Airport Security Rules

The Latest in TSA Airport Security Rules and Regulations

TSA Xray Machine Picture - TSA Backscatter Body Imaging Picture - image from the TSA showing body
TSA Xray Machine Picture Backscatter, Body Imaging at Airports. © TSA

It can be tough to stay on top of airport security rules; they always seem to be changing. One minute you can keep your shoes on, the next you have to remove them; suddenly the TSA can see you naked and then they can't. Who knows what's going on?

Current News on Banned Airport Security Items

The list of items banned or limited by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) from being carried on airlines includes things you might not think twice about carrying on board. Be sure to read up on what you're allowed to travel with, though, because those airport security screeners will most likely find it.

So, what isn't allowed? Sharp weapons are obvious no-no's, but things you may not even consider to be dangerous weapons can be found on the list, like spare lithium batteries, for example. What else? Pepper spray is something else you'll want to avoid packing in your bag, as are ice picks, and corkscrews. 

formerly banned fingernail clippers are now permitted (get a set without an attached metal file). If it can be used as a weapon, it's likely a no go. Some items, like ice picks, are a no-brainer no-no, but know that you must also check the hockey stick and corkscrew. I remembered the hard way in summer 2006 that lighters were banned, although lighters were once again okay as of August 4, 2007 (once the TSA deduced that the agency was spending millions of dollars and manhours confiscating up to 39,000 lighters a day).

It's perfectly fine in 2016 to carry them in your bag. 

The TSA-banned items in your carry on can get you fined and even prosecuted, even if you packed them accidentally. In scenarios less common now than just after 9/11 airport security crackdowns, you could potentially wind up on a no-fly list or be unable to board if you are carrying a banned item in your carry-on.

What's Up With Lithium Batteries?

The Department of Transportation (DOT) no longer allows loose lithium batteries in checked baggage; your loose, spare lithium batteries must always be packed in carry-on baggage.

Don't worry: the lithium ion batteries inside your camera, phone and laptop are almost certainly okay and you can carry spares in your carry-on luggage if you need to. Limitations on amount, packaging, type (metal vs. ion), lithium content and size of lithium batteries are complicated, but (essentially):

  • You may not pack loose lithium batteries in your checked baggage
  • You may pack spare lithium batteries in carry-on baggage
  • You may not bring lithium metal batteries, period (which you're really unlikely to own)

How Much Liquid Can I Take in My Carry-On?

At present, you can transport liquids in your carry-on luggage as long as they contain no more than 100 ml (3.4 ounces) of product. You'll be provided with a quart-sized bag when you arrive at security to place them in (or you can bring a small transparent bag from home) and then pass them through the security scanners in a separate tray to your bag or electronics. Pack items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked baggage.

What About Electronics? 

You'll be required to remove your laptop before passing through security, and in some cases, asked to remove all electronics from your bag to be scanned individually. 

And Your Shoes? 

You'll have to remove those when passing through security in the United States. It's not as common in other countries. 

Mail Banned Items Home From the Airport

Services at some airports can now mail banned items home for you at a cost of about $14 -- they're located near airport security in some airports if you find yourself accidentally carrying a banned item. If you actually go through security with a no-no and your bag is searched and a banned item subsequently found, the TSA screener will decide whether you're allowed to exit security and make arrangements for mailing it home.

Packing for Airport Security

Current TSA rules are causing many travelers to check baggage to avoid facing extra hassle at security. Just in case, it's worth learning about how to avoid lost luggage -- this article covers what to do if it happens.

Learning how to pack for airport security is quite a pain, but it's gotta be done. Get some airport security packing tips here: How to Pack for Airport Security.


This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff