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Heading out on a trip soon and want to pack food or drinks in an insulated bag to keep cool? Wondering if you can bring an insulated bag on a plane or if it will get confiscated at airport security?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Yes, you can bring an insulated bag through airport security and onto flights. Insulated bags are permitted in carry-on luggage as long as they follow TSA liquid rules.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over TSA requirements for insulated bags, the types of insulated bags you can bring, what you can pack inside, as well as tips for breezing through security with your insulated bag.

TSA Requirements for Insulated Bags

Insulated Bags are Allowed

Good news for travelers who like to bring their own food on the plane – insulated bags are allowed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

These bags are designed to keep your food at the right temperature and prevent it from spoiling during your journey.

Whether you’re bringing a sandwich, salad, or even perishable items like yogurt or cheese, having an insulated bag can help ensure that your food stays fresh and tasty.

Must Follow 3-1-1 Liquid Rules

While insulated bags are allowed, it’s important to remember that they must still comply with the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquid rules.

This means that any liquids or gels you bring in your bag must be in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less and all containers must be placed in a clear, quart-sized bag.

This includes items like salad dressings, sauces, or even small containers of milk. By following these rules, you can avoid any delays or issues at the security checkpoint.

Food Items May Need Additional Screening

In some cases, food items in insulated bags may require additional screening.

The TSA has the authority to inspect any items that may appear suspicious during the screening process.

This could include opening your insulated bag and conducting further inspection of its contents.

While this may be a minor inconvenience, it’s important to remember that the TSA’s main priority is to ensure the safety of all passengers.

Types of Insulated Bags You Can Bring

Soft-Sided Lunch Bags

Soft-sided lunch bags are a popular choice for travelers who want to bring their own food on a plane.

These bags are typically made of lightweight materials such as nylon or polyester, with an insulated lining to help keep food and beverages at the desired temperature.

They come in various sizes and styles, ranging from small lunch totes to larger bags that can fit multiple meals.

Soft-sided lunch bags are generally allowed on planes as carry-on items, as long as they meet the airline’s size and weight restrictions.

Hard-Sided Coolers

If you’re planning to bring larger quantities of perishable items or need to keep food and drinks cold for an extended period, a hard-sided cooler might be the right choice for you.

These coolers are made of durable materials such as plastic or metal and feature insulation to maintain the desired temperature.

While hard-sided coolers are not typically allowed as carry-on items due to their size, they can be checked in as luggage. It’s important to check with your airline beforehand to ensure that your cooler meets their specific requirements.

Thermoses and Water Bottles

Thermoses and water bottles with insulation are great options for carrying hot or cold beverages.

These containers are designed to keep liquids at the desired temperature for an extended period, making them ideal for long flights.

They come in various sizes and designs, including options with built-in handles or cups. Thermoses and water bottles are generally allowed on planes as carry-on items, as long as they are empty when going through security.

Once you’re past security, you can fill them up with your favorite beverage to enjoy during the flight.

Wine and Beverage Bags

For those who enjoy indulging in a glass of wine or other beverages while traveling, there are insulated bags specifically designed to transport bottles.

These bags have padded compartments to protect the bottles from breaking and insulation to maintain the temperature of the liquid.

Some wine and beverage bags even come with additional accessories such as corkscrews or wine stoppers.

It’s important to note that alcoholic beverages brought on a plane must comply with the airline’s regulations and restrictions.

Check with your airline to ensure that you can bring alcohol on board and if there are any limitations on the quantity.

When choosing an insulated bag to bring on a plane, it’s essential to consider the specific airline’s rules and regulations. Each airline may have different size and weight restrictions for carry-on and checked luggage.

It’s also important to ensure that the bag is leak-proof and secure to prevent any spills or accidents during the flight.

By choosing the right type of insulated bag for your needs and complying with the airline’s guidelines, you can enjoy your favorite food and beverages while traveling.

What You Can Pack in an Insulated Bag

Perishable Foods and Snacks

If you’re someone who loves to bring your own snacks and meals on a plane, you’ll be glad to know that you can pack perishable foods and snacks in an insulated bag. This is especially useful for those with dietary restrictions or preferences.

Whether you have a homemade sandwich, fresh fruits, or cheese and crackers, an insulated bag will help keep your food at a safe temperature during the flight.

Just make sure to check with the airline’s guidelines regarding the specific types of foods that are allowed.


Bringing your own beverages on a plane can save you money and ensure that you have your preferred drink during the flight. You can pack drinks such as water bottles, juice boxes, or even cans of soda in your insulated bag.

