Many of us use carry-on bags to avoid paying checked bag fees, prevent our luggage from getting lost, or simply provide comfort and entertainment on board. But remember, there are specific rules for what is not allowed on a plane carry-on luggage. From seemingly obvious items like swords to more questionable implements like scissors, some items are universally banned, while others face varying restrictions. Read on to discover exactly what is not allowed on a plane carry-on to help avoid any unnecessary stress at security or the boarding gate.

Is carry-on guaranteed for everyone?

In short – not necessarily. While most major airlines and fares include some amount of complimentary carry-on, some budget airlines and deeply discounted tickets do not. To be sure I won’t be met with any surprises, I like to use KAYAK’s Fee Assistant to select the number of carry-on and checked bags needed so these costs are automatically included in my search results.

It’s located at the top of the flight results page, and can later be adjusted among the filters on the left after results are initially displayed.

How does the airline know what’s in my carry-on?

In most cases, the airlines themselves have no idea what’s in your carry-on bag unless you tell them or show them, either at the airport or while on board.

When checking in, you typically need to confirm that you’re not bringing a handful of prohibited items on board with you, but the airline will not open your bag and inspect it.

TSA (Transportation Security Administration), or another country’s equivalent, will screen your carry-on (and you) while passing through airport security to check for prohibited items. While the process may require more or less effort and time depending on things like airline status and membership in expedited screening programs like TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, everyone will pass through this screening – and nearly all are subject to the same restrictions.

Bags are initially reviewed by an X-ray scanner and may be additionally searched by hand by TSA agents. Violations can result in steep fines and potential legal issues, so don’t try to sneak anything though.

Pro Tip: KAYAK’s virtual Bag Measurement tool makes it easy to size up your luggage and ensure you show up at the airport with approved carry-on bags.

Streamline the process

Passing through security screenings can be among the most time-consuming and frustrating of airport processes, but there are some simple tips you can keep in mind to get through more quickly. Because TSA has tight regulations on liquids, you’ll often be asked to remove them from your packed bag, so keep them in an easily-accessible location.

And while there’s rarely a limit to how many electronic devices you can bring on board, TSA often requires that these also be removed from bags for better screening – so be prepared to quickly grab these, as well. Even those with TSA PreCheck can typically only leave one large electronic device in each bag, and additional devices will need to be removed.

Finally, keep everything out of your pockets (including phones and wallets) and stored within your carry-on bag when passing through security.

What is not allowed on a plane carry-on: the 10 most asked items

Because the list of what’s not allowed in a carry-on bag is surprisingly long, it’s easier to group them into some general categories that will give you a good grasp of the types of items to question before packing.

Keep in mind that TSA has the final say on any item and it never pays to argue with agents in the airport, so don’t bring anything questionable unless you’re prepared to forfeit it.

Once you’ve mastered the below, check out my guide to how to pack a carry-on – in the meantime, here’s what to watch out for.

1. Firearms

Perhaps the most widely understood category of prohibited items for carry-on baggage is firearms. The guidelines here are clear: There are no firearms that can be brought into the plane’s cabin as carry-on items. All guns from BB guns to compressed air guns are similarly prohibited.

Even toy guns – including water guns and Nerf guns – are banned, as is any toy or object that resembles a weapon. Flares, ammunition, and gunpowder are forbidden, too. Only accessories like gun holsters and rifle scopes are specifically allowed by TSA.

2. Flammables

While flammables may sound as obviously prohibited as firearms for airplane carry-on, they’re actually not so cut and dry.

Flammable liquids like butane, chlorine, and gasoline are banned on board (and in checked luggage), as are fireworks and explosive toys like bang snaps and blasting caps.

However, some lighters are allowed, along with cigarettes and cigars – though you’re forbidden to smoke them anywhere on the plane.

Falling into this category, dry batteries are also allowed in a carry-on with no quantity limits, but their terminals (the ends of the battery) must be prevented from coming in contact with any other metals.

3. Medical supplies

At the opposite end of the spectrum, medical supplies are almost universally permitted on planes in carry-on bags, and this is one of the very few exceptions to the otherwise strict limitations imposed upon liquids.

