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Can you take a turkey through airport security? If you’re traveling with food this holiday season, check the rules

Nov. 21, 2022 Updated Mon., Nov. 21, 2022 at 7:20 p.m.

A traveler traverses the skywalk at BWI Airport.  (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
A traveler traverses the skywalk at BWI Airport. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
By Amanda Yeager The Baltimore Sun

Thanksgiving travelers getting ready for another round of holiday flights may find themselves wondering: Can you stow any part of the upcoming feast into a suitcase?

Can you travel with turkey? How about canned cranberry sauce?

No need to wonder because we have answers for anyone who was thinking about stuffing some stuffing into their carry-on bag this holiday season.

There are plenty of foods you can bring through the security checkpoint, according to the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA.

When in doubt, the agency has a handy rule of thumb for travelers. Ask yourself: Can I spill it, spread it, pump it or pour it? If so, it goes into a checked bag (hopefully in sturdy spill-proof packaging). The rule applies to Thanksgiving staples like cranberry sauce, gravy and canned green beans.

Liquids in containers that measure 3.4 ounces or less are allowed, though, so you can still pack a few of those mini liquor bottles into your carry-on if you need some extra help making it through awkward Thanksgiving dinner political debates with the in-laws.

If the food is solid, it can also go into a carry-on tote. That means you can, indeed, stuff a turkey – fresh or frozen – into the overhead compartment. Pies, stuffing, macaroni and cheese and fresh fruits and vegetables can all head through security and onto the plane.

One important consideration when dealing with meats and other perishable foods, of course, is refrigeration. With 4.5 million Americans planning to take a flight this Thanksgiving, according to AAA, there’s bound to be a wait at the security checkpoint. Plan ahead by packing anything that could spoil into a bag with an ice pack. The TSA allows those, as long as they are frozen while passing through security.

The agency also recommends packing foods in easy-to-reach places, in case they need an extra round of inspection.

For more guidance, here’s a handy breakdown of popular Thanksgiving foods, and where you should plan on packing them.

In the carry-on:

• Baked goods

• Meats (frozen, cooked or uncooked)

• Stuffing

• Macaroni and cheese

• Fresh fruit and vegetables

• Candy

• Spices

In a checked bag:

• Cranberry sauce

• Gravy

• Wine, Champagne, sparkling apple cider and other drinks

• Canned fruit or vegetables

• Preserves, jams and jellies

• Maple syrup

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