TSA at SEA provides timely travel tips and guidance on how to travel with your favorite holiday foods

Local Press Release
Friday, November 19, 2021

SEATTLE – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is anticipating that security checkpoints locally and nationwide will be busy during the Thanksgiving holiday travel season, which officially kicks off today and continues through Sunday, Nov. 28.

Despite the surge in travelers, TSA is well-positioned to staff security checkpoints at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and at airports across the country to ensure the most efficient security screening experience for all passengers.

Over the next 10 days, TSA projects that passenger volumes will increase slightly with the busiest days at SEA being Sunday, Nov. 21 through Wednesday, Nov. 24 and Sunday, Nov. 28 and Monday, Nov. 29. The single busiest day at SEA during the Thanksgiving travel period will be Sunday, Nov. 28. The busiest times of day at the security checkpoint at SEA are from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

With the projected increase in the number of people traveling by air around the holiday, TSA highly recommends arriving at the airport early, to allow plenty of time to complete all steps of the travel process from curb to gate. Arriving prepared is key to a smooth travel experience and TSA offers the following advice for traveling with food.

Before you agree to bring a family favorite food item to contribute to the Thanksgiving holiday table, it’s important to think about how you’re planning to transport it if you are flying. Most foods can be carried through the TSA checkpoint, but there are some items that will need to be transported in checked baggage.

Here’s some food for thought: if it’s a solid item, then it can go through a checkpoint in a carry-on. However, if you can spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it - and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) -  then it should travel in a checked bag.

Food items often need some additional security screening, so TSA recommends placing those items in a clear plastic bag or other container when packing them at home and then removing those items from your carry-on bag and placing them in a bin for screening at the checkpoint. 

Here are examples of the most commonly asked questions about which food items are permissible through a checkpoint and which ones need to be placed in checked baggage.

Thanksgiving foods that can be carried through a TSA checkpoint

  • Baked goods. Pies, breads, cakes, cookies, brownies and other sweet treats. 
  • Meats. Turkey, chicken, ham, steak. Frozen, cooked or uncooked.                    
  • Stuffing. Cooked, uncooked, in a box or in a bag.
  • Casseroles. Traditional green bean casserole with onion straws or something more exotic.
  • Mac ‘n Cheese. Cooked and ready to be warmed at your destination.
  • Fresh vegetables. Potatoes, yams, broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beets, radishes, carrots, squash, greens. 
  • Fresh fruit. Apples, pears, pineapple, lemons, limes, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and bananas.
  • Candy. All types!
  • Spices and powdered gravy mix.

Thanksgiving foods that should be carefully packed with your checked baggage (if more than 3.4 oz)

  • Cranberry sauce. Homemade or canned are spreadable, so check them.
  • Gravy. Homemade or in a jar/can.
  • Drinks. Wine, champagne, spirits and sparkling cider.
  • Canned fruits or vegetables. It’s got liquid in the can, so they need to be checked.
  • Preserves, jams and jellies. They are spreadable, so best to check them.
  • Sauces, syrups and soups.

It is also important to remember food safety by storing the food properly while traveling to prevent foodborne illness. If you need to keep items cold during your trip, ice packs are permissible, but they must be frozen solid and not melted when they go through security screening process.

The myTSA app is a trusted source for last-minute travel questions. It provides travelers with 24-hour access to the most frequently requested questions about traveling with food. It also features a searchable “Can I Bring” database where you can type in the name of an item and the app will let you know if you should pack it in your checked or carry-on bag. The app is available from the App Store or Google Play. Travelers can also Tweet or Message AskTSA to get answers to last-minute questions. Live assistance is available daily including weekends and holidays from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT.

Finally, TSA continues to diligently implement the federal employee vaccine requirement, including promoting vaccination and ensuring every TSA employee is uploading the required information via computer to the central tracking system. Vaccination data is still being collected.

As the Nov. 22 vaccine deadline approaches, TSA views that date as another step to further counsel any unvaccinated employees. TSA does not anticipate that the vaccine mandate will in any way impact the agency’s ability to staff for Thanksgiving travel.