TSA Carry-On Rules: What Can You Bring on a Plane?

Plane in the city

Written by Scott Shetler on

Scott Shetler is a freelance writer who enjoys offbeat destinations, national parks, urban adventures, cultural experiences, and everything in between. Follow his travels on Instagram @quirkytravelguy and his blog, Quirky Travel Guy.

Plane in the city

Save yourself a lot of time and hassle at the airport by knowing exactly what you can pack in inside your carry-on.

These days, savvy travelers often head to the airport with nothing more than a carry-on bag. Not checking luggage saves time and money—and it’s easier than ever to travel without checked bags given the quality and selection of today's carry-on bags. But many travelers are still confused by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations regarding what you can bring on a plane with you.

The TSA has very specific guidelines on just about every possible carry-on item you can imagine. We’re not sure why anyone would feel the need to bring a cattle prod, billyclub, pool cue or stun gun onto a plane, but rest assured that the TSA has given each of these items a great deal of discussion and consideration. (They’re all banned from carry-on luggage but allowed in checked bags, by the way.) And don’t worry, if for whatever reason you feel the need, parachutes are allowed in carry-ons.

Generally speaking, anything that falls into the categories of sharp objects, sporting goods, firearms, tools, self-defense items, flammable materials, and liquid items above three ounces may not be packed in carry-on luggage. There are some unexpected exceptions, though, as noted in the TSA’s Prohibited Items document. There’s also a bit more detail on what to take—and what to leave—below.

Sporting Equipment: When it comes to sporting goods, forget about carrying on baseball bats, hockey sticks, or ski poles. Tennis rackets, snowboards, and ice skates, however, are just fine.

Tools and Weapons: Guns and weapons are forbidden (naturally), as are most tools, such as hammers, crowbars and axes. Attention carpenters: Wrenches and screwdrivers are allowed as long as they’re no more than seven inches in length. Multi-tools are also allowed, as long as they are bladeless or the scissors are small, less than 4 inches.

Sharp Objects: Leave the box cutters and utility knives at home, but scissors with blades less than four inches long (such as cuticle scissors) are acceptable. You can bring nail clippers and basic disposable razors as well.

Flammable Items: Most of flammable items are an absolute no in both carry-on and checked baggage, but basic lighters are one notable exception: the TSA relaxed its ban on common lighters in 2007. You may now bring a standard lighter in carry-on luggage, as well as one book of safety matches. However, matches are banned in checked baggage.

Toiletries and Liquids: Most frequent travelers are aware that liquid and gel items such toothpaste, cosmetics, and shampoo may be carried on as long as each item contains less than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) and they fit together in a clear, one-quart bag (3-1-1 bag) . Interestingly, that restriction also applies to snow globes. You’ll only be allowed to take a snow globe in carry-on baggage if it’s small and fits inside your one-quart bag of liquids and gels. Medically-necessary liquids and baby formula, however, are not subject to the 3.4 ounce rule.

Miscellaneous Items: And in case you were wondering, here’s an odd array of items that are allowed in carry-ons: tortilla presses, bread makers, coffee makes, and waffle irons (for mid-flight munchies?), toy robots and vacuum robots, night vision goggles, pencil sharpeners, antlers, artificial skeleton bones, bike pumps, and bowling balls.

TSA rules and regulations are subject to change, so try to stay on top of any changes in the regulations. For more information, take another look at the TSA website.

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

The Easy Way to Apply For TSA Pre-check

8 Must-Have Items To Pack In Your Personal Item

8 Expert TSA Tips To Get Through Airport Security Faster