Odd Things You Probably Had No Idea You Can Bring Through TSA

Packing the perfect carry-on bag for your flight can be something of an art form. Most folks have some personal items that they just don't want to part with, even for the length of a short flight. Since the reality is that there's no guarantee your luggage will arrive when and where you do, it's also a good idea to bring things you know you can't live without where you're going. And then there are those things that you'll actually want to have with you on the flight like a favorite magazine or snack.

Of course, the last thing you need is to find out at the security check that something in your carry-on bag is against the rules. Not only could this leave you stranded on vacay without something you had planned on taking with you, but there's also a chance you'll have to sacrifice your TSA-confiscated items to be resold at a lost item surplus store. That's why it's always a good idea to peruse the TSA website for any recent changes and make sure your carry-ons make the cut every time you fly.

And while you're looking, you might be surprised at some of the things that are allowed on a flight. From DIY day-drinking supplies to some interesting cosplay choices, here are some of the odder items you can totally get through a TSA check next time you fly.

1. Booze

Maybe you've got a favorite adult beverage that you don't expect the flight attendants to have on hand. Maybe you'd rather not pay in-flight prices. Maybe you don't want to have to wait for the drink cart to come around only to quickly chug your drink before it's time to return your tray table to its upright position. Sadly, you can't do any of this since FAA regulations require you to shell out for drinks served by the aircraft carrier. 

But you can bring your alcohol minis on the flight with you, which could come in handy while you're waiting for that Uber to arrive later on. Carry-on booze follows the same rules as your other liquids, which means as many 3.4-ounce containers as you can fit in your permitted one-quart bag. Anything over 140 proof (70% by volume) is barred, so it looks like you're leaving that Bacardi 151 at home.

2. Birds of prey (and other feathery friends)

From falconers to pirates to Jafar, many friends of a feather can't imagine taking a journey without their avian pals. Technically, TSA allows birds to pass through the security check — subject to the rules of the airline you're flying with. Like most small pets, small birds are allowed as carry-on items, but you will have to remove them from their carriers and walk them through security where you'll both be wanted.

If you've got a larger bird, he or she won't count as a carry-on item, but you just might be able to purchase a ticket for them depending on the airline. In 2017, CNN reported on a Saudi Arabian prince who purchased 80 extra seats so his falcons could fly economy. But the following year, a Brooklyn artist was not so lucky when her peacock pal didn't make the cut for a United Airlines flight, per BBC.

3. To-go lobsters still kickin'

If you're a landlubber from someplace in the midwest like Kansas or Oklahoma, you're used to a pretty weak selection of live lobsters at your local grocer. But if you're flying home from Maine, bringing home a big, juicy, and still-breathing lobster for dinner is a very real option — at least on the TSA side of things. As with anything else that wiggles, you'll need to find out where your airline stands before planning your side dishes. But TSA does allow live lobsters through their checkpoint as long as you've got them in a clear plastic container that fits their carry-on size guidelines. Just make sure it's spillproof since "Lobsters on a Plane" is the sequel no one asked for.

4. Your magic wand — but only if it's Harry Potter's

We've all been there. You're on your way to the Triwizard Tournament when you suddenly realize you forgot to check your wand, and now you're stuck in the security line worried that you'll end up losing it to the TSA's confiscated items bin. The good news is that Harry Potter wands are explicitly allowed, according to the TSA website. Since non-HP wands aren't mentioned on the TSA site, it looks like Glinda and the White Witch of Narnia are out of luck.

5. Antlers

If you're returning from a trip where you had a chance to go hunting, shipping your trophies home can prove a spendy endeavor. While you can't bring everything with you on a plane, you can check your antlers — and if they're small enough, you can even bring them with you as a carry-on item. To protect the antlers, YouTube hunter Barthuntfish likes to duct tape tennis balls to each of the points and then wrap the skull itself in duct tape. Just make sure your antlers will fit in the luggage bin since the TSA security agent checking you in gets the final say on whether Rudolph gets to fly.

