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How to Find Which Thanksgiving Foods Won't Make It Past Airport Security

Travel Airports + Flying
by Jori Ayers Nov 16, 2023

As Thanksgiving approaches, the TSA prepares for the many people traveling to visit their loved ones. For this year’s Thanksgiving travel, TSA expects to screen more than 30 million passengers during the 12-day Thanksgiving period (the most ever), which starts Friday, November 17 and ends Tuesday, November 28. During this year’s 12-day Thanksgiving period, the three busiest days in those 12 days are the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and on and in between those days, TSA is anticipating that many passengers will bring many Thanksgiving dishes and leftovers.

Before you try to bring that apple pie, homemade cranberry sauce, or turkey stuffing on board, there are some key things to know about the food that you can and can’t bring through the TSA checkpoint before you pack that bag of yours. Most foods can be transported through TSA checkpoints, but some foods are required to go into your checked bag. Most of those fall into the “liquid” category and are limited by size.

For anything larger than 3.4 ounces and, according to TSA, anything that can be spilled, sprayed, pumped, poured, or spread is best put in your checked luggage. Foods going through TSA checkpoint will need additional screening, so if you carry any solid foods through those items, they should be placed in an area with easy access so you can put them in the bin at the TSA checkpoint.

When it comes to international travel, different rules apply when bringing in food, but if you’re traveling within the states and have that one unique dish you’re not quite sure about, you can download the free TSA app that has a “what can I bring” feature or ask Twitter or Facebook messenger at @AskTSA.

As a primer, here’s what you need to know.

Thanksgiving foods you can take through airport security

  • Baked goods: Homemade or store-bought pies, cakes, cookies, brownies and other sweet treats
  • Meats: Turkey, chicken, ham, steak (frozen, cooked or uncooked)
  • Stuffing: Cooked, uncooked, in a box or in a bag
  • Casseroles: Traditional green beans and onion straws, or something more exciting
  • Mac ‘n Cheese: Cooked in a pan or traveling with the ingredients to cook it at your destination
  • Fresh vegetables: Potatoes, yams, broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beets, radishes, carrots, squash, greens
  • Fresh fruit: Apples, pears, pineapple, lemons, limes, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, kiwi
  • Candy
  • Spices

Thanksgiving foods you can’t take through airport security

  • Cranberry sauce: Homemade or canned are spreadable, so check them
  • Gravy: Homemade or in a jar/can
  • Wine, champagne, sparking apple cider
  • Canned fruit or vegetables: It’s got liquid in the can, so check them
  • Preserves, jams and jellies: They are spreadable, so best to check them
  • Maple syrup

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