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Travel Advice -  All the rules for carry-on liquids and Gels

A terrorist plot uncovered in the United Kingdom in 2006 involved the potential use of liquid explosives and remote control detonators led to some significant changes in the items passengers are allowed to carry  abroad aircraft. 

Originally, two very different sets of rules were announced for air travel in the United States and the United Kingdom and European Union

Both sets of rules have been changed numerous times since the original restrictions were announced.  We provide a table showing the latest carry-on policies for personal toiletries below, although we advise you to read the complete article.

Also, there has been a significant change in the rules related to the types of batteries you can carry in both checked and carry-on luggage.  The new rules are very complex.  See our article on transporting batteries (the kinds you use in  cell phones, DVD players, laptops and other commonly used electronics) for more information.

Our information is based on the latest rules available from the government organizations that oversee air travel. Please consider that the ultimate decision on what is allowed on board rests with the inspectors at security check points.  We have heard a number of stories indicating that materials that have been approved in official documentation, have not been allowed by individual inspectors.  Although they may be incorrect in their interpretation of the rules, the inspectors have the final say on what can be transported.


 United States Restrictions

Travelers may now carry through security checkpoints toiletries in 3 ounce  containers that fit comfortably in one, quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag.   The image below shows the current policy.

After clearing security, travelers can now bring on-board the aircraft beverages and other items purchased in the secure boarding area

At the checkpoint travelers will be asked to remove the zip-top bag of liquids and place it in a bin or on the conveyor belt. X-raying separately will allow TSA security officers to more easily examine the declared items.

Liquids in containers of 3 ounces or less may be carried in your carry-on bag so long as they are placed in a clear, one-quart plastic bag.

Declare larger liquids. Prescription medications, baby formula, juice and milk (when traveling with an infant or toddler) are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint.

As of on August 4, 2007, TSA modified the rules associated with carrying breast milk through security checkpoints . Mothers flying with, and now without, their child will be permitted to bring breast milk in quantities greater than three ounces as long as it is declared for inspection at the security checkpoint.

Breast milk is in the same category as liquid medications. Now, a mother flying without her child will be able to bring breast milk through the checkpoint, provided it is declared prior to screening.

It is unlikely that additional changes in the liquid, aerosol and gel policy will be made in the near future.

This security regimen applies to all domestic and international flights departing U.S. airports. Travelers should, however, check with transportation security authorities in their country-of-origin for flights originating at non - U.S. airports.

Due to enhanced security measures, except for the items described above, larger amounts of liquids, gels, lotions and other items of similar consistency brought from home will not be permitted in carry-on baggage. These types of items must be packed in your checked baggage.   

Exceptions to this general rule for use on the plane:

  • Prescription liquid medications, baby formula and diabetic glucose treatments in excess of 3 ounces, if these items are declared to Transportation Security Officers at the security checkpoint.

  • Gel-filled bras and similar prosthetics worn for medical reasons
  • Gel-filled wheelchair cushions
  • Life support and life sustaining liquids such as bone marrow, blood products, and transplant organs carried for medical reasons
  • Non liquid or gel medications of all kinds such as solid pills, or inhalers are allowed through the security checkpoint once they have been screened. Please make sure your medications are labeled.

2. The excepted items will be manually inspected at the security check point.

3.  All passengers are now required to remove their shoes, which will be x-rayed with their carry-on bags.

4.  In the event a Security Officer identifies a prohibited item in your baggage, you will be required to either check that item with your checked baggage, or dispose of it at the checkpoint.

5.  Laptop computers, cellular phones, iPods, and other portable electronic devices are still allowed on board an aircraft. These items must still be screened at the security checkpoint.

6.  For an exhaustive list of what is banned or approved for either carry-on or checked luggage, click this link .  Certain types of common lighters will be allowed on U.S. flights after August 4, 2007.  See this link for details

For last minute updates, be sure to check with the TSA

The TSA has asked flyers to consider packing all electronic items in their checked luggage, as including them in carry-ons will slow the security process.  Flyers are not obliged to honor this request.

