Can you bring food on a plane? Ultimate list 2020

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Have you ever felt hungry during a journey? Then you have probably also been wondering if it’s allowed to bring your favorite food on a plane.

Well, you are certainly not alone, and contrary to popular belief, there is a lot of food that you can bring on a plane.

However, there are still some restrictions to follow.

With this ultimate list of what food you can bring on a plane, you’ll never have to worry about that scary looking security guard again.

Relax on your flight without thinking about how that delicious sandwich you wanted to bring is now rotting in the airport trash.

The list below includes the most common foods you can bring on a plane and refers to the rules and restrictions of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and the 3-1-1 liquid rules. Be aware that some airlines and airports around the world may have additional restrictions compared to those of the TSA.

The 3-1-1 Liquid Rule

The 3-1-1 liquid rule refers to the amount of liquid that you are allowed to carry in your hand luggage.

All liquids must be stored in a clear quart-sized bag and containers no larger than 3.4oz/100ml. The bag must be resealable and transparent. You do not need to discard the bag after a single-use. As long as it is not destroyed, it can be used. 

With that out of the way let’s jump right into this

Ultimate List of food you can bring on a plane: 

1. Cream cheese, soft cheese, and yogurt 

Making a journey means visiting another destination, and for many, it also means visiting another country. At your destination, you may come across other food that is different from what you know from home.

To make sure you don’t miss your favorite cream cheese or camembert while being far away from home, you might wonder if it is allowed to bring this type of food on a plane.

If you want to take yogurt or cream cheese with you, you must store it according to the 3-1-1 liquid rule. That means that the cream cheese or yogurt must be stored in a container of no more than 3.4oz/100ml in your 1-liter bag. 

However, bringing a soft cheese is another matter. Soft cheese, such as Camembert or Brie, is not considered a liquid and would, in most cases, be passed through the screening.

However, remember that you shouldn’t consume soft cheese that has been exposed to room temperature for more than 2 hours. So it might be a good idea to make sure it stays cold in your luggage.

One way to do this is to take ice bags with you. The ice bags MUST remain frozen, i.e., they do not melt and thus turn into water (as this would make them a liquid) while they check you at the screening.

If you are traveling with checked baggage, you can, of course, keep it fresh with ice bags, as there are no restrictions on liquids such as water that affect the luggage you check-in.

2. Hard, solid cheese 

In contrast to the restrictions on bringing yogurt and cream cheese with you, a harder version such as Gouda, Cheddar, Emmental, Parmesan, or similar is allowed in your hand baggage.

3. Meat, seafood, and eggs

If you want to bring meat on a plane, be it a German sausage or a Spanish ham, this is allowed. You can bring the meat either raw or cooked. However, you should know the rules for ice packs and dry ice. See section Frozen Food for more information. 

Some people also like to bring eggs with them, although this is a somewhat fragile affair. You might think that an egg is kind of a liquid when it is not yet prepared, but according to the TSA, it is not.

Bringing fresh or cooked eggs in your hand luggage is allowed. But remember to pack them carefully, as eggs can easily crack.

4. Spreads like Nutella, peanut butter and dip 

Nutella and peanut butter undoubtedly are two of the most popular nut spreads. Even though many hotels offer a chocolate spread that might look like Nutella, you have probably already experienced for yourself – the hard way – that it has nothing to do with Nutella.

Instead, it is another chocolate spread that nobody cares about. Maybe you have even sat at the breakfast buffet eating your cheap Nutella clone and noticed another guest with a real Nutella glass.

But are you really allowed to carry Nutella or peanut butter in your hand luggage? Yes and no. Yes, it is allowed to take them through the screening, but only in a limited quantity.

Unfortunately, the two spreads are considered liquids and must, therefore, follow the 3-1-1 liquid rule. That means you may not bring them in containers (or their original jars) larger than 3.4 oz/100 ml, and they must be kept in your 1-liter bag.

Before you get frustrated, remember that Nutella and Peanut Butter are both very well integrated with the global marketplace. It should be easy for you to get your hands on a jar or two at your destination. 

For dips, the same restrictions apply. If your dip contains liquid, i.e., crème fraîche, you have to store it in your 1-liter bag according to the 3-1-1 rule. If your dip is still in powder form, you can bring as much as the size of your hand luggage allows.

5. Tea and coffee

Whether you are a tea lover, a coffee lover, or maybe even both, bringing your own tea and/or coffee in hand luggage will not be a problem at all.

No matter if it is dry tea bags or loose tea leaves, both are allowed. The coffee you can carry as beans or ground.

Transporting dried tea bags, loose tea leaves, coffee beans, and ground coffee home is also allowed.

