TSA Rules for Vapes and e-Cigarettes (The Big Questions Answered) [2023]

As people return to traveling, a lot of passengers will be asking about the TSA rules for vapes, mods, and e-cigarettes.

The rules are relatively straightforward but there are some specific requirements that you need to be aware of when it comes to things like cartridges and batteries.

In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about bringing your vape pens or e-cigarettes through airport security.

What are the TSA rules for vapes and e-cigarettes?

TSA allows passengers to bring electronic cigarettes and similar devices (vaporizers, vape pens, mods, atomizers, and electronic nicotine delivery systems) through airport security as a carry-on.

However, these devices are prohibited in CHECKED baggage.

The FAA banned e-cigarettes in checked luggage in 2016 after there were reports of small fires that broke out in the cargo holds. So this restriction is for the safety of all passengers and crew.

Please do not attempt to get around this restriction as it will put everybody at risk.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Bringing vapes and e-cigarettes through airport security

When taking your vapes and e-cigarettes through the airport, you can bring them inside your carry-on or inside a personal item (such as a backpack) no problem.

(I don’t recommend putting them in your pocket while in the airport because you might forget as you go through airport security scanners.)

Some airlines, such as American Airlines and Delta, recommended that you store them in a designated carry case that may have come with the original vape packaging.

If your mod/vaping device has multiple parts then it is recommended that you disassemble your vaporizer prior to entering the security line.

Even better is if you have all of the parts (atomizer, tank, mouth piece, batteries, etc.) neatly placed within a carrier for easy inspection.

When you are actually going through security, it’s recommended to remove your e-cigarette/vape, place it in a tray/bin, and put it through the x-ray scanner separately from your carry-on bag.

If you keep it in your bag, it could look suspicious and cause you to undergo additional screening.

Generally speaking, the larger your device the greater your chances of a TSA agent wanting to take a closer look.

If they want to take a closer inspection, just let them do their thing. If you don’t have any illegal substances, you don’t have anything to worry about.

Note that if you are bringing special pods or packs that contain liquid vape you need to comply with the liquids rule which I will talk about below.

Related: Bringing a lighter through airport security

Remove your vaping device from your carry-on when going through security for a smooth experience.

Liquid vape cartridges

Liquid cartridges such as JUULpods that click into the top of the JUUL devices and other similar containers that contain e “juices” are considered a liquid and, therefore, they will be subject to the TSA liquids 3-1-1 rule.

The liquids 3-1-1 rule requires all liquid containers to be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller and for them to be stored in a quart sized bag (preferably a clear Ziploc bag).

This means that if you are transporting JUULpods or other juice packs, you need to transport them in a very specific way.

First, the vape cartridges need to be smaller than 100ml.

Many vape juice cartridges are much smaller than 100ml so it should not be difficult for you to find TSA compliant vape cartridges.

In some cases you may need to remove your vape cartridge from your device so that the device has no attachments containing liquid.

Second, you need to place these cartridges in a quart sized Ziploc bag.

The key thing here is that the cartridges must fit “comfortably” inside the bag which means the bag cannot be overstuffed or almost bursting at the seams.

If you do not have TSA Pre-Check, you will need to remove your liquids bag from your carry-on as you make your way through the airport screening process.

Because of this screening process you might be better off just transporting your pods in your checked baggage where you can transport unlimited quantities.

There are reports of the pods leaking at high altitudes so having them in a sealed bag is highly recommended. It is also better to transport a partially used cartridge that has room for the liquid to expand to avoid leakage.

Related: TSA Checklist (Tips & PDF)

Vaping pen

Checking your bag at the gate

Sometimes your plane may not have room for your carry-on, especially if you are towards the back of the boarding process.

If this happens to you and you are traveling with your vape, be sure that you remove your vape and batteries from your carry-on bag that they are checking because they will not be allowed as a checked item.

Related: Can You Take Cigarettes on a Plane?

Vape pen chargers

If you are bringing a power charger or power bank that contains a lithium ion battery it must also be packed in your carry-on bag.

This is because such battery packs can cause risks of explosions and fires in the cargo hold. So to be on the safe side, bring your spare batteries with you on your carry-on.

Keep in mind that TSA can apply extra scrutiny when traveling with multiple spare batteries because the batteries can pose a risk. This is especially true if your lithium batteries have more than 100 watt hours.

For that reason, you may want to only travel with one spare battery or pack your multiple batteries delicately so that they cannot come in to contact with each other.

Related: Bringing Batteries on a Plane: TSA’s Rules for Staying Charged Up

Flying with marijuana/THC vapes

With the growing legalization of marijuana in different states, a lot of travelers are now curious as to how they can legally fly when carrying marijuana on them.

The first thing to note is that marijuana is still illegal on the federal level which makes it illegal to fly with.

Reportedly, regardless of what airport you are departing, TSA’s response to finding marijuana will be the same.

“It is important for me to note that TSA’s response to the discovery of marijuana is the same in every state and at every airport – regardless of whether marijuana has been or is going to be legalized,” TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers explained. 

“This also covers medical marijuana.”

But in practice it’s not clear that this is the case.

If you are flying from a state that has legal marijuana, such as Colorado, and you were caught with marijuana at the airport, it is possible that they will simply request for you to dispose of the cannabis.

But if you were traveling from an area where marijuana is not legalized, the response could be much different.

The bottom line is that this is still a bit of a gray area that is still developing and so there are basically no guarantees as to how TSA will react upon finding marijuana in your possession during the security screening process.

The second thing to note is that TSA is not actively looking to discover marijuana or other illegal drugs that might be in your possession. The TSA website states:

TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs

However, they do note that if illegal substances are discovered during the security screening process the TSA will refer the matter to a law-enforcement officer.

Many vapes containing THC are pretty discreet so they may not always be easily detected.

So if you are traveling with (small amounts) of marijuana/THC vape pens you may not encounter any problems but you should be prepared to have to dispose of your marijuana if it is detected by TSA and in a worst-case scenario, be prepared to explain why you have it in your possession to a law-enforcement officer.

Related: Can You Smoke Weed in a Hotel Room?

Related: Can You Bring Food on a Plane?

Vaping pen marijuana

The back up plan

Some travelers who are weary about losing items when going through security will bring a self-addressed envelope with postage so that they can mail off any item that would be confiscated.

I’ve personally never tried this before but I have seen reports online of people doing it successfully. While a rare occurrence, it could come in handy when a TSA agent uses discretion to confiscate your vape due to some unknown reason or suspicion (TSA agents have discretion to prevent you from bringing items through security).

I don’t see any reason why the self-addressed envelope route could not work in many instances but if you are trying to mail off illegal substances such as marijuana then it could obviously be very problematic (and illegal) so use common sense.

TSA rules for vapes FAQ

Can you vape in an airplane?

No, you are not allowed to vape inside an aircraft. This is to protect people from the devices’ second-hand vapor and to reduce the risk of a device malfunctioning. If you are caught vaping on a plane you could be subject to a large fine up to $4,000.

Do I need to turn my vape off during flight?

Many airlines require your vape to be turned off or to be placed in safety mode during flight.

Can you vape in an airplane lavatory?

No, you are not allowed to vape anywhere inside an aircraft.

Can I bring an e-cigarette as a carry-on?

Yes, e-cigarettes are allowed to be brought on a plane as a carry-on.

Why are vape pens not allowed and checked baggage?

Vape pens are not allowed in checked baggage because they present a hazardous risk. The batteries could be prone to exploding and catching fire in the cargo compartment.

Can you charge an e-cigarette in an airplane?

Many airlines will not allow you to charge an e-cigarette during flight and may require it to be powered off. You can ask a flight attendant but be prepared for them to tell you no.

Can I bring an e-cigarette on an international flight?

Some countries have banned e-cigarettes from flights and from importation so before attempting to travel with an e-cigarette on an international flight you should first verify that possession of the e-cigarette in the country is legal.

Can I travel with a vape containing THC?

While TSA does not actively seek out vapes containing THC, it is possible that if it is detected they will request for you to throw it out or refer you to airport authorities. This can even occur when departing from a state with legalized marijuana.

Do I have to declare my electronic cigarette?

No, you do not have to declare your electronic cigarette or vape. However, you should remove it from your carry-on and comply with the liquids rule if needed.

Do vapes leak on airplanes?

Cartridges containing liquids tend to leak at high altitudes as the liquid expands under the decreased air pressure. So it is recommended to not carry cartridges that are full with e-liquid. In addition, storing them in a sealed bag or container could be a good idea.

Can vapes set off the smoke alarm in a plane?

Yes, vapor can set off the smoke alarm on a plane which is another reason why you do not want to vape on a plane. Passengers have gotten into trouble with this in the past, so it’s something you don’t want to risk.

Final word

Traveling with an e-cigarette or vape through airport security is permitted so long as you comply with the liquid rules.

You want to pay extra attention to make sure you do not leave your cigarettes in your checked baggage because that could present major risks to the flight and also get you into legal trouble.

REAL ID Act: Explained with Detailed Timeline [2023]

You’ve probably seen the term REAL ID quite a few times over the past few years. It’s been in the news, on the blogs, and even at airports and other ports of entry.

Some people are surprised to find out that the REAL ID has been a thing for over 15 years!

But now, we seem to be closer than ever to the point when the REAL ID will be officially implemented so it definitely pays to know what it is all about.

Below, I’ll give you a breakdown of what the REAL ID is and talk about the background of how it came about. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about it including giving you a detailed recap of its timeline.

What is the REAL ID Act?

The REAL ID Act is an act of Congress intended to make state-issued drivers licenses and IDs more secure by helping to reduce fraud.

Specifically, the Real ID Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting drivers licenses and other ID cards issued by states and territories that do not comply with the REAL ID Act’s minimum standards.

The result is that people without compliant state IDs cannot access certain federal government facilities, nuclear power plants, and cannot board flights, unless they provide some type of alternative ID (such as a passport).

For your average traveler who is not visiting government facilities or nuclear power plants, the biggest and most notable change will be that you will not be able to rely on your drivers license to get you through TSA unless it is REAL ID compliant.

How to know if you have a REAL ID compliant ID

REAL ID-compliant licenses are marked by a star on the top of the card. It’s usually very easy to spot but if you aren’t 100% sure just contact your state driver’s licensing agency or local DMV.

Keep in mind that there are some IDs that do not have stars on top of the card that can still be accepted. For example, these may include enhanced driver’s licenses (EDLs) and enhanced IDs.

Only five U.S. states (Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington) offer EDLs.

Related: Can You Get Through TSA and Fly with No ID?


How to get a REAL ID compliant ID

If you need to get a REAL ID compliant ID, check out this official website from the DHS. You can then click on your state or territory and then you will be able to set up an appointment. You can also just contact your local DMV.

Be aware that you will need certain documents when you head to the DMV.

At a minimum, you must provide documentation showing:

  • 1) Full Legal Name
  • 2) Date of Birth
  • 3) Social Security Number
  • 4) Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence and
  • 5) Lawful Status

Some locations may require you to submit even more documents which is why you want to contact the office nearest you.

REAL ID Act background

After the attacks of September 11, the US established the 9/11 commission to help find out ways to reduce future terrorist attacks.

One of the recommendations that came out of the report was a recommendation to establish federal standards for IDs.

“The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses.”

Before 9/11, every state had its own set of rules for how IDs were provided and what information was showing on IDs, including security features. And these are not always the most robust requirements or processes.

Going back to the 1990s, many DMV’s struggled to deal with fraudulent actors who were seeking IDs for nefarious purposes, so this has been an ongoing problem.

However, they didn’t have the resources or the structure (or just the proper motivation) to successfully combat these and that is what the REAL ID initiative helped provide.

Related: TSA Pre-Check Guide (Application Process, Locations, Status)

What are the REAL ID Act requirements?

The REAL ID Act requirements primarily affect the agencies that are issuing the IDs and require them to comply with certain standards. Specifically, there are 39 REAL ID standards or benchmarks (although some argue there are 43).

The state or territory issuing the ID must meet certain standards when issuing an ID such as:

  • Capture a photograph of the applicant
  • Store digital images of the applicants documents
  • Verify the documents with the authorities who issued them (e.g., verify with the Social Security administration)
  • Verify existing IDs issued by another state are terminated
  • Limit the validity of ID documents to eight years
  • Implement background checks of employees
  • Maintain a database of ID documents issued along with driver histories
  • Provide access to other states and territories (State-to State (S2S) Verification Service)

The applicant must provide documentation of the person’s full name, date of birth, and residential address.

