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The Guide to Carrying on Holiday Foods and Goodies

Thanksgiving and the holidays: It’s peak travel time, peak chow time, and, if you’re like me and wanting to cling for a taste from home, peak traveling with chow time.

I would take a whole fridge of leftovers with me on the plane if it’s possible, because plane food has nothing on green bean casserole. But in the end I usually only end up taking one measly day-after Thanksgiving turkey sandwich with me to the airport, because I never really know what I’ll be allowed by with. Is it all gravy to bring on board? But actual gravy isn’t permitted…

Here’s a handy guide for which popular holiday foods and goodies are good to go on board and which can end up making a nice unintentional present for security agents. As Ross Feinstein, TSA press secretary told me, even what’s listed as allowed like solid food and pies can be subject to additional screening. The TSA assures us that’s not actually code for taste testing, though.

TurkeyYesA live one is problematic, though, the TSA reminds us.
LeftoversProbablyAs long as it’s wrapped or contained (Tupperware) and not something like soup, it should be OK. That’s a good idea anyway, considering it’ll have to go on the X-ray conveyor belt.
CasserolesYesSee above re: wrap it. And while green bean casserole can be carried on, at least one key ingredient (mushroom soup) can’t. Make off with the leftovers!
PotatoesYesMashed, baked, however you like them.
GravyNoDon’t bring the boat, but spreading some on a sandwich or pre-mixing with potatoes won’t raise any eyebrows.
Cranberry sauceNoThe TSA is not ready for this jelly or any other (jams, marmalades, etc.).
Creamy dips and spreads (nut butters, cheeses, hummus, etc.)NoThose single-serving options? They’re allowed—and also are how I get my peanut butter fix.
FruitYesIf fruit is peeled or already bitten into, it has to be wrapped. Also, I was dangerously close with being hit with a big ole’ fine for accidentally trying to go through customs with fruit (international only). Declare it, or keep it domestic just to be safe.
Nuts and seedsYesSee above re: customs/fines.
CakesYesThese in particular can be subject to “additional screening.” Keep them visible, please, asks the TSA. I imagine that makes them less suspicious that there’s a weapon baked inside.
PiesYes – even the gelatinous ones!See above. Also, Erica has you covered on how to bring a pie onto a plane.
CookiesYesThanks to my friend’s mom I learned freezing them makes them last longer (both in preserving and self-rationing) and easier to transport.
Wrapped presentsMaybeThe TSA can and might ask for it to be unwrapped. I would say unwrap before or re-wrap after. Opening presents at airport security sound pretty anticlimactic to me.
Gift basketsMaybeThey can’t have any of the no-go items like cans or jars of jellies or spreads (they always seem to have those, don’t they?).
Dulce de leche or caramelNoIn Latin America, security swipes jars of this ambrosial stuff often.
SnowglobesMaybeProbably not the best travel souvenir collection to start. But if you just couldn’t resist, you can pack a snowglobe of up to 3.4 ounces in your ‘3-1-1 Bag’ along with your travel-sized shampoo and toothpaste.
Mini liquor bottlesYesServing size? Travel size! Cheers!

If in doubt, the TSA provided us these guidelines:

Snow globes of 3.4 ounces on smaller can go in carry-on bags if they are inside the 3-1-1 bags with the other liquids (typically that means in a bag with the toiletries such as shampoo and toothpaste).

Another way to judge whether a food item is considered a liquid or gel by TSA is that if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, then it is considered a liquid or gel by TSA.

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