Flying with a Thanksgiving turkey in your carry-on? TSA says that’s OK

Flying to visit family for Thanksgiving? Don’t forget to pack the turkey. It can even be already cooked and accompanied with all the trimmings.

Some people might be surprised to learn that there are lots of foods they can transport through U.S. airports during the holidays, but there are certain rules to keep in mind.

Most foods can be carried through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, but some items need to be stored in your checked baggage.

“If it’s a solid item, then it can go through a checkpoint. However, if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces, then it should go in a checked bag,” the TSA said in a news release.

Any foods that contain liquids, such as canned fruits and vegetables, need to be packed in your checked baggage. (Courtesy Transportation Security Administration)

So, yes, you can bring that turkey, along with other meats like chicken, ham and steak — frozen, cooked or uncooked — with you on the plane.

Food items often need additional security screening, though, so the TSA recommends placing them in a clear plastic bag or other container and then removing those items from your carry-on bag to place in a bin at the screening checkpoint.

The TSA allows Thanksgiving foods like meats and pies to go in your carry-on luggage. (Courtesy Transportation Security Administration)

In addition to meats, other Thanksgiving foods that can be carried through a TSA checkpoint:

  • Baked goods like pies, cakes and cookies;
  • Stuffing (cooked, uncooked or packaged);
  • Fresh fruit such as apples, pears and pineapple;
  • Fresh vegetables;
  • Your favorite casserole;
  • Your classic mac ‘n’ cheese (cooked in a pan or traveling with the ingredients to cook later);
  • Spices
  • Candy.

And if you need to keep anything cold during your trip, ice packs are allowed as long as they’re frozen and not melting when they go through the security screening.

While fresh cranberries are allowed on the plane, cranberry sauce and other liquids need to be carefully stowed in your checked baggage. That includes gravy and any canned fruits or vegetables (cans that contain liquid). Jams, preserves and jellies are best checked. And pack the booze and bubbly (or sparkling cider) in the checked bag.

For more information on what you can and can’t bring to the airport, you can visit the TSA’s website.

Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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