Info on Air Travel - The TSA 311 Rule for Airplane Carry-on Bags

What's Allowed Now in Carry-on Plane Bags

Passenger luggage on conveyor belt
Baerbel Schmidt/Stone/Getty Images

Making Sense of TSA Regulations

Understanding the specific rules that the Transportation Security Administration (aka the TSA) has in place at any given time can be a real challenge. After all, the government agency is constantly reviewing threats, new technologies, and the changing state of travel in an effort to make our flights safer and more secure. That said however, here are a few tips to keep in mind when you head to the airport for future trips. 

TSA continues to strictly enforce very specific rules when it comes to the size and amount of common toiletries that you can carry on an aircraft with you. For instance, each passenger is allowed to take one zip-top quart-size plastic bag filled with small containers of  liquids and gels, provided they adhere to the Transportation Security Authority's regulations. These travel-size toiletries (3.4 ounces or less) must fit comfortably in the plastic bag, and you will have to put the bag in a bin on the conveyor belt so it can be x-rayed by TSA officials when passing through a security checkpoint. Any items larger than the 3.4 ounce regulation must be placed in checked bags instead and is strictly prohibited from any carry-on luggage. 

Remember, these restrictions on liquids also extend to bottles of water, juice, soda, or other drinks as well. Under TSA regulations, those items are not permitted to pass through a security checkpoint at any airport. Keep in mind however that you can take bottles of water or other liquids on the plane that you've purchased after you've gone through security area.

TIP: You are permitted to take an empty plastic bottle through security and then fill it up at a drinking fountain before boarding your plane.

Laptop-Friendly Bags

TSA does allows certain checkpoint friendly laptop bags and backpacks, which have an unobstructed view of a computer, so travelers don't have to take their computer out of a carry-on bag while going through an airport security checkpoint. For specifics on the type of computer bag allowed visit the Laptop Bags page on the TSA website.

As the regulations keep evolving, it's also a smart idea to routinely check the TSA Information for Travelers page for new or updated rules and regulations. You'll also find valuable insights on the TSA website for carrying medicines in containers that are larger than three ounces as well.

Be Aware of these Additional Regulations

Here are a few of the other additions and changes since the original security guidelines were implemented following 9/11.

  • TSA insists all passengers over the age of 12 and under the age of 75 take their shoes off so those shoes can be x-rayed along with the carry-on bags. If you are younger than 12 or older than 75, your shoes can remain on.
  • Remember to remove jackets, belts, hats, watches, wallets, and other items while at the checkpoint. Empty your pockets of all of their contents before passing through the medal detector or body scanner.
  • Passengers will now be allowed to take small doses of liquid medicine through security and on the plane, a slight adjustment from the original security regulations.
  • Be sure that all rechargeable battery packs accompany you in your carry-on luggage. They may not be placed in your checked bags and need to be in the cabin instead.
    The following items are permitted to be carried aboard the aircraft:
  • Passengers traveling with infants may bring baby formula.
  • Prescription medicine that matches the passenger's name.
  • Essential non-prescription medicines such as insulin are permitted. If you are in doubt about an item, please leave it at home or place in your checked baggage or the item may be intercepted at the security checkpoint. TSA continues to allow laptop computers, cell phones and other electronic items. These measures will be constantly evaluated and updated as circumstances warrant.

Updates Under the Trump Administration

In an effort to bolster security there have been a number of changes to the rules and regulations governing TSA checkpoints. For instance, at most airports passengers are now required to take tablets, e-readers, game consoles, and other larger electronic devices out of their carry-on bags. This isn't a common practice everywhere just yet, but the TSA plans to implement it in all airports eventually. Be aware that the rules are changing and soon you'll need to remove all electronic devices larger than a smartphone from you bag. 

Be aware that many pieces of smart luggage – which include built-in battery packs for recharging devices – are now banned by the airlines as well. If you own such a bag, it will no longer be allowed onboard the aircraft. 

As always, the TSA is constantly reviewing its practices and procedures to find new, and more efficient, ways to get us through the long lines that have become common at many airports. For the latest information on what you can and can't carry-on with you, be sure to visit the agency's website.

Was this page helpful?