Perhaps you will find an exotic tea or some delicious coffee beans at your destination – storing it in hand luggage is permitted. (Please note, however, possible tax restrictions).

6. Frozen food

Bringing frozen food in your hand luggage is not prohibited. However, it might be a bit tedious to get it through the checkpoint.

Frozen food such as meat, seafood, vegetables, bread, etc. must stay frozen during screening. If you freeze it with ice or ice bags, the ice must stay frozen during the whole screening.

If the ice has melted or only partially melted, it’s considered a liquid (like water), and you cannot take it through the checkpoint. Dry ice is limited to 5 pounds per passenger.

7. Fruit and vegetables 

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Most of us like to eat a few pieces of fruit every day. A flight should not stop us from eating healthy. Fortunately, bringing food or vegetables as a snack is not prohibited.

You shouldn’t worry about the fact that an orange consists of more than 80% of water. It is not considered a liquid. The same applies to other fruits and vegetables with high water content.

However, if you bring it as a juice or smoothie, it must be stored in a container no larger than 3.4oz/100ml and kept in your 1-liter bag. 

ONE THING TO WATCH OUT FOR: If you want to bring fruit and vegetables from so-called “exotic countries,” you may have to be careful. If you are traveling from an exotic place, you could get into trouble for bringing a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, according to TSA.

Why is that?

Fruit is not just fruit, and the same goes for vegetables. Fruit from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and some Asian countries can often carry plant pests. To make sure that the pests do not spread globally, the tax will withhold the fruit or vegetables from you, and make you pay for the inconvenience.

8. Juice, smoothies, and sodas

Juice and smoothies are loved by many of us. A sip of a smoothie or juice on your trip can give you fresh energy and a vitamin boost. Smoothies contain a large amount of vitamin C and other essential vitamins and minerals. 

However, if you are traveling with hand luggage, you need to be careful with bringing liquids such as juice and smoothies. When going through the screening, you must store them in containers no larger than 100ml, and they must be kept in your 1-liter plastic bag. 

If you want to take a sparkling soda through the screening, the same rules apply. Your soda (it is a liquid) must be kept in a container of no more than 100 ml and stored in your 1-liter bag.

There are unique small bottles designed to take water or soda through the security check.

If 100 ml doesn’t sound like a proper drink to you, fortunately, you can buy juice, smoothies, and soft drinks in duty-free shops, cafés, and restaurants in most airports.

Most airlines allow you to consume your own food and soft drinks such as juice, water, tea, coffee, and smoothies on the plane, which brings us to the next topic.

9. Alcohol (wine, beer mini bottles and the like)

champagne bottle in a cooler
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Do you enjoy a shot to calm your nerves? Do you like to kick off your holiday with a cold beer or a glass of wine up in the air? Then you might wonder if it’s allowed to take alcohol through security. And what are the rules for drinking alcohol during the flight? 

According to the TSA, every passenger is allowed to bring alcohol that does not exceed 70% alcohol (140 proof). If you want to bring alcohol in your hand luggage, it must be stored in a quart-sized 1-liter bag and in a container that is no larger than 100 ml. If you follow this rule (3-1-1 rule), you can carry up to one liter of alcohol in your hand luggage. 

IF you wish to carry alcohol in your checked baggage, a maximum of 1.3 gallons/5 liters is permitted. It has to be in its retail packaging and unopened.

The alcohol content must not exceed 70%. However, if the alcohol content is less than 24%, you do not need to comply with the restrictions and can bring as many pounds as the airline allows. 

Let’s return to another critical question: Is it allowed to open and drink your own alcohol on the plane?

The short answer is No. You are not allowed to drink alcohol that you did not buy on the plane. Why not? The cabin crew wants to be able to control how much alcohol each passenger consumes. If passengers were allowed to drink self brought alcohol, some might get too drunk and cause problems.

So to ensure that everything runs smoothly and all passengers are happy, it is not allowed to drink your alcohol on the aircraft. 

The duty-free shops offer a variety of alcohol that you can buy and take with you on your trip. As you are allowed to buy alcohol in those shops, you are, of course, also allowed to take it with you on the plane. When you buy alcohol in the duty-free shops, they seal the bottle in a transparent plastic bag. That means that you are not allowed to consume the purchased alcohol until you have reached your destination and left the airport. 

If you consume alcohol in the airport bars, make sure that you do not drink too much, as the crew might deny boarding if you don’t seem sober enough to enter the aircraft. No one wants to sit next to a drunken head thousands of miles from solid ground.

10. Water Bottles and thermos flasks 

Every day, billions of bottles containing either water or other substances are confiscated at airline checkpoints around the world. Why is that?  A regular water bottle does not meet the restrictions implied by the 3-1-1 rule and therefore, cannot pass through the checkpoint. 

