Tired of packing travel size toiletries into a clear plastic bag? Here are some tips and hacks to get around the TSA liquids rule when packing toiletries in your carry-on bag.
What is the TSA 3-1-1 liquids rule?
But first, what is the TSA 3-1-1 liquids rule? The 3-1-1 rule applies to packing liquids in your carry-on bags, such as your rolling carry-on suitcase and personal item backpack. You can bring 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or smaller containers of liquids, packed in a 1 quart size resealable bag. 1 bag per person. That’s 3.4 ounces, 1 quart bag, 1 bag per person. You can pack as many 3.4 ounce bottles as you can fit in that bag.
Remember, the rule is based on the size of the container, not how much product is inside. You can’t bring a larger bottle that has just 3.4 ounces of liquid remaining in it.
The TSA or Transportation Security Administration, is a US agency, so TSA rules apply to flights originating from and within the U.S.A.. Other countries may have similar or different rules regarding flying with liquids.
What Are Considered Liquids?
The 3-1-1 rule applies to liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes.
Keep in mind that this rule applies not only to toiletries, but any liquids you pack in your carry-on luggage.
Liquid foods such as salad dressing also come under the 3-1-1 rule and must be 3.4 ounces or smaller.
Wet wipes, including disinfecting wipes, makeup wipes, and baby wipes, are not considered a liquid. However, I have had baby wipes trigger a bag search multiple times, so I either avoid packing wipes or take them out of my bag and place them in a tray for security screening.
Exemptions From The 3-1-1 Liquids Rule
There are some exemptions from the 3-1-1 rule.
Medically Necessary Liquids
TSA allows larger amounts of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols in reasonable quantities for your trip, but you must remove them from your carry-on bag and declare them to TSA officers at the checkpoint for inspection. You don’t need to place them in a plastic zip-top bag.
In addition to medications, formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (including puree pouches) also fall under the medically necessary liquids exemption.
Checked Luggage Not Subject to 3-1-1 Liquids Rule
You can pack containers of liquids larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked luggage. So if you are checking in a suitcase and you want to bring full size shampoo, just make sure to pack any such full-size liquids in your checked suitcase.
But remember, liquids can leak in your checked luggage. Make sure they are well-sealed. I pack liquids first into a sturdy box and then into my checked suitcase.
Traveling carry-on only is super popular these days. If you’re bringing everything onto the plane with you and not checking in a bag, make sure all your liquids comply with the 3-1-1 rule.
Favorite Solid Swaps and Non-Liquid Alternatives
The main way that I get around the liquids restrictions is by packing non-liquid alternatives. Solid toiletries are not subject to the 3-1-1 rule, so they don’t need to be in 3.4 ounce or smaller bottles and packed in a quart sized bag.
I prefer packing solid toiletries because they are less likely to leak in my luggage, they are lightweight, and a little bit lasts a long time.
When shopping for solid toiletries, think bars and powders. Here are some of my favorite solid swaps.
Instead of Liquid Shampoo, Pack Powder or Bar
Instead of liquid shampoo, I pack The Powder Shampoo. Starting with wet hair, I sprinkle some of the powder on my hand. Then mix with a little water to lather. Then wash my hair. This is my preferred non-liquid shampoo, especially since it is super lightweight to pack.
Another popular solid option is shampoo and conditioner bars. St Celment’s Clarifying Sold Shampoo Bar by Ethique is my favorite. Ethique is a great place to start when searching for solid travel toiletries. And if you’re sensitive to scents like I am, they offer a whole unscented line.
Instead of Toothpaste, Pack Toothpowder or Tabs
Instead of toothpaste, I pack tooth powder. I simply get my toothbrush wet and then dip it in the toothpowder. Another non-liquid option is tooth tabs. For those you chew on the tab and then brush with a wet toothbrush. I’m able to use less than one tab each time. Sometimes the tooth tabs get stuck in my teeth, so that’s why I prefer tooth powder.
Instead of Liquid Face Cleanser and Moisturizer, Pack Bars
Instead of liquid face cleanser and moisturizer, I pack an Ethique face scrub bar and solid moisturizer stick. A powder face scrub is another option. And for minimalists, you can use your bar soap as face wash.
Instead of Liquid Sunscreen, Pack Stick or Powder
Unfortunately, sunscreen lotion is not considered a medically necessary liquid, so it does fall under the 3-1-1 rule.
Instead of packing liquid sunscreen, I pack a sunscreen stick for my face. I find the stick format more convenient to apply to my face. I also have a tin of sunscreen, but that might be considered a cream. Powder sunscreens are another non-liquid option.
Sunscreen is something I recommend packing, as it can be very expensive at vacation destinations. And depending upon where in the world you’re traveling, it may come combined with skin whitener.
Instead of Liquid Deodorant, Pack Solid
Is deodorant considered a liquid by TSA and part of the 3-1-1 rule?
Deodorant comes in all forms these days, including liquid, gel, cream, and solid. Choose a solid option such as a bar, solid deodorant stick, or crystal deodorant.
Instead of Liquid or Cream Lotion, Pack a Lotion Bar or Stick
Instead of packing liquid or cream body and hand lotion, you can pack a lotion bar or stick.
Instead of Liquid Body Wash, Pack Bar Soap
Instead of liquid body wash, we pack solid bar soap. That’s one of the easiest swaps to make.
Pack Toiletries Like a Pro
Packing Solid Toiletries
I can pack our solid toiletries either in the checked suitcase, or in my carry-on, whichever is more convenient. Solid toiletries are not limited or restricted in carry-on bags.
I pack tooth powder in my carry-on backpack, so we can brush our teeth and freshen up during our travel day. If bringing powders in your carry-on, keep in mind that powders greater than 12 ounces (350 mL) must be placed in a separate bin and may require addition screening. For that reason, I only pack powders that are 12 oz or less in my carry on. Anything bigger, like protein powder, goes in our checked suitcase.
Liquids in Checked Suitcase
Since our family is traveling long-term, we do check in a suitcase. I can pack as many liquid toiletries, regardless of size, into our checked suitcase.
Liquids in Carry-On Bag
For liquids that you will bring in your carry on, you can either purchase travel size versions that are 3. 4 oz 100ml or smaller, or decant a larger bottle into a travel size container, such as a GoToob+.
Remember that only liquids need to go in your quart size bag. Your toothbrush and floss can be packed separately.
For our next trip, my liquids bag with contain wool wash and hand sanitizer. I will keep the bag in a pocket of my backpack where it’s easy to pull out at airport security.
Use Hotel Toiletries or Purchase at Destination
Another option to help you limit how many liquid toiletries you pack is to use the toiletries provided by your hotel or purchase toiletries once you arrive at your destination. This is easier for those of you who are not super particular about the ingredients in your toiletries. For me, I’m sensitive to fragrances and natural scents and try to avoid toxic ingredients in personal care products. So I bring most of my own toiletries with me, even when traveling long-term for years on end. One 16 oz bottle of tooth powder lasts me a year. And one 100 gram bottle of The Powder Shampoo lasts me at least 3 months.
Which toiletries will you pack?
Which toiletries will you pack for your next trip? Have you found some awesome non-liquid swaps you love? Are their certain liquids you must bring with you?