We all like to bring food along all kinds of activities, like the movies, a family outing, and even to your class. And if it weren’t for strict regulations, people would probably love to bring food with them on their next flight as well.

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Whether it’s to bring home a box of treats to your loved ones in another country or to simply have something to munch on while you’re on the plane, it’d be nice to bring food with you without getting into trouble with the airport security. Fortunately, it’s just a matter knowing what you can bring and how you should pack them. Once you know what to do, you’ll be able to have a snack on the plane without having to break the bank over expensive airplane food and you can impress your friends back home with tasty souvenirs.

Carry Food to the Plane

Learning how to travel with food, especially the ones you will bring on the plane with you, requires you to learn the TSA 3-1-1 rule. In case you don’t know it yet, the 3-1-1 rule is the guideline set by the TSA for all kinds of liquids, which will come in handy when you’re bringing drinks along. Remember that the “3-1-1” stands for:

- 3.4 ounces bottles;

- 1 quart-sized clear plastic bag; and

- 1 bag per passenger.

Insofar as food is concerned, you’ll want to know what kind of food counts as “liquid” in the TSA guidelines. Although you may disagree with the science, the guidelines consider anything that you can spray, spread, or squirt as liquid, so stuff like gravy, salad dressing, and even peanut butter are considered liquids for purposes of air travel. This means they all have to fit inside 3.4 ounce containers, all of which must in turn fit into one quart-sized clear plastic bag. Make sure all those sauces are in containers and not with your food, otherwise you might just lose your lunch to airport security.

Food in general doesn’t have any limit in terms of quantity, except that you shouldn’t go beyond your carry-on limit. Technically, this means that you can pretty much stuff your carry-on with all kinds of fruits and meat and you won’t have issues with security, so long as they’re packed properly. (Please note that there may be some local rules, i.e. fruits and vegetables cannot be brought to Hawaii.)

Frozen Stuff

Trying to keep your food cool while flying requires ice or gel packs. But the tricky part is making sure that they don’t get partially melted or too squishy, since the TSA requires all cooling packs to be 100% frozen to get past the security check. A good way to prevent melting is to use dry ice, although you have to wrap them up, put them in a ventilated container, and labelled properly.

Baby Food

One notable exception to the 3-1-1 rule is baby food which is clearly liquid as far as TSA standards are concerned. Thus, juice, breast milk, baby food, purified water, and similar stuff don’t need to be in 3.4 ounce containers so long as you declare them upon checking in. The only restriction is that you’re expected to only bring a reasonable amount of the food for the flight.

For obvious reasons, you’re going to need to be traveling with your child. The only exception is with respect to transporting breast milk, in which case you don’t need to have your baby with you. What constitutes a reasonable amount of breast milk depends on your trip, so it’s okay to bring along a week’s worth of it if you were gone for that long.

Food for Pets

This will apply to passengers who have a service animal with them. Just like you, your pets can have a reasonable amount of food for them as well. Food that are moist and have some liquid on them must follow the 3-1-1 rule as well, so having some tubes or small containers for your pet’s treats will be very useful. Keep in mind that the rule also applies to prescription food. Thus, if you must bring moistened food, make sure to bring a container for the broth.

Checking Through with Food

There are definitely certain types of food you can never bring to the plane as a carry-on, such as ice cream. In these cases, you’ll have to check these items in along with your other checked luggage.

Alternatively, any food you don’t intend to consume on the place can be checked in as well. The good thing about this is that even the liquids won’t be subjected to the 3-1-1 rule anymore. Instead, you simply have to make sure that your food doesn’t exceed the baggage limit.

Note: Alcoholic beverages are an exception in a sense that you can’t have more than 5 liters of it with you on the flight.

A Note on Fruits and Veggies

Just like all kinds of food, you can bring fruits and vegetables with you on the flight as well. As always, you must follow the 3-1-1 rule for any substance that may count as liquids under TSA guidelines and you have to keep within the respective baggage limits.

Bringing fruits and vegetables, however, can get a bit trickier depending on where you’re travelling. There are rules that are specific to certain destinations put up by local governments to protect their ecosystems. This is because the produce that you bring with you could have a huge impact on the local agriculture (i.e. it could attract new pests or diseases) that can affect the local businesses and the economy.

Places like Hawaii and Australia require passengers to fill out additional forms if they are bringing in produce from outside. These forms will require you to declare the kind of produce you’re bringing. Upon arrival, you will also have to check with biosecurity to make sure that all your produce is good to bring within their borders. Of course, this will entail some processing fees which you have to cover.

No matter how often you travel, keep in mind that rules can change depending on where you go and what you bring. It’s always better to always review the guidelines every time you travel with food so your flights are as convenient and hassle-free.