Can You Bring Ice Packs On A Plane? (through TSA)

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Sometimes, travelers must keep their medications, food, or even breast milk cold during their flight. And they may wonder if ways of keeping their food cold will make it through airport security or not. Therefore, begging the question, can you bring ice packs on a plane?

According to TSA, you can bring ice packs on a plane, but they should be frozen solid when presented for screening. So, if the ice packs are partially melted, dripping, or have any liquid, they must adhere to 3-1-1 liquids regulations. TSA also allows medically indicated ice packs regardless of their physical condition.

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Are Ice Packs Allowed On Planes?

The TSA 3-1-1 regulation solely places limitations on liquids. Entirely frozen liquid products turn into a solid, so TSA treats them as solids when going through the security checkpoint.

It implies that as long as the ice pack is frozen when you get to the checkpoint, you may bring it to the airplane. But, if the ice pack is partially melted, dripping, or has any liquid at the bottom of the container, the TSA treats it as liquid and must adhere to liquids regulations.

The TSA 3-1-1 rule states that travelers can bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, gels, aerosols, pastes, and creams through the checkpoint. Each can only weigh 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less.

Therefore, if your ice pack melts, it could weigh no more than 3.4 oz and have to fit in your quart-size bag to pass through the checkpoint.

Getting to airport security while carrying an ice pack that is still entirely frozen solid is challenging for most travelers. That’s why some travelers find an alternative by bringing seven or eight little ice packs that weigh less than 3.4 oz in their quart-size bag; it wouldn’t matter if they had already started to melt.

And when passing through the checkpoint, the ice packs would need to be in their liquids compartment.

Once they have cleared security, they transfer them back to their cooler boxes to keep their products fresh.

The defect of this plan is that you wouldn’t have room to pack toiletries, but toothpaste is widely available, so you could easily pick up some toiletries when you get to your location.

What Ice Packs Are TSA Approved For Exempted Liquids?

The TSA liquids limits do not apply to a few specific goods. The TSA permits breast milk, infant formula, and beverages in portions larger than 3.4 oz on board.

Travelers should place them in a screening bin at the checkpoint. The TSA may wish to open and examine these items further to ensure they are what you claim before allowing them through security.

Travelers do not need to have their gel packs or ice packs frozen solid at the checkpoint if they carry them to chill breast milk or infant formula.

Medically essential liquids are the other key exception to the TSA liquids restriction. The TSA defines medically necessary liquids as those needed to manage a medical condition while on the plane.

These are usually prescription medications, but some over-the-counter medications may also qualify. Medically essential ice packs do not have to be placed in a quart bag and are allowed regardless of their physical state.

The TSA states: Note that acceptable amounts of medically necessary gel ice packs are permitted, whether or not breast milk is present, regardless of their state of matter (e.g., melted or slushy).

You’ll need a doctor’s note or prescription label indicating the necessary medication to bring medically essential packs on a plane. The name on the note or label must match the name on your boarding pass.

You can also bring ice packs to cool a wound, back pain, broken ankle, or sporting injuries. But these must be declared to the TSA officer at the checkpoint for additional inspection.

Can You Bring Ice Packs In A Carry-on Bag?

You can carry ice packs in a carry-on bag, but you may need to place them in the bin for X-ray screening. If your ice pack is completely frozen when you reach security, it can stay in your carry-on bag.

But if the ice pack partially melts and has any liquid at the bottom of the container, the TSA treats it as a liquid. A traveler must follow the 3.4-ounce rule for liquids, gels, pastes, creams, and aerosols.

The traveler must place the ice pack in a quart-sized bag, and the traveler is limited to bringing one bag of liquids per person.

Can You Bring Ice Packs In Checked Luggage?

You can pack ice packs in a checked bag, but the TSA recommends that you put them in a cooler. That way, if your ice packs melt during transit, they will not cause a mess in your luggage.

Regular ice packs have no quantity limits in checked bags. However, if you bring a dry ice pack, there are special rules you must follow.

Therefore, packing ice packs in your checked luggage is a terrific idea if you need to keep something cold but don’t require immediate access to it during the flight. In checked baggage, you can use larger ice packs or gels that stay cold for longer.

Also, if you carry ice packs for your destination, such as for a picnic, you can pack them in your checked luggage. Just ensure they are frozen solid when you leave so they don’t melt and turn into a liquid during transit.

Can You Take Instant Cold Ice Packs On A Plane?

The TSA allows travelers to bring instant ice packs on a plane for medical purposes such as sports injuries.

People using instant cold/ice packs can keep them at room temperature, and their temperature lowers significantly by snapping them.

Instant ice packs contain ammonium nitrate (a hazardous substance) and require the user to apply force to activate them. 

Travelers can transport them in carry-on or checked luggage. However, it’s crucial to remember that instant ice packs contain liquid (water) inside, which means they can fall under the 3-1-1 liquid guideline mentioned above when you pack them in a carry-on bag.

That means that the liquid within the cold pack must be 34 ounces (100 mL) or less to get past airport security and board the plane. When passing through security, you might also need to put them inside your 1-quart see-through, sealable bag.

There are size or weight restrictions when you carry instant ice packs in checked luggage.

Quantity restrictions: In addition to, not in place of, the quantity restrictions for pharmaceutical and personal care items and the total aggregate amount per person cannot be greater than 2 kg (70 ounces) or 2 L. (68 fluid ounces).

Each container may hold no more than 0.5 kilogram (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces) of product. However, travelers should always check with their airline to see if they have additional restrictions on bringing ice packs.

Do All Airlines Allow Travelers To Bring Ice Packs On A Plane?

Generally speaking, it makes no difference whether you’re traveling with Southwest, United, Delta, American Airlines, or any other national or local airline. Reason; because all airlines follow the TSA’s lead on what you can and cannot bring on a plane.

But, as we’ve seen, some airlines have different policies regarding bringing ice packs in checked luggage. So it’s always crucial to check with your airline before packing any ice packs in your luggage.