Just in case you need a reminder, carry-on luggage in the United States in restricted to one piece of carry-on luggage and one personal item (such as a purse or a briefcase).

  • The carry-on luggage must fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat.
  • It should not exceed 45 linear inches (length + width + height) or weigh more than 40 pounds.

If you will be flying to the United Kingdom from any destination, your ability to board with hand luggage will be impacted by the U.K. rules described below. We suggest that you check with your airline directly for the latest information on luggage policies.

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New Security Rules for the United Kingdom and European Union

Cabin Baggage

Airlines in the UK apply their own operational policies governing the number of items that a passenger may carry onboard.  Check with your air carrier to determine their position on this issue. 

The dimensions of cabin baggage must not exceed: a maximum length of 56 cm, width of 45 cm and depth of 25 cm (22" 17.7" 9.8" approx.) (including wheels, handles, side pockets etc.).  All items carried by passengers will be x-ray screened.


Some liquids will be allowed once again through airport security check points. There will however be restrictions on the quantity of liquids that can be taken through:

Photo: liquids in a re-sealable plastic bag Passengers may carry small quantities of liquids, but only within separate containers each of which with a capacity not greater than 100ml (100ml equals approximately 3.38 ounces).

These containers must be brought to the airport contained in a single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag, which itself must not exceed 1 liter in capacity (approximately 20 cm x 20 cm.  -  1 Liter is 2.11 pints or a standard plastic quart bag in the US). The contents of the plastic bag must fit comfortably and the bag sealed. Each passenger may carry only one such bag of liquids

The bag must be presented for examination at the airport security point.

Liquids that can not be placed inside the re-sealable bag must be packed into the hold luggage and checked in. Liquids of any amount can still be carried in luggage checked into the aircraft hold.

Remember that 'Liquids' includes:

  • All drinks, including water, soup, syrups
  • Creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara etc
  • Sprays and pressurized containers including shaving foam and spray deodorants
  • Pastes, including toothpastes
  • Gels, including hair and shower gel
  • Any other solutions and items of similar consistency


Essential medicines and baby food may be permitted in larger quantities above the 100ml limit (3.38 ounces), but will be subject to the authentication that is already currently required.

Other Items

All laptops and large electrical items (e.g. large hairdryer) must be removed from the bag and placed in a tray so that such items neither obscure nor are obscured by the bag.

Pushchairs and walking aids are permitted but must be x-ray screened. Wheelchairs are permitted but must be thoroughly searched.

Cased musical instruments will be allowed as a second luggage item on flights, but subject to additional restrictions. for more information on this topic.

Personal use toiletries allowed in carry-on by country

Personal use toiletries allowed in carry-on by country

Where United States
United Kingdom and European Union


Allowed  through Security Checkpoint

Allowed: Travel-size toiletries of 3 ounces (90 ml / 90 grams) or less that fit comfortably in ONE, quart-size (1 liter), clear plastic zip-top bag.  (Only 1 quart sized bag per traveler.) Allowed: Travel-size toiletries of 3 ounces (90 ml / 90 grams) or less that fit comfortably in  ONE, quart-size (1 liter), clear plastic zip-top bag. (Only 1 quart sized bag per traveler.)

Allowed:  Travel sized toiletries of 100ml size (approximately 3.38 ounces) or less that fit comfortably in a single, transparent, re-sealable plastic bag, which must not exceed 1 liter (approximately 2.2 pints or the size of US quart bag). (Only 1 liter sized bag per traveler)


Inside Secure Boarding Area

Items purchased after clearing security may be brought on-board

Items purchased after clearing security may be brought on-board

Items purchased after clearing security may  be brought on-board.  Most duty free or similar purchases will be given to you in a special sealed bag. Do not open this bag until you have reached your final destination. You should also retain your proof of purchase throughout your journey. You will be required to show it at all transfer points.

Table based on information provided by ASTA, TSA and DFT


We urge you to read the complete description of policies provided above.

US Restrictions

UK/Europe Restrictions


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