However, it’s important to note that there are restrictions on the amount of liquids you can bring through airport security.

Make sure to check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines for the latest information on liquids allowed in carry-on bags.

Ice Packs

If you’re concerned about your perishable items staying cool during your flight, you can also pack ice packs in your insulated bag.

These can help maintain a lower temperature inside the bag and ensure that your food and beverages stay fresh.

It’s important to note that gel packs are generally preferred over ice packs, as they are less likely to leak or cause a mess. Check with the airline or TSA for any specific guidelines regarding ice packs.


Insulated bags can also be used to store toiletries that may need to be kept at a certain temperature. For example, if you have medications that require refrigeration, you can pack them in an insulated bag with ice packs to ensure they stay cool.

This can be especially important for individuals with medical conditions or those traveling with infants who may need specific temperature-controlled items.

Remember to check with the airline and TSA for any restrictions on carrying these items on board.

It’s always a good idea to double-check the specific guidelines of the airline you’re flying with and the TSA before packing your insulated bag.

While most airlines allow insulated bags, there may be certain restrictions or requirements based on the type of bag or its contents.

By being well-informed, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free travel experience with your insulated bag.

Tips for Going Through Airport Security

Have Bag Ready for Screening

When going through airport security, it’s important to have your bag ready for screening. This means removing any electronics, such as laptops and tablets, from your bag and placing them in a separate bin.

Additionally, make sure to remove any metal items, such as belts or jewelry, that may trigger the metal detector. By having your bag ready, you can help speed up the screening process and ensure a smoother experience.

Separate Liquids Over 3.4 oz

One of the most important tips for going through airport security is to separate any liquids over 3.4 ounces.

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines, all liquids, gels, and aerosols in your carry-on bag must be in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less.

These containers should be placed in a clear, quart-sized bag and presented separately during the screening process. By following this rule, you can avoid any delays or issues at the security checkpoint.

Expect Additional Screening

It’s important to be prepared for the possibility of additional screening when going through airport security. This can include a more thorough pat-down, additional bag checks, or even a full-body scanner.

While it may be an inconvenience, it’s important to remember that these measures are in place to ensure the safety of all passengers.

By expecting and cooperating with any additional screening procedures, you can help make the process smoother for both yourself and the security personnel.

Alternatives If You Can’t Bring an Insulated Bag

While bringing an insulated bag on a plane can be convenient for keeping your food and drinks at the desired temperature, there may be instances where you are unable to bring one with you.

Whether it’s due to airline restrictions or simply not having one available, there are alternative options that can help you still enjoy your trip without compromising the freshness of your perishable items.

Ship Insulated Bag Ahead of Time

If you absolutely need to have your insulated bag with you during your trip, but it’s not allowed on the plane, consider shipping it ahead of time to your destination.

This way, you can be sure that your bag will be waiting for you upon arrival.

Many shipping services offer options for refrigerated or insulated shipping, ensuring that your bag and its contents will remain at the appropriate temperature throughout the journey.

Pro Tip: Be sure to check with your airline and the shipping service for any specific guidelines or restrictions before sending your insulated bag.

Use Airport Insulated Bags After Security

Once you pass through security at the airport, you may have the option to purchase or borrow an insulated bag from one of the airport shops or lounges.

These bags are designed to keep your food and drinks cool or warm for a short period of time, making them a great alternative if you can’t bring your own insulated bag on the plane.

Check with the airport staff or explore the shops in the terminal to see if this option is available.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that these airport insulated bags may have limited space, so plan accordingly and prioritize the items you absolutely need to keep at a certain temperature.

Pack Food That Doesn’t Need Refrigeration

If bringing perishable items is not a necessity for your trip, consider packing food that doesn’t require refrigeration.

This can include non-perishable snacks like granola bars, dried fruit, or nuts, as well as sandwiches or meals that can be safely consumed at room temperature.

By opting for non-refrigerated food options, you can still enjoy a variety of tasty treats without the need for an insulated bag.

Pro Tip: For a more sustainable option, choose reusable containers and wraps for your non-perishable food items. This not only reduces waste but also keeps your food fresh and protected during your journey.


With proper preparation and understanding of TSA requirements, you can easily bring an insulated bag with food, drinks, and other items in it through airport security.

By following the tips in this guide, you’ll breeze through screening and be able to keep your items cool and delicious on your upcoming flight.

Now that you know the rules, start planning what tasty treats to pack in your insulated bag for your next trip!

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