Travel: Flying with Thanksgiving food? TSA dishes rules for traveling with foodstuffs this holiday season


More than 50 million Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving this year, according to AAA, and many will be flying with food to share with friends and family for the holiday — or returning home with leftovers.

So the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) put out some guidelines on what items — specifically foodstuffs — can and cannot be brought through its checkpoints.

“ “If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces, then it should go in a checked bag.””

— TSA rules on flying with food

“Here’s some food for thought. If it’s a solid item, then it can go through a checkpoint,” the TSA said in its statement. “However, if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces, then it should go in a checked bag.”

With Thanksgiving around the corner, many recent TSA travel inquiries have been related to prepared food, perishables and spices. Here are some examples of items that the TSA will allow in a carry-on and of items that must be in a checked bag.

Food you can carry on

Baked goods, including homemade or store-bought pies, cakes, cookies and brownies.

Meats, such as turkey, chicken, ham and steak — frozen, cooked or uncooked.

Stuffing, cooked or uncooked, in a box or in a bag.

Casseroles, such as traditional green beans and onion straws, or something more exotic.

Macaroni and cheese, whether it’s already cooked in a pan, or you’re traveling with the ingredients to cook it at your destination.

Fresh vegetables, like potatoes, yams, broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beets, radishes, carrots, squash and greens.

Fresh fruit, such as apples, pears, pineapple, lemons, limes, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, bananas and kiwi. 



Food that must travel in a checked bag

Cranberry sauce, including homemade or canned sauces that are spreadable.

Gravy, including homemade or gravy that comes in a jar or can.

Wine, champagne and sparking apple cider.

Canned fruit or vegetables, as they have liquid in the can.

Preserves, jams and jellies, since they are also spreadable.

Maple syrup.

Keep in mind that the TSA maintains an entire list of items that travelers are allowed to bring on flights year-round under the “What can I bring?” section of its website. Additionally, there is an official TSA Twitter account called @AskTSA that responds to most tweets about what items can be moved through security, answering between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern time.

So why the rules around food? Earlier this month, the TSA created a viral post detailing a situation in which a traveler attempted to conceal a gun inside a raw chicken. Guns are not permitted as a carry-on and are only allowed in checked bags if certain safety precautions are taken.

The TSA said it may screen as many as 2.5 million passengers at checkpoints in the U.S. on Wednesday, Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving, and may see more than 2.5 million passengers on Sunday, Nov. 27, as travelers return home.

Over the last three years, the Sunday after Thanksgiving has been the busiest travel day from the Friday before Thanksgiving to the Wednesday after, according to the TSA.

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