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Liquids in hand luggage: What can you carry?

Here’s a no-nonsense guide to what liquids you can carry in your hand luggage when flying to and from UK airports

Picture the scene. With the steely precision of a NASA scientist you’ve cut your capsule wardrobe down to minimum requirements, folded and rolled your lightest essentials, downloaded your boarding card – and actually made it to the airport the recommended two hours early… then you arrive at security.

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1. What liquids are restricted on flights to and from the UK?

All drinks: including water
Liquid or semi-liquid foods: including soup, jam, honey and syrups
Cosmetics and toiletries: including creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara and lip gloss
Sprays: including shaving foam, hairspray and spray deodorants
Pastes: including toothpaste
Gels: including hair and shower gel
Contact lens solution: including other solutions and items of similar consistency

If you do want to take any of these liquids in your hand luggage you need to make sure of a few things:

– You must take no more than 100ml of any liquid on a flight
– Liquids must be placed into individual 100ml containers – larger containers, even if only partly full, are not usually accepted at security
– All 100ml containers must fit into a clear, plastic bag no bigger than 20cm x 20cm
– Only one plastic bag is allowed per passenger
– The bag has to be able to close and be sealed – overstuffed plastic bags will not be accepted and you can’t tie or knot the top of the bag
– The maximum amount of liquid in total that you can carry onto a flight is one litre
– Bags must be taken out of your hand luggage and shown at airport security

Good to know: If you’re worried your plastic bag isn’t up to scratch, most UK airports have correctly-sized ones available at security, although some might charge you 20p for one.

Packing hack: buy a few cheap essentials at the airport once you’ve passed through security and save your space for the pricey cosmetics that you can’t live without. You can wave goodbye to a half-empty bottle of shower gel at the end of your trip but you’re not going to want to chuck out your favourite moisturiser.

Packing hack: Keep your holiday make up simple with minimal products. Don’t forget, lip gloss and mascara count as liquids!

Packing hack: purchase some reusable 100ml travel containers and fill them with your favourite products at home before you travel.

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2. What are the rules on duty-free liquids in hand luggage?

If you were planning to stock up on some alcohol or perfume in the duty-free, don’t panic! Any liquids bought at the airport or on the plane are allowed in your carry-on luggage, even if over 100ml. However, you’re not allowed to swig from your bottle of vodka during the flight as all items should remain unopened and sealed in an airport security bag with a visible receipt. But watch out if you’re transferring onto another flight in a different country, as even sealed duty-free bags may be screened again and subject to that country’s security rules on liquids.

Don’t forget: if you’re on the outward leg of your journey don’t buy anything you will need to fly home with. You may polish off that bottle of gin on your holiday but better get that special perfume when you’re homeward bound.

3. Can I take medication in my hand luggage?

If you need to take essential medicines or topical skin creams with you when you travel, you don’t have to manage without them during the flight. Providing you have a note from your doctor explaining why you need them or a current prescription, they can stay with you in your hand luggage, and can be larger than 100ml. Don’t forget to show them to security staff when you go through as they might need to open the containers to screen the liquids. 

Good to know: Make sure you leave plenty of time for your doctor to write a note as it can sometimes take a few weeks and might incur a cost.

The following table outlines what medicines and medical equipment are allowed in your hand and/or hold luggage:

Luggage restrictions on medication
ItemIs it allowed on board?Is it allowed in the hold?
Tablets and capsulesYesYes
Liquid medicinesYes – if over 100ml must be screened successfullyYes
Hypodermic syringesYesYes
InhalersYesYes
Cooling gel packsYes – if screened successfullyYes
Medical equipment including CPAP and TENS machinesYesYes

4. What about baby food and milk?

Travelling with a young baby or infant can be stressful enough without having to worry about what you can and can’t take onboard with you. So, it’s good to know you can bring as much baby milk, sterilised water, and food as you need for the journey, which can be more than 100ml. As with other liquids you’ll need to show these items to security. You can also carry breast milk in your hand luggage even if you’re not travelling with a baby but you can’t carry frozen breast milk. Individual containers of breast milk must hold no more than 2,000ml and each container will need to be screened at the security point.

Good to know: You might be asked to taste your baby’s water or milk by security staff so be prepared to glug down some formula!

Luggage restrictions on baby milk and food

ItemIs it allowed on board?Is it allowed in the hold?
Breast milkYesYes
Frozen breast milkNoYes
Soya, formula and cow’s milkYes (baby must be present)Yes
Sterilised waterYes (but must be in a baby bottle and baby must be present)Yes
Baby foodYes (baby must be present)Yes

These are just some of the more normal itemsfind out what more unusual things you aren’t allowed on a flight.

5. Can I take food on board the flight in my hand luggage?

If you don’t want to fork out on soggy airline food, you can take your own snacks on board. Solid foods like biscuits, fruit, and sandwiches aren’t restricted on flights, but the above liquid restrictions apply to liquid foods such as soup and jam. You’ll also need to declare any food that’s brought into the UK from outside the EU. You can find more detailed information about this on the gov.uk website.

Good to know: Some countries ban or restrict certain food items so it’s always best to check with your airline and destination country, including any airlines you may be transferring to during your flight.

Within the EUOutside the EU
At present, you can bring any food into the UK from another EU country.You can bring:    
• Up to 10kg of meat, potatoes or dairy products from Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland. You are not allowed to bring this type of food into the UK from any other country;
• Up to 2kg of fruit and vegetables for your own use or for family and friends. They must be carried in your personal baggage and be free from pests or diseases;
• Up to 2kg of eggs, egg products, and honey;
• Up to 20kg of fish or 1 whole fish (whichever is heavier).

Be warned: remember that honey counts as a liquid, so don’t be tempted to take a few jars home as a gift in your hand luggage. You’ll have to throw them away at the security check. Ditto lovely local wines – unless you’ve bought them in the duty-free shop.

6. Are lighters or e-cigarettes allowed on flights?

Yes, but you can only carry one lighter or e-cigarette on you when boarding a flight so don’t take your whole collection! Lighters and e-cigarettes are included in the liquids allowance outlined above, so that means you must be able to squeeze them in your resealable plastic bag to go through security, and then remove them to carry on you when you board the plane.

Good to know: Even though you are allowed to carry a lighter or e-cigarette on board, the days of being able to smoke on a flight are long gone so don’t even think about it!

Finally, we’ve put together some FAQ’s to answer some of the most popular queries:

FAQInformation
Can I take deodorant or aerosols in hand luggage?Aerosols and roll on deodorants are classed as liquids, so any containers larger than 100ml will need to go in your luggage in the hold. Containers smaller than 100ml are accepted if in a clear plastic bag.
Can I take aftershave or perfume in hand luggage?If the bottle is less than 100ml, then yes, as long as it is in a clear plastic bag.
Can I take toothpaste in