Tips for the 3-1-1 Liquid Ban

If you've trudged through airport security since September 2006, then you know you must have all your liquids, gels, and lotions in bottles no larger than 3.4 ounces stored in a single, clear, quart-size zip-top bag. Sounds simple enough. But what to do when you're flying internationally and suddenly can't recall the fifth-grade lessons on metric conversions? Or, you managed to barely squeeze that last tube of hand cream in your baggie but can't resist purchasing the latest perfume at the airport? Having been there, I can shamefully admit to trashing my toothpaste rather than going without my new musk cologne.

Had I planned ahead, I could have had clean teeth and fragrant skin. That's because knowing the ins and outs of the 3-1-1 rule can free up space and allow room for all the necessary toiletries and the occasional impulse purchase at the airport.

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The Solid Option

To free up space in the quart bag, consider solid toiletries such as Lush's shampoo bars. You can also switch from roll-on to solid deodorants, and even forego the gummy bear or gel-filled vitamins for solid pills.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are exceptions that allow you to exceed the designated legal amount and leave items out of your quart-sized bag. If you are taking liquid medicines, be forthcoming about your situation and have the prescription handy for screening agents. (It's a requirement that the patient and traveler's name match.) If you're traveling with children, you are allowed certain foods such as baby formula or breast milk. Again, preemptively notify the security officer as you approach the screening gate.

An Easy Conversion Tip

Containers purchased internationally may be measured in milliliters instead of ounces. Fortunately, it's easy to remember that any bottle less than 100 milliliters converts to less than the allotted liquid amount. Aside from the European countries, there are several nations who have harmonized with the stateside liquid ban.

Last Resort

Of course, when all else fails and you simply have too many liquids to fit in a baggie, you may have to check your bags.

Do your homework to find out how much to expect to pay at the airport for your checked bags. Or see if your carrier is among the many that offers reduced fees if you check your luggage online.

So be a smart traveler and plan ahead. And make sure you chug the water (or the Jell-o) before you reach the front of the security line.

How have you worked around the liquid ban rules flying domestically or internationally? Are there certain products you've switched over to solid in order to keep out of your baggie? Have you purchased TSA-approved bottles? Please share comments below so our community can learn your tricks for hassle-free flying.

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