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TSA's Thanksgiving Travel Tips: What Foods to Pack and What to Carry

New Jersey

By: Richard L. Smith 

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is gearing up for one of the year's busiest travel periods.

LawyersThe agency anticipates screening more than 30 million passengers during the 12-day Thanksgiving holiday period, which began on Friday, November 17, and will conclude on Tuesday, November 28.

Traditionally, the Tuesday and Wednesday leading up to Thanksgiving and the Sunday following the holiday mark the three busiest travel days.

As travelers prepare for their journeys to spend the holiday with family and friends, the TSA is offering valuable advice on how to transport food items safely and efficiently when flying.

Most foods can pass through a TSA checkpoint, but there are exceptions that should be transported in checked baggage to ensure a smooth security process.


Here's a simple rule of thumb: if the food item is solid, it can go through a checkpoint.

However, if it's a liquid, gel, cream, or spreadable substance, and it exceeds 3.4 ounces in quantity, it must be packed in checked luggage.

Food items, even solid ones, often require additional security screening.

To make this process as hassle-free as possible, it's advisable to pack these items in an easily accessible location within your carry-on bag and then place them in a bin for screening at the checkpoint.

While preparing for your trip, it's crucial to keep food safety in mind to prevent foodborne illnesses.

If you need to keep items cold during your journey, remember that frozen ice packs are allowed through security screening but must be frozen solid and not melted.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also provides recommendations on holiday food safety to ensure your Thanksgiving feast remains a safe and enjoyable experience.

Thanksgiving Foods You Can Carry Through a TSA Checkpoint:

- Baked goods, including pies, cakes, cookies, and brownies.

- Meats, such as turkey, chicken, ham, and steak (frozen, cooked, or uncooked).

- Stuffing, whether cooked, uncooked, in a box, or in a bag.

- Casseroles, whether traditional or exotic.

- Mac 'n Cheese, cooked in a pan or with ingredients to cook at your destination.

- Fresh vegetables, like potatoes, yams, broccoli, green beans, and more.

- Fresh fruits, including apples, pears, pineapples, and berries.

- Candy and spices.

Thanksgiving Foods Best Packed in Checked Baggage:

- Cranberry sauce, whether homemade or canned (spreadable).

- Gravy, homemade or from a jar/can.

- Wine, champagne, or sparkling apple cider.

- Canned fruits or vegetables with liquid in the can.

- Preserves, jams, and jellies (spreadable).

- Maple syrup.

If you're unsure whether a specific item should be packed in your carry-on or checked baggage, you can turn to the free myTSA app, which includes a "What can I bring?" feature. Enter the item, and the app will provide guidance on whether it can accompany you on your flight.

Alternatively, you can seek assistance on Twitter or Facebook Messenger by reaching out to @AskTSA. Travelers can also text "Travel" to AskTSA (275-872) for quick answers to their questions.

Additionally, the TSA offers answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding which food items can pass through a checkpoint and which should be packed in checked baggage.

These TSA guidelines aim to simplify the travel experience for passengers, ensuring that their Thanksgiving dishes reach their destination safely and in good condition.

Whether you're bringing a family favorite pie or a special casserole, a little planning can help make your Thanksgiving journey a smooth one.