6. Your fancy lighter

A lucky lighter can be a pretty handy thing to have on vacation. But if you've already jumped to the conclusion that you have to leave it at home thanks to tight airline safety regulations, we've got some good news for you. You can most likely bring your good lighter through TSA, although the rules are a little tricky. While you can't travel with a torch lighter — a blue flame or plasma lighter, for example — you can bring one Zippo or a disposable lighter. For more specific information about traveling with checked lighters, check the FAA guidelines.

7. Biological specimens in formaldehyde

If questions about flying with biological specimens in your carry-on seem like an unusual topic, you might be surprised to learn that the subject is quite common on sites like Reddit these days. But a lot of the discussion is due to an increased use of DNA testing rather than some nefarious "12 Monkeys" plot. According to the TSA website, travelers can travel with non-infectious biological specimens as long as they fall under the FAA's guidelines for liquid solutions and formaldehyde in checked and carry-on luggage. The FAA has specific rules on how these items need to be packed, so be sure to check them out.

8. Fresh eggs

We don't know why you'd want to bring a handful of fresh eggs in your carry-on bag. Maybe you've just spent a glorious week hanging out with your long-lost relatives in Amish country. Maybe you like the adrenaline kick of pure anxiety worrying about yolk seeping all over your iPhone. Whatever your reasons, as long as you're willing to walk them through the X-ray machine, you are more than welcome to take them in your carry-on bag. Or, if you really like to walk on the wild side, you can stick them in your checked luggage. Either way, Godspeed.

9. A frozen meal

People travel for all sorts of reasons other than vacation, which is the only reason we can understand the need for TSA to explicitly list frozen meals on their website as an allowable item. But maybe you can't get your favorite TV dinner at the local Piggly Wiggly where you're headed, or perhaps you're planning to surprise your college freshman sibling with a plate of Mom's special lasagna. Whatever the case, TSA does allow frozen meals, including meat and seafood dishes, both in your checked luggage and carry-on. Pro tip: Melted ice isn't allowed, so you may want to partially use dry ice.

10. Your favorite disposable razor

If you're picky about your razor blade, we get it. Disposable razors are one of those things that you definitely want to take with you on the plane in case you and your luggage get separated. Even if the hotel gift shop has a replacement for you, you might not have many options to choose from — and some of us need the old triple blade to really get the job done. Fortunately, disposable razors are still allowed on the plane and in your checked luggage even in today's hypercautious security climate.

11. Blenders (mostly)

If you're the type of person who follows a pretty strict eating plan, a week or two is a pretty long break from your keto protein shake diet, particularly after factoring in all those vacation meals and cocktail hours. But since most hotel rooms don't come equipped with a blender, you might want to bring your own. Fortunately, you can bring the entire blender in your checked bags. And since quality blenders can get pretty spendy, you can bring one in your carry-on if you remove the blade. Just make sure anything sharp is wrapped up securely so no one gets injured when they're handling the contents of your bag.

12. Espresso makers

The TSA also has good news for those of us who can't make it through a vacation without our favorite coffee or espresso maker. Both of these items are treated like any other electronic equipment you might want to take in your checked or carry-on luggage, although TSA recommends packing your pricier items in your carry-on luggage so you can keep an eye on them. Just make sure your cords are well-wrapped and everything fits in a carry-on bag.

13. Body armor

If "The Walking Dead" taught us anything, it's that a zombie apocalypse can strike when you least suspect it. Should you find yourself stranded in Oahu fighting off walkers from all sides, your body armor could seriously come in handy. And, according to the TSA website, you can bring yours along in your checked bag or carry-on — although, whether you're allowed through the checkpoint is up to the individual officer, so you'll probably want to be on your best behavior at the security check.

14. A camping stove

If your travel plans involve taking a long drive into the wilderness and backpacking your way through some of nature's most majestic vistas, you might want to bring a camp stove along. They can also come in handy if you're on your way to an event like Bonnaroo Music Festival or Burning Man. As long as you've emptied all of the fuel and packed everything up according to their guidelines, the TSA says it's fine to bring a camping stove in your checked bag or as a carry-on.

15. Your lucky fishing pole

If you're an experienced fisherman, you probably have some pretty specific ideas about what constitutes a good fishing pole. You may even have a favorite pole that you've invested some serious change in. As long as your fishing rod can collapse into an appropriate size to meet carry-on size requirements, you can bring it on the plane. TSA has specific rules for traveling with tackle, so be sure to check those out when you're packing.

