Know TSA Liquid Rules – Packing Tips for Your Toiletry Kit

When you are packing a suitcase for air travel, it’s critical that you understand the TSA liquid rules.  The last thing you want is to be tossing things from your bag and holding up the security lines, or being late for your flight.  Knowing the TSA liquid rules in advance will also help you to be more efficient when packing your toiletry kit, regardless if you are packing a carry on bag or if you are planning to check your luggage on the flight.  Here’s what you need to know about TSA liquid rules so that you can start off your trip with a hassle free security check, and peace of mind.

Narrow Your List of Wants & Needs for Your Toiletry Kit

The first step in packing your toiletry kit is to make a list of all the things you want, and think you will need during your trip.  During this process, think back to previous trips that you took.  Was there anything that you forgot?  Was there anything that you brought which you actually never used?

Toiletries can be heavy, and take up lots of room in your luggage.  Plus, It’s easy to over-pack toiletries.  So going through this process can be helpful in reducing unnecessary items. Keep in mind that if you forget something critical, you can usually buy it during your trip.

That being said, if there is anything special that you cannot live without and you know you CANNOT buy at your destination, then definitely pack it!

Something to consider when making a list:  Include items for all seasons – lip balm and lotion for the winter, sunscreen & aloe gel for summer

Know the TSA Liquid Rules

Size does matter in this category.  If you are planning on only packing for carry on travel, then it is especially important to know the TSA Liquids Rules before showing up at the security checkpoint.

TSA Diagram
Image from (

As of the date of this post, the TSA Website States the following TSA Liquid Rules:

You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Placing these items in the small bag separate from your carry-on baggage helps the screening process move along.

Any item that raises alarm will require additional screening.  Pack items larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked baggage.

The only exception to this rule is for medication, and infant / baby foods.

Watch TSA Video on 3-1-1 TSA Liquid Rules

For Inbound International Flights

You may carry liquids more than 3.4 oz or 100 ml in your carry-on bag if:

  • You are traveling internationally to the United States with a connecting flight.
  • They are in transparent containers.
  • You bought them at a duty-free shop where it is packed in a secure, tamper-evident bag.
  • Liquids more than 3.4 oz or 100 ml not in a secure, tamper-evident bag must be packed in checked baggage.

Gather Items for Your Toiletry Kit:  Travel-Sizes & Refillable Containers

After assessing your wants / needs and the TSA Liquid rules, start gathering the final items that you have decided on for your toiletry kit.  You may need to go out and buy some items, or at least the travel size versions.

If you live in the states, you will find a lot small travel sized items for your toiletry kit at CVS, Walgreens, or other supermarkets like Target and Walmart.

Save money by buying Refillable TSA Approved Bottles, this way you can refill them over and over for future trips.  Or keep your travel size brand bottles after they are empty, and refill them yourself.  In fact, in our bathroom now you will find multiple travel sized containers of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash — all empty and waiting to be refilled when we head out on a future trip.

Choose the Best Toiletry Bag for Your Needs

Toiletry Bag
Creative Commons Toiletry” by Patty Ho is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There are so many different toiletry bags out there.  Everyone has different needs, so it’s important to look at your collection of items that made the cut on your list and find the most appropriately sized toiletry bag.  Some women prefer to separate make up and toiletries into different bags, or perhaps have 1 bag that includes separated sections.

The toiletry bag that you choose may also depend on the type of luggage you have, and how you plan to travel.  Will you be backpacking?  Will you be staying put, or will you be on the go everyday?   Will you be staying in hotels or hostels?  These different types of travel and accommodations can make a big difference in the most convenient type of toiletry bag that you choose.

For us, we each have our own style of kit.  I have smallish sized, open bag, with a few small pockets and pouches.  Liz opts for a couple different types of bags.  She puts her cosmetics in a soft make-up bag, and her shower toiletries in a small water-proof / clear bag that she can easily bring with her into a shower wherever we are.  Then she has a larger bag that they both fit into, as well as holding a couple other large things – like deodorant.  This way she has the option of packing them all together in the one large bag, or if her backpack is lopsided or not packing well, she can separate them all and spread around the pack.

Browse online for Toiletry Kit Bags HERE

Load up Your Toiletry Kit & Stay Prepared for the Future

Toiletry Bag in plastic bag
Creative Commons TSA 3-1-1 rule” by Jack Kennard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Now that you have everything together, it’s time to pack.  Keep in mind that most people will often take similar items on future trips.  So to save yourself time and effort in the future, when you return from your trip make refilling your toiletries part of your unpacking process.

This way you will be ready to go at a moment’s notice and not have to fuss with any of this again.

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