TSA's Rules For Packing Liquids And Aerosols In Your Checked Luggage

Deciding what to bring on a plane can be complicated. You're already dealing with the usual packing issues like being prepared for different types of weather or how many shoes you can fit in your luggage. You worry if your new carry-on bag will fit in the overhead bin. What about finding the right containers for your 3.4-ounce toiletry bottles? Can you fly with a lithium-ion battery? Will flying with food in your carry-on get you stopped by security for an extra check? (Yes, you can bring food through TSA, but there are some exceptions.) Sometimes it's just easier to put everything in your checked luggage and deal with whatever fees your airline is going to charge. 

That brings us to a question that a lot of fliers have before a trip. What are the rules for packing liquids and aerosols in checked luggage? Can you bring a full-sized bottle of your favorite toiletry? Maybe even pack an aerosol deodorant? As it turns out, you can, though there are a few things to think about first. 

What are the TSA rules about liquids and aerosols in checked luggage?

Most of us know about the 3-1-1 rule of packing for your carry-on — nothing larger than 3.4 ounces in one quart-sized bag per traveler. But is there a limit to the liquids and aerosols you can pack in your checked luggage? The answer is no. According to the TSA, you can absolutely pack all* your larger liquids in your checked baggage. If you love your body lotion that comes in a 6-ounce jar, pack it in your checked bag. What about that full-sized perfume bottle? Check it. If the item is over 3.4 ounces, have peace of mind in knowing that you can pack it inside your checked luggage, and you won't risk having to dump out any of your toiletries as you pass through security. That goes for aerosols in your checked bag as well, like hairspray, deodorant, and mousse. 

*There is one exception, however, and that's alcohol at a certain proof. Per the TSA, alcoholic beverages come with their own limitations. For beverages between 24% and 70% alcohol, each traveler is limited to 5 liters (1.3 gallons) — and the bottle must remain in its original (and unopened) retail packaging. If the boozy beverage is below 24% proof, the checked-bag limitations don't apply.

What you need to keep in mind when checking a bag with liquids

Another thing to consider when packing liquids in your checked baggage is precisely how you pack them. Baggage handlers usually do a great job, but here and there, your bags can be damaged. Even when they're not, the ride is going to be a bit bumpy as they travel from plane to baggage claim carousel. Sometimes, they can be completely mishandled. It's best to just assume your suitcase is going to be tossed around and prepare accordingly. 

One idea for safely packing breakable items in your checked luggage is to wrap your checked liquid bottles in bubble wrap to keep them from being smashed. You can also put them in Ziploc bags and wrap them in clothing like jeans or jackets. Even if they do happen to break, the plastic bag will prevent the liquid from getting everywhere, but the added padding will likely keep them from being broken in the first place. It's also a good idea to double-check the seal on any bottles and make sure they're tight. Ensure that aerosols have a plastic or metal cap to keep them from spraying. We're looking at you, mousse bottles.