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Surprising Things You Can — and Can’t — Bring Through TSA Airport Security

By Marissa Kozma
Read time: 4 minutes

Adhering to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations when packing for your trip can often be tricky. Double-checking the size requirement for liquids when you’re packing a toiletry bag might have you reconsidering bringing toothpaste, lotion, conditioner, or shampoo. But surprisingly, there are some items that TSA allows that you may have never considered packing, while some forbidden objects have interesting reasons behind their ban. Here are some shocking items that you can — and can’t — bring through airport security.

What You Can Bring

Close-up view of passengers placing luggage in bins to go through airport security
Photo credit: Salameh dibaei/ iStock

Live Lobsters: Interested in bringing home some very fresh seafood? Depending on the airline you’re flying, you may be able to bring a live lobster on board your plane. TSA does allow live lobsters to pass through security, but an officer will inspect the crustacean and its container, which must be spill-proof but can be filled with water. Keep in mind that this will be easier aboard a domestic flight, as many international customs agents may not permit live animals to enter the country. 

Antlers: If you just went on a hunting trip, you’re in luck: Those prized antlers you wish to mount can travel with you in a carry-on or checked bag. According to the TSA, antlers are not a threat, but packing them in the overhead compartment might prove a little difficult. 

Live Fish: Just like cats and dogs, your pet fish can fly with you after proper inspection. TSA allows live fish to pass through security if they are swimming in a clear, spill-proof vessel. The container can be bigger than the required 3.4 ounces, but an officer will need to inspect it by hand. Unlike lobsters, however, live fish cannot be checked.

Lightsabers: Despite what the Star Wars trilogy might lead fans to believe, lightsabers are not considered weapons by TSA personnel and can be packed in your carry-on or checked bag. May the force be with you as you attempt to pack this bulky item, though. 

Eggs: It might seem odd, but fresh eggs aren’t considered a liquid item by TSA agents. If they’re not broken, they can pass through security in your carry-on or checked luggage so that you can scramble, boil, or fry them at your destination. 

Bowling Balls: Sporting equipment can be difficult to fly with since many clubs or bats are considered hazardous items that could be used as weapons and must be checked. Amazingly, however, a bowling ball in your carry-on is permitted by TSA. Or if they so choose, travelers can simply roll one through security.

What You Can’t Bring

Close-up image of passenger placing suitcase in aircraft overhead bin
Photo credit: yacobchuk/ iStock

Foam Swords: If a lightsaber isn’t considered a weapon, you might be surprised to learn that foam swords are not permitted to fly with you in your carry-on bag — they must be checked. Because some of these toys resemble real weapons, the TSA has banned the item from being packed in your carry-on luggage. 

Christmas Crackers: British citizens might be disappointed to learn that TSA does not allow English Christmas crackers to board the plane. They cannot be checked either, as they contain traces of gunpowder. Although they seem harmless, these explosive firecrackers can’t fly under any circumstances. 

Thawed Ice Packs: If you’re bringing a cooler so that you can enjoy a refreshing mid-flight meal, make sure those ice packs inside are completely frozen before boarding. The TSA allows gel ice packs to pass through security as long as they are not partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container. This might be tricky to accomplish, so perhaps it’s easier to just pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a brown paper bag instead. 

Jars of Peanut Butter: Speaking of peanut butter, the amount you bring in your carry-on might pose a real problem, since the TSA considers the nutty spread a liquid. The peanut butter should be less than or equal to 3.4 ounces, so a small packet or a light amount on a piece of bread should be fine. A jar, however, will be confiscated during the security inspection. 

Snow Globes: A popular souvenir item might cause you some trouble at airport security. If the water inside your snow globe exceeds the required 3.4 ounces, you are not allowed to pack it in your carry-on bag. Instead, these larger snow globes must be checked. 

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