Are you getting ready to head to the airport sometime soon and wondering what type of items you can bring in your purse on the plane?
In this article, we will take a detailed look at what items may be allowed and what type of restrictions you might encounter.
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What can i bring in my purse on a plane?
You can bring many common items in your purse but you need to be aware of the TSA liquids rule and also FAA restrictions on certain items. Below, I’ll break down some of the key considerations you need to think about when packing items in your purse and going through airport security.
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Is your purse a carry-on or personal item?
Just in case you need some clarification, your purse will almost certainly be considered a personal item when you board the plane.
This means that for most airlines, you’ll also be allowed to also bring a carry-on item that is separate from your purse such as a backpack, duffel bag, or smaller luggage bag.
Both your personal item and your carry-on have to go through airport security and will be subjected to the same screening standards so in terms of airport security there is not a big difference between the two.
However, for some with smaller purses, it may be easier for you to place your liquids bag into a larger carry-on. So some of the contents you usually keep in your purse may be better off inside your carry-on when going through security.
After airport security, you may want to place some of those items back in your purse so that you have easy access to them on the flight since your carry-on bag usually needs to go in the overhead storage bin.
Rules related to common purse items
Some of the purse items below have special exceptions but for the most part there are two rules that you need to be aware of when transporting items to the plane in your purse.
TSA liquids 3-1-1 rule
The first rule you need to know about is the TSA liquids 3-1-1 rule.
This rule means that you can only bring in liquids that fit in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less. In addition, you can only bring along the number of 3.4 ounce containers that can fit into a clear, quart sized zip-top bag.
You could store your liquids bag in your purse or in your carry-on bag it really doesn’t matter. Typically, your carry-on will have much more room so I would suggest putting it in there, though.
Just be prepared to remove the bag unless you have TSA Pre-Check which allows you to keep your liquids bag in your main bag. It also provides you with other benefits like:
- Passing through a traditional metal detector (as opposed to the invasive full-body scanners)
- Shoes can stay on
- Belt can stay on
- Light jackets can stay on
- Laptops allowed to stay in bag
The FAA sets special limits for the total amount of medicinal and toiletry items passengers can bring which includes things like: hairspray, hand sanitizers, aerosols, rubbing alcohol, inhalers, nail polish and remover, etc.
If you are only bringing these items in with your purse/carry-on the liquids rule will keep you from even coming close to going over these amounts stated by the FAA.
But if you plan on putting some of these items in your checked baggage, you just need to be careful that you don’t exceed the limit placed on these types of substances.
The stated limits are the following:
Quantity limits: The total aggregate quantity per person cannot exceed 2 kg (70 ounces) or 2 L (68 fluid ounces). The capacity of each container must not exceed 0.5 kg (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces).*
Most passengers traveling with travel size toiletries and other items don’t have to worry about these limits. But if you were trying to bring in standard sized containers or a large quantity of them in your checked bag then you might be approaching these limits.
TSA rules for common purse items
Make up is one of the most common items that people typically include in their purse.
If your makeup is in solid or powder form, the good news is there are no quantity or size limitations. As long as the makeup can fit in your carry-on or checked luggage, you can bring it with you.
This means that for your makeup items like solid eyeliner, lipliner, blush, lip balms, and lipstick, you will be perfectly fine to bring it through airport security in your purse.
If your makeup is not in solid or powder form, then it will be subject to the TSA liquids 3-1-1 rule.
Keep in mind that certain items like nail polish and nail polish remover will also be subject to the FAA restrictions mentioned above. Again, you should have nothing to worry about if you keep the quantities small.
Read more about taking make up on a plane here.
Your perfume bottles will be subject to the TSA liquids rule.
TSA allows you to bring liquids like cologne and perfume on board as long as they are contained within a container no larger than 3.4 fluid ounces or (100 mL) and all of those containers can fit comfortably inside of one clear quart sized bag.
Many large bottles of perfume will be larger than 3.4 ounces.
It’s usually helpful to bring a smaller bottle of perfume or even a vial so that you can free up room in your liquids bag/purse. Also, once again these items are subject to the FAA restrictions.
