I’ve traveled to fifteen countries around the world and to the entire United States for both leisure and work. I know how frustrating it is to arrive at the TSA screening just to find out that you didn’t meet the 3-1-1 liquids rule.
It happened to me many years back. I must have had a gallon of toiletries because most of my toiletries ended up in the trash bin at the TSA screening area.
I was so mad!
But, you don’t have to worry. I’m going to teach you all about the TSA guidelines so that you stay out of trouble and breeze through the TSA screening without issue. Once and for all, you’ll learn the answer to how big is a quart size bag for carry on.
TSA Approved Quart Size Bag Dimensions (Bag for Liquids and Toiletries)
So, how big is a quart size bag for carry on then?
First, I must point out that TSA is not very strict when it comes to determining whether or not you meet the quart-sized bag criteria. Technically, there isn’t a list of “TSA-approved” bags because TSA only offers general bag size guidelines.
TSA officers eyeball your bag dimensions and the number of bottles during screening but that’s about it. When is the last time you’ve seen a TSA agent pull out their measuring tape?
This is because in order to actually enforce the use of 1 quart bags, TSA agents would have to measure each bag but also do some simple math to determine the actual volume. That’s not going to happen . . .
Even if TSA agents were to measure the bags, the actual volume being carried in the bag is actually less since the entire bag isn’t being filled with liquids, only the bottles.
In the end, it’s all about volume and the capacity of a quart-sized bag is 32 US ounces if completely full of liquid.
This is the key, although the guideline for so-called “TSA-approved” quart sized bags measure 6 x 9 inches (6″ x 9″) and are flat. For comparison, sandwich bags measure approximately 6.5 x 5.8 inches and can also be used.
Compared to a quart-sized bag, a sandwich bag is definitely smaller and holds about 22 US ounces (about 0.7 quarts). Ziploc bags are the most popular since they have a robust sealing system and the plastic is thicker than other brands.
So, as long as you follow the guidelines and recommendations below, you should be fine.
Best Clear Carry Toiletry Bags
I’ve included a list of the best clear carry on bags that you can purchase for your toiletries below. As a reference, I used the following conversion for each of the bags listed to calculate the volume:
1 US quart equals approximately 58 cubic inches
Spoiler Alert: So-called “TSA-approved” bags that you can purchase online are actually bigger than 1 quart and in many cases closer to 1.5 quarts, or greater.
See how my list of the best carry on bags compare in actual volume size to the TSA 1 quart rule. In the end, it’ll be your choice whether or not you want to strictly follow the 1 quart rule or purchase a bag that’s slightly larger.
The fact is that most people are actually purchasing slightly larger bags. In my opinion, 1.5 quart bags are generally allowed by TSA because the total actual volume in the bottles is less than 1.5 quarts. To be under the TSA limit, the bottles inside a 1.5 quart bag would have to occupy about two-thirds of the total volume to be under the 1 quart limit.
This isn’t a bad approximation.
When you consider that the volume of the bottles only occupy a portion of the total bag volume, it makes sense why slightly larger bags are allowed by TSA. This also goes to show why these bags are being marketed by manufacturers as “TSA-approved”.
Overall, it’s a good idea to stay closer to 1 quart size bags and follow the TSA rules to ensure you won’t have any issues at TSA security checkpoints.
Measurements: 10.04″ x 8.98″ x 0.28″ = 25.2 cubic inches = 0.4 quarts
Measurements: 7″ x 5.5″ x 1.5″ = 57.8 cubic inches = 1 quart (perfect size)
Measurements (Small Bag): 9″ x 4″ x 1.7″ = 61.2 cubic inches = 1.1 quarts
Measurements (Large Bag): 10″ x 5.5″ x 3.5″ = 192.5 cubic inches = 3.3 quarts
Measurements: 7.5″ x 5.5″ x 2.2″ = 90.8 cubic inches = 1.6 quarts
Measurements: 7.5″ x 5.5″ x 2.2″ = 90.8 cubic inches = 1.6 quarts
Measurements: 6.25″ x 6.25″ x 2.5″ = 97.7 cubic inches = 1.7 quarts
Measurements: 7.7″ x 5.9″ x 2.5″ = 113.6 cubic inches = 1.9 quarts
Prior to making a purchasing decision, be sure to read about the TSA Liquids Rule and general guidelines I’ve laid out for you below.
3-1-1 Liquids Rule and General Guidelines
- You are allowed (1) “clear” quart size bag for liquids, gels, pastes (e.g. toothpaste), creams (e.g. lotion, moisturizer, etc.) and aerosols in your carry on luggage.
- The “clear” quart-sized bag must be a resealable bag (e.g. zip-top, ziplock bag, etc.).
- Each liquid item must be in a travel-sized container that is 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or smaller. You need to pack all containers of liquids inside the sealed bag and they must fit.
- A typical flat bag that measures 6″ x 9″ will fit somewhere between (6 & 7) 3.4 ounce bottles and is the TSA guideline.
- A clear toiletry bag can be used.
- A plastic bag from the grocery store is not allowed.
- If purchasing a slightly large bag, target fitting no more than approximately (9) 3.4 ounce containers inside. This will ensure your actual liquid volume is one quart (32 ounces) or less.
- Containers larger than 3.4 ounces must be packed inside your checked luggage.
- Aerosols, liquids, gels, creams or pastes that alarm during the screening process will require additional screening.
3-1-1 Liquids Rule Exceptions
As with any rule there are exceptions. The two exceptions to the 3-1-1- Liquids Rule are medications and infant or child nourishments.
Medications in a pill or other solid form must be screened and clearly labeled. TSA security can perform a visual check, x-ray screening and may undergo testing for traces of explosives. If you do not want your liquid medication to be opened or screened by x-ray, you will have to undergo a pat-down and screening of other carry on items.