They must have a Social Security number or document that they are not eligible for one and they need a document that they are a US national or a foreign national legally in the US.

An applicant will have to show at least two documents showing their address. If they present a birth certificate, it must be verified through the EVVE. Also, US passports and visas on foreign passports must be verified with the Department of State.

As for the actual ID card, the REAL ID Act requires it to contain the following information:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Photograph
  • Address
  • Signature
  • Document number
  • Security features
  • Machine readable technology

Interestingly, states can still issue non-REAL ID compliant IDs but they have to make it clear that the document is not accepted for federal purposes.

Related: TSA Liquid Rules Ultimate Guide (3-1-1 Explained)

Timeline of Real ID events

July 2004

The 9/11 Commission Report is published and recommends that the federal government create standards for the issuance of identification documents such as drivers licenses in order to improve national security.

December 2004

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) is signed by President George W. Bush on December 17, 2004.

This required the federal government to set regulations for the minimum standards for federal acceptance of driver’s licenses and ID cards — the first time national standards had ever been applied to ID cards.

May 2005

On May 11, 2005, the REAL ID Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush. (REAL is capitalized but apparently does not have meaning as an acronym.)

According to the DHS, the “REAL ID is a coordinated effort by the states and the federal government to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, which should inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.”

The REAL ID Act specified that the new rules would go into effect on May 11, 2008. However, there was widespread opposition by many governments and so the deadline was extended.

March 2007

The DHS published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for REAL ID and opposition by state governments begins to grow.

Several states believed compliance would be too expensive and burdensome.

They also rejected it largely on the grounds of individual liberty, limited government, and privacy concerns.

For example, they believed having data from every American consolidated would make people more vulnerable to identity theft. Others saw it as a potential violation of the 10th Amendment and a slippery slope to federal government control.

As a result some states enacted legislation to oppose the law and prevent the state from being forced to comply.

For example, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer stated “No, nope, no way, hell no,” and signed one of the toughest anti-REAL ID state laws in the nation. Many other states like Maine and Utah had also done the same or similar.

July 2009

Due to all of the opposition and uncertainty, critics of the REAL ID, including the ACLU, declared that the REAL ID act was essentially dead.

“Real ID is essentially dead. It’s time for it to be formally repealed and replaced with a process that works, one that protects civil liberties and license security,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

This time frame was truly the low point for the REAL ID as 15 states had passed legislation prohibiting participation in the REAL ID program including: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, and Missouri.

In addition, 10 other states had enacted resolutions that were against REAL ID including: Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee.

it certainly was not looking great for the rea ID.

January 2011

Despite a lot of opposition and doubt during the first few years of the REAL ID Act, by January 2011, 11 jurisdictions were in compliance with all of the REAL ID benchmarks — a significant sign of progress for the REAL ID.

Some states were finding it less expensive than initially expected which was helping more states to get on board.

The ease of compliance was also largely a product of the REAL ID Program Office working closely over the years with AAMVA and the individual DMVs to ensure that the new implementations were practical.

This was a tricky relationship for many states because while the DMV offices were generally in favor of strengthening the security of their IDs, they also had to contend with the fact that their governors may have opposed the REAL ID Act. Not only that, but some DMV’s were even told to report to the governor any attempts by the DHS to secure REAL ID compliance.

December 2013

The DHS announced a “phased enforcement” plan for the REAL ID Act. The first three phases were to begin between April 2014 and October 2015.

These phases meant that the restrictions would go into place for certain government facilities such as the DHS headquarters, nuclear power plants, and restricted areas for federal facilities and some semi-restricted areas for other federal facilities.

The fourth phase was to apply to boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

It required individuals to have a REAL ID compliant ID to board an aircraft although they could also carry a second form of ID if they only had a non-compliant ID.

This was supposed to go into effect no sooner than 2016.

January 2016

In January 2016, the REAL ID took a large step forward when the DHS announced what was believed to be the final phase of implementation for REAL ID.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that effective from January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license or ID card issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (unless that state has been granted an extension to comply with the Act) would need to show TSA an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel.

It was stated that starting on October 1, 2020, every air traveler would need a REAL ID compliant license or another acceptable form of identification.

July 2016

Things really begin to heat up starting July 15, 2016, when TSA, in coordination with airlines and airport stakeholders, started to issue web-based advisories and notifications to the traveling public.

On December 15, 2016, TSA then expanded the “marketing” outreach at its airport security checkpoints through signage and handouts.

Spring of 2017

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced in the spring of 2017 that he remained committed to the enforcement of the REAL ID rules.

He also reiterated the January 2018 deadline set by Secretary Johnson, and DHS officials continued to state that the October 2020 deadline is still set.

Some states like Missouri in Alaska repeal state laws against the REAL ID.

August 2017

Missouri became the last state to commit to REAL ID compliance.

January 2018

REAL IDs are required for air travel for all states unless they have an extension. However, it appears that all states that were not in compliance at the time secured an extension so air travel was not impacted.

November 2019

Substantial progress was made by many states in jurisdictions to be compliant with the REAL ID act.

For example, 51 jurisdictions were compliant and only five jurisdictions—New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands—had extensions or were under review.

All jurisdictions were set up to begin issuing compliant licenses by the summer of 2020.

January 2020

At the end of January 2020, DHS reported that the states had collectively issued more than 95 million REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards. This represented about (34%) out of 276 million total cards.

At this point, REAL ID had come a long way with every jurisdiction set up to begin issuing compliant licenses very soon.

Unfortunately, the world was in the process of adjusting to a very unexpected threat….

March 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic began to erupt and caused DMV’s to temporarily close or cut down on personnel, and the deadline around the corner for the REAL ID, Congress decided that they would need to extend the deadline.

On March 23, 2020, President Trump announced he would be delaying the deadline.

And then a few days later, Congress approved a relief package (CARES Act) that included a push back of the deadline by at least one year.

DHS Secretary Chad Wolf then set a new deadline of October 1, 2021.

September 2020

On September 10, 2020, The Department of Homeland Security announced that after more than 15 years, all 50 states were now in full compliance with the REAL ID Act.

In addition, over 105 million REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards had been issued, representing about 38% of all card holders.

April 2021

On April 27, 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be extending the REAL ID enforcement date by 19 months, from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023.

This delay was once again caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as many DMV offices were still operating with limited capacity.

December 2022

On December 5, 2022, it was announced that the REAL ID would once again be extended from May 3, 2023 to May 7, 2025.

This means that beginning May 7, 2025, “every traveler 18 years of age or older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at TSA security checkpoints.”


Do minors have to comply with the REAL ID?

REAL ID applies to travelers 18 years of age or older.

When will the REAL ID be enforced?

The REAL ID is scheduled to be enforced on May 7, 2025.

How do I know if my ID is compliant?

REAL ID-compliant licenses are marked by a star on the top of the card. Some states may offer an enhanced driver’s license which will not have a star but will still be compliant.

Will I be able to fly if I don’t have a REAL ID-compliant license?

Yes, you will still be able to use alternative forms of ID to get through airport security. For example, you could use a passport.

Will my gender be on the REAL ID license?

Yes, gender is one of the required fields of the ID.

Do I need a REAL ID to visit any federal facility?

No, not every federal facility will require you to show a REAL ID.

Do I need a REAL ID to vote?

No, the Act does not apply to voting or registering to vote.

Does the REAL ID create a federal database?

No, states will continue to issue their own unique license and maintain their own records. However, they may share information with other states.

Final word

The REAL ID was created as a response to the attacks of 9/11 and has had a very long (and uphill) journey to get where it is today.

It is still not fully in effect, probably mostly due to the circumstances that followed the pandemic of 2020.

However, all of the states are now in full compliance with the REAL ID and more and more of these are getting issued every month.

Based on the traction that has finally developed and the amount of time that has passed since the outbreak of coronavirus, it’s likely that the next deadline will be the final deadline for the story of the REAL ID.


Can You Get Through TSA and Fly with No ID? [2023]

Okay, so you messed up and don’t have an ID but you need to catch a flight. What can you do? Well, you might be surprised to find out that you still might actually be able to board the plane even without an ID.

In this article, I will break down everything you need to know about getting through TSA without an ID. I’ll talk about both domestic and international flights and explain what the process is like for verifying your identity.

Can you get through TSA with no ID?

Yes, you can get through a TSA security checkpoint and board your plane without an ID. However, you will be subject to an identity verification process and also likely subjected to a heightened security screening. Keep reading below and I will break it all down for you.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

IDs accepted by TSA

Before jumping in to the steps of what to do when you don’t have a standard ID (e.g., a driver’s license), first you should make sure that you don’t have an alternative form of ID that is accepted by TSA. TSA accepts over a dozen different types of identification, so chances are you might have one of these on you already.

Below is a list of IDs accepted by TSA:

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)**
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

Make sure that your name used for your booking matches your ID since changing your name on a ticket can be a challenge.

**Be aware that beginning May 7, 2025, if you plan to use your state issued ID or license to fly within the US, it needs to be REAL ID compliant. They extended the REAL ID deadline many times in the past but it appears that this time, there will be no extension so make sure you are ready.

If you’ve gone through all of those possibilities and you still do not have any qualifying form of identification then it is time to go through the identity verification process with TSA. Don’t worry — it’s usually not that bad!

Different ID cards
TSA accepts a lot of different forms of ID.

TSA Identification verification process

If you have not arrived to the airport yet, do your best to arrive to the airport extra early because the verification process could take a long time.

The standard recommended time for arriving before a domestic flight is two hours so logically you would want to arrive at least two hours prior to your departure. (I would shoot for 2.5 to 3 hours prior to the flight.)

But the time required might also depend on the type of airport you are at.

If you are at a well-equipped, larger airport with lots of resources the agents there probably have more experience with this identity verification process and so the process could be much more streamlined.

That may not be the case at a much smaller, regional airport. You could imagine how long the process described below could take if you are dealing with a TSA agent who has never had to deal with the verification process before.

If you are already at the airport and just realized that you do not have your ID, hopefully you are not in a rush. If you have very limited time (30 minutes to get to boarding) there’s a chance that there will not be enough time for them to verify your identity and you may want to go ahead and just reschedule your flight if possible.

But if you do have time to spare then it could be worth it to go through the identity verification process.

Related: TSA Checklist (Tips & PDF)

Tucson international airport entrance

Identity Verification Call Center (IVCC)

If you realize that you do not have an ID your first step is to approach a TSA agent and let them know that you do not have an ID and that you would like to go through the verification process so that you can still board your flight.

They are likely going to ask you for the following:

  • Name
  • A photo
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security Number
  • Date of birth

They will also request for you to supply two forms of secondary ID. The secondary form of ID can take a lot of different forms and these include:

  • Library card
  • Business card
  • Social Security card
  • Student ID
  • Mail
  • Credit cards
  • Photo of an ID
  • Voter registration card
  • Prescription with your name on the label

If your wallet or ID was stolen then it would be very helpful for you to have a police report to back up your claim. If you are traveling with family members who do have an ID and you have photos of you together with them that can also help bolster your case.

The more documents you can supply, the better.

In some cases, showing some of the above documents may be enough for your identity to be verified but in other cases it might not be enough.

TSA states that, “If your identity cannot be verified with the provided documentation, you may be required to go through an alternative identity verification process, which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information, and asking personal questions to help confirm your identity.”

You may also be asked to fill out a special form.

If your identity cannot be verified then a TSA agent may resort to the Identity Verification Call Center (IVCC).

In this situation, an agent on the other side of the phone will attempt to verify your identity and possibly ask you some personal questions. They will accomplish this by running your name against a database and looking for you to confirm answers to questions.

These questions could be similar to those identity verification questions that pop up when you attempt to do something like check your credit score on Credit Karma. But they also could be more random or a little bit deeper so be prepared to jog your memory as best you can.

If you are not able to answer the questions accurately or if you simply refuse to then you will not be able to proceed through the TSA security checkpoint and therefore you will not board your flight.

It’s worth pointing out that if you are traveling with an outstanding arrest warrant and you have to go through the identification verification process there is a good chance your warrant will be discovered and you could be arrested.

