Brushing Up on the 3-1-1 Rule | Toothpaste IS a Liquid

Recently on our trip to Cancun my son was delayed going through Security. They put his carry on bag back through the scanner and then they took him aside to check through it. My husband and I had already gone through and we were not allowed to re-enter the secure area so all we could do is stand back, watch, and wait. The culprit? My son had brought a full-size tube of toothpaste, which they immediately confiscated. He was really ticked off and insisted that it wasn’t a liquid and they shouldn’t have taken it. Apparently, he has some strange connection to his toothpaste, maybe because he has always hated going to the dentist, no matter how many different surgeries we try. My friend recently recommended this Dentist in Hartford which we’ll go to next time just in case it does the trick. Or perhaps he realized like so many others before him, that no matter what kind of story you try to spin in front of TSA, they simply aren’t going to buy it.

Maybe he’s not going to make this week’s edition of the TSA Blog, but he’s not the only one doing this. Granted, I was equally upset with my husband since we usually have a method of going through Security and this time he didn’t do it. Usually, I go first, then my son, then my husband, but my husband decided to sneak in past my son. I recommend having a plan for your family and having everyone, including spouses, commit to the plan and then stick to it. In addition, make sure everyone remembers the 3-1-1 rule, which is for liquids, gels, and aerosols. If you’ve forgotten what this is, here’s a quick rundown for you from the TSA web site:

Make Your Trip Better Using 3-1-1
TSA and our security partners conducted extensive explosives testing since August 10, 2006 and determined that liquids, aerosols and gels, in limited quantities, are safe to bring aboard an aircraft. The one bag limit per traveler limits the total amount each traveler can bring. Consolidating the bottles into one bag and X-raying them separately from the carry-on bag enables security officers to quickly clear the items.

3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume) ; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3.4 ounce (100ml) container size is a security measure.

Be prepared. Each time TSA searches a carry-on it slows down the line. Practicing 3-1-1 will ensure a faster and easier checkpoint experience.

3-1-1 is for short trips. If in doubt, put your liquids in checked luggage.

Declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.

As a reminder, larger containers that are half-full or toothpaste tubes rolled up are not allowed. Each container must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller. Despite my son’s insistence that toothpaste is not a liquid, since it is not a solid and although may not be the same consistency as say shampoo or suntan lotion, it is still a liquid. Place all your containers inside a zip-top bag before you get to the airport and you’ll be good to go. I have found that the regular zip-loc bags tend to rip over time and I was pleased to find a tougher, yet reusable bag. You can find these on or and they make more sense as they will last longer and not end up in the trash. Just be sure to check that the items are closed before putting them in the bag and then checking them again upon arrival. If anything has leaked out, empty the bag, turn it inside out, and let it dry before using again. I have tried using the harder plastic bags that come with the approved size reusable bottles, but those bags always tend to break so I no longer use them. I like the reusable bottles since I have long hair and like to bring my own shampoo and conditioner, but you can also use the small shampoos that the hotels stock if you’re open to that. You should put all liquids, including makeup and lipgloss, in your 3-1-1 bag as if they have to go through your entire carry-on bag, you will not only slow down yourself, but others in line with you.

Keep in mind that different countries have different rules for traveling on airplanes, but the 3-1-1 rule has gained international acceptance. Many other countries, according to the TSA web site, are currently harmonized with TSA’s rules for carrying liquids through the checkpoint including:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, China, Cook Islands, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

If you’re traveling internationally with carry-on luggage, it’s best to still follow the 3-1-1 rule for liquids, but do pay attention to all signage and airport security employees for specifics. Quite often in other countries you do not have to take off your shoes so save yourself time (and embarrassment) by looking before taking those shoes off.

Whether you’re a frequent flier or not, don’t let the 3-1-1 rule make your next trip more difficult. Be prepared before you go and passing through TSA should be completely non-eventful. Do you have any words of advice on the 3-1-1 rule? If so, please let me know!