Does Security Check Carry-On Bags?

Traveling can be stressful and fun, but it can be quite a hassle when security requires checking the bags. It can be troublesome and it takes a lot of time, which is why a lot of people wonder if carry-on bags are also checked. Fortunately, we've researched this topic and got the answers for you.

For all flights, security will check all bags, including carry-ons and checked luggage. Carry-on bags are subject to inspection due to many policies, including carrying liquids on board, luggage size, and other carry-on restrictions.

Flying with just your carry-on should be easy, even if the TSA searches your belongings. Keep reading because, in this post, we will be talking about the common items you can and cannot bring on board. We'll also give some suggestions on how you can prevent the hassle of getting flagged during an inspection.

A traveler waiting for x-ray control his luggage, Does Security Check Carry-On Bags?

Will TSA Search Your Carry On?

Traveling: everything about it sounds fun, from discovering new sights to enjoying new food. However, to be able to travel, packing is a task everyone does. Most people pack checked bags but some travelers prefer to bring carry-ons.

Along with traveling comes the hassle of laying everything out for security to check the things you will be bringing on board. Due to multiple airline and safety policies, inspections are important to keep everyone safe during their travels. These inspections include all bags, both checked and carry-on bags.

Airport security check containers with personal belongings of passengers

When you enter the airport for boarding, bags are thoroughly checked through x-ray machines to see if there are prohibited items that are packed inside. The TSA has created a list of all the items you can or cannot bring on board, both for checked luggage and carry-on bags.

However, carry-on bags are more strictly searched because certain policies must be followed. Before you travel with your carry-on, you should be aware of different airline policies as well as the items that can be hand-carried during the flight.

TSA screens carry-on bags regularly. Here are some of the things you should expect before you board your flight.


You should remove electronics that are bigger than a cell phone from the carry-on and place them into the bin for x-ray screening. Security may ask to check all other electronic devices like game consoles, e-book readers, tablets, and laptops to be checked separately.

Make this easy by placing these items in an easy-to-reach location in your carry-on bag. Keep things organized by keeping all your electronics together to prevent the hassle of taking them out one by one at the checkpoint.


You're allowed most food items in your carry-on bags, like snacks, granola bars, or sandwiches. However, security might check certain items because of the liquids and gels restrictions. There are also exceptions for other nourishment items like breastmilk, juice, and other food for children and babies.

Personal Items

Whenever you pack your carry-on bags, make sure to check your airline restrictions for the things that are allowed on board. Also remember to follow the TSA's 3-1-1 liquids rule, which often causes problems and issues with travelers if they are not followed.

Certain travel and security restrictions are always changed due to different situations. Always make sure to check and look out for new announcements regarding travel security changes to prevent hassle when you go to the airport.

What Items Will TSA Typically Flag From My Bag?

Man holding passport waiting for his bag on x-ray control

While checked luggage generally has more freedom with the items you can pack and bring, carry-on bags have more restrictions and travelers have to adhere to them. Certain items are not allowed in carry-on bags, while there might be some size and weight restrictions for other items.

The TSA regularly updates its website on the items that are prohibited during the flight. Most items can be allowed on board, but it can be a hassle because of the extra security check. However, we've listed down some of the most common items that are flagged during an inspection.

1. Excess Liquid

If you are a frequent traveler, you are probably aware of the TSA's 3-1-1 liquids rule by now. A lot of people have already mastered packing their toiletries to fit this rule, but there are some who are still caught unaware.

If you carry liquids, gels, or aerosols that are more than 3.4 ounces, chances are your bag will be flagged at the checkpoint. It is also important to keep all these items in one quart-sized bag for easy checking.

This also includes liquid items that are inside big bottles, regardless if they do weigh less than 3.4 ounces. Security will always follow the volume that the container declares.

To prevent this from happening, transfer all your liquid and gel toiletries to smaller, travel-sized containers.

Try this TSA approved toiletries set from Amazon.

2. Undeclared Liquid Medication

While medication is exempted from the liquids rule, it is important that you declare carrying medication in your carry-on bag. Also, make sure to bring supporting documents with regards to these medically required items to prevent any hassles with security.

If you are bringing liquid medication with you, don't forget to let the TSA officer know about it. Keep all medication packed securely together to make checking and inspection hassle-free.

3. Wrapped Presents

Lavender gift box with a dark purple satin bow

Technically, you are allowed to bring gifts with you on board as long as it follows all the requirements and restrictions imposed on carry-on items. However, some TSA officers might prompt you to open your wrapped gifts for further inspection.

Prevent the hassle by simply carrying your gift unwrapped before your flight and simply wrap it when you get to the destination. This would make things a lot less difficult for you during travel, plus your gift will look even nicer because the wrapping won't be wrinkled since it is newly wrapped.

4. Large Amounts of Cash

For travelers who are entering or leaving the U.S., you are required to declare any amount of money that is more than $10,000. If you are flying domestically, you can fly with an unlimited amount of cash (how lucky), but the TSA might require you to declare and account for it.

5. Coffee Beans

We know it's one of the best scents in the world, but carrying coffee beans in your carry-on can get you flagged down by the TSA. This is because coffee beans can mask the scent of other prohibited items like drugs.

Of course, you can bring those lovely coffee beans with you but take the hassle-free route and pack it in your checked bag or simply have it shipped.

6. Pocket Knives and Tools

Sharp objects like pocket knives, cutters, and other similar tools are not allowed inside carry-on bags for safety reasons. If you are the type of person who carries around nifty gadgets like these all the time, don't forget to unload and place them in your checked luggage to prevent hassles.

Tools are technically allowed in carry-on bags, however, they have to be shorter than 7 inches. If you are planning to bring your work tools and they are more than 7 inches in length, you should consider putting them in your checked bags.

7. Peanut Butter Jar

Jar of peanut butter and peanuts in a shell on brown wooden table

Food is generally allowed in carry-ons, but because of the 3-1-1 rule, some food items can get you flagged down by the TSA. This includes peanut butter because while it doesn't look like a liquid, the TSA considers it as one.

If you're planning to bring in your favorite peanut butter, make sure to put it in your checked luggage so you won't have to throw it out because it goes over the 3.4-ounce rule. If you're planning to just snack on it, don't forget to transfer it to an appropriately sized container.

8. Unapproved Luggage Locks

A lot of people think that as long as their bags are locked, they should be good to go. However, some TSA officers can flag you down if you are using unapproved luggage locks on your bags.

This is because TSA has worked with different lock manufacturers so that they can open bags with master keys if necessary.

If you are traveling, it would be a good idea to invest in TSA-approved luggage locks. These locks can be used in both your carry-on and checked luggage, and it will surely keep your belongings safe and secure.

Check out this TSA approved Master lock at Amazon.

Final Thought

Man holding passport and waiting for x-ray control his luggage

Make your travels a lot easier by making sure to check airline and TSA restrictions before packing your items. The TSA can be pretty strict when it comes to different items that you can bring on board your flight. Keep it hassle-free by adhering to the rules and you'll surely enjoy that vacation without getting stressed.