16. A cheese wheel

Assaggiatori. Turophile. Cheesehead. Whatever you call yourself, if you're one of those folks who just can't get enough cheese, you're probably bringing some back on your next vacation. And you should have no problems getting your cheese past TSA. Different rules apply for solid and creamy cheese — you're only allowed up to 3.4 ounces of creamy cheese in a carry-on — and you'll want to make sure your cheese is packed so it can easily pass through the scanner. Follow those rules and you'll be all gouda!

17. An empty cooler

An empty cooler might seem like an odd thing to bring along on your flight, but these can actually come in handy when you're traveling — particularly when you're packing for a family vacation. Once you arrive at your destination, they can easily be filled up with ice and things like lunch meat or yogurt, giving your crew a hotel room reprieve from the heavy vacation food that can start to bog you down after a while. Coolers also make a pretty handy beer fridge. Although it's ultimately up to the judgment of your TSA agent, empty coolers are allowed as checked and carry-on items.

18. Your lunch

Depending on where you're going and what kind of layover you're dealing with, it's pretty common to find yourself strapped for time with an empty belly as you race across the concourse. If you've got just enough time to stand in line, go ahead and grab that corn dog or sammy to nosh on at the departure gate since non-liquid foods like pizza, sandwiches, and other types of cooked meals are generally all allowed through the security check.

19. Fairly sizable plants

While you probably won't bring large ficus plants or giant sunflowers through the TSA security check, you might be surprised at just how large the plants you are allowed to bring can be. Plants are treated like any other carry-on item, which means they need to fit either underneath your seat or up above in the luggage compartment. YouTuber Becca De La Plants accomplished this with a fairly sizable elephant ear plant by removing the excess foliage, bagging up her plant, and easily sliding it under her seat.

20. Computer or gaming systems

Vacations are all about relaxing and taking a break from the real world, so we definitely won't judge or begrudge you if your idea of a good time includes bringing your favorite gaming system along. And if you've got kids or teens in your crew, a gaming system can be a great tool for keeping them occupied while the adults decompress between adventures. Gratefully, TSA allows all kinds of gaming systems and computers including your desktop, laptop, external hard drive, and full-sized video game consoles.

21. Handcuffs

Remember that flight where a passenger so completely lost the plot that the flight crew ended up duct-taping him to his chair? This would probably be one of the very rare instances where a passenger with handcuffs could have been an everyday hero. But most folks are far more likely to use them for more ... ahem ... spicier reasons. And since TSA doesn't make a rule of judging passengers' boudoir accouterments, it can't hurt to slip a pair in your carry-on bag if that's your cup of tea.

22. Thieves' tools

It probably doesn't look great if you're traveling by air with a lock-picking kit. And aside from getting into a good old-fashioned heist or attending a locksmith's convention, it seems like a fairly odd thing to stick in your travel bag. But TSA apparently doesn't have a problem with it, aside from recommending that you check out local regulations before you take those sweet lock-picking skills on the road.

23. Light sabers

Just as TSA understands Hogwarts grads need their wands, they know that no self-respecting Jedi master would be caught without their lightsaber. And they want aspiring Jedi to know that they are more than welcome to bring theirs on board their next flight. The TSA website even laments the lack of real-world lightsaber technology up to this point, stating, "Sadly, the technology doesn't currently exist to create a real lightsaber. However, you can pack a toy lightsaber in your carry-on or checked bag. May the force be with you." Unfortunately, for travel-minded Trekkies, there's no word on whether phasers are allowed. 

24. A small painting

If your trip to spend a week with Aunt Edna in Galveston included an evening at the local Paint & Pinot, you'll be glad to know you don't have to abandon that high-quality sunset with trees or napping (and definitely not unalive) cat painting. Paintings that fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat are allowed past the TSA checkpoint — although if you want to claim it was confiscated, our lips are sealed.

25. A Geiger counter

Everyone has something they just can't see themselves traveling without. Maybe it's a favorite pair of headphones to slip into a good murder podcast, a sudoku book, or a favorite bottle of moisturizer. Then again, maybe it's a Geiger counter. While it makes sense that these wouldn't be banned since they don't seem to be harmful in any way, it's still hard not to be a little perplexed at the idea of someone passing one down the TSA conveyor belt.