Get through security

After you have verified your identity, your journey is not complete. You will still need to go through the airport security checkpoint but you can expect to have to go through heightened security.

Most likely, a TSA agent will ask you to step aside while they go through the extra security steps with you. The exact process that you will have to go through will depend on the discretion of the TSA agents but some things that you can expect to encounter include:

  • Invasive pat down
  • Thorough search of all your belongings which means you will likely have to remove objects from your luggage
  • Extra x-ray scans
  • Swabs

The process will likely be similar to what you would experience if you were to have SSSS on your boarding pass.

I’m not sure what happens if you don’t have an ID but you have TSA Pre-Check, which normally allows you to bypass the main security line. I highly doubt that they would allow you to get in the Pre-Check line but stranger things have probably happened.

Related: TSA No Fly List Explained 

TSA agent searching a man
Expect a more invasive search if you do not have an ID.

Boarding the plane

Once you get through the security checkpoint, you can finally make your way to the gate for boarding. Your boarding pass should have a note that you do not have an ID on you and that should be enough to substitute for your ID to get you on a plane.

If you want to visit an airport lounge like a Centurion Lounge typically they will ask to see your identification. It’s not clear to me if airport lounges will allow you to enter without a valid ID. But you would think that if your TSA authenticated identity is good enough for boarding an airplane, it should be good enough to stroll into a lounge.

Once you arrive at the gate area, I would recommend to quickly check in with an agent at the gate and let them know that you have a boarding pass with no ID but that you have been verified by TSA.

That should help prevent any confusion at the time of boarding just in case the agents are not familiar with how to deal with the process.

Don’t try anything “funny”

If you don’t have your ID with you or any other secondary forms of ID, you might be tempted to try to sneak your way through security or try some other type of “funny business.”

This is a very bad idea because in addition to a potential criminal violation, you could also get hit with a civil fine from TSA.

So even if you are under stress trying to figure things out, don’t make any false statements or do anything that could be construed as you trying to circumvent security.

International flights

The situation is much different for international flights. You must have a passport to leave the country in almost every circumstance. Therefore, if you do not have a passport then you will almost certainly be grounded.

If you are currently abroad and you do not have a passport you should contact the local embassy or consulate and they will be able to help you based on your needs.

In some cases, they can issue you a limited-validity passport that allows you to gain entry back into the US but does not come with full travel privileges to visit other countries. If you don’t have an ID and there is an urgent emergency you should be able to get your request expedited.


Can you get a refund if you forget your ID?

Unfortunately, most airlines will not refund your ticket if you simply lost your ID. You may be able to negotiate with them so that you can board a later flight.

What age is required to have an ID to fly?

TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion that has acceptable identification.

Can I travel with an expired ID?

Acceptable forms of ID cannot be more than 12 months past the identified expiration date. However, TSA has made exceptions and you can read more about expired IDs here.

What counts as a secondary form of ID?

There are a lot of different types of documents that can qualify as a secondary form of ID and some of these include:

Library card
Business card
Social Security card
Student ID
Credit cards
Photo of an ID
Prescription with your name on the label

Final word

Getting through TSA without an ID requires you to jump through a few extra hoops. As long as you give yourself enough time and comply with the process, you should still be able to board your plane without major issues. However, if you are departing on an international flight you likely will not be able to board your plane without a valid passport.

TSA Medication Rules for Flying on Planes [2023]

Traveling through airport security can already be a pretty nerve-racking experience. But when you are also worried about getting your necessary medical items through security and onto a plane for a flight, it can be even more anxiety inducing. Luckily, there are some pretty lenient TSA rules and guidelines when it comes to flying with your medication.

In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about TSA medication rules and flying on a plane with medication. I’ll go over the rules for things like prescription medications, pills and liquid medication and other situations like over the counter (OTC) drugs. 

What are the TSA rules for flying with medication on a plane?

TSA will allow you to travel with your medication but there are some restrictions that you need to be aware of, especially if brining medical liquids. Below, I will go through some of the most common restrictions that might apply to you and tell you how you can go about them when flying with medication. 

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Does TSA have a limit on the amount of medication I can bring on a plane?

TSA does not have a limit on the amount of medication that you can bring on a plane whenever the medication is in solid form, such as pills. So if you have a need to travel with multiple bottles of pills then you should not be limited to a certain amounts of pills or bottles. 

If you have an outrageous amount of medication on you then you might be subject to additional screening. However, in many cases as long as they can x-ray your medication they will not require you to undergo additional screening.

If you do not want your medication exposed to the x-ray machine then just let the TSA agent knows this and they will allow you to go through a different type of screening (note that this could take more time and require you to open up all of your bottles).

Note: Medical Nitroglycerin medicines are allowed.

Related: Can TSA Ask About Your Medical Condition?

Tablets and pills
You can bring your medication in pill or solid form in “unlimited amounts” as long as it is screened.

What are the TSA rules for traveling with liquid medication on a plane?

If you are not aware, TSA has a rule that forbids you from bringing in liquids than can’t fit in 3.4 ounce containers. Also, these containers must fit into a quart size bag (typically a clear Ziploc bag).

This is known as the “TSA 3-1-1 rule” and you will be required to remove the bag from your carry-on unless you have TSA Pre-Check (which I highly recommend). 

TSA does not enforce the liquids rule for medically required liquids (and gels and aerosols). They also don’t require you to put your medically necessary liquids into a liquids bag.

However, they do have some limitations on liquid medication.

They require you to only bring “reasonable quantities” and state that the liquids rule exemption only allows certain items to be carried on the aircraft when the item is declared and it is:

  1. Required during your flight and/or at your travel destination;
  2. Not available at the airport in the sterile area (after the screening checkpoint) and/or;
  3. Not available at your travel destination.

Reasonable quantities for your trip

When you are bringing your liquid medications through security the TSA 3-1-1 rule does not apply. Instead, TSA will allow you to bring in “reasonable quantities for you trip.” This is a subjective definition so there is going to be room for agent discretion. 

Therefore, try not to go too far with your liquid medications if you think that you might be bringing in an unreasonable amount. It is a very good idea to have a clear stated purpose for why you need that quantity of liquid medication. And it might even be a better idea if you have a signed doctor’s note explaining why you need that much medication.

It could probably help your cause if you can explain your dosage requirements in relation to the quantity of medication you are bringing. For example, if you require 10g of medication per day and you are bringing 100g with you on a ten day trip, that makes total sense.

But if you require 10g of the medication per day and you are bringing 3,000g with you for a weekend trip that could be a different story….

At some point TSA added more clarity to this rule when they stated that the medication would need to not be available at the airport in the sterile area (after the screening checkpoint) and/or not available at your travel destination.

I don’t really like this rule because essentially a TSA agent could force you to throw out a large bottle of NyQuil just because it would be available at an outrageous price within the airport. Also, sometimes it’s difficult to know whether or not something will be available at your destination so it is just smart thinking to bring it with you. Nevertheless, those are the rules.

Notify the agents 

TSA also states that you should notify the TSA agent about your liquid medication before you go through security screening.

Personally, I have flown with liquid medication many times before and have never notified TSA about it nor have they given me any push back (there’s a prescription on the medication bottle).

Even though that is how I have done it in the past, I would recommend disclosing your medication just to make things easier. This is especially the case if you’re traveling with accessories associated with your liquid medication such as freezer packs, IV bags, pumps, and syringes.

If TSA does notice your liquids or you tell them about them, the medically required liquids will be subjected to additional screening that could include being asked to open the container. They might pour the substance into another container, test out a small sample of the medication, or swab it for explosives.

So just be prepared to pop the top if you are asked to. 

Note: You will not have to put your liquid medications into a Ziploc bag.

Related: Can You Bring CBD on a Plane? (TSA Rules)

Liquid medication bottles
Medically required liquids are not subject to the TSA 3-1-1 Rule.

How to pack medication for a flight in a carry-on or checked bag

TSA will allow you to bring your medication onto a plane via carry-on or checked baggage.

Obviously, you will not have access to your checked baggage when you are flying in the plane so if you are in doubt about whether or not you might need access to your medication, then I highly recommend that you pack it in your carry-on. 

Plus, remember if your checked bag containing your meds gets lost your medication is also lost.

If you bring your medication as a carry-on you should not be required to show or declare that you are bringing medication, unless you are bringing liquid medication or certain other types of medical instruments like syringes.

(Some travelers inform the TSA agents about all medications they are bringing but that does not always seem to be required in my experience.)

When packing pills or medication I would try to keep them organized in a clear plastic bag just to make things easy at all times.

Try to pack that bag in an easily accessible area within your carry-on so that you can quickly retrieve it if you need to declare or allow inspection for any of your medications.

Also, it’s a good idea for your medications to be labeled to facilitate the security process. (Labeling your meds is not required but it is recommended by TSA.)

When packed in a carry-on and going through a security checkpoint your medication can undergo a visual or X-ray screening (you can choose).

Does TSA require pills to be in a prescription bottle?

Believe it or not TSA does not require your pills to be in a prescription bottle or to show them a copy of your prescription. The catch is that states have different laws regarding how you can legally travel with prescription items.

Some states might require you to carry your pills and a bottle with a prescription and therefore it is always a good idea to keep your pills in a bottle with a prescription label if possible or at least keep the prescription with you if you are using a pill container/organizer. 

Also, many countries have very strict rules on prescription medication so be sure to keep up with the latest laws before departing the country. Some might require you to submit a letter from a physician and some countries such as those in the Middle East have very strict laws regarding bringing in certain types of medications.

It is not very difficult to find stories about US tourists getting locked up abroad in prison for bringing medications through the airport. Read more about traveling internationally with medication here.

One interesting thing about prescriptions is that if you forget your ID you can actually use your prescription labels to help verify your identity.

Tip: Ask your pharmacist for extra containers with your name and the medication information on them if you want to carry smaller amounts of drugs with you.

It’s always a good idea to have your prescription on you.

What are the TSA rules for flying on a plane with injectable medication?

You are allowed to travel with injectable medication on a plane. You may also bring unused syringes when they are accompanied by injectable medication. You must declare these items to security officers at the checkpoint for inspection. TSA also recommends, but does not require, that your medications be labeled so it’s a good idea to go with their recommendation. 

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What if I need to keep my medication refrigerated when flying? 

If you need to keep your medication refrigerated you can use “ice packs, freezer packs, gel packs, and other accessories” to keep your medication cool. You will need to present these at the screening checkpoint in a frozen or partially-frozen state.

It would be a good idea to do a “test run” to see how long your packs can stay refrigerated, especially if you are going to be dealing with a long layover or flight. Some airplanes may have refrigeration but I would not count on that.

Does TSA allow over the counter medication on a plane?

TSA will allow you to bring over the counter medication on a plane, which means you’ll be fine to bring along things like: Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, ibuprofen, etc. Just remember that the rules pertaining to liquids will apply to OTC drugs unless they are medically necessary.

I always advise people to put their medication in a clear plastic bag just to make things easier when making your way through airport security.

Related: Does TSA Check For Arrest Warrants?

What about flying with other items?

If you have questions about bringing other types of items through TSA airport security screening (like food or alcohol), make sure to check out the articles below: 


Can you take prescription medication on a plane?

Yes, prescription medication is allowed on planes.

Does my medication have to be in original bottles when flying?

No, your medication does not have to be in the original bottle. However, it’s usually a good idea to have a prescription on hand just in case you’re questioned about the medication.

Can you “sneak” pills on airplane?

It’s best to be upfront about bringing medication through TSA, especially because TSA is pretty flexible about what medications you can bring through and all medication must be screened. If you are trying to sneak illegal drugs through TSA security you could be referred to law enforcement.

Can I take a pill organizer on a plane?

Yes, you can bring your pill organizer on a plane with your pills inside.

Can I bring someone else’s prescription on a plane?

TSA does not require you to show your prescription so it could be possible to bring someone else’s prescription meds with you on a plane. However, it’s a good idea to make sure you are complying with state laws regarding prescription drugs when traveling. In some cases, it may be illegal to possess controlled substances prescribed to someone else.

Can you fly with cough syrup?

Yes, cough syrup will be considered a liquid so you should “declare” it when going through TSA, especially if it is above 3.4 ounces.

Can you bring testosterone gel on a plane?

Yes, you can bring testosterone gel on a plane. While you may not need your prescription it never hurts to bring it along.