Can you bring empty bottles? Empty bottles won’t be confiscated during the screening, as they do not contain any liquid.

The same applies to empty thermos flasks. You can take the empty bottles through security and fill them either at a water fountain (some airports offer free water stations in the secure area) or in restaurants.

So if you don’t want to buy water bottles, but prefer to save on plastic, traveling with your own bottle is no problem.

11. Bread, biscuits, chips, and cereals 

Most of the snacks that people bring along when they travel include bread, crackers, and chips in some form. But is it allowed, or are there hidden potential dangers if you bring this kind of food on a plane?

You can bring bread, crackers, chips, and cereals through screening and on the plane, as they are not considered liquids or containing dangerous toxic chemicals.

Bringing crispy crackers and chips is therefore only noisy for your fellow seat neighbour, but not prohibited.

When it comes to bread and muesli, you can bring as much as your hand luggage allows.

12. Nuts and dried fruit

What if your snack or muesli contains nuts or dried fruit? Lots of cereals contain both to make them tasty and sweet.

But are you allowed to take nuts and dried fruit through the screening and on the plane?

The answer is Yes. Whether you bring a bag of nuts, dried fruit, or even a mixture of both, you can go nuts all you want!

13. Canned Food 

You can bring almost any type of food in a can. It is often convenient to bring canned food if you want something that has a slightly longer shelf life.

But as practical as it is, can you bring canned food on a plane?

Most canned foods have some kind of liquid inside. It is not advisable to bring them in your hand luggage as it is very likely that they will be confiscated at the checkpoint. If you wish to bring canned food, it would be better to bring it in your checked baggage or buy it at your destination. 

BUT: If the canned food is food such as nuts or crackers, you can, of course, bring it with you as there will be no liquid in the can. Be careful with cans of fruit or meat (the sauce or preservative is considered liquid). 

14. Sweets and biscuits 

Many of us crave sweets when we travel. A bag of candy, chocolate, or cookies can make the journey from A to B so much better. But what kind of sweets can you take through the screening and on the plane? 

If your sweets, cookies, chocolate, and the like are solid and not liquid, you do not need to store them according to the 3-1-1 rule.

Chocolate with liquid inside, such as pralines, is also not considered a liquid.

If you bring ice cream, make sure that it stays frozen at the checkpoint. Ice-cream that is not frozen counts as a liquid, and you have to store it according to the 3-1-1 rule.

15. Pizzas and pies

Pizza, example for a food that you can bring on a plane.
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Henry Rolling once said that pizza makes everything possible. In this sense, it is also possible to bring pizza through the screening and into the plane.

The same applies to pies. Just be careful that a hungry official at the checkpoint does not confiscate them. Also, make sure not to bring the pizza tray, as its dimensions don’t allow it on board.

16. Spices 

Whether you want to bring your own spices or you found some spices at an exotic bazaar and want to bring them home, it’s allowed, and you can bring this kind of food on a plane.

If your spices are mixed with any kind of liquid, such as oil, you must bring them as a liquid in a container of no more than 100 ml and store them in your 1-liter bag.

17. Energy and Protein Powder 

Whether you want to train your muscles and need your protein powder, or simply bring an energy bar as a snack, you should not worry about bringing this food on a plane.

According to TSA, you can bring protein and energy powders in your hand luggage. However, if you bring the powder in a container larger than 12 oz/350 ml., you will need to put it in a separate bin during screening.

If you wish to bring an energy or protein bar, you can simply leave it in your luggage during the screening. 

Bottom Line

Now, if you want to bring food that is not on this list, remember as a general rule of thumb that you are allowed to bring food that is considered solid. If the food is considered liquid, you must pack it according to the 3-1-1 rules.

Solid food includes bread, solid cheese, nuts, fruit, sweets, tea bags and tea leaves, cooked meat, raw meat, biscuits, crackers, boiled eggs, chewing gum, non-wet pet food (otherwise below 100 ml), cakes, protein and energy powders, dry spices, etc. 

Exotic fruits and vegetables from areas such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and some Asian countries are NOT allowed in hand baggage as well as checked baggage.

As you can read, you are generally allowed to bring any solid food that comes to mind on a plane. Just remember that all foods that can be considered liquids won’t pass through the checkpoint unless they are kept in a bottle or container of no more than 100 ml and placed in your one-liter plastic bag.

Do you have a favorite food to bring on your travels? And what is the food from home that you cannot live without being abroad?

Let us know in the comments!

different kinds of food.
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Maya is a travel expert and the co-founder of LiveYourTravel. She is a passionate nomadic traveler and writer who loves to explore new places, cultures, and people. Join her here on Live Your Travel, where she shares her best travel tips and priceless hacks with you.

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