Travel like a pro with these airline packing tips

You can never be too careful when you're packing for a plane trip. As it turns out, some of the most common household items that you'd never think twice about are on the TSA list of restricted items, and aerosols fall squarely into that category. So whether you're planning to travel with your favorite hair spray or a can of whipped cream, it's wise to know the rules ahead of time.

Aerosol Toiletry Rules

Not all aerosol cans are treated the same by the TSA. Some items are prohibited, while others are permitted in limited quantities. Aerosols that are categorized as toiletries are allowed in your carry-on bag, as long as they conform to the 3-1-1 rule. These include aerosols in the following forms:

  • Deodorant
  • Antiperspirant
  • Hair spray
  • Shaving cream
  • Perfume
  • Sunscreen

To comply with the 3-1-1 rule, make sure all liquid, aerosol and gel toiletries in your carry-on bag are in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces each, and bring no more than can fit inside a sealed 1-quart, clear plastic zip-top bag. You can pack full-size toiletries in your checked luggage only.

TSA Prohibited Items

The TSA prohibits any aerosols that are flammable or otherwise hazardous. These include spray paint, cooking spray, WD-40, aerosol laundry products, and all insecticides except those that are applied directly to the skin. These materials are completely prohibited from carry-on bags as well as checked luggage. You can face a hefty fine and possibly even jail time for not following this rule, so if you're not sure about something, it's best leave it at home.

Non-flammable aerosols are permitted in checked luggage only. Very few aerosols are non-flammable, but a few examples include certain electronics cleaners and flat-tire fixers, whipped cream, and perhaps mankind's greatest invention – aerosol cheese.

Aerosol Dangers

Aerosol cans are considered hazardous for a few reasons. Anything flammable is carefully regulated, of course, and almost all aerosols are flammable, if only because of the propellant gases used in the cans. The changes in pressure and temperature on an airplane can cause aerosols to leak, ignite or even explode, in rare cases.

Pack Safe

In addition to the rules put in place by the TSA, the FAA has a few guidelines of its own when packing aerosols in your checked luggage. Aerosols (including toiletries) in your checked bags must be in containers no larger than 18 ounces, and you are permitted to pack a total of no more than 70 ounces. Aerosol containers in your checked luggage must be protected by a cap, and you should always pack them in plastic zip-top bags, if for no other reason than to prevent a mess should one start to leak.