Can I bring needles (syringes) on a plane?

TSA states used syringes are allowed when transported in Sharps disposal container or other similar hard-surface container. Unused syringes are allowed when accompanied by injectable medication. You must declare these items to security officers at the checkpoint for inspection.

Final word

As you can probably tell, TSA rules regarding medication are actually pretty lenient. They allow you to bring an unlimited amount of pills and solid drugs and they don’t even require you to show or disclose that you are bringing those drugs through the airport and onto the plane. 

They also will allow you to go above the liquids rule if you are willing to allow them to inspect your drugs if necessary. And they don’t even require you to show your prescription for drugs. Therefore if you are planning to travel through the airport with your medication you may not have as difficult a time as you may have imagined. 

TSA No Fly List Explained (How Your Name Gets on A Watchlist) [2023]

For many people, there is a lot of mystery surrounding the TSA’s No Fly List. They wonder how exactly the list works and what happens if your name gets put on the list?

In this article, I will shed light on the entire process.

You’ll see how watchlist nominations are made, verified, and placed on the No Fly List. I’ll also highlight a number of related watchlists that are similar to the TSA No Fly List but serve slightly different purposes.

It’s worth noting that a lot of this process is secretive and subject to change but I have taken almost all information only from government sources and declassified documents.

How it all starts

In order to really grasp how the TSA No Fly List works, you need to understand how the bigger picture process functions with respect to identifying potential terrorists.

I’ll walk you through all of the key departments and steps that are involved below.

Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB)

There is something known as the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) which is the main database that is commonly referred to as the “terrorist watchlist.”

(This is NOT the No Fly List but it plays a major role in placing people on that list as will be shown below.)

The TSDB is maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which plays the central role in maintaining the current No Fly List that TSA uses.

TSDB nomination process

How does your name get on the TSDB?

It all starts with personnel called “originators.”

Originators work in places like intelligence and law-enforcement agencies or even at embassies and consulates.

These people nominate individuals that are classed together as “known or suspected terrorists” (KSTs).

There are specific definitions for people who fall under these classifications.

A “known” terrorist is:

an individual whom the U.S. government knows is engaged, has been engaged, or who intends to engage in terrorism and/or terrorist activity, including an individual:

(a) who has been charged, arrested, indicted, or convicted for a crime related to terrorism by U.S. government or foreign government authorities; or

(b) identified as a terrorist or member of a designated foreign terrorist organization pursuant to statute, Executive Order, or international legal obligation pursuant to a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

A “suspected” terrorist is:

an individual who is reasonably suspected to be, or has been, engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism and/or terrorist activities based on an articulable and reasonable suspicion

At the time of nomination, originators can recommend that the individual be included on a specific TSDB derivative list such as the No Fly List.

The KSTs nominated for the terrorist watchlist are then vetted by agents at either the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) or the FBI.


During the vetting process, the NCTC maintains a database known as: the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE).

TIDE is the U.S. government’s “central repository of information on international terrorist identities.”

The TIDE list is pretty large and in 2013 it contained the identities of approximately 1.1 million people of which 25,000 were US citizens and lawful permanent residents.

This list focuses on international terrorists.

Domestic terrorists are directly referred to NCTC by the FBI (they do not end up in TIDE as far as I can tell).

If your name ends up in TIDE it does not necessarily end up in the TSDB. And that is where the verification process comes in.

TSC verification

To make it into the TSDB, a nomination vetted by either NCTC or the FBI has to (1) meet the “reasonable suspicion watchlisting standard” and (2) have sufficient identifiers.

The final eligibility determination is made by the TSC.

Reasonable suspicion

The reasonable suspicion criteria is met by articulable facts and rational inferences made from those facts.

When the facts and inferences form a reasonable determination that the person is suspected of having ties to terrorist activity that person is added to the TSDB.

Guesses or hunches alone cannot support reasonable suspicion. Also, one cannot be designated a KST based on protected classes like national origin, ethnicity, or religion.


After the reasonable suspicion criteria is met, there must also be sufficient identifiers.

To be included on the TSDB, a record must have a last name “and at least one additional piece of identifying information (for example a first name or date of birth).”

The vast majority of nominations land up on the TSDB. In fact, it appears that only about 1% of nominations are rejected.

Exporting the information

The TSC obviously doesn’t just collect and build the TSDP for no reason.

Instead, they export the watchlist information to different federal agencies so that they can conduct terrorist screening.

The information exported is typically just the identifying information so that the sensitive/classified intel does not get shared with too many people.

This happens in real time so when a new name is added it will appear with the other federal agencies within seconds.

There are five different federal agencies that receive TSDP records:

  • Department of State
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [DHS]
  • Customs and Border Protection
  • FBI
  • Department of Defense

Each agency has its own use of the information and will receive a tailored set of records based on how they use the information.

For example, the Department of State uses the information to process passports and visas.

Customs and Border Protection uses it to screen arriving travelers and determine if they should be admitted into the US.

TSA utilizes this information for the Secure Flight program which provides screening to:

identify known or suspected terrorists or other individuals who may be a threat to transportation or national security, to prevent some identified individuals from gaining access to airports and airplanes where they may jeopardize the lives of passengers, and to ensure that other identified individuals receive enhanced physical screening prior to accessing airport sterile areas or boarding an aircraft

Department of state building.
A handful of government entities utilize records from the TSDB.

TSA and the TSDB

The derivative TSDB lists the TSA actively is involved with include three different lists:

  • No Fly List
  • Selectee List
  • Expanded Selectee List

These derivative lists are special because they are the only watchlists that have their own minimum substantive derogatory criteria requirements.

These requirements are much more more stringent than the TSDB’s “known or reasonably suspected” standard. In addition, the No Fly and Selectee lists have the “narrowest minimum biographic inclusion criteria of all TSDB watch lists.”

No Fly List

Back in the day, TSA maintained the No Fly and Selectee lists.

However, in January 2005 maintenance and responsibility for the lists was transferred to the TSC. So it would probably be more accurate to call it the TSC No Fly List rather than the TSA No Fly List.

TSA states, “The No Fly List is a small subset of the U.S. government Terrorist Screening Database (also known as the terrorist watchlist) that contains the identity information of known or suspected terrorists.”

Individuals on the list “are not allowed to board a commercial aircraft flying into, out of, over, or within United States airspace; this also includes point-to-point international flights operated by U.S carriers.”

This list is not as big as you might think.

In 2014, only about 8% of the TSDB identities, totaling around 64,000, were on the No Fly List.

A 2013 NCTC document gives us some insight into the criteria for adding someone to the No Fly List.

It says that any person regardless of citizenship who represents:

  • a threat of committing an act of international terrorism (as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2331(1)) or domestic terrorism (as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2331(5)) with respect to an aircraft or
  • a threat of committing an act of domestic terrorism with respect to the homeland or
  • a threat of committing an act of international terrorism against a US government facility abroad and associated or support personnel, including US embassies, consulate and missions, military installations, US ships, US aircraft, etc, or
  • a threat of engaging in or conducting a violent act of terrorism and who is operationally capable of doing so

The fourth criteria adds flexibility to adding people to the list and targets people who do not pose a threat to civil aviation, the homeland, or US facilities.

It focuses on the term “operationally capable” which means that is based on credible intelligence the person reasonably appears to have the ability, knowledge, opportunity, and intent or is actively seeking the opportunity to engage in a violent act of terrorism.

An example would be someone attempting to obtain an IED but simply conducting internet research concerning IEDs would not be sufficient without additional activity.

That’s really important for people like me who like to (innocently) research these type of things!

Other factors that would indicate someone is “operationally capable” would be a subject who has:

  • Terrorist training or instruction to receive military training by a terrorist group
  • Indicated intent to participate in planning or conducting an attack
  • Expressed desire to become a martyr
  • Repeated contact with a known terrorist who recruits or facilitates trouble of operatives

Selectee List

The same 2013 document provides guidance on the Selectee List.

It states that any person regardless of citizenship who does not meet the criteria for inclusion on the No Fly List and who:

  • Is a member of a foreign or domestic terrorist organization designated pursuant to statute or executive order and
  • Is associated with terrorist activity

The Selectee List includes individuals who must undergo additional security screening before being allowed to board a commercial aircraft.

This is the dreaded SSSS check.

In some cases individuals are randomly assigned this so if you are like myself you probably have experienced this on a couple of occasions.

Like the No Fly List, this list is also small and in 2014 only had 24,000 people on it which amounted to about 3% of the TSDB.

Me getting a random SSSS check.

Expanded Selectee List

This list was created as an extra security measure after the failed underwear bomber of 2009, which also sparked the beginning of TSA body scanners.

Reportedly, this list screens against all TSDB records that includes a person’s first and last name and date of birth that are not already on the no-fly or selectee lists.

People on this list could be subjected to the same type of screening as those found on the Selectee List.

It seems like this list is used at times of heightened terrorism threats although there is still a lot of mystery behind this list, in my opinion.

TSA Watch List

My research also showed that it looks like TSA has its own TSA Watch List.

Nominations from this list may come from within TSA, from other DHS Components, or from other government agencies (federal, state, local, and international).

These lists are used to “mitigate threats to transportation or national security posed by individuals who are not on a TSDB watch list but who nonetheless present a threat to transportation or national security.”

This appears to be more of a real time decision.

For example, if someone is repeatedly attempting to evade TSA screening they could be put on this list even though their name is not in the TSDB.

Based on my research it looks like this is a very small list. Maybe 20 people might be on this list at a given time.

Other watchlists

There are other (non-No Fly List) watchlists that TSA may be involved with in these include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Do Not Board List which does not allow certain persons to travel due to public health concerns (such as infectious tuberculosis and measles).

It does not appear that coronavirus qualifies for this list although you should still not fly if you have Covid. Update: people with coronavirus have been added to this list.

How TSDB screening works

So you’ve seen how your name could end up on a watch list.

But how does the screening process actually interact with that watch list?

There are multiple ways that your name could be screened against the TSDB.

  • Arriving in the US at a port of entry
  • Getting pulled over by local or state police
  • Visa applications reviewed by the Department of State

These checks are constantly happening with more than 1 billion likely being made every year.

If a screening yields a match this is known as an “encounter.”

A screener would receive notification of the match and then contact TSC, who are of course available 24/7.

The TSC has access to more information than the screeners do so they are able to dig a little bit deeper when verifying the match.

If there is a match or if the TSC cannot arrive at a conclusion, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Operations Unit coordinates how the government will respond.

For example, they could send agents to a given location to apprehend somebody right on the spot.

In other cases, they may just come to interview the individual and add that intel to the records in the TSDB.

If a name is on a no-fly list I imagine the response could be denying them the ability to book a ticket or board a plane but it would probably depend on how high of a priority the person is to authorities.

In some cases, they may plan to bring the subject into custody.

Doing all of these checks can get extremely time-consuming and require a lot of resources.

This is one reason why we saw the TSA Pre-Check program emerge because they wanted to free up screening personnel so that they could focus on passengers with unknown records.


Some people unfortunately have the bad luck of having a name that is the same or similar to others on some of these watchlists.

When they try to fly to an airport they could be subject to SSSS screening every single time.

Luckily they do (usually) have the ability to obtain a redress number which allows the airlines to properly identify them.

It’s possible that these individuals may still have issues with things like online check-in or using automated kiosk.

But some people are even more unlucky and are denied entry back into the US.

You can find a long list of instances where people were falsely identified as terrorists and struggled to work with the government to get back or to ever board a plane.

Usually it seems like these cases are eventually resolved but sometimes they involve a pretty painful process and costly and lengthy legal proceedings.

There are also constant legal actions being brought against the government arguing that these watchlists are unconstitutional, in part because there is not a satisfactory way to challenge one’s status on the list.

How to know if you’re on the No Fly List

According to the ACLU, if you are denied boarding you can submit a standard form to the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) who will then relay the information to the TSC.

If you were placed on the No Fly List and are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, “DHS TRIP will send you a letter informing you of your status on the No Fly List and providing the option to submit and receive additional information.”

You might be able to find out general information as to why you were placed on the list but it may be impossible to get specifics for national security reasons.

You won’t be able to challenge the determination at a live hearing but you can submit a written response along with supporting materials to challenge your status.

The government will then review your submission and inform you of any changing determination.

If you are NOT a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, it is much more difficult to know your status.

