The Unexpected Rule For Getting Through TSA With Ice

Since the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) instituted the 3-1-1- rule in 2006, we've all been packing our carry-on liquids in little bottles that are no more than 3.4 ounces each in a plastic bag. Companies sell toiletries in TSA-approved sizes and we've gotten used to leaving our favorite ones home as checked luggage fees continue to climb.


While the rules for many products are cut-and-dry in terms of what we can bring through TSA, it begs the question: What about ice? That's not technically a liquid, at least temporarily. As it turns out, you can bring it through the security line, but it must be completely frozen when you go through. 

There is a bit more to it, though, like how you can bring it, whether dry ice falls into this category, and a few other things you should know before you travel. What about frozen food? How much can you take? We've got the answers for you.

Everything you need to know about bringing ice through security

While you can grab a drink with ice once you're through security (and you should because ordering ice in your drink on a plane is a stomach ache waiting to happen), the rules around ice may be confusing. It's a solid until it warms up, and then it's a liquid, and you don't know when it will change over. Fortunately, the TSA website is actually really helpful with a list of what you can and cannot bring and in which bags you can bring it. 


One reason you might need ice is when you're traveling with food that is perishable like meat or seafood (which are allowed in carry-on bags). As we said, the ice you're bringing, whether it's in cube form or ice packs inside a cooler, must be completely frozen. There cannot be any liquid at the bottom of the container. 

It may, of course, melt a bit on the plane, so we recommend an ice pack in plastic like the ones in the picture above if possible. That way, when it does inevitably melt, it's contained. Just make sure those packs are frozen again for your return trip. In the case of dry ice, you can pack perishables in it in your carry-on or checked bag as well. However, it must be, as the TSA says, "properly packaged (the package is vented) and marked." You are limited to 5 pounds of dry ice, however.