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TSA bans these popular holiday items, so don’t even try to bring them onto your next flight

TSA has a naughty list for holiday items

Security check sign in airport
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Flying during the holidays comes with a unique interaction with TSA. The TSA rules become stricter as airports teem with festive travelers and all of their holiday-themed belongings. Before you bring your holiday goodies to the airport, however, it’s important to be aware of what you can and cannot bring on the plane.

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TSA liquid rules

Before diving into the specifics, it’s important to be aware of the TSA liquid rules. The TSA liquids rule, often referred to as the 3-1-1 rule, applies to passengers bringing liquids in their carry-on luggage. 

  • 3.4 ounces or less: Each container of liquid must be 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or smaller.
  • 1 quart-sized, clear, resealable bag: Every liquid you bring must fit into a single quart-sized, clear, resealable plastic bag.
  • 1 bag per passenger: Each passenger only gets one quart-sized bag.

The TSA liquid limit does not apply to checked baggage, and exceptions are sometimes made for essential liquids such as medications, baby formula, breast milk, or liquids needed for medical conditions.

TSA security line
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Holiday items that TSA will allow on your flight

So, what can you take on a plane this holiday season? This is what the TSA says about common holiday items.

Wrapped presents

Wrapped presents are allowed in both your carry-on luggage and your checked bags, however, TSA officers may need to unwrap them to inspect them. Because of this, it is encouraged that travelers keep their presents unwrapped.

Ice skates

Are you thinking about ice skating at your final destination? According to the TSA, you can pack your ice skates! Ice skates are permitted in both carry-on and checked baggage. If you are bringing your skates in your carry-on bag, then you may need to separate them from your other items during the security check.

Pine cones

Pine cones are permitted into the U.S. from every country except for India. If you’re traveling abroad this holiday season, however, then you may want to be careful before bringing along pine cones. Both New Zealand and Australia do not allow pine cones through customs due to the risk of transporting pests.

Strings of lights

If you need to bring along a few strands of Christmas lights to decorate the tree, then you are permitted to add them as a carry-on item or pack them in your checked bag.

Wreaths and garlands

Wreaths and garlands are often lumped into the “plants” category, which isn’t a problem as long as they fit into the overhead compartment or under your seat. However, if you are bringing plants into or out of the U.S., then you may be subject to further questioning. TSA needs to ensure that the plants are healthy and are not carrying pests or other diseases.

Knitting needles

If you’re working on a holiday knitting project, then you can continue it in the sky. TSA allows knitting needles in both your carry-on luggage and in your checked bags.

Menorah candles

Menorah candles are allowed in checked and carry-on luggage. However, if your menorah uses oil to light its candles, then make sure you are following the TSA liquid limit or add it to your checked baggage.

Christmas turkeys and ham

Bring on the turkey! Delicious Christmas turkeys and hams (as well as most other holiday foods) are all allowed in your carry-on bags.

Christmas trees

Christmas trees are allowed on planes, but they must be properly packaged and secured. It’s also important to check your airline’s baggage policy to determine how big your tree can be. 

Chestnuts

If you are traveling back into the U.S. with chestnuts, then border control will allow in nuts that have been boiled, cooked, steamed, pureed, roasted, or oven-dried. If you want to bring in raw chestnuts, then they will need to have their husks removed and they may be inspected to ensure they don’t contain any pests.

Baggage claim sign
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Holiday items TSA will make you check

These holiday items can travel with you, but they are safer in your checked baggage.

Holiday beverages

Do you want to bring along a bottle of mulled wine or sparkling schnapps? As long as the bottle is unopened and in its original packaging, you can add these beverages to your checked luggage. If the beverage contains over 24% alcohol, then you may only bring 5 liters or less.

Snow globes

Snow globes can be packed in a checked bag with no issue. If you want to bring them in your carry-on, however, then you will need to adhere to the TSA liquid rules (see above).

The interior of an airport terminal
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Items you should leave at home or ship

To avoid any issues, it is best to leave these items behind or ship them to your final destination.

Mistletoes with berries

Mistletoes with berries will not be permitted in the U.S., as they are considered to be parasitic plants.

Christmas crackers

Christmas crackers in decorated cylinders that explode when pulled to reveal a prize inside are not allowed in some cases. Due to fire concerns, many airlines, such as American, Emirates, and KLM have banned this popular item.

As long as you follow the TSA rules, you should be good to go this holiday season. Check out the TSA’s official website for a complete list of permitted and prohibited items.

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Amanda Teague
Amanda, an accomplished freelance writer with four years of experience, is a dedicated explorer of both the world and the…
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