You can submit a challenge but you may not get a definitive answer as to your status. Pretty much all you can do to see if you have been removed from the list is attempt to purchase an airline ticket and board a plane.

Individual airlines

Individual airlines have their own No Fly Lists that operate independently from the TSA or other government agencies.

Typically, you can find the guidelines for how the No Fly List works in the contract of carriage for an airline.

Recently, we have seen more people get put on no-fly list with individual airlines by not abiding by policies regarding things like wearing a mask.

Other mistakes like trying to bring ammunition on a plane can get you on an airline’s No Fly List.

How many people end up on the No Fly List for individual airlines?

It’s kind of hard to tell because the airlines don’t publicize this data but according to Insider, a spokesperson for United told them that “they’ve banned 615 people from the airline since implementing their mandatory mask policy in early May.”

Delta has apparently added 700 passengers as well.

TSA No Fly List FAQ

Does TSA control the No Fly List?

TSA utilizes the No Fly List but the list and larger database it relies upon is managed by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC).

How many people are on the TSA No Fly List?

In 2014, there were around 64,000 people on the No Fly List.

How do you get on the No Fly List?

Individuals are first placed in the TSDB as a “known or suspected terrorists” (KSTs) and then there must be an additional finding that the individual represents a specific type of threat relating to international or domestic terrorism.

Do you get notified if you are on the No Fly List?

No, in order to protect national security interests the US government currently does not notify you when you are placed on the No Fly List. However, US citizens and lawful permanent residents denied boarding can receive notification about their status from DHS TRIP and challenge their status. Foreign citizens have a much more difficult time getting clarification about their status.

Final word

When it comes to government watch lists there is probably always going to be a large amount of mystery going on behind the curtain. But when it comes to the No Fly List we actually know a good amount of how names end up on that list.

TSA Marijuana Rules Explained (Flying with Weed) [2023]

Laws regarding marijuana are quickly changing around the US. But what does this mean for flying and getting through TSA airport security?

There is a lot to consider on the topic but it’s not as complex as you might think if you break it all down the right way. In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about TSA’s rules on marijuana and how to fly sky high with weed.

What are TSA’s rules on marijuana?

TSA is not actively looking for marijuana when you go through airport security.

However, if they discover that you have marijuana they may refer you to local law-enforcement. Depending on the state and local laws, you could be subject to criminal prosecution, have your stash confiscated, or simply not face any consequences.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Marijuana in jar

TSA’s purpose

TSA stands for “Transportation Security Administration” and the purpose is to “strengthen the security of the nation’s transportation systems while ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce.”

TSA is concerned about dangerous threats such as explosives and not with enforcing laws and penal codes. This is why they do not check for arrest warrants.

So TSA agents are not actively going to search your carry-on bag or personal item for marijuana.

That should make you feel a little bit better if you were planning on bringing marijuana on a plane but you still need to understand that you can still get busted for marijuana even in states that have legalized it.

Keep reading below for more.

The federal status of marijuana

Marijuana with over 0.3% THC is a “Schedule I” drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and illegal to possess.

So trying to get it through airport security (which is controlled by federal employees) can still be very problematic.

The official TSA stance on marijuana (including medical marijuana) is this:

Marijuana and certain cannabis infused products, including some Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, remain illegal under federal law [. . .] TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law to local, state or federal authorities. 

“TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs. In the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.

So TSA officers are required to report violations of the law and it is explicitly stated that they will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer. What exactly happens when you get referred depends on the state laws and local laws/ordinances of the airport.

Related: Can You Bring CBD on a Plane?

Airport policies

Airports have different rules about carrying marijuana within the airport.

LAX provides a pretty good explanation of how things currently stand:

As of January 1, 2018, California law allows for individuals 21 years of age or older to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana for personal consumption….

APD officers, who are California Peace Officers, have no jurisdiction to arrest individuals if they are complying with state law. However, airport guests should be aware that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening stations are under federal jurisdiction. Also, passengers should be aware that marijuana laws vary state by state and they are encouraged to check the laws of the states in which they plan to travel.

This gives us some guidance to understand how things currently work.

Airport police

First, some airports such as LAX make it 100% legal to possess certain quantities of marijuana within the airport and state that airport police do not have jurisdiction to arrest travelers so long as they are complying with the laws on marijuana possession.

Airports in New York recently made it legal to possess weed at their airports as well.

So if you were just walking through the airport terminal with weed in your pocket you would not be breaking the law or subject to being arrested.

But note that some states where marijuana is legal still have airports that ban marijuana within the airport.

This is the case at Denver International Airport (DEN) and McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, which has an ordinance banning possession. In Minnesota, bringing marijuana to the airport could also be a bad idea.

At these airports you may find so-called “amnesty boxes” which are designed for you to drop your marijuana products into before heading through the airport.

If you are hyperventilating about getting arrested it might be a good idea to go ahead and drop your goods in such a box (or perhaps just drop them in the trash more discreetly).

However, it doesn’t seem that a lot of travelers actually use them.

TSA screening stations

The tricky part is that the TSA screening stations are under federal jurisdiction (or at least abide by federal laws). So when you are transporting marijuana through a TSA security station you are arguably in violation of federal law.

The policy mentioned above of referring you to law-enforcement comes into play here.

At airports like LAX in California, you would expect airport police to simply allow you to fly with your weed assuming you are within the limits allowed.

If you are above those limits you could be charged with drug trafficking so it is a line that you absolutely need to pay attention to so that you don’t cross it.

In places where marijuana is prohibited, getting referred to law-enforcement could mean getting ticketed or arrested.

Related: TSA Rules for Bringing Lighters on Planes

State laws

Finally, there is the consideration of state laws.

If you were flying from LAX to a state like Texas where marijuana is not legal the big consideration would be that once you land any possession of marijuana is illegal. So if for some reason your checked baggage was inspected in Texas and they found marijuana, you would be in violation of the law.

According to TSA reps, TSA agents do not factor in the legality of marijuana in the state you are in or the state you’re headed to. To them, it’s all the same. I doubt it plays out like that in practice, though.

Would an agent living in a state where marijuana is legal be as inclined to refer someone to law-enforcement as an agent living in a state where it is illegal?

I doubt it.

Related: Which states have legalized marijuana

The key questions to ask

Many admit that the current status of marijuana laws in air travel is a bit of a tangled mess.

States and airports have different policies and TSA agents have different inclinations in how they handle their “discovery” of marijuana. Therefore, it is really hard to guarantee how each case will play out.

But I would boil it down to answering the following three questions:

  • Has the state you are departing from legalized marijuana?
  • Are you within the state’s legal limits of personal possession of marijuana (quantity and age)?
  • Does the airport allow passengers to posses marijuana?

If the answer to all three of these questions is “yes,” you should not have to worry about getting arrested or your weed getting confiscated when going through airport security.

There still is the issue that when flying you are subject to federal jurisdiction so technically it is still illegal to bring marijuana on a plane but as long as you are not toking up during take-off (or in a lavatory) that should not be an issue.

If you answer “no” to any of those questions above there is always a risk you could be arrested.

Also, if the destination you are landing at has not legalized marijuana there could be a problem if you or your bag is searched there.

Related: Can You Smoke Weed in a Hotel Room?

thc gummies

What can happen when you get caught with marijuana at the airport

If you were bringing weed through airport security there are a number of different things that could happen (or not happen).

Nothing happens

A lot of people head through airport security every day and a lot of them have some type of marijuana with them. Yet, nothing at all happens. It’s entirely possible that you could get through airport security without any issues whatsoever.

Get referred to law enforcement and nothing happens

It’s possible that a TSA agent could discover that you have marijuana and report you to a law enforcement officer only for that officer to basically say that it is okay for you to fly with marijuana.

Marijuana gets disposed

If a TSA agent discovers that you have marijuana they could simply throw it out if they don’t feel like referring you to law enforcement.

You get fined or arrested

In some cases you could get referred to law enforcement and get fined, cited, or taken to the slammer. If you are a frequent flyer with Global Entry you could potentially lose your membership so that is a risk to consider.

How travelers get caught with marijuana

The people who typically get caught with marijuana in airport security are those who make things easily discoverable. There are two things to consider about getting caught with marijuana: 1) the type (or state) of the marijuana and 2) the location of your marijuana.

Type of marijuana

The type of marijuana that you are traveling with and the location you store it in will often dictate what happens.


TSA agents could easily discover marijuana when it is in its natural flower state. For one, it often carries a pretty pungent odor and has a pretty distinct look. It’s also often accompanied by jars or other cannabis items.

If you are bringing flower/bud with you and you have a grinder that will be visible on an x-ray that is pretty much asking to get caught and potentially arrested depending on where you are. Unless you are in a state and an airport where marijuana possession is legal, transporting marijuana in its flower state is pretty risky.


Edibles can be virtually indistinguishable from normal chocolates, gummies, and baked goods. Since you are allowed to bring food through TSA, edibles are one of the hardest types of MJ to detect in your luggage.

The packaging on edibles should display that there is THC and a lot of times the actual edibles will have a THC designation. So if a TSA agent did take a close look it wouldn’t be hard for them to know that you were transporting THC unless there was no packaging indicating that.


A lot of vape cartridges containing THC look identical to those containing CBD or other non-THC products. For this reason, it is very difficult for a TSA agent to know that your vape has illegal THC.

Be careful about bringing vapes because there are specific rules about batteries.

You never want to carry lithium-ion batteries in your checked baggage and you may be limited to just two vape batteries for your carry-on. If you go overboard with vapes or batteries you may be calling attention to yourself which could lead to a closer inspection of your items.

Related: TSA Rules for Vapes and e-Cigarettes

Creams & oils

Creams and oils are subject to the TSA liquids rule and so if you do not have TSA Pre-Check you will have to take your liquids out of your bag which may lead to a closer inspection.

If you have THC or CBD in powder form sometimes powders can force you to undergo extra scrutiny so be aware of that risk.

Marijuana edible


On your person

Putting cannabis or cannabis related products such as a pipe, joint papers, vape, etc. in your pocket when heading through something like a full-body scanner will almost always be detected.

Those scanners can pick up even the smallest items and TSA agents will see exactly where the item is located. You will then be searched until the item is found. At that point, you will be at the mercy of the TSA agent or the law enforcement officer you get referred to.


Your carry-on and personal item such as a backpack will have to go through the x-ray scanner at airport security. An attentive and experienced TSA agent could easily detect obvious cannabis items like grinders and pipes and probably a bag of bud as well.

But as mentioned above some items like edibles and vape cartridges are basically indistinguishable from legal items so it would require a TSA agent to be very curious (and basically out to hunt for THC items) in order for them to inspect them.

In some cases you could be subject to SSSS which is a more enhanced secondary screening. It is often used for people on certain watchlists but it can also be issued on a completely random basis.

If you are subject to SSSS screening it is possible that an agent will take a very close look at all of the items in your carry-on bag and could then discover that you have marijuana. It will be up to their discretion to decide what to do.

Checked baggage

There are a lot of crevices and pockets you could find in a checked baggage so TSA agents may struggle to find (or identify) your pot in checked baggage, especially if it is in edible or vape form. And even if they did find it, they may just throw it out without referring you to law enforcement.

Some TSA agents are on record stating that if an item is found in your checked baggage it would simply be thrown out and they would not bother with tracking you down for a potential arrest.

However, if you are trying to transport high quantities of marijuana in your checked baggage that might be more easily detected and depending on the amount, you could be charged with drug trafficking if caught.

Tip: Avoid trying to conceal marijuana and vapes inside of things like a jar of peanut butter. That looks very suspicious and could easily be detected as a threat.

Marijuana bag

What about the dogs at the airport?

If you see a dog sniffing around at the airport it is most likely sniffing out potential explosives and not drugs such as marijuana.

In other countries drug sniffing dogs are more common so just be aware that at some airports it is possible for a dog to be tracking down drugs.

International travel

International travel is a completely different ballgame when it comes to marijuana.

You are not allowed to transport marijuana to other countries per federal law and some countries have some very draconian laws when it comes to getting caught with drugs. For example, someone was sentenced to death in Singapore when they were found with two pounds of cannabis.

And of course, many of us know about the Brittney Griner situation in Russia, where she was sentenced to nine years in prison but released after the US made a controversial deal with Russia.

So bringing marijuana into other jurisdictions is not something you would want to test.

