With increasing rates for checked bags on most airlines, it’s no surprise that more and more air travelers are looking to effectively pack their carry on bags – both for longer trips and short trips. Whether you are checking a bag and want essentials in case something is lost, or are hoping to avoid checked luggage together, you may need to include liquid toiletries in your carry-on luggage. But there are important TSA rules you’ll need to follow – starting with a carry-on quart-size bag.
Note that in any discussion of TSA (Transportation Security Administration) rules, things are always subject to change. This information is accurate at the time of our publishing of this post. We recommend checking the TSA website for the latest security screening information, including any rules around carrying on liquids. Also, keep in mind that rules for other countries may vary, so check those as well.
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Tips for Packing Your TSA Approved Carry On Quart Size Bag
Understanding the TSA Liquids Rule
Whether you are going on a short trip or a longer vacation, you are likely to need to pack liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes in your bag. Unfortunately, you are no longer able to bring full-sized versions of these toiletries in your carry-on bag. Air travel is already stressful, so it’s important to fully understand the liquid rules so you are prepared with your quart-size bag of liquids.
Right now, air travelers are permitted to bring liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) in their carry-ons. These must fit in a quart-sized, resealable bag. This is called the 3-1-1 rule (3.4 oz, 1 single quart-sized bag, per 1 person).
Unless you are going through the TSA precheck line, this carry-on quart-size bag will need to be placed separately on the airport security belt during the TSA screening process. If you are going through the TSA precheck security checkpoint, you will most likely not need to put it in a separate screening bin. The TSA officers typically explain what is required as you enter the line.
The actual container does need to be 3.4 ounces or less, regardless of how much is left inside the packaging. If you have larger amounts of liquid (or larger containers), you can place these in your checked baggage.
There are some exceptions to the rules – for instance for medications and baby formula. Check the TSA’s official page for specific information about this. There are also separate rules around duty-free items on international inbound flights.
Finding a Quart-Sized Bag
You don’t need to go out and purchase a separate, expensive toiletry bag if you don’t want to. Even a quart-sized plastic bag is okay – like a Ziploc bag, for instance. It just has to be a 1-quart bag.
I personally recommend purchasing a bag that is a bit stronger than that, however. If you buy a good quality bag, you’ll be able to reuse it and keep your toiletries in it to use whenever you travel. Remember, it’s one bag per person, so if you are traveling with your family, you can each have one.
Note that European travel guidelines can be especially strict. Bags typically have to be fully clear, and they are strict on size. Check with the specific airport/country for more details. There has been some discussion of European airports updating the liquid rules in the near future.
The Best Toiletry Carry-On System
If you are going to be traveling for a long trip, and are hoping to keep everything in carry-on bags, you’ll have to be thoughtful about packing your TSA-approved quart-size bag. While a quart might seem to be pretty generous sized, it can fill up quickly. Many toiletries you’ll use for travel, like moisturizer, sunscreen, hair gel, liquid foundation, hand sanitizer, body wash, toothpaste, face wash, contact solution, etc, fall under this rule.
One common way to handle this is to purchase travel-size items of all of the main toiletries you’ll need. Pharmacies, grocery stores, and mass merchandisers typically have a trial size section with products just the right size.
In this case, you can keep all of these things in your quart bag, and then just toss it in your luggage when you travel. You’ll want to make sure all of these things aren’t expired, but this system is very easy to manage and isn’t too expensive.
If you are a frequent traveler, I’d recommend purchasing Cadence capsules. I recently started using this system and have found it to be a game-changer. They are expensive, but are completely refillable and leakproof, and don’t take up too much space. This way, I don’t have to waste packaging, and just fill up my Cadence capsules with products from my larger bottles.
The Cadence capsules can be personalized, so you don’t have to worry about the names or labels coming off in the shower. The magnetic labels can also be purchased separately if you change what you are bringing. They have nice wide tops and are the perfect size to be easily refilled and cleaned. Just be sure you keep track of expiration dates.
Another option is to purchase plastic refillable containers. These are available in drugstores, mass merchandisers, and on Amazon.com. Just keep in mind that these can be tough to clean out, especially if you switch products and want to use them for something else. They can also leak, depending on which ones you purchase.
Separating Solids From Liquids
Are you finding it tough to include everything you need in your quart-size bag? If so, you’ll want to look again and what is in it. While you may be tempted to just put all of your toiletries in that bag, it really only had to include your liquids.
So, you may choose to go through the bag and remove any solids. For instance, you may have dental floss, a toothbrush, a hair brush, or other items that really don’t need to be in the quart bag. I typically pack two toiletry bags. One contains the items that don’t fall under the TSA rules, while the other one is the quart bag.
Quart Bag Options
If you want to get a reusable quart-sized bag, there are a lot of great options. Here are a few to consider:
Truffle: Although it’s expensive, I really like the Clarity Jetset Case from Truffle. It’s definitely a luxury, but it works really well with the Cadence capsules and is great for a frequent traveler. Be sure to purchase one that is marked “TSA approved”. These are not typically approved for foreign airports, however.
There are also lots on Amazon with great reviews that come in two or three packs, which is great if you are traveling with someone else. Make sure they are the right size, as some are not.
Frequently Asked Questions
The rules are often similar, but you’ll want to check in advance. In addition, even if you have TSA precheck in the US, you won’t have it in other countries. So, be prepared to remove your liquid bag as you go through security.
No, every container, regardless of how full it is, needs to fit the maximum size requirement.
More Packing Tips Resources: Looking for more packing tips and recommendations? Here are all of our posts including packing lists, product recommendations, and ideas for specific trips.
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