So, you’re catching a flight to a faraway land? Did you pack everything you need? Your toiletries need to be separated from the rest since you don’t want to cover your clothes in shampoo, perfume, and soap. Just make sure your toiletry bag fits within the TSA’s guidelines.
To get liquids past airport security, they need to be separated into 3.4-ounce (100-milliilter) containers. You can take as many bottles as you can fit inside a 1-quart transparent bag.
But why is this the case? And what in the world is a TSA-approved bag? I’ll answer these questions a lot more down below.
What Is a Toiletry Bag?
As you can probably guess from its name, a toiletry bag is a specialized bag used for holding onto your toiletries. I’m talking shampoo bottles, bars of soap, cans of spray deodorant, and the list goes on.
Toiletry bags serve 2 important purposes. The first is that your toiletries are packed into a single container, so you won’t have to struggle when looking for your showering or bathing supplies. The last thing anyone needs when traveling is the headache of trying to locate small items in their humungous suitcases.
The second purpose, which is arguably even more important than the previous one, is that toiletry bags prevent your soaps, shampoos, and perfumes from contaminating the rest of your belongings. If one of the bottles leaks during travel, the mess will be confined within the walls of the toiletry bag, not your suitcase.
When shopping for toiletry bags, it’s important that you choose the correct size. This doesn’t just mean finding a bag that’s big enough for all of your self-grooming supplies, but the bag should also fit within travel safety guidelines. The TSA has a long list of what you can and cannot take with you on a flight.
What Is a TSA-Approved Toiletry Bag?
The name “TSA-approved toiletry bag” can be misleading. It sounds like the TSA is busy reviewing different toiletry bags and endorsing them for being safe and secure. In reality, a TSA-approved toiletry bag is a bag that fits within the agency’s strict guidelines for liquids and aerosols.
So, what exactly are those strict guidelines, you ask?
Basically, it boils down to the 3-1-1 Rule.
The 3-1-1 Rule states that you can pass through airport checkpoints with liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes, as long as they are divided into 3.4-ounce (100-milliliter) containers. You can take as many 3.4-ounce containers as you can fit inside a clear 1-quart bag inside a carry-on bag. Finally, each person is limited to just 1 quart-sized bag.
The simplest way to ensure that your toiletry bag meets the size requirement is to pick up a box of quart-sized sandwich bags. They’re absolutely see-through, so TSA agents won’t spend too much time twisting, turning, and opening the bag up to take a closer look at its contents.
Toiletry Bag Sizes (and TSA-Approved Toiletry Bag Sizes)
You can use the following chart as a reference to see what toiletry bag sizes come in. I’ll also include notes that describe whether or not a toiletry bag meets the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule.
|Toiletry Bag Model||Dimensions||TSA-Approved|
|WANDF Hanging Dopp Kit||9.5 × 4.7 × 5.9 in.||No|
|BAGSMART Travel Toiletry Organizer||10.25 × 5.12 × 6.3 in.||No|
|Sea to Summit TravellingLight||10 × 9 × 4 in.||No|
|Cableinthebay Clear Toiletry Bag||7.2 × 5.5 × 2.5 in.||Yes|
|BAGSMART Cosmetic Organizer||12.6 × 9.1 × 4.3 in.||No|
|Lermende Luggage Pouch||7.7 × 5.9 × 2.5 in.||Yes|
|Dare to Roam Steward Dopp Kit||14.09 × 9.84 × 1.5 in.||No|
|Vitog Travel Bottles Kit||9.5 × 5.4 × 1.8 in.||Yes|
|APREUTY Clear Makeup Bags||7.08 × 5.51 × 1.57 in.||Yes|
The more stuff you plan on taking with you on your next vacation, the bigger the toiletry bag should be to accommodate all of your essentials. However, if you’re traveling by plane, make sure your toiletry bag meets the TSA’s strict size guidelines and choose an aircraft-safe bag.
Why Are Liquids Limited to 3.4 Ounces?
So, the TSA doesn’t mandate a maximum quantity of liquid per bag—just however many 3.4-ounce containers a quart-sized bag can fit. This usually ends up being around 9 bottles, which equals about 30.6 ounces (904.95 milliliters) in total. But why 3.4 ounces? Did the TSA come up with that number randomly?
Actually, no, they didn’t. I don’t have to be the one to tell you that there have been numerous attempts to smuggle explosives onto an airplane before. Because of the high volume of attempted attacks, researchers could collect enough data to conclude that more than 3.4 ounces of a liquid explosive are capable of taking a plane down.
In 2006, the rule was implemented, and today, it’s still in effect. Due to the seriousness of national security, very little flexibility (if any) is tolerated regarding this rule. If you try and pull a fast one on airport security, they’ll find out what you’re doing and, best-case scenario, confiscate the offending container.
How to Measure 3.4 Ounces of Liquids
Measuring and separating liquids into 3.4 ounces is pretty straightforward. Just get a flask with clear measurement lines and fill it up until it reaches 3.4 ounces. Then pour the liquid into a container before repeating this for the following containers.
Yeah, the above method sounds ridiculous. Instead, what you should do is pick up a pack of 3.4-ounce clear squeeze bottles (Amazon). Just fill the bottles until they’re full, and you’ll have roughly 3.4 ounces of liquid soap or shampoo.
Can You Bring Full-Sized Bottles on a Plane?
Allow me to reiterate: the 3-1-1 Rule applies only to carry-on luggage. If you want to pack your toiletries in a backpack or an overhead-bin-friendly bag, you must separate the liquids into 3.4-ounce containers and place the containers inside a quart-size plastic bag.
However, if you want to take a full-sized bottle of shampoo, soap, or perfume with you, it’s completely fine to pack the bottle inside your check-in luggage. That said, it might be better to shop for soap and shampoo at your destination, especially if you want to save as much suitcase space as possible for souvenirs!