My advice would be to never attempt to fly internationally with marijuana because the penalties could be very severe.

Related: Can You Take Cigarettes on a Plane?

Final word

When it comes to TSA and marijuana laws we don’t have 100% clarity on how things will be handled in every case. But we do have a general idea of how things will play out.

If you transport marijuana discreetly (edible, vape, etc.) there is a low chance that it will be detected. And if you are in a state where it is legal and an airport where it is not banned, there is essentially no risk of you getting in trouble with the law despite it being illegal on the federal level.

Known Traveler Number Guide: (How to Lookup, Global Entry, Pre-Check) [2023]

This comprehensive article will tell you everything you need to know about your Known Traveler Number.

I’ll cover how you can get one and the best way to do that with programs like TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry. I’ll show you how to look-up your Known Traveler Number and add it to your travel itineraries with airlines like United, Southwest, and Delta.

Finally, I’ll explain the differences between a Known Traveler Number and a Redress Number.

What is a Known Traveler Number?

A Known Traveler Number, also called your “KTN,” is a 9-digit number used to link your TSA Pre-Check enrollment to your travel itinerary in order to ensure that you can receive TSA Pre-Check benefits like expedited security screening.

This is the same number used for other trusted traveler programs, such as Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI. However, for these latter programs, this number is known as your “PASSID.”

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

TSA pre-check station
Your Known Traveler Number is vital for getting expedited security screening with TSA Pre-Check.

Why do you want a Known Traveler Number?

With a Known Traveler Number, you can participate in TSA Pre-Check, which means you’ll be able to breeze through security at airports.

How do you get a Known Traveler Number?

You can get a Known Traveler Number by signing up, getting approved, and paying the fees for any of the following programs:

TSA Pre-Check

As already discussed, TSA Pre-Check will usually get you through airport security in a breeze.

You’ll usually get access to a priority security line which is often much shorter than the standard security line (though not always, unfortunately).

You’ll also be able to go through a less restrictive and invasive screening process. You often only have to pass through a traditional metal detector (as opposed to the full-body scanners) and you also get to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Shoes can stay on
  • Belt can stay on
  • Light jackets can stay on
  • Laptops allowed to stay in bag
  • Liquids (3-1-1 Rule) can stay in bag

This program costs $78 to enroll for five years and it does not require the extensive interview process that Global Entry requires. There are multiple ways to get TSA Pre-Check for free and you can read about those here.

The benefits of TSA Pre-Check.

Global Entry

Global Entry would be my preferred method for obtaining a Known Traveler Number. That’s because not only will you get TSA Pre-Check, but you’ll also get expedited entry at Customs and Immigration when making your way back into the US.

This program does require you to attend an interview to be approved but the interview process is not difficult at all. If you’ve got a clean criminal history and come prepared with your documents then you should pass the background check and interview without any issues at all.

In some cases this “interview” process will only take about five minutes total.

You might get asked some very basic questions like what countries you have visited and whether or not you have traveled for business or pleasure. It’s hardly anything close to an interrogation in most cases.

The hardest part is often scheduling the interview because availability can be limited and in some cases it might take weeks (or even months) to find an open slot.

Luckily, some airports offer interviews upon arriving from international locations. So if you have some international travel coming up, this can be one of the easiest ways to get approved for Global Entry.

There are many credit cards that come with a $100 statement credit for your Global Entry application fee, so it’s very easy to get this program for free. My personal recommendations for getting a $100 statement credit for your Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check is to go with the United Explorer Card. It has great perks and a low annual fee and you can read more about it here! 

Since you’ll get both TSA Pre-Check and expedited entry back into the US, I think Global Entry is the way to go for many people.


NEXUS is a joint program between the US and Canada that will grant pre-approved, low-risk travelers expedited entry into both Canada and the US. Specifically, membership in the NEXUS program allows you to reduce your wait times at designated ports of entry by:

  • Using dedicated processing lanes at land border crossings
  • Using NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada
  • Using their card in dedicated SENTRI lanes along the U.S.-Mexico border
  • Using Global Entry kioks when entering the United States, and
  • Calling a marine telephone reporting center to report your arrival into the United States and Canada

You may also be granted access to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) Security Line at some Canadian airports to expedite airport pre-boarding security screening. (This is like a Canadian version of TSA Pre-Check.)

Just like Global Entry, NEXUS will require you to clear a background check. The difference is that this background check also is submitted to Canadian authorities, such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

One of the major draws to the NEXUS program is that the application fee is only $50. This is surprising since NEXUS comes with both Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, which cost $100 and $85 respectively. For people who live near or travel between the US/Canada border, NEXUS is an especially attractive bargain.


The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.

You can enter the United States by using dedicated primary lanes into the United States at Southern land border ports so this is a program you might be interested in if you’re traveling between the US and Mexico a lot.

You might be a little overwhelmed with all of the different Trusted Traveler programs and perhaps you’re not sure which program you should sign-up for.

If that’s the case you can check out this TSA tool which can help you narrow down what program is most ideal for you based on your citizenship, number of flights, and travel destinations.


CLEAR is a privately owned service offered to passengers that allows them to bypass the lines going into airport security, whether you are going into the standard security line or the TSA Pre-Check line.

In order to use it you find the CLEAR line leading to security which should have little to no line and then you simply scan your boarding pass and biometric data and then you’re off to the races and able to skip whatever line you would have been waiting on. You don’t even have to show your ID.

CLEAR can be great for frequent flyers in busy airports but it’s not cheap at $179 per year (though cheaper promos are often available). This program does not require you to have a Known Traveler Number.

Mobile Passport

Launched in the fall of 2014, Mobile Passport Control is an app, developed by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America in partnerships with CBP, that you can download to use in order to expedite your entry into the US. It’s available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

It’s free to use and can be just about as good as Global Entry at some airports, though I’d still take Global Entry over Mobile Passport.

That’s because Global Entry gets you Pre-Check and also allows you to get through customs AND immigration while Mobile Passport often only get your priority access through immigration. This program also does not require you to have a Known Traveler Number.

Image via CLEAR.

Adding a Known Traveler Number

Once you have your Known Traveler Number, you’re going to need to add that number to your travel profiles for the various airlines so that your Known Traveler Number will automatically show up in your itineraries.

However, you should note that your Known Traveler Number will NOT automatically show up in all of your travel  itineraries.

Many people assume that once they add their Known Traveler Number to their profile, it will always show up but that’s not the case. So you always need to double check that your KTN was added.

Below, you can see how to add your Known Traveler Number to some of the major airlines. For whatever reason, it is not always the easiest thing to do since you often have to click around a lot.

Usually you can find where to input it if you just look for your profile and a button allowing you to edit your profile, but the steps below should help you locate this.

American Airlines

Sign in to your American Airlines account and then click on your name at the top of the page. Then click on “your account.” Next, click on “edit account” and then click on “Information and password.” Scroll down and then under “Secure traveler,” you will see where to input your Known Traveler Number.


Sign in and click on “My Account” and then scroll to “My Preferences” to change your personal details within your profile information.


Sign in and click on Profile and Preferences and then click on “Travel identification documents” and then you’ll see the area to enter it in below.


Go to the Delta website and log-in and then proceed to My Delta -> My Profile -> Basic Info. You’ll then see a field where you can input your Known Traveler Number.


First, sign in to your JetBlue account. Click on the arrow in the upper right corner by your name and then click on “Edit profile.” Scroll down and you will see where to input your information.

Hawaiian Airlines

First, sign in to your Hawaiian Airlines account. Go to My Account and under that click on “Profile & Settings.” Click on the travel tab and you will see where to input your information.

Hawaiian Airlines known traveler number entry

Travel portals and OTAs

Most online travel agencies (like Expedia) will allow you to enter in your Known Traveler Number into your profile which should populate into your itinerary when you make a booking.

But since you’re dealing with a third party, you should always verify that your number was properly included in your booking.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Add Known Traveler Number after booking?

If you add your Known Traveler Number to your profile after you make a flight reservation, there’s a good chance that your flight itinerary is not linked to your Known Traveler Number and you won’t get TSA Pre-Check. 

In that case, you should be able to call up the airline and request for them to input your number into your itinerary.

You could also just wait until you arrive at the check-in desk for baggage and request for your Known Traveler Number to be added to your boarding pass.

Also, sometimes you’ll have to re-add your Known Traveler Number to specific itineraries. It’s not always clear why this happens but sometimes you’ll just have to do it.

If you ever are given a boarding pass without TSA Pre-Check on it and you know you have a TSA Pre-Check membership, simply approach an agent at the check-in desk and tell them you would like to add your Known Traveler Number.

It’s usually no problem for them to do this and they can re-issue you a boarding pass in a couple of seconds that has TSA Pre-Check.

For the reasons above, I highly recommend that you keep your Known Traveler Number somewhere easily retrievable like in your smart phone in a folder or app that you won’t forget about and can quickly pull up.

Where can I look up and find my Known Traveler Number?

If you are a member of the TSA Pre-Check Application Program you can, look up your KTN online.

If you are a member of another trusted traveler program, such as Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI, log on to the Trusted Traveler Program website to obtain your PASSID, which once again is the same as your KTN.

You’ll find it right under “Program Memberships.”

ktn look up

You can also check the back of your trusted traveler cards for your PASSID. Note that TSA does not issue an ID card like Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI do.

Related: Can You Get Through TSA and Fly with No ID?

Global entry card with pass ID known traveler number
Global Entry card showing where you can find your Known Traveler Number. Image via United.

What is a redress number?

You might also be wondering about a redress number since that field often shows up near where you input your Known Traveler Number.

A redress number is the record identifier for people who apply for redress through the DHS Travel Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP).

“DHS TRIP is for travelers who have been repeatedly identified for additional screening and who want to file an inquiry to have erroneous information corrected in DHS systems.”

For example, someone might share the same name as another person on a no-fly list and that might bring up a red flag every single time this unfortunate traveler attempts to board a plane.

The redress number will help those people avoid additional searches, pat downs, and questioning in the future.

So in case you were wondering a redress number really has nothing to do with your Known Traveler Number.

Known Traveler Number for Military members

If you are a member of the military, you can utilize TSA Pre-Check for free.

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces can get expedited screening including those serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard.

This can be done by using the official Department of Defense (DoD) identification number when making flight reservations. Your 10-digit DoD ID number is located on the back of your Combined Access Card ID and it is not the same as your SSN. Read more about how to utilize this benefit here.

TSA Pre-Check vs Global Entry

Now that you’re aware of all of the benefits you might be wondering whether or not you should choose TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry.

The answer to this question depends a lot on your personal preferences.

If you are only going to be traveling within the US then your need for Global Entry will be nearly zero.

In that case, getting TSA Pre-Check should be just fine. The only drawback to that is that if an unexpected trip comes up you’ll lose out on the benefit you could have had with Global Entry.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be traveling internationally then you might want to think about Global Entry since it will save you a lot of time getting back into the country.

The two drawbacks to Global Entry are that it requires you to attend an interview and that the background check can be tough to clear if you have anything on your record like a DWI, DUI, etc.

Known Traveler Number FAQ

What is the easiest way to get a Known Traveler Number?

The easiest way would be to get approved for TSA Pre-Check.

Do I need a Known Traveler Number for CLEAR?

No, you do not need a Known Traveler Number for CLEAR?

How do I add my Known Traveler Number to my itinerary?

At the time of booking, you will typically see a field where you can enter your Known Traveler Number. In addition, you can add your Known Traveler Number to your frequent flyer profile.

If you are at the airport, you can also ask an agent to add your Known Traveler Number to your boarding pass.

What is the difference between a Known Traveler Number and PASS ID?

There is no practical difference and these are essentially the same.

Final word

As you can see, getting a Known Traveler Number can be very easy and can even be done for free with the right credit card.

I recommend going with a program like Global Entry to get your PASSID/Known Traveler Number and using a credit card with a $100 credit for Global Entry.

If you always keep your Known Traveler Number with you at all times you’ll be able to add it to your boarding pass when needed and there shouldn’t be any major issues.

Can You Take Cigars on a Plane? TSA’s Turf vs Your Herf

Want to enjoy your fine cigars when traveling but don’t want to give up your precious stogies when heading through TSA?

I don’t blame you.

But before you decide to take your cigars through airport security and onto a plane, you should be aware that there are a few common pitfalls people often experience.

