As appetizing as airplane meals are, bringing your own food on a plane guarantees you’ll have something tasty to eat during a long travel day. Packing food to bring on a plane is a smart move these days, as many airlines have paused or eliminated in-flight service, and many airport eateries are short-staffed, causing closures or long lines.
Are you allowed to bring food on a plane? The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says yes. There is no limit to the amount of food that you can bring on a plane (as long as it fits in your carry-on bag). You’re also still allowed to bring food on a plane during COVID, as long as you put your mask back on between bites.
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5 Tips for Bringing Food on a Plane
Although the TSA does not limit the amount of food you can bring on a plane, there are some important rules you’ll need to follow.
Use Ice Alternatives
Ice packs must be fully frozen when passing through TSA screening. According to the TSA, if “frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container,” they are considered a liquid and subject to the 3-1-1 rule.
Note that this rule does not apply to gel ice packs used for medical purposes (for example, to keep medicine cool).
Instead of worrying about your ice packs melting before you get through security, use frozen fruit or frozen vegetables to keep your food cool. Bonus: You’ll have an extra snack once the frozen food thaws.
Use a slim cooler bag that will fit in your carry-on without taking up too much space to keep your food at a safe temperature. We recommend the Able Cooler, which is the perfect size for travel. Lined with a slim insulated foam and a food-grade reflective foil, the Able Cooler will keep your food cold or hot for hours.
Dispose of Certain Foods Before Disembarking
If you’re taking an international trip and don’t eat your frozen fruit or vegetables, make sure to throw it away before you disembark your flight. Most countries have strict rules about what food products can be brought into the country, so always check what is permitted before bringing in snacks. Unsure? Declare your food upon arrival at customs to be on the safe side.
Follow the 3-1-1 Rule
Peanut butter, hummus, salsa—these are all foods that the TSA considers a liquid, and therefore limits them to 3.4 oz. or less in your carry-on. Can’t decide if a food is a liquid or solid? Use the TSA’s helpful What Can I Bring search tool, where you can check.
Note that baby food is not subject to the same 3-1-1 rule, and is allowed in “reasonable quantities” in carry-on bags. (Just be sure to remove the items from your bag to be screened separately.)
Don’t forget to pack utensils and a napkin so you can actually eat the food that you’ve packed. Just make sure any knives you pack are plastic or round-bladed butter knives, otherwise the TSA will confiscate them.
Easy Plane/Snack Meal Ideas
When it comes to bringing food on a plane, pick items that are easy to eat without making a mess, and don’t have an offensively strong odor. We like to bring:
- A cheese or charcuterie plate
- Sliced vegetables and hummus
- Granola bars
- Pasta salad
- Overnight oats
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