Flying home with Thanksgiving leftovers? Eats in your carry-on: Turkey, yes. Gravy, no

Planning to bring home cranberry sauce or extra gravy from Grandma’s in your carry-on after Thanksgiving?

Think again: Those aren’t Transportation Security Administration-approved items — for your carry-on at least.

So what can the expected 26.8 million people passing through TSA security check points between Nov. 22 and Dec. 2 bring home from family festivities?

Most travelers know there is only a certain amount of liquid (3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters) that can be brought in a bottle through security at the airport. But what about semisolid foods?

Take gravy: Is it a solid or a liquid? What if it’s been refrigerated and doesn’t really move around? Cookbook author and model Chrissy Teigen even had some trouble figuring that one out. 

On June 25, she tweeted a video asking her followers what they thought: “let’s play ‘is cold gravy tsa approved'” she wrote.

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let’s play “is cold gravy tsa approved”

The answer: It didn’t count as a solid on its own. Teigen ended up pouring the gravy over mashed potatoes to salvage it. 

Lisa Farbstein, spokesperson for TSA, told USA TODAY that she doesn’t think taking mashed potatoes in a carry-on is a great idea though.

“I would recommend that mashed potatoes go into a sealed container and placed in a checked bag,” she said.

Luckily, for travelers taking flights for Thanksgiving, TSA has extensive guidelines for what foods and liquids can and cannot pass through airport checkpoints and released a tip sheet for travelers that covers popular Thanksgiving food items and how to take them with you.

“People travel with food all the time, but at Thanksgiving time they travel with different types of food,” Farbstein said.

If the food is a solid item, it can be taken with a passenger in a carry-on. 

So, for example, a traveler could, in fact, bring a turkey in a carry-on, Farbstein said. Whether you would want to stash one with your airplane reading material and sweatshirt is another question. 

Other food items that are popular around the holiday that can be taken in a carry-on include:

  • Pies and cakes.
  • Stuffing mix, or cooking stuffing.
  • Casseroles. 

Any food item that is still frozen can also be taken on in a carry-on. If someone had a bag of ice, that would be acceptable, too, but if the ice was melted, then not so much. 

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Foods that aren’t solid are not allowed though.

“If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, then it needs to go into your checked bag,” Farbstein explained.

That includes semisolid foods, like Teigen’s cold gravy or candied yams. If you shake a container of candied yams, you can hear them slosh around a bit, Farbstein said.

However, you could bring a bag of yams with the plan to cook them later.

TSA’s examples of popular Thanksgiving foods not allowed in carry-ons include:

  • Cranberry sauce.
  • Gravy.
  • Wine.
  • Preserves or jam.

Those items need to be packed in a checked bag.

When travelers go through security checkpoints with unauthorized items, they have a choice: Pass it to a person who can take it back home, leave it in their car or voluntarily surrender it to TSA.

Any food turned over to TSA is thrown out.

Farbstein recommends preparing before arriving at the airport.

If a traveler has a question, they can send a direct message to TSA on Facebook, tweet to TSA (@AskTSA) or consult TSA’s “What Can I Bring?” page. 

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