The good news is that if you are aware of these, you can easily avoid them and safely and securely transport your cigars to your destination.

Below, I’ll give you all the latest TSA rules and tips for bringing your cigars, lighters, cutters, and other accessories like humidity pouches.

Can you take cigars on a plane?

Yes, you can bring cigars on a plane as a carry-on item or in your checked bag.

You’ll want to take extra care when packing your cigars and also be careful about bringing certain cigar accessories because some of them won’t be allowed, such as torch lighters.

When traveling internationally, make sure you are mindful of the limitations and also the current status of the law when it comes to Cuban cigars.

Keep reading below to find out all the details of what you need to know.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

smoking cigar

Carry-on or checked baggage?

Since TSA allows you to travel with your cigars in either your carry-on or checked baggage the decision is up to you on which one best suits you.

With that said, I would always recommend to put your cigars in your carry-on bag for a few reasons.

My general recommendation is to never put anything in your checked baggage that you feel like you cannot live without. That’s because your luggage could be lost, knocked around, or in rare cases, objects from your luggage could be stolen.

For some aficionados, premium cigar collections could certainly fall within the “can’t live without” category.

The checked baggage hold under the plane will also be subject to more extreme temperatures and conditions.

They typically are temperature and pressure controlled but could have temperatures much different from those found in the cabin, potentially affecting your precious cigar cargo.

And finally, in the event you are flying one of the premium first class products out there, you might have access to a first class lounge that has a cigar room.

You could partake in one of the cigars offered at the lounge but you also may want to enjoy one of your own so having them in your carry-on could make sense there.

cigar lounge
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Cigar Lounge.
cigar lounge
Etihad First Class Lounge Cigar Room.

How to pack and transport your cigars

When traveling with your cigars, a few things can go wrong.

The first thing is that your cigars can get crushed.

This will happen when placing your cigars into one of your luggage bags without sufficient hard-sided protection. A lot of people underestimate how easy it is for cigars to get squished with even the slightest amount of pressure.

On the flip side of that, if you place your delicate cigars in a large container where they are not secure, they can get tossed around during the flight and all kinds of beat up or cracked.

The third issue is that your cigars could get affected by the environment. This could be temperature, humidity, sunlight, etc.

But it could also be whatever materials you decide to store your cigars in since they can easily absorb aromas and tastes.

So when traveling the goal will be to avoid your sticks getting crushed or beat up and to minimize how they are impacted by the environment.

Luckily, there are a few ways you can do this.

Travel humidor

While bringing your full-size desktop humidor is an option (more on that below), typically the most convenient way to transport your cigars will be to store them in a travel humidor.

One of the best ways to pack lots of cigars is to place them inside of something like an air-tight Herf-a-Dor Travel Humidor.

That is a hard-sided case lined with foam cushioning that you can purchase in different sizes such as 5-count, 10-count, 15-count, and 40-count.

Other solid brands include: Perdomo, Xikar, Peter James, or Cigar Caddy.

Each of those sizes should be allowed to get through TSA security.

If you want something a little bit more portable and fashionable consider something like a Klaro leather case made for smaller amounts of sticks. Some of these have hard sided cases on the inside and still have room for your accessories including humidity pouches.

And of course, if you want to go even smaller and slimmer you could always go with the “finger cases.”

These usually pack a quantity of two to three cigars — perfect for those weekend getaways. Cases like this are easy to slip into sleeves in your backpack or sometimes even a coat pocket.

cigar travel case

Humidity Pouches

Some travel humidors feature a humidor in the the case, but others will require a humidity pouch, such as a Boveda Humidity pack.

Bovedas contain purified water, natural salts and odorless food grade thickener (the same type of thing that is used in salad dressing).

The potential problem with Bovedas and similar packs (gels, etc.) is that they will be considered a liquid and depending on how much liquid is in your pouch, that could be a problem for your carry-on.

The TSA liquid rule allows you to bring in liquid containers no larger than 3.4 ounces and these should be placed in a clear, quart sized bag.

Many of these humidity packs should be under that 3.4 ounce limit and so they should be okay. In fact, some people even keep these packs inside their Tupperware or travel humidor when going through security and have no problem.

But if you have a checked bag, you can avoid any potential issues by simply placing them in your checked bag.

Humidity Pouches
Image via Boveda.

How many humidity packs will you need when traveling?

Generally, it’s best to have one humidor pack for every twenty cigars. (Here’s a handy calculator.)

For longer trips and for trips to dry areas such as the desert, consider packing extra just in case.

If you’re not exactly sure how the humidity will affect your travel humidor at your destination, it might also be a good idea to bring humidity packs with different relative humidity levels. (You can purchase packages with pouches of different levels.)

That way, you can play around with which ones help get your travel humidor in the needed sweet spot. See the graphic below.

Tip: Some also add small cedar planks to help with humidity and aroma.

Portable cigar hygrometers, whether digital or analog should not be a problem for TSA so make sure that you bring one along to monitor your travel humidor.

Keep in mind that if you are smoking your cigars within just a few days of departure, you may not need the humidity pouch.

You could simply store your cigar(s) in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag and place that inside of a hard sided container (Tupperware works).

Image via Boveda.


Cigar cutters are allowed in checked baggage and “generally permitted” in carry-ons with the caveat that a TSA agent could confiscate them when bringing them in a carry-on.

For that reason, I would strongly advise you to always place your cigar cutter in your checked baggage.

If you absolutely have to bring it in your carry-on, consider purchasing a cheaper one that you wouldn’t mind getting thrown out. The cheap disposable ones can also be a good option.

cigar cutter

Lighters & matches

Lots of cigar aficionados love to use ultra-hot torch lighters from makers like Xikar, Jetline, and Visol for their intensity, precision, and ability to withstand outdoor conditions.

Unfortunately, these cannot be brought as a carry-on or in your checked bag.

According to the FAA, when traveling on a commercial airline you can bring one lighter that uses a flammable gas (butane) or that uses a flammable liquid (Zippo-type of lighter).

Some of these like Zippos are known to affect the flavor of cigars but butane may not.

You are allowed to bring disposable and Zippo lighters without fuel in checked bags but there must be no traces of fuel or vapor inside the lighters. If you go that route, it’s a good idea to leave a note by your lighters explaining that they are 100% empty.

If you do plan on bringing non-empty lighters in your checked bags this is possible but you need to comply with the Department of Transportation exemption.

This exemption allows you to bring up to two of your disposable/Zippo lighters in checked baggage if they are properly enclosed in a DOT approved case. 

These are basically special airtight containers that will help reduce the risk of transporting non-empty lighters.

If you want to ditch the lighter and go a little bit more old-school with matches you’ll be happy to know that one book of safety (non-strike anywhere) matches is permitted as a carry-on item. No matches are allowed in checked baggage.

When using wooden matches for your cigars, it’s a good idea to wait to expose the cigar until after the sulfur burns off to better preserve the flavor.

Related: TSA Rules for Bringing Lighters on Planes

cigar lighter

Desktop humidors

Some cigar lovers decide it’s best to just take a long their desktop humidors. If you go this route, you want to check your hygrometer religiously because your humidor will acclimate to the different environments.


Make sure that you are aware of the Customs Duty as it relates to bringing cigars back into the US.

Specifically, if you don’t want to exceed the amounts specified in the personal exemptions, this means you cannot bring more than 100 cigars if arriving from other than a beneficiary country and insular possession.

Cuban cigars

In 2016, things opened up with Cuba and cigars were allowed to come in as the CBP stated:

On October 17, 2016, the Office of Foreign Asset Control relaxed restrictions so authorized travelers, arriving direct from Cuba, are now able to bring Cuban merchandise for personal use back to the United States 

Former President Trump changed things when he was in office and in 2020 a ban resumed on Cuban cigars.

Per the CBP, the current policy for Cuban cigars as of 2022 is the following:

  • Authorized travelers may no longer return to the United States with alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba as accompanied baggage for personal use
  • Persons authorized to travel to Cuba may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption in Cuba.
  • Persons subject to United States jurisdiction may purchase or acquire Cuban-origin merchandise, including alcohol and tobacco products, while in a third country for personal consumption outside the United States.

So you can purchase and consume Cuban cigars for personal consumption while in Cuba or while in a different country but you cannot bring them back to the US.

Cuban cigars

Smoking cigars in the airplane cabin

Hopefully, you are aware that smoking anything (including vapes) anywhere inside the airplane cabin, including the lavatory is 100% illegal.

While the aviation industry does have a history of allowing smoking on planes, that is no longer the case.

If you decided to chance it and got caught smoking on a plane you could get fined, sued, and end up ruining a trip for a lot of people.

Smoking on a plane is just not worth it no matter how big of a craving that you get.

And just in case you were wondering, there are smoke alarms in the plane bathrooms.

I talk more about that interesting history in this article focused on bringing cigarettes through TSA; feel free to give that a read.


If you’re planning on bringing some whiskey or other type of alcohol to your herf, TSA has some very specific rules on alcohol.

You can bring your own mini bottles in a lot of cases but you need to be mindful of the alcoholic content because TSA/FAA does put some strict limitations on those.

We put together a comprehensive guide that will tell you everything you could possibly want to know about taking alcohol on a plane so be sure to check that out.

Final word

Cigar lovers can bring their cigars on a plane in either carry-on or checked baggage. However, I strongly recommend you to bring your cigars in your carry-on to preserve the quality of your cigars.

Ideally, you will bring them in a hard sided container, such as a travel humidor and take some humidity pouches with you if you will be gone for several days or longer.

Don’t forget to place some of your accessories in your checked baggage like your cigar cutter and possibly your humidity pouches. And pay extra attention to the restrictions on lighters since they are not so straightforward.

And then finally, remember the limitations with customs and Cuban cigars when coming back into the US.

Do TSA Officers Have Guns & Arrest Powers? [2023]

A lot of travelers get a little bit nervous when going through airport security. They are afraid of something going wrong and having a badged TSA officer give them trouble as they try to make their way through the airport.

But do these TSA officers have the same level of authority as law-enforcement officers? For example, can they arrest you and can they carry guns on them?

In this article, I will take a look at whether or not TSA officers have arrest authority and can legally carry guns.

The answer to this question might make you feel a little bit more at ease when going through security but there are still some things that might surprise you.

Do TSA officers have guns?

Most TSA employees are Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) who do not possess arrest powers and are not permitted to carry weapons, including guns. However, there are some employees under the TSA who are allowed to carry guns with them. Keep reading below to find out more.

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TSA Overview

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the DHS with a mission to “protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.”

The agency, which now has over 54,000 employees, came into existence following the 9/11 attacks with the goal of improving airport security procedures and centralizing air travel security under one agency.

While TSA is most commonly associated with air travel, the agency also develops policies to help protect the U.S. highways, railroads, buses, mass transit systems, ports, and pipelines.

Although most people think of TSA employees as coming in one universal form, there actually are several different types of TSA employees.

Most of these employees do not have arrest powers or permission to possess firearms but that is not always the case….

Below, I’ll give you a breakdown of some of the TSA departments and explain which ones may have authority to carry guns and arrest people.


Most TSA employees are Transportation Security Officers (TSOs).

TSO’s are those officers that greet you (with varying levels of friendliness) at airport security checkpoints and usher you through to those wonderful full body scanners.

When people think of TSA officers, TSO’s are usually what they are thinking of.

While most of the time they are concerned with facilitating the standard security screening process, some TSOs may have additional responsibilities.

For example, some TSOs are also Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs).

These are TSA agents tasked with observing passengers as they go through security checkpoints, looking for certain types of behaviors that might indicate the person is up to no good.

It’s important to note that TSO’s do not carry weapons, are not allowed to use force, and they also lack the authority to arrest individuals.

So the vast majority of TSA employees cannot lawfully carry guns.

Federal Air Marshalls

The Federal Air Marshal Service is the law enforcement arm of the TSA.

These are TSA employees who usually work undercover and are the TSA personell known for carrying guns on them.

In order to be a Federal Air Marshal, you have to have exceptional marksman abilities which makes sense since firing a gun in a plane is not exactly low-risk.

Federal Air Marshals also need to be well versed in close quarter combat since they may be tasked with disarming and disabling threats.

These agents are adept at blending into the crowd so in a lot of instances it could be very difficult to point them out. However, if you know what to look for sometimes it’s not so hard to spot them.

