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Transportation Security Administration

How to determine which Thanksgiving foods should go in a carry-on or checked bag

Local Press Release
Friday, November 16, 2018

ARLINGTON, Va. – With Thanksgiving just a few days away, travelers are eager to bring some of their favorite food items with them for their flights and contribute to the Thanksgiving table. Sometimes the items come from a favorite local shop such as a bakery. Sometimes they are homemade from a long-standing family recipe. And sometimes the items are ingredients in sealed plastic bags to enable an individual to cook the item conveniently upon arrival at their destination. So how do you know which food items are permitted to go through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint?

Items that should be placed in checked baggageFood can travel with passengers. Passengers bring food with them every day of the year. Some foods may be carried through a checkpoint; others should be placed in a checked bag. Generally, if the item is a solid, it can be carried through a checkpoint such as pies, cakes and other baked goods, which still may require some additional screening. However, liquids such as eggnog and maple syrup and gels such as preserves and jellies should go into checked bags. Liquids in carry-on bags must follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule. The general rule of thumb is that if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, then it should go into a checked bag.

Solid food items that TSA officers say are common to see individuals traveling with this time of year include turkey, baked goods, stuffing, casseroles, and vegetable side dishes and these items are permitted through an airport checkpoint. Thanksgiving-themed foods that should be packed in a checked bag include wine, gravy, cranberry sauce, canned fruits and vegetables with liquid in the can, and mashed potatoes. It’s okay to bring uncooked potatoes to be cooked and mashed at a traveler’s destination, but after they are prepared as mashed potatoes, they’re not exactly what one would define as a solid.

TSA officerThe challenge for the traveler is often trying to figure out the best way to pack foods. Items that should be placed in a checked bag should be carefully packed in plastic tubs that are sealed tightly—perhaps even with some additional duct tape to keep the lids sealed. Or, if in glass containers such as a bottle of wine, it might be a good idea to wrap it in bubble wrap.

The most common food items that people bring to checkpoints to share with friends and relatives are baked goods—pies and cakes topping the list. And of course, after Thanksgiving, it is common to see individuals bringing leftovers back home.

Passengers can reach out to TSA to inquire as to whether a food item should go into a checked or a carry-on bag by downloading the free MyTSA app or using the “What can I bring?” tool on tsa.gov. This allows travelers to type in an item to find out if it can be brought in a carry-on bag, checked bag or either. Travelers can also get an answer in real time by submitting their questions to @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET and on weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.

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