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What is a Liquid, and What Isn't?

Welcome to the Today in Travel Question of the Week. As always, you can submit a query below or via email.

In the reader comments of our story about 3-1-1 tips, reader searlema wrote, "I am very familiar with the requirements, or I thought I was, but when we were flying out of Montreal this past summer they confiscated a jar of Hazelnut spread similar to Nutella. I never would have considered that as a liquid, or even a gel, but I was told that since it was 'spreadable,' it fell under the requirement. Who knew?"

With the holiday travel season upon us, I think it's time for a quick refresher on the TSA's somewhat lengthy and complex list of prohibited liquids:

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Creamy dips and spreads
    (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
  • Gift baskets with food items
    (salsa, jams, and salad dressings)
  • Gravy
  • Jams
  • Jellies
  • Lotions
  • Maple syrup
  • Oils and vinegars
  • Salad dressing
  • Salsa
  • Sauces
  • Soups
  • Wine, liquor, and beer
  • Cologne
  • Perfume
  • Snowglobes

Note the variation between specifics and vague categories, i.e. cranberry sauce and jams or jellies. Our reader's hazelnut spread (which, by the way, is a tragic loss) probably falls under the "creamy dips and spreads" category. A good rule of thumb: If it's spreadable, it should be checked, not carried on.

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But with people traveling to and from family for Thanksgiving, where do leftovers come in? Mashed potatoes are the classic borderline substance—not quite a liquid, but definitely not a solid. And, sadly, definitely not going in your carry-on, sorry. Mashed potatoes are a TSA no-no. And while most pies and cakes should get through, it's a good idea to declare them up front and expect extra scrutiny.

Readers, have you ever tried to bring leftovers or souvenir foods (lingonberry jam from Sweden, perhaps) through security? Were you successful or unsuccessful? Share your tips and experiences below, and as always, please send along any and all travel-related questions for future entries. Thanks!

Read comments or add your own insight!
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