Can you bring food on a plane? Short answer: yes, but only solid foods or foods for infants traveling with you.
This article will give you a comprehensive overview of all the food you can and can’t bring on a plane.
As a former flight attendant, I know from experience what foods are allowed through TSA security checkpoints. I will go over everything you need to know about bringing food in your carry on luggage. We’ll discuss the distinction between international and domestic flights, what happens if you’re traveling with an infant or toddler, as well as rules about bringing alcohol in checked baggage.
Table of Contents
Can I Bring Food on a Plane?
Most solid foods can be brought on a plane, but you are not allowed to bring any food that is considered a liquid or gel and is over 3.4 ounces in your carry on bag.
This includes pudding, fruit preserved in liquids, salad dressing, apple sauce, and peanut butter. Frozen gel packs are allowed as long as they are frozen solid when going through security, but partially melted ice packs will be taken.
If you fly internationally, fresh fruit and vegetables will likely be seized by customs. I asked Border Control about this rule. I was told there is a risk of spreading invasive plant pests if this food is allowed past the border.
The most straightforward food to bring on a plane are solid foods; think granola bars, dried nuts, dried fruits, and processed snacks like chips, candy and chocolate. Breast milk, baby formula, and food are also allowed through security, and I will go over the details of this category later in the article.
Customs vs TSA Food Regulations
Before we go any further, I was to give you a quick explanation of the different authorities that decide what you can and can’t bring with you on a flight.
For domestic flights, what types of foods you can bring comes down to the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA is responsible for security on domestic flights and is the authority that enforces the rules of what is allowed (or not) allowed on flights within the US. This is the security checkpoint you go through right after you check in for any flight.
For international flights, you also need to think about Customs or Border Control, which is responsible for the rules of what is allowed into the country. You usually go through this security checkpoint after you have arrived at your destination, and there are typically strict rules about bringing fruits, vegetables, and seeds in. Which brings us to our next issue …
Can I Bring Fresh Fruits and Vegetables to Eat on a Flight?
The Transportation Security Administration allows passengers to take fruits and vegetables to eat on planes. For international flights, you will be allowed to bring the fruits and vegetables on the plane, but typically must dispose of them to comply with border regulations at your destination country.
As long as the items are whole, like apples, oranges or baby carrots, the TSA officer will have no problem letting them through airport security. The problem with fresh fruit and vegetables comes when you are traveling internationally.
Everything in this photo except the full water bottle would be allowed in your carry on, no problem if you were traveling domestically:
Almost none of it except for the dried fruit/nuts and sandwich would be allowed through a border crossing.
Food items present other security concerns for Border Control officers. This is especially true if you are traveling anywhere that is an island. The Caribbean, Australia, and New Zealand have stringent rules regarding fruit and vegetables.
Hawaii is a destination to pay attention to; even though it is a domestic flight, there are rules around fresh fruit and vegetables.
Bringing Food for Infants and Toddlers on a Plane
Any food you need to feed your baby or toddler is allowed on the plane. But they will undergo additional screening procedures.
To make getting through security easier, pack the food, including breast milk, in a clear spill-proof container or bag.
Keep all the baby food together so when the TSA officer asks to check it, they are only going through one carry on bag.
Keep any pre-packaged baby food sealed in unopened retail packaging before going through security. They will x-ray all baby food and milk separately to ensure nothing is hidden inside the containers and bottles.
In my experience, food pouches are the easiest to bring on the flight. You can throw them out as you use them up; they are easier to feed the baby during the flight.
This bag is ideal for getting through airport security quickly and easily. Used as a carry on, it has space to carry formula, breast milk and baby food plus it includes conveniently sized freezer packs.
You bring baby food through security because the TSA built an exception into the rules that were put in place post-9/11. It’s called the “medically necessary liquids and gels exception.”
Thankfully breast milk, formula, and anything required to feed your baby or toddler fall under this category. You are not allowed to bring baby food through security without having a baby because it is not considered medically necessary in that case. Also, keep the amount you bring to reasonable quantities for the flight time plus an extra 3-4 hours.
For more tips for traveling parents, see our article on how to travel with a toddler.
✈️ Pro Tip: If you are breastfeeding, it is encouraged during the flight especially during landing and take off as it helps the baby’s ears adjust to the change in altitude.
Can I Bring Alcohol on a Plane?
You can pack full-sized bottles of alcohol in your checked luggage. Keep in mind that if you travel internationally, there are customs limits on how much you can bring into the country. There are limits on how much you can get back home to the US.
Please see the chart below for details on how much alcohol is permitted in checked luggage by country:
|United States||1L |
Certain states “may allow you to bring back more than one liter, but you will have to pay any applicable Customs duty and IRT. This will depend on which state you initially land in NOT your state of residency.”
|Canada||1.5L of wine or 1.14 L of alcoholic beverages or 8.5 L of beer.||Canada Rules|
|Mexico||Maximum of 5L||Mexico Rules|
|European Union||4L of still wine and 16L of beer |
and either 1L of spirits over 22 % vol. or 1L of undenatured alcohol (ethyl alcohol) of 80% vol.or 2L of fortified or sparkling wine
If you bring mini bottles that fit within the 3.4 ounces liquid limitation, you will get through security with them. They must remain sealed for the flight duration. It is against federal aviation rules to consume your own alcohol during a flight.
If you are traveling with full-sized alcohol in your checked luggage, make sure that you wrap the bottles in bubble wrap and put them in a plastic bag. Trust me; you do not want to arrive at your destination with everything soaked in wine or whiskey.
Using a product like this to pack alcohol in your checked bags can save you time and money. These not only protect the bottles from breaking but if they do break the liquid won’t spill all over the rest of your belongings.
If you are buying alcohol at your destination to bring home the easiest option is to buy it at the duty free shops at the airport.
Duty free is normally past security and the shop will seal the bottles in a clear plastic bag. This means you will have no issue bringing it on the flight. You will however need to keep it sealed on the flight and through customs.
Under no circumstance should you try to drink it on the flight.
Drinking your own alcohol in flight is a huge breach of the rules and the flight attendants are required to confiscate any open alcohol. No, you will not get it back when you land. It is dumped immediately, reported to the captain and if there are any other further security concerns the bottles are submitted to the authorities when the flight lands.
✈️ Read Next: Can You Carry Nail Clippers on an Airplane?
Now you have an answer to the question “can you bring food on a plane?”
You can always bring your own food on a flight as long as they are solid food items. Additionally, all breast milk, formula, and baby food are allowed through any TSA security checkpoint.