Packing everything you need for your business trip or vacation into a single carry-on bag speeds you along at your destination. You’ll avoid extra fees for checked bags and won’t have to worry about lost luggage during your flight. But Transportation Security Administration rules about what items you can legally bring on board the plane makes packing your bag tricky. Pay attention to the rules for toiletries and you won’t risk losing your items when you go through security.

Liquids and Gels

According to the TSA website, you may only carry on liquids and gels that are in 3.4-ounce containers or smaller. Liquids include toiletries such as shampoo, after-shave, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, conditioner, hand or body lotion, mouthwash and liquid makeup. Toiletries often found in gel form include toothpaste, deodorant and lip balm or lipstick. Transfer liquids and gels to smaller containers if the original package contains more than 3.4 ounces, or purchase special travel sizes or travel-sized containers. You may be able find these sizes of carry-on liquids in the duty-free areas of airports. You can’t take a large toothpaste tube with only a little left in it, or half a large bottle of shampoo. Additionally, all your bottles of liquids and gels must fit in a single 1-quart plastic bag.


TSA rules say liquid foundation, liquid eye liner, mascara, lip balm, cream blush, lip stick and any other makeup in liquid or gel form has to meet the 3.4-ounce container limit and must fit in a 1-quart plastic bag or zip-top bag. Powdered or pressed makeup, baby powder, talcum powder and other toiletries that aren’t in a liquid or gel form are not prohibited items and aren’t regulated during the screening process. Pack them in your carry on baggage as you wish.


Disposable razors and their cartridges are the only types of razors permitted in your carry-on luggage. Sharp objects and razor-type blades, such as box cutters, utility knives, and safety razor blades, are only allowed in checked luggage. You may also carry nail clippers and nail scissors with blades shorter than 4 inches. Don’t pack knives, large scissors, lighters, or pepper spray in your carry-on item or personal item. If you need batteries for a toothbrush, razor or other item, these are allowed in your carry-on luggage. You also cannot bring aerosols like hairspray through airport security in your carry on because they are flammable; you need to bring any aerosols in checked baggage.

Packing Tips

Each traveler is allowed one 1-quart plastic bag for liquids and gels. You must remove this bag from your carry-on luggage at the security checkpoint for screening. Pack the bag where it’s easy to get to. If you’re traveling with liquid medications in containers that are larger than 3.4 ounces, syringes or supplemental oxygen, you should remove these items from your luggage at the security checkpoint and allow the TSA agents or TSA officers to inspect them.


Always bring important items like your prescription medications, breast milk, or baby food in your carry on bag so you have easy access to them in the overhead bins. Follow the liquids rule and keep them in quart-sized bags. Especially during long international flights this is important.