26. Live fish

Flying with a live fish in your entourage might seem a bit odd on its face. But if you're traveling across the country to a new job in a new community, you certainly can't leave your dear friend Mr. Limpet at home to fend for himself. For reasons that are probably obvious, you can't stick him in your checked luggage. But you are allowed to bring him in your carry-on bag as long as he's in a clear plastic container (you can also bring live coral).

The specific rules on whether your fish is allowed and the type of allowable containers seem to depend on the airline. One fish-friendly airline passenger on a Southwest Airlines bulletin board reported being allowed to break the 3.4-ounce rule for their fish, observing, "Apparently, if the fish is alive and swimming in the liquid, then TSA knows the liquid is not an explosive — or the fish would be dead." But if you don't want to risk having to leave your little rainbow fish at the departure gate, call ahead and confirm just to be on the safe side.

27. A birthday cake

Is there ever really a bad time for birthday cake? We don't think so, and neither does TSA, apparently. Pies and cakes are both allowed through the security check. But be sure to stow your cake properly in accordance with flight attendants' directions once you're on board. It's a lesson one family learned the hard way in 2018 when the flight crew got salty over their own sweet treat and the family was forced to board another plane, as reported by Today.

28. Bouquets of fresh flowers

If you're planning to surprise your loved one with a bouquet of fresh flowers when you disembark, first of all, congratulations on being a legitimate catch. Flowers are allowed both as a carry-on item and in your checked bag, although we're not exactly sure how the second one is supposed to work. But if you're bringing fresh flowers to your sweetheart, it's completely fine. According to the TSA website, you'll just need to empty any water from your flowers before going through the security checkpoint.

29. Shock collars

Your dog might not be thrilled to learn about this. But it's incredibly common for folks to travel with dogs they're training, and that includes enlisting the aid of a shock collar or e-collar. TSA has zero restrictions on traveling with these, and the doggo-loving corners of the Internet are full of positive stories about taking them through security. As user Brandoned put it on a RetrieverTraining.net thread, "I have traveled with mine many of times and never had a problem, but [I am] sure there can always be a first!"

30. Parachutes

There's a whole host of reasons why commercial liners don't carry parachutes for their passengers. For one, if hundreds of passengers (including grandmas and babies) had to all jump out of a small exit while flying at 550 mph, many would smack into a plane or get sucked into the engine. But that's not the only reason someone might carry their own chute onto a flight. Skydivers regularly travel with theirs because, for them, no trip around the world would be complete without planning a jump or two.

Since checking luggage can be risky and no one wants to find out their parachute got roughed up by the baggage handlers the hard way, skydivers will usually take their chutes as a carry-on. And according to TSA's website, this is perfectly fine as long as you follow their special packing rules.

31. Your hookah

If your dream vacation wouldn't be perfect with your favorite hookah, you're in luck. TSA has absolutely no restrictions against bringing one on the plane as long as you're following all of their other guidelines regarding size and liquids. According to the subReddit r/hookah, the only issue you could likely encounter is with bringing in coals, so it's best to go with shisha tobacco.

32. An entire sewing machine

For about five minutes in 2021, the internet was flabbergasted over a viral video of a passenger who busted out a sewing machine for a full-on, mid-flight fashion project. Comments ranged from concerns about an inevitable TBI that would occur if the plane hit an air pocket to surprise that no one seemed to be irate about the noise level. But while it might have been rude, technically it was allowed — although according to TSA regulations, the machine probably should have stayed stashed in a compartment or under the seat for the duration of the flight.

33. Your uncle's cremains

One of the secret horrors lurking silently under the pristine veneer of Walt Disney World is that folks love to toss their family's ashes all over the place. In fact, it's pretty common for folks to use their family vacation as a chance to deposit their dearly departed somewhere dreamy, much like Jennifer Coolidge's Tanya McQuoid did in "White Lotus." TSA certainly isn't trying to stand in your way as you take to the friendly skies with a salt shaker full of Grandpa Charles. But the rules for traveling with Gramps are a little complicated and can vary from one airline to the next, so check with your carrier before you fly just to be sure you're in compliance.