Please refrain from using perfume on a plane because many people can be sensitive to the strong scents.
Read more about taking perfume on a plane here.
Bringing hairspray with you can be a great way to keep your hair looking right as you travel.
However, because hairspray will usually be a liquid and in an aerosol can you have special restrictions to deal with.
A normal size bottle of hair spray will likely range from 8 to 12 ounces. This means that you cannot bring a normal size can of hair spray in your carry-on.
If bringing hair spray as a carry-on you will need to make sure that your liquid or aerosol bottles are under 3.4 ounces. And don’t forget to keep the cap on for all of your aerosol cans!
If you are transporting hair spray in your checked luggage, your containers must comply with FAA restrictions.
Related: Can You Bring Hair Spray on a Plane?
Lip balm is not an issue and if it is solid there is no need to place it into a liquids bag.
But if you are using a product like Carmex that comes in a liquid state, that technically should be placed in your liquids bag although many agents may not bother with it.
Lotion will be considered a liquid so it will have to go in your liquids bag. This includes face cream, hand cream, etc. I would suggest putting any kind of lotion bottle inside of a sealed plastic bag and not trying to use it on the plane because lotion can explode at altitude.
In the era of coronavirus, hand sanitizer exploded in popularity. But pandemic aside, it’s always been common for a lot of people to carry hand sanitizer in their purse, especially when traveling.
Hand sanitizer has a unique exception with TSA in that they allow extra large containers than would normally be allowed under the liquids rule.
TSA is now allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice.
You can fit that size in your purse but at the security checkpoint they will ask you to separate your hand sanitizer so you will need to remove it from your purse at some point.
TSA allows a lot of leeway when it comes to medication.
As a general rule of thumb, you should be able to bring reasonable quantities of medication with you. Typically, this would be the amount of medication you need on your trip.
Some people pull out all of their medication for separate screening with TSA but in my experience that is not always necessary. You could probably get by with just leaving your medication in your purse unless you have liquid containers.
If you have liquid medication those are not subject to the liquids rule so you can have medication containers with liquid that are larger than 3.4 ounces.
If you’re bringing liquid medication through security or a large quantity of medication you probably want to put that medication inside of a plastic bag instead of your purse. This will allow you to take out the medication and allow agents to screen your meds in a more streamlined fashion.
TSA does not require you to show your prescriptions but carrying them with you is helpful because they can help you comply with state laws and it might help you with some TSA agents who could be giving you a hard time.
Pepper spray or mace is one of the most commonly used self-defense items by people all around the globe. It’s also an item often found inside of a purse.
You cannot bring pepper spray through security and on the plane with you although you are allowed to put it in your checked baggage with some airlines.
The keyword is some because there are some specific airlines that outlaw pepper spray in both carry-ons and checked baggage.
Sometimes you don’t get a very clear answer from the airline when you ask about this so it can be kind of a tricky subject.
But from the TSA perspective, you can bring one 4 fl. oz. (118 ml) container in your checked baggage so long as it is equipped with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge and is not more than 2 percent by mass of tear gas (CS or CN).
Some people like to carry around snacks or small food items in their purse.
When you are on the go in the airport, putting a bag of chips or a wrapped sandwich in your purse can be a really easy way to get around.
And then once you are on the plane, your carry-on bag can be stored in the overhead storage compartment but your purse can remain on your lap or under the seat in front of you for easy access to your food.
You can generally bring any type of food on a plane without restrictions as long as it is a solid form of food. This includes common personal items like mints, gum, etc.
When you start bringing liquids such as soups or foods that come in liquid like forms such as creams, paste, butter, those tend to be subject to the liquids rule.
Also, dips like ranch, hot sauce, etc. will be considered liquids.
So just understand that you should be good with solid food but if you have anything that could be considered a liquid you’ll need to make sure that it complies with the liquids rule.
In those cases it’s best to keep them in your liquids bag which might be better outside of your purse.
Related: Can You Bring Food on a Plane?
There should be no issue carrying a camera in your purse.