Federal Air Marshals are not on every plane since that would take an incredible amount of resources. Instead, they could be assigned to flights randomly or based on a destination or suspected threat level.

For example, if someone is on a government watch list and flying on a plane, there’s a good chance at least one Air Marshal will be on board.

Air Marshals are known to closely observe passengers and travelers in airports, looking for odd behaviors and movements.

The types of behavior they could be looking for are almost infinite but could include things like an abrupt change in direction when walking through the airport, constant fidgeting, changing clothes, etc.

Basically, anything remotely suspicious.

Related to the Air Marshals are the Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDOs). Many people have no idea about these volunteer officers but it’s actually a pretty interesting program.

These are mostly pilots who are former military and they are officially deputized by the TSA.

Their jurisdiction is limited to the flight deck but these are pilots who are allowed to carry a weapon and know how to use it.

Like the Air Marshals, they undergo similar training focusing on constitutional law, marksmanship, physical fitness, behavioral observation, defensive tactics, and emergency medical assistance.

One of the big differences is that these are just volunteers and don’t earn extra wages for taking on this additional responsibility.

Related: Do Airline Pilots Carry Guns in the Cockpit?

TSA Canine handlers

If you’ve traveled enough you’ve certainly seen canine handlers and the airport.

These are people who take care of the dogs that go around patrolling for explosives and other dangerous items. Some dogs might be sniffing out drugs but typically it is the bombs and explosives that are a primary concern in the US.

These canine teams are made up of TSA inspectors and local law-enforcement officers.

Law enforcement officers make up roughly 65 percent and the other 35 percent are transportation security inspectors.

This means that most of these canine handlers should have arrest powers and also likely have guns.

You can usually tell the TSA canine agents apart because they wear khaki pants and the law enforcement officers are usually dressed in all black or something else. I believe the TSA agents who handle the canines are also unarmed.

Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPR)

Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPR) is a program designed to “augment the security of any mode of transportation at any location within the United States.”

Officers enrolled in this program are part of the TSA’s Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service, which allows some of them to have arrest powers and to carry weapons.

While you could find members of VIPR at an airport, you wont typically find them at airports.

Instead, you would usually find these at pretty much any other place of transportation including: railroad stations, bus stations, ferries, car tunnels, ports, subways, truck weigh stations, and rest areas.


United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the largest federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

They are charged with “keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade.

CBP officers do have arrest powers and also are allowed to carry weapons. They are distinct from TSA but sometimes there is overlap between personnel in certain types of departments (e.g., VIPR).

Related: Is Customs the Same as TSA? (Key Differences)

Should TSA officers have guns?

In 2013, TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez was gunned down at LAX airport. He was the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty in the agency’s history.

This raised the question of whether or not TSA agents (TSOs) should have guns while on duty.

Opponents point to the fact that there are over 40,000 TSO’s and that arming all of them with guns would inevitably lead to a lot of mishaps and unnecessary deaths.

They question the training that TSOs would receive with respect to using a weapon and how qualified those agents would be to fire in an airport with hundreds of bystanders often in close proximity.

It’s very difficult to disagree with these concerns.

A more practical solution might be creating a smaller unit of law enforcement within the TSA that trains TSO agents to use firearms. Essentially, these would be similar to the Federal Air Marshals except their domain would be the security checkpoint stations.

However, opponents think this is still “mission creep” and think that there are better solutions. For example, there could be a more reliable presence from law enforcement officers in airports, panic buttons installed for TSA agents, etc.

Unfortunately, we don’t typically see major changes in security procedures until after some type of attack or attempted attack. So my guess would be that until we experience another incident at airport security, things will probably remain the same.

Bringing firearms through the airport

If you are interested in legally transporting a firearm yourself then you should be well aware of the TSA firearm rules.

Basically, under no circumstances can you ever bring a firearm through airport security as a carry-on.

However, you are allowed to bring certain types of firearms in your checked baggage.

When doing so, you need to make sure that you comply with some of the rules like making sure the weapon is not loaded and having the weapon in a secured luggage bag.

We’ve put together an in-depth guide on traveling with firearms and you can check it out here.

Final word

Most TSA employees are TSO’s who do not have arrest powers and do not carry weapons of any kind, including guns.

However, there are some individuals under the TSA such as Federal Air Marshals who do have law enforcement powers and are allowed to carry guns through the airport and even on planes.

In addition to them, some pilots may also be armed if they are in the FFDO program.

Can You Bring Hair Spray on a Plane? Making TSA’s Rules Stick [2023]

Using hair spray is one of the easiest ways to keep your hair on point when traveling. But there is a major point of confusion when it comes to bringing hair spray through airport security and on a plane.

For example, can you bring aerosol cans of hair spray and are there certain size restrictions?

In this article, I will clear up all of the confusion and provide you with clear explanations as to the type of hair spray you can bring and give you tips on the best ways to bring it.

I’ll also inform you about some important FAA restrictions you may not know about.

Can you bring hair spray on a plane?

Yes, you can bring hair spray on a plane. 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.

If you are transporting hair spray in your checked luggage, you can bring larger canisters but you must still comply with FAA size-limit restrictions.

Keep reading below to find out more about the rules and restrictions for bringing hair spray on a plane.

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Aerosol versus pump hair spray

Most people probably use aerosol hair spray.

This is the type of pressurized canister that has a small nozzle on top which allows hair spray to be dispersed continuously in a cloud of spray.

Pump hair spray requires you to pump the nozzle in order for it to make its way out of the bottle. This type of hair spray should be treated as a true liquid since it is not an aerosol.

However, for purposes of carry-on and checked baggage TSA rules, it doesn’t really matter if you have an aerosol or pump hair spray.

The only major difference between the two is that aerosol cans will require that the button/nozzle is protected by caps or other suitable means to prevent accidental release.

Make sure you don’t blow off the requirement for a cap. It might seem like such a small requirement but in the past I have been forced to throw out aerosol cans because the cap was missing!

How to bring hair spray on a plane

When traveling on a plane, you will have to decide if you want to bring your hair spray in a carry-on or checked bag. Both are allowed by TSA.

Your carry-on bag comes with you on the plane which means that you will have your hair spray with you for the entire flight. The drawback is that your item is subject to the liquids rule which means you can only bring the smaller sized canisters.

If you bring hair spray in your checked baggage, you will not have access to it during your flight. However, you can bring larger cans in your checked baggage but there are still some FAA size restrictions which I will talk about below.

Putting hair spray in your carry-on

The first thing you need to know about bringing hair spray on a plane is that you’ll be subject to the TSA liquids 3-1-1 rule.

This rule states that your liquids must be contained within a container no larger than 3.4 fluid ounces or (100 mL) and that all of your liquid containers must fit comfortably within a quart sized, re-sealable bag.

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.

However, the good news is that you can find travel sized hair spray cans pretty easily.

You can buy TSA compliant bottles of shampoo which are basically just travel bottles of hair spray that come in containers smaller than 3.4 fluid ounces.

Some popular travel hair spray bottles include:

You will want to keep your hair spray in your luggage during your flight virtually all the time.

You absolutely do not want to spray your hair spray in the cabin.

The main reason is that because this is a confined space you could send those aerosols flying in the face of other passengers.

Some people can be very sensitive to chemicals and you could actually end up harming someone by spraying your hair spray at your seat.

Indeed, this is why the FAA tells passengers to “consult the flight crew before using items that give off strong odors or vapors.”

Spraying hair spray in the plane lavatory (bathroom) is a different matter.

Personally, I would try to avoid it if you are dealing with a small lavatory and flying economy.

The reason is that there are a lot of economy passengers and the odds of someone coming in right after you are pretty high — if you just sprayed a lot of hair spray, that could be a harsh experience for some passengers.

However, I have flown on some business and first class flights where there are larger lavatories and there were no issues with using hair spray in those.

Putting hair spray in checked baggage

If you want to put your aerosol hair spray in your checked baggage that is permitted but there are special restrictions on the quantity that you can bring.

Basically, the FAA outlaws hazardous materials on planes but they make exceptions for certain medicinal & toiletry items like: hairspray, hand sanitizers, aerosols, rubbing alcohol, inhalers, nail polish and remover, etc.

Below are the two restrictions you need to stick to your memory.

Individual hairspray container size limits

For checked baggage, the FAA states:

The capacity of each container must not exceed 0.5 kg (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces).

(This limitation can also be found when searching the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).)

The hairspray size limit of 18 ounces or 17 fluid ounces is pretty generous.

As mentioned above, most hairspray containers probably range from 8 to 12 ounces so that gives you a bit of buffer.

Total amount of hairspray allowed

The FAA also has a limit for the total amount of hairspray that you can bring in your checked baggage.

This limit factors in all of the containers in your checked bag subject to this FAA hazardous materials exception.

So, for example, if you had hairspray and perfume in your checked baggage, you would add the size of those containers together and your total would need to be under the limits below.

They state:

The total aggregate quantity per person cannot exceed 2 kg (70 ounces) or 2 L (68 fluid ounces).

The aggregate limit of 68 fluid ounces means that you could probably bring about five to six cans of normal sized hair spray in your checked baggage but not much more than that.

Initially, I suspected that these FAA size-limit rules only applied to aerosol hair spray and not pump-action hair spray.

But if you take a look at the language used you will see that they include aerosol separate from hair spray:

Hairspray, hand sanitizers, aerosols, rubbing alcohol, inhalers, nail polish and remover, etc.

For personal use including aerosols, hair spray, perfumes, colognes, nail polish, rubbing alcohol, shaving cream, inhalers, medicines

Because they specifically list out hair spray separate from aerosols, it suggests that even purely liquid pump action hair spray is subject to this limitation.

Furthermore, they also include other pure liquid items like nail polish, alcohol, etc.

So if you are bringing non-aerosol hair spray you should abide by the above limitations.

The quantity limits are there for good reason.

Placing aerosol cans in the cargo hold of the plane code, under the right circumstances, could result in a catastrophic explosion.

Hair gel

Hair gel is another commonly asked about item related to hair spray. Gels are considered liquids for TSA which means that you will be subject to the same liquids rule above.

The best course of action is to purchase travel sized bottles of hair gel or simply pour your gel into containers no larger than 3.4 ounces.

There are special travel bottles you can buy online that are squeezable and better suited for gels than the bottles that cannot be squeezed.

I don’t see hair gel listed as a toiletry on the FAA restrictions above which makes me wonder if those quantity restrictions for checked baggage don’t apply.

It seems likely that the restrictions would apply based on the nature of the liquid so you may not be able to bring unlimited quantities of hair gel on a plane.

However, TSA does not state that these limitations apply to hair gel in checked baggage.

Dry shampoo

We have an entire article dedicated to the restrictions around bringing shampoo, including dry shampoo. The rules are very similar to bringing hair spray but you can check out the full guide here.

What do individual airlines have to say about hairspray?

All of the major US airlines should have similar policies as TSA when it comes to hairspray.

For your quick reference, you can view their policies below:


Is hair spray considered a liquid by TSA?

Yes, hair spray is considered a liquid and subject to the TSA 3-1-1 liquids rule.

How big can my hair spray containers be?

When bringing hairspray as a carry-on, your containers can be no larger than 3.4 ounces. When bringing hairspray in checked baggage, your containers can be no longer larger than 17 fluid ounces and the total amount being brought needs to be under 70 ounces.

Is hair gel considered a liquid by TSA?

Yes, hair gel is considered a liquid and subject to the TSA 3-1-1 liquids rule.

Can TSA confiscate my hair spray?

Yes, TSA can confiscate your hairspray if your canister is above the size requirements or if you have failed to transport your aerosol can with a suitable cap.

What size hairspray can you bring on a plane?

In your carry-on, you can bring hairspray containers no larger than 3.4 ounces. In your checked baggage, the container must not exceed 0.5 kg (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces).

Can you bring hair mousse on a plane?

Yes, you can bring hair mousse on a plane. In your carry-on, you can bring hair mousse containers no larger than 3.4 ounces. In your checked baggage, the hair mousse container must not exceed 0.5 kg (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces).

Final word

It is perfectly acceptable to bring hair spray on a plane and through TSA security. However, you need to be mindful about the size of your canisters and how you are transporting them. You also need to be aware of the limitations on quantity for both aerosol and pump action hair spray.

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