You can even bring a medically necessary oxygen tank on board, but as is the case with most medical supplies, you’re expected to remove them from your bag and present them to the TSA agent before the inspection.

Battery-powered wheelchairs and mobility devices are the only medical items specifically prohibited by the TSA, but they can be checked.

4. Sports gear

A great deal of common sporting gear is permitted on planes as carry-on, but not all. While you may be surprised to learn that semi-sharp items like horse spurs and clamp-ons are generally allowed, a general rule of thumb to follow is that anything shaped like a weapon (mainly a club) is prohibited.

This includes equipment like baseball and cricket bats, golf clubs, hockey and lacrosse sticks, and even walking sticks.

While you probably won’t have much reason to bring a bowling pin on board with you, this also falls under the prohibition of sporting equipment that could be used for bludgeoning. Fishing lures are allowed on board unless they contain large hooks.

The TSA agent on duty will determine if your hook is considered large, so it’s safest to pack these in checked luggage if you don’t want to risk losing it. No martial arts weapons are permitted.

5. Camping gear

Like sporting equipment, most camping gear is also allowed on planes as carry-on, but not all. Sleeping bags, tents, and even tent poles are permitted by the TSA, but keep in mind that many of these may violate your airline’s size and capacity restrictions, so you may be denied boarding with these even if you successfully pass security.

In many cases, you can simply gate-check them in this situation, but airlines aren’t required to offer this service. Tent spikes are not permitted, and neither is a bear spray, cast iron cookware, or gas cartridges of any size.

6. Household appliances and gadgets

The vast majority of household appliances will clear TSA security screening, but it’s important to confirm that they fit within your airline’s size restrictions, or you may not be able to board with them. Even blenders are allowed, as long as the blade is removed, as are hangers, bottle openers, and bladeless corkscrews.

As long as you avoid items with parts ruled out by other guidelines, like blades or too much liquid, finding a household appliance that’s forbidden by TSA is actually quite difficult.

7. Tools

While the TSA does take the added step of itemizing some specific tools that cannot board planes as carry-on items, like hammers, drills, and nail guns, the ruling on most tools comes down to one very specific guideline. If the tool is under seven inches, it’s permitted unless otherwise prohibited by another regulation unspecific to tools (like blade guidelines).

As an example, a 6-inch screwdriver can come aboard the plane cabin with you, but a 7-inch screwdriver must be packed in your checked luggage.

8. Sharp objects

TSA states that sharp objects are generally prohibited in carry-on bags, so this is one of those categories that are best understood by exploring the exceptions. Knives (including pocket knives), blades, sabers, saws, and throwing stars are clearly out, but you can bring tweezers, nail clippers, pencil sharpeners, and safety pins.

Knitting and crochet needles are also allowed. Scissors under 4 inches in length from the pivot point are allowed, and so are cigar cutters – though the TSA advises packing these in your checked luggage as the agent on duty may object to them.

9. Food and beverages

Because all beverages are liquids, they must follow the TSA’s volume rule of being contained in 3.4-ounce (100 mL) containers, all of which must fit in a single quart-size bag. Provided your drinks comply with these volume guidelines, the only beverage forbidden by TSA is alcohol that is 140 proof (70% alcohol) or greater.

Solid foods containing no liquid or cream elements are permitted on board as carry-on items but beware of fresh fruits and vegetables, which may be restricted when traveling to and from certain destinations due to the risk of spreading invasive pests.

10. A note on alcohol

You may have seen travel hacks about bringing aboard miniature bottles of alcohol, often called airplane bottles, to avoid paying for steeply-priced drinks during your flight. These bottles are typically 1.7 ounces (50 mL) and are allowed through TSA screening as long as they’re properly contained with other liquids. But there’s a catch: You’re not allowed to drink them on board.

FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations prohibit drinking alcohol on board planes unless it’s served by the cabin crew, which means you can’t drink your own booze. Think of it like any other bar—you have to buy it there to drink it there.

