TSA Prohibited Items and What to Pack Instead

With warm weather approaching, people are searching out cheap flights and dreaming of summer vacations. While most flyers know to leave their cattle prod and throwing stars out of their carry-on luggage, there are some things FareCompare readers might not realize are on the list of TSA prohibited items. They include:

Sharp things

Box cutters, ice picks, knives, meat cleavers, safety razor blades, sabers, scissors with blades longer than four inches, and swords (even if you’re Aragorn) are prohibited in carry-on luggage. Scissors with blades shorter than four inches are now OK to take in carry-on baggage.

Sporting Equipment

You cannot take baseball bats, bows and arrows, weights, golf clubs, hockey sticks, pool cues, ski poles, and spear guns in your carry-on luggage. The same is true for martial arts and self-defense items like billy clubs, brass knuckles, nunchakus and stun guns.

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Firearms and most firearm-related items (like ammunition) are not allowed in carry-on luggage. Depending on your airline, you may or may not be allowed to have these items in your checked baggage. If you have one of those lighters that looks like a gun (and please tell us you don’t), not only can you not keep it in carry-on baggage, you can only check it if it doesn’t have any lighter fluid in it.


Small tools like wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers that are less than seven inches in length are allowed in carry-on baggage, but everything else has to go into checked baggage (including drill bits).

Flammable and Explosive items

With the exception of common cigarette lighters and safety matches, these are prohibited in carry-on and checked baggage. Torch lighters, which create a thin flame and burn hotter than regular lighters, are prohibited from carry-on and checked baggage.

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You probably already know about packing liquids in containers of 100 ml or smaller (approximately 3 oz.) and putting them all in a quart-sized clear zipper lock bag. Some travelers choose to visit a drugstore at their destination to buy cosmetics rather than deal with the rules for carrying them on the plane.

You are allowed to take baby formula, juice and breast milk if you’re traveling with a small child, as well as liquid medications as long as you separate them out from your other carry-on liquids and declare them to a Security Officer at the security checkpoint.

Avoiding Hassles

Because of TSA restrictions and airline baggage fees ranging from $15 to $35 for the first bag (even with the best airfares), some passengers ship their luggage and avoid much of the hassle.

FedEx’s luggage shipping service provides tags for shipping suitcases that you label with your name, reservation number and arrival date. Most major shippers let you track delivery online, and hotels usually hold your luggage in locked storage if it arrives ahead of you. Upon return, you can stop off at FedEx on the way to the airport for return shipping, though some upscale hotels have concierge service that will ship your things home for you.


Published: May 2, 2012