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4 things TSA really doesn’t want you to bring on an airplane

Nov. 25, 2021
4 min read
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If you don’t follow the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) or its Northeast region spokesperson, Lisa Farbstein, on Twitter, you really should.

TSA often tweets hilarious but sobering content about what they find during the standard security screening. You’d be surprised to learn what some travelers try to bring on aircraft. However attempting to bring banned items through security and onto an aircraft -- regardless of intention — has real-world consequences.

When prohibited items are flagged during security screening, it slows everything down. Police are called, your items are searched, and you may even face arrest and a fine.

As we enter the busy holiday travel season, you might want a refresher on what is -- and definitely is not -- allowed on an aircraft, including these four things you shouldn’t pack in your carry-on luggage.

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Guns

This seems like a no-brainer, and yet so many people seem to forget this one. Folks, you cannot bring your gun into the cabin. Even if your firearm is unloaded, it is not allowed. A large majority of the illegal finds from TSA’s Twitter feed involve illicit firearms.

“A Philadelphia woman was caught by @TSA officers with this loaded handgun in her carry-on bag at a checkpoint at @PHLAirport yesterday,” Farbstein tweeted. “She said she forgot she had her loaded gun with her. That's no excuse. If you own a firearm, you need to know where it is at all times.”

Another recent tweet involved a man with a loaded gun stopped by security at Washington National Airport (DCA). He was cited by police and faces a federal civil penalty, Farbstein tweeted.

Firearms must be unloaded and checked in a locked hard-sided container and declared to the airline at check-in.

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Also, bullets, magazines and clips are in the same category. You can bring them in checked luggage, just not in your carry-on. Ammunition must be securely packed in fiber, wood or metal boxes or another packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.

Finally, TSA says toy guns are “generally permitted” but that it recommends travelers pack them in checked baggage. Items that look like realistic firearms — like Nerf guns — are prohibited.

Full-size hygiene products

(Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post/Getty Images)

One of the most confusing restrictions is the “3-1-1” liquids rule. This rule means you can carry liquids, gels and aerosols in travel-size containers onto a plane. But there’s a limit. Each container can only hold 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less, and they all have to fit in a single, one-quart, resealable bag.

So, your travel-size toothpaste and lotion are fine. That full-size bottle of mouthwash? Not permitted. A large bottle of shampoo? Leave it at home.

Alcohol

(Photo via Shutterstock)

We’ve all seen the horror stories of disruptive passengers on flights this year. It hasn’t been pretty — and far too many incidents involved the use of alcohol on board.

You can actually bring your own alcohol on a flight -- but with several limitations. According to TSA, alcoholic beverages with more than 24% but not more than 70% alcohol are limited in checked bags to five liters (1.3 gallons) per passenger. They must be in unopened retail packaging. Miniature bottles of alcohol can be brought in your carry-on but must be able to fit into a single quart-sized bag comfortably.

However, it’s imperative to note that you may NOT consume your own alcohol onboard — a flight attendant must serve alcohol.

And the fines for breaking this rule can be significant: The FAA has fined a handful of passengers more than $1 million this year alone for incidents such as bringing their own alcohol onboard, getting drunk and ignoring flight attendants’ instructions.

Fertilizer

I had to look this one up. If you have a green thumb, I’m sorry to inform you that fertilizer is not allowed in carry-on or checked luggage as it can be flammable. However, you can bring plants (and planting seeds), provided your plant fits in the overhead bin or underneath your seat.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023