If you are planning to take your 6 Pack Bag meal management system – whether you rock briefcases, totes, duffle bags, or backpacks – through the airport, you need to be aware of TSA's regulations for food. Nothing is worse than prepping your food for a trip, getting to the airport, and then watching TSA throw some of it away because it does not meet their guidelines.
3-1-1 Rule and Liquids
Unless you have avoided flying since 2001, you are likely aware of the 3-1-1 rule
that states you have to pack liquids (like shampoo) in a clear, plastic zip lock to go through security. The liquids have to be 3.4 ounces or less as well. Unfortunately, TSA applies these rules to food that they consider to be liquid.
The following items are listed as a liquid/gel on TSA's website
- Nut butter (squeeze packs included)
- Oil and vinegar
- Creamy cheese
Items that are not specifically identified as liquid or gel on the TSA website, but fit the same description include:
- Pudding/ Jell-O
- Salad dressing
- Fruit cups with syrup
- Apple sauce
Gel Packs & Tips to Keep Your Food Cold
The good news is TSA will allow you to go through security with an icepack, as long as the icepack is frozen solid during screening. The TSA website states
, "If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements."
- Make sure you freeze your gel packs for at least 24 hours before your trip.
- Pack your gel packs right before you head to the airport.
- Leave your 6 Pack Bag in the trunk of your car (out of the sun) while you drive to the airport.
- Keep everything in your bag colder by completely freezing at least one of your meals. Place the frozen meal container in the middle of the non-frozen. I place the frozen meal in the middle row of my Innovator
along with the frozen gel packs and have never had any issues.
- If you are concerned about your ice packs melting before you get to security, add some other frozen items to your 6 Pack Bag like frozen grapes, peas or carrots. This will help to keep the entire bag cooler, keeping the gel packs colder longer.
- Pack a few extra zip lock bags in case your gel packs do get slushy and you have to throw them away. You can fill the zip lock bags with ice after you have been through security to keep your food cold.
Food Packing Tips
- While nut butter and jelly are considered liquids, you can take a pre-made sandwich or wrap through, as long as it is enclosed in saran wrap or a container.
- If you are packing a salad with dressing, oil, or vinegar on it, add the liquid to your container first, then add the vegetables. Shake it up so the dressing spreads out onto the lettuce, then add whatever else you are putting in the salad. Don't forget to dump out any excess liquid before adding other toppings.
- Any food that will need to be cut with a knife should be cut while you are preparing your food.
- You can pack a fork and spoon in your carry-on bag, but not a knife. It is often easier to pick up a plastic fork and spoon from a restaurant in the terminal after you have cleared security.
- If you need any type of condiment, like ketchup, mustard, or barbeque sauce, remember that you can likely get it in a small packet post security.
- If you anticipate leftover food when you reach your destination, call your hotel to request a mini-fridge and/or microwave. The majority of hotel chains will be able to accommodate your request.
These tips are based on the TSA regulations. I have gone through security over 100 times in the past two years and I will be the first to admit, not all TSA agents are created equal. You may slip through security with a slushy gel pack or container of nut butter in your bag, but I would recommend doing your best to follow the TSA guidelines to avoid delays and risk confiscation. If you have a specific item you wish to pack but are unsure if TSA will allow it, check out this great search tool
on the TSA website. If you are traveling internationally, please remember international travel has many different requirements for food than domestic. Contact TSA or your airlines to learn more.
Photo credits go to @kris10amyotte
, and @zrxfitness
(who has been featured in our Fitness Transformations Series
This post is brought to us Kristina Portillo, founder of Business Travel Life, understands how difficult it can be to stay healthy during travel. Last year, she left her corporate consulting position so she could focus on helping other professions with heavy travel schedules to live healthier lives on the road. The highly customized wellness programs offered by Business Travel Life are life changing for clients who need inspiration, encouragement, and accountability to create and maintain a healthier lifestyle.