Tuesday Travel Tip: You can bring (frozen) drinks through TSA

Jul 7, 2020

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The cost of a case of water at the grocery store? $3.99. The cost of a single bottle of water inside the terminal? $4.25.

It’s no secret that juice, soda and even bottled water sold inside the airport terminal can easily cost several times what those same beverages may cost at your normal grocery store. Of course, you can bring your own empty bottle to the airport to refill with water once you pass through security, but there’s another solution if you want to bring your own beverage from home to enjoy on the plane.

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The TSA rules are that as long as your liquid is as frozen as a block of ice, it can pass through the TSA screening. The specific wording is:

Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements.

In practice, this means that your toddler’s favorite juice flavor from home can probably fly with you, as long as it is 100% frozen when it passes through security. We used to do this pretty frequently when our kids were smaller because while the TSA allows milk, formula and pumped breast milk through security without set limits, there’s an unwritten cutoff when your kids appear to be 2 or 3 years old when they stop allowing families to bring other liquids through security, even if the drink is for the kids.

A simple workaround is this frozen method. But you can use this tip for yourself, too. Freeze that carefully mixed green smoothie, some iced tea, iced coffee or filtered water from home and enjoy it on the plane once it thaws. Alternatively, you could get a large cup of warm water in the airport after you clear security to speed the melting along if you need to hurry up the process.

This is an especially timely tip right now, because while travelers are again returning to the airport in increasing (though still, comparatively small) numbers, many restaurants, shops and lounges inside the terminal remain closed, further reducing your drink options post-security.

(Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

Remember that if your drink is slushy, only partially frozen, in the process of melting, etc. then it’s going to land on the no-fly list and can’t be carried through security and onto the plane. If you really want to carry it on, you have to keep it 100% frozen until you gather your belongings and are past the screening process.

Also note that while the TSA rules do permit frozen liquids going through security, and I can vouch that it does usually work in practice, some TSA agents simply interpret things differently from most so be prepared with the rules if you don’t want to toss your drink. I also wouldn’t go crazy with a dozen different frozen drinks unless you are looking to land yourself in some secondary screening.

Additional reporting by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy

Featured image by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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