 7 inches. But if you can afford to take them in your checked luggage, you are free to travel with axes, hatchets, cattle prods, crowbars, drills and drill bits, hammers, saws and larger tools.

Keep in mind that the final decision of carrying any item rests with the TSA officer or whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint. Any sharp objects in checked baggage should be sheathed  or securely wrapped to prevent injury to security officers and baggage handlers. When we talk about sharp items allowed in your checked luggage, we are referring to box cutters, ice picks, knives, razor-type blades, sabers, scissors or swords.

You can read more about prohibited items on the official website of the Transportation Security Administration, at


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