International airport differences

While TSA guidelines are fairly standard and uniformly enforced across US airports, other countries have their own governing agencies with regulations that may vary, most often in the way liquid is brought on board. Keep in mind that itineraries with international connections may leave you clearing security again at the connecting airport, and your items will be subject to local regulations regardless of the fact that your origin airport allowed them.

Personally, this is where I’ve lost items like nail clippers, soy candles, and masking tape. In these cases, you’ll either forfeit the items or return to the ticketing counter to check the items, if you have a suitable container for them.

International airline differences

Airlines are welcome to create additional restrictions that don’t violate government regulations and, while this isn’t common in the United States, international airlines may have more unique guidelines, so it’s helpful to check an airline’s specific carry-on guidance before packing.

For example, scissors with blades under 4 inches are allowed on US airlines but are prohibited by Turkish Airlines. As most security screenings are unconcerned with which airline you’re flying, it’s unlikely that these items will be targeted before boarding, but you may suffer repercussions if spotted with them on board.

International customs differences

While this is not specific to carry-on luggage, it’s also important to remember that some countries completely ban specific items that are commonly used in the United States. While you may have no trouble getting these through TSA screening on your way to the destination, you’ll be violating local laws if you bring them into the host country and may be prosecuted if caught. Prescription medications are a common example of these, so always check the customs website of your destination before packing.

Make sure to not pack these

Even after exhausting the TSA’s list of prohibited items and familiarizing yourself with the general trends, you may still find yourself wondering about some specific items that seem to hover somewhere between prohibited and permitted. While your safest bet is to simply not bring these, here are some examples of items you might have thought you could bring in your carry-on but you definitely cannot:

  • peanut butter (it’s not solid),
  • a magic 8-ball (it’s filled with liquid),
  • strike-anywhere matches (only safety matches are allowed),
  • and Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones (it’s permanently banned on planes or in the mail by the Department of Transportation).

The TSA also advises you not to bring canned foods, even if they’re completely solid, as agents may not be able to verify contents without damaging them.

How this guide was created

I fly every week, racking up an average of 120 flights per year. I’m a firm believer in maximizing comfort during any flight, so I’m keenly aware of exactly what’s allowed, and not allowed, in carry-on bags, both in the United States and abroad. I’ve combined years of this intense travel schedule with the expert tips and tools available from KAYAK to create this guide for you.

Some of our favorite flight routes

What is not allowed on the plane carry-on FAQ

Can you bring lighters on a plane?

Disposable lighters and any lighter that contains flammable gas absorbed in the lining are allowed in your carry-on bag, but the FAA limits these to one per person. Not only are they allowed, but if your bag is checked at the gate due to space limitations or any other reason, you’ll actually need to remove the lighter from your bag and take it on board with you.

Can you bring a razor on a plane?

Disposable razors and electric razors are both permitted on planes in carry-on bags, but razor blades and other blades are not. You can still pack any of these in a carry-on bag, but they must be securely wrapped to ensure baggage handlers and inspectors avoid injury when transporting or reviewing your belongings.

How much liquid can you bring on a plane?

For carry-on, liquids must be transported in 3.4-ounce (100 mL) containers, and they all must fit in a single quart-size bag. Note that this is a container guideline, and not actually a liquid guideline, which is why 2 ounces (60 mL) of water would not be allowed to pass in a 12-ounce (355 mL) bottle that is otherwise mostly empty, for example. Larger containers can be packed in checked luggage.

Can you bring cologne on a plane?

Like other liquids, you are welcome to bring cologne and perfume aboard a plane in your carry-on bag, but the bottle must follow the 3.4-ounce (100 mL) container rule. Fortunately, most standard colognes and perfume bottles are precisely 3.4 ounces, making them carry-on approved by TSA standards. Aerosol colognes face tighter regulations in checked luggage, but follow the standard liquid volume regulation in carry-on.

About the author

Brandon SchultzBrandon travels every week and makes friends with stray cats wherever he goes. Dogs, too... he once brought one home to the US from the Amalfi Coast. He’s written 6 books, visited 6 continents (still waiting on Antarctica), and would eat ice cream 6 times a day if he could. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his partner and three cats.

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