A roomy purse is the perfect place to stash just about any personal item that doesn’t quite fit in your carry-on luggage, as long as each item meets Transportation Security Administration regulations. While the rules are a bit more lax than they were a few years back, some items still aren't allowed through security, such as knives of any kind and large bottles of liquids, which must remain in your checked luggage. Read below for what you may pack in a purse and what to put in your suitcase.
At the airport, you will need to take our your passport or another form of valid identification at various times to show officials, as well as to check in. For convenience, place your passport, wallet and, if needed, visa into a zipped compartment of your purse so that none of these essential items falls out of the bag. Make sure your wallet is hidden from sight to avoid easy thefts.
Personal Care Products
Just about any type of makeup or toiletry is allowed in a purse or hand luggage, as long as it meets TSA regulations. Any quantities of dry or solid toiletries such as eye shadow, deodorant, or lip balm are allowed in purses and carry-on bags. Contrary to what many people assume, you can carry nail clippers and tweezers onto the plane. For ease and convenience, stock these smaller items into a compact makeup bag.
Liquids such as lotion, hand sanitizer and toothpaste are permitted, as long as each container holds less than 3.4 ounces and they are packed in travel-sized containers in a liquids bag that follows TSA rules. Place all such liquids in a clear resealable plastic bag. Place these items on the conveyor belt or in a bin on the belt instead of leaving them in your purse, otherwise you're likely to get pulled aside for additional screening. The liquids rule also applies to gels, creams and aerosols.
The purse is handy place to stash snacks for your next flight, especially when airline food leaves a lot to be desired. As with personal care products, any gels, liquids or creams follow the 3.4-ounce liquid rule. This applies to items such as yogurt, peanut butter and even cream cheese, while any quantity of solid cheese is allowed. Solid, dry or natural food items such as trail mix, celery sticks or crackers are allowed in any quantity.
For best results without questioning from security, keep foods in their original packaging and unopened until after you pass the checkpoint. If you've brought food from home, keep it in a sealed clear container or plastic bag.
When it comes to sharp objects, some items are okay to bring through airport security, and some are not. Objects such as knitting needles, tweezers and hair or nail clippers will make it through airport security. Box cutters and utility knives can't be brought along in carry-ons. Scissors are allowed, as long as the blades are 4 inches or less, measured past the pivot point.
No knives are allowed, other than plastic butter knives. If you need a knife to spread cream cheese on crackers, for instance, pick one up at a fast-food restaurant at the airport. Multi-tools that contain sharp objects are also prohibited, as are razor blades. Disposable razors are fine to pack in a purse. Wrap or package sharp objects to make them safe for both yourself and the TSA agent.
If you have a long flight ahead of you and room in your purse, tuck a book, magazine, cell phone or iPad into it. If you own a cell phone or iPad, download music and movies onto one or both of these devices ahead of time. This way you can avoid paying an extra fee to rent earphones or watch an in-flight movie. Keep any lithium batteries in your checked bag instead of your carry-on baggage. You are able to bring chargers and most power banks for said electronics in your carry-on suitcase or purse.
All items that you carry in your carry-on item when boarding a plane will be subject to security screening and most items you normally carry will pass through with no problem. The main categories of excluded item are sharp, large, explosive or otherwise dangerous objects, as well as many types of liquids and gels.
While each airline sets its own guidelines, in general, a travel bag must be no greater than 21 inches long, 14 inches tall and 9 inches high. Ask the check-in-desk representative or flight attendant if you're unsure, or check the airline's website ahead of time for specific details. Many airlines place sample measurement bins near the check-in desk, so feel free to set your purse inside to determine if it can be carried onto the plane. If not, check it, or stuff it into a bag you plan to check, after removing items you'll need on the plane.
Some “weekender bags”, which are essentially tote bags and not a small purse, may border on the size specifications. If you have a weekender bag or larger travel tote that is bigger than an average purse, be sure to check its size before flying.
What Counts as a Personal Item
In airline terms, a personal item is any bag that can fit completely under the seat in front of you. A purse, briefcase, laptop bag, travel backpack or small duffel bag generally all qualify as personal items. All airlines have slightly different guidelines for the maximum size for an acceptable personal item, but generally, they can't be larger than 18 by 14 by 8 inches. Keep in mind that the larger your personal item, the less space will be available for your feet.
Diaper bags, coats, child safety seats and assistive devices, including breast pumps, strollers and walkers, won't be counted toward your carry-on allowance. Generally, airlines also allow passengers to carry on bags from the airport's duty-free shops in "reasonable quantities." It's up to the airline to determine whether or not the size of a passenger's duty-free purchase is reasonable.