You are also allowed to bring accessories for your medications such as freezer packs, IV bags, syringes and pumps.
You must inform the TSA agent at the security checkpoint that you have medications and medical accessories. Separate your medications and accessories from all other belongings for the screening process.
Examples of medically necessary gels, liquids and aerosols that are included but not limited are:
- Prescription gels, creams and liquids.
- Breast milk, baby/toddler food, puree pouches, baby formula and toddler drinks.
- Freezer packs, ice packs, ice or gel used to cool any of the above.
- Up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer (until further notice).
The following conditions must also be met:
- It’s required during your flight and/or at your travel destination.
- It’s not available after the screening checkpoint (sterile area).
- It’s not available at your travel destination.
Examples that DO NOT meet this exception rule include but are not limited to:
- Water, soda, juice and other beverages (except as necessary for medical conditions like diabetes, etc.).
- Partial solids like peanut butter, jellies, jams, spreads and sauces.
- Sunscreen and suntan lotion.
Infant and Child Nourishments
Breast milk, baby food, puree pouches, baby formula, toddler drinks and liquid-filled teethers are considered “medically needed” liquids. This applies to formula and breast milk cooling accessories (regardless of presence of breast milk). Your infant or baby do not have to be present or travelling with you.
Quantities of these items greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in your carry on luggage and do not need to fit in a quart-size bag. To expedite screening it is recommended (NOT required) that breast milk and baby formula are transported in clear bottles.
If using plastic bags or pouches, they may not be able to be screened by the liquid bottle scanners and you may be required to open them. Nothing will ever be placed into the medically necessary liquid.
You’ll want to make sure that you inform TSA that you are carrying these items and separate them from the rest of your belongings.
TSA Travel Checklist
Below is a super handy travel checklist that will save you time and frustration prior to arriving at the airport for the TSA screening.
Follow the guidelines below and you should have no problem whatsoever once you arrive at the airport.
- Bag of liquids, aerosols and gels to be carried on must follow the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule (see exceptions above)
- 3.4 oz (100 mil) or less per container
- 1 quart size refillable or resealable clear bag (all liquids need to fit in the bag)
- Review the prohibited items list (https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/prohibited-items)
- If purchasing a baggage lock, be sure it is “TSA recognized”
- Tape a tag with your name and contact info on your electronics
- Pack your items in layers
- Firearms are only allowed in the baggage you check in (unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container and declared to the airline)
- Fireworks containing explosive materials are not allowed
- Large electronics need to be placed on the very top of your carry on for screening
- Quart size bag need to be placed in the front pocket of your carry on for screening
- Bring a leash for your pet so pet carrier can be screened properly
- Consider packing valuable items (e.g. jewelry, etc.) inside your carry-on bag
Before Leaving Home
- Give yourself enough time so that you arrive at the airport early
- Wear shoes that can be easily removed
- Passengers with a medical condition or disability can call the TSA Cares helpline at 855-787-2227 ahead of time
Before TSA Checkpoint
- Eligible passengers can use the TSA PreCheck Lane at participating airports for expedited screening
- Take out your ID and boarding pass for review
TSA Screening Lane
- Place 1-quart plastic clear bag in the bin
- Remove your shoes and place them on the x-ray belt
- Empty out your pockets (e.g. wallet, keys, cell phone, etc.) and place in the bin or inside your carry on
- Remove jewelry (valuable items can be packed inside your carry on bag) and place in the bin
- Remove electronics larger than your cell phone (e.g. laptop, tablet, e-reader, video games, etc.) from your carry on luggage and place them into the bin by themselves with nothing underneath them
- Check all bins and collect your belongings after the screening
How big is a quart size bag for carry on?
Did you not read the article? All you need to know is just above. I’ve also laid out some bags that you should consider. Some meet the rule but others do not, so choose wisely!
How many quart-sized plastic bags of liquids are you allowed?
You are allowed only one bag per person and it must be clear plastic.
Does deodorant need to be inside the 1-quart bag?
Yes, some types of deodorant including gel or “roll-on” deodorant are considered gel-based toiletries.
On the other hand, solid and powder deodorants such as stick deodorant are solid can be carried on without size limitations.
Can I take makeup, shampoo and face wash in my carry-on luggage?
Makeup in powder or a solid form (e.g. lipstick, lip balm) can be carried in your carry-on baggage without limitations. Liquid cosmetics (e.g. liquid foundation, lip gloss, body lotion, nail polish) must be in 3.4 oz bottles per the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair gel and face wash must also meet the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule.
Can you take spray bottles in the TSA liquids bag?
Yes, as long as the spray bottles are 3.4 ounces or less.
Can I use a 1 liter bag for my toiletries?
Actually, one liter bags are very close in size to a quart size bag. One liter equals approximately 1.06 US quarts, so it can be used. This is more common in Europe where they actually specify to use one liter bags.
Are the travel-size toiletries sold at stores 3.4 ounces or less?
Yes, travel size toiletries are all usually the right size at 3.4 oz (100 mil) or less. It’s one thing you’ll want to double-check just to make sure. Also, be aware that the cost of travel-size toiletries are easily double or triple the normal price.
What does TSA stand for?
Transportation Security Administration
What is the TSA website address?
The TSA’s official page is https://www.tsa.gov.
Now you should be well informed about the topic, how big is a quart size bag for carry on. There’s no reason to be concerned about the TSA rules as long as you follow the guidance above.
Don’t be the person at the TSA screening saying, “So, how big is a quart size bag for carry on then? Can I still carry on all my toiletries? Please . . . “