What’s in your bag? TSA Packing tips and guidelines.

With the busiest season of travel approaching, here are some simple answers to what you can and can’t bring in your carry on and checked baggage. And my own personal tip:

“As a former airline gate agent, and carry on baggage monitor, don’t try to sneak your oversized carry on through security to avoid paying the baggage fee. It only creates a scene at the gate, and a hold up of the line. It needs to fit in the carry on sizer that all airlines have. If it’s too wide or large, or you have more than the allowed amount by TSA, they are going to catch it.”

From the TSA.GOV website updated March, 2014

Carry On Baggage

Carry-on baggage is a small piece of luggage you keep with you in the cabin of the aircraft while flying.  You are allowed one carry-on in addition to one personal item such as a laptop computer, purse, small backpack, briefcase, or camera case.

TSA will screen any “Carry-on” baggage that will fit through the x-ray machine; however, it is up to each individual air carrier as to whether the baggage fits the size restrictions for your flight.  Please check with the air carrier prior to proceeding through the security checkpoints.

Always keep your belongings in sight during screening .  You are responsible for your property as it proceeds through the screening process.

Checked Baggage

Checked baggage is luggage you check in at the ticket counter or curbside. It will not be accessible during your flight. When locking your checked bags, please use a TSA Accepted & Recognized Lock. TSA is mandated by Federal law to screen 100% of checked baggage. Bags may need to be opened during this process. If your baggage needs to be opened and inspected, TSA may have to break unrecognized locks to access your bags. TSA will not reimburse passengers for unrecognized locks broken as a result of the security screening process.

Packing Tips:

  • Do not pack jewelry, cash, computers, electronics, or fragile items in your checked baggage.
  • Pack shoes, boots, sneakers, and other footwear on top of other contents in your luggage.
  • Avoid over packing your bag so that your articles do not spill onto the ground if the bag is opened for inspection and the screener will be able to easily reseal it.
  • Avoid packing food and drink items in checked baggage.
  • Don’t stack piles of books or documents on top of each other; spread them out within your baggage.
  • Do NOT pack or bring prohibited items to the airport.
  • To avoid loss or confusion between your item and that of another passenger, place identification tags with your name, address and phone number on all of your baggage, including your laptop computer.  It is a good idea to place an identification tag inside your baggage as well.
  • Before arriving at the airport, check with your airline or travel agent to determine the airline’s baggage policy, including number of pieces you can bring and size and weight limitations.
  • Place personal items such as toiletries, toothbrushes etc. in clear plastic bags to reduce the chance that a TSA screener will have to handle them.
  • Do not pack wrapped gifts.  They may need to be opened for inspection.
 What about liquids in my carry on?

You are allowed to bring one small bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces or less per container. Consolidating these containers in the small bag separate from your carry-on baggage enables TSA officers to screen them quickly.

3-1-1 for carry-ons. Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container; must be in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. The bag limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring.

Be prepared. Each time a TSA officer stops to physically screen a carry-on bag, it slows down the line. Practicing the 3-1-1 rule will facilitate the checkpoint experience.

Declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula/food and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces, and they don’t have to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. TSA officers may need to open them for additional screening.

If in doubt, put your liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes in checked baggage.

Please include attribution to TravelInsurance.org with this graphic.

What’s In Your Bag?

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