A small camera can stay in your purse when you go through security. However, if you have a large DSLR sometimes agents want it inspected separately although this is usually pretty rare.
It’s pretty common to carry around a water bottle in a purse to help you stay hydrated.
But if that water bottle has liquid in it it’s going to be subject to the liquids rule when you go through airport security. Typically, whenever you bring a water bottle through security you’ll be asked to either drink it or throw it away.
So usually you are better off with just buying a water bottle once you get to the airport or using some type of filter to fill up your bottle after you get through security.
If you are bringing mini alcohol bottles in your purse you’ll need to take those out and place them in your liquids bag.
Contrary to what many people think, you can bring your own alcohol on the plane. The thing is there are some somewhat confusing restrictions when doing so.
As long as you comply with the liquids rule you usually are fine but you also need to remember to NOT serve yourself alcohol when on the plane. Taking a swig of tequila from a bottle in your purse is a quick way to get in hot water with a flight attendant.
If you’re a frequent reader you’ll be happy to know that bringing books in your purse is completely acceptable.
Sometimes books reportedly present issues with x-ray scanners and require a manual inspection.
Therefore, it’s possible that if you’re bringing books, especially multiple books, security agents might take a closer look at your luggage.
Still, as long as you’re not trying to hide anything in your book (smuggling drugs, etc.) then you should have nothing to worry about.
Vapes are another common item to bring in a purse. Vapes can be brought as a carry-on through security.
If they have multiple components and are large it often makes it easier on security if you break them down before getting them scanned.
Note that if you are bringing special pods or packs that contain liquid vape you need to comply with the liquids rule. So plan on putting them in your liquids bag.
You definitely need to be aware that these vape devices are prohibited in checked baggage. The reason is that some of them could be turned on by accident and overheat, causing a fire and potentially a catastrophic situation.
Related: TSA Rules for Vapes and e-Cigarettes
Jewelry is allowed on a plane and should not be a problem.
You can keep the items in your purse but if you are subjected to some type of additional screening you can ask to be screened in private if you are worried about others seeing your valuables.
Personally, I would just recommend not bringing super expensive jewelry when traveling but some people really like to wear their jewelry when traveling.
Hair ties and bobby pins are also allowed. You shouldn’t have any issues bringing a brush in your purse as well. Dry shampoo is allowed but it will usually be subject to the liquids/FAA rules.
There is no issue with bringing solid deodorant in your purse but if you have liquid or gel deodorant that needs to go in your liquids bag.
Related: Can You Bring Deodorant on a Plane?
Random toiletry items
Random toiletry items like nail files, nail clippers, tweezers can all be brought in your purse. If packed in carry-on, scissors must be less than 4 inches from the pivot point.
Razors can also be brought but there are some special restrictions with them. For example, disposable razors and electric razors are generally allowed but other types of razors may be prohibited.
Keys are perfectly fine to go through security in your purse. Just to make sure you don’t have any self-defense items that are not allowed such as pepper spray.
You can bring cash through airport security in your purse without issues.
The big caveat here is when you are bringing lots of cash. It’s recommended to avoid bringing a lot of cash through security because you could get it confiscated and potentially never see it again. Proceed with caution.
Related: How Much Cash Can You Travel With?
Tissues can be brought in your purse no problem. Also, face wipes and baby wipes are permitted.
If you want to stay stain-free while traveling, you’ll be perfectly fine bringing a stain stick remover with you. Just be aware that it needs to be in your liquids bag so you may not want to leave it loose in your purse.
Feminine hygiene products
Female hygiene products like tampons, maxi pads, etc. are all allowed on the plane.
As you can tell, most of the common items you would be carrying in your purse will be allowed on the plane.
The biggest thing to note is that the liquids rule will apply to many of those items and you might have to be aware of the FAA restrictions especially if you plan on placing some items in your checked bag.
It will usually be easier to round up all of your liquid items and place them in a liquids bag in your carry-on because chances are you have more room in there and it will be easier to remove it. However, some people do carry large purses so it all depends on what works best for you.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.