TSA on Thanksgiving Day foods you can fly with, plus a celebrity chef’s take on items that travel well

Holidays, especially Thanksgiving Day, are some of the most popular times of the year for Americans to travel.

Families and individuals travel by car, bus, cruise ship and plane annually, sometimes across the country for a quick Turkey Day trip.

While it is always more convenient to travel alone, families tend to plan their trips with the whole gang while school is out and work is winding down. Thus, resulting in the busiest holiday travel weekend of the year.

Packing will require the everyday essentials — but you might also consider taking food to or from your trip.


Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest travel weekend of the year. Traveling with the essentials is a given, but if you plan to bring or take Thanksgiving food items with you, be mindful of TSA rules. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Whether you’re sharing in your culture with others by way of food, filling your bag with edible gifts for hosts, or taking leftovers home — especially on a short flight – be aware of what foods and drinks you can and cannot bring through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoints.

“Whether first-run foods or leftovers, the same rules apply,” the TSA said in a statement to Fox News. 

A general overview of perishables you can take with you can be found on the TSA’s website. The six-page list of permitted food items is available on the TSA’s dedicated “What Can I Bring?” webpage.

But you might be wondering, specifically, about Thanksgiving Day staple items like mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey and dessert.

“Anytime I have traveled during Thanksgiving, not sure it’s allowed, but left over turkey sandwiches are always good to eat with a lot of mayonnaise,” Dante Boccuzzi, chef and owner of a diverse lineup of restaurants in Cleveland, told Fox News Digital.

Boccuzzi recommends keeping the turkey and mayo combo refrigerated up until leaving, and then enjoying the leftovers while waiting to board.

“Apple pie probably would be another staple item that would travel well,” Boccuzzi added. “Any other item most likely could travel well for a short period of time if you are able to vacuum pack it.”

The TSA told Fox that no matter the food you choose to travel with, you should ensure the items follow this simple rule.

“If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, and it is in a quantity greater than 3.4 ounces, pack it in a checked bag,” the TSA said.

“For example, jams, jellies, cranberry sauce, gravy or beverages in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces should go in a checked bag. Cakes, cookies, pies, meats, casseroles and other solids can travel in carry-on luggage in unlimited quantities.”


Thanksgiving foods that can be carried through TSA checkpoints

    • Homemade or store-bought baked goods
    • Frozen, cooked or uncooked meats
    • Casseroles
    • Mac ‘n Cheese cooked in a pan
    • Fresh vegetables
    • Fresh fruits
    • Candy
    • Spices

Each airline passenger is allowed to pack a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in a single carry-on bag; however, individual containers cannot exceed 3.4 ounces. 

This rule extends to beverages, spreads and cooking sprays.

The TSA recommends packing away any liquid-like substance in a bag that will be checked-in. 

If travelers manage to find a liquid cooking essential that fits under the 3.4-ounce container threshold, it can be placed inside a clear quart-sized resalable bag within a carry-on bag.

Alcoholic beverages containing an alcohol content of more than 70% (more than 140 proof) are forbidden in carry-on and checked baggage, a TSA spokesperson told Fox News.


Thanksgiving foods that should be packed in checked baggage

    • Homemade or canned cranberry sauce
    • Homemade or packaged gravy (jar/can)
    • Wine, champagne or sparking apple cider
    • Canned fruit or vegetables
    • Preserves, jams or jellies
    • Maple syrup

Almost every solid food item is permissible as a carry-on or checked article, including cooked, uncooked or store-bought meals and powders. 

For foods that require refrigeration or freezing to prevent foodborne illness, ice packs are allowed, but they must remain frozen completely solid by the time you reach a TSA checkpoint.

“Frozen turkey soup would also be great to travel with if it’s not considered a liquid if frozen,” Boccuzzi said. “I would avoid any raw products.”

On longer flights, dry ice can be used — but it cannot exceed 5.5 pounds per passenger and the packaging should be clearly marked and vented according to FAA procedures, the TSA’s spokesperson told Fox News.

Flammable items are not permitted in carry-on or checked baggage for safety reasons. 

Cake sparklers are not allowed on flights, either, which fall under the same category as fireworks, according to the FAA.


Last but not least, to ensure you have an easier time getting your Thanksgiving food through checkpoints, the TSA recommends using clear plastic bags and similar containers.

That way, items can be safely removed from carry-on bags when inspection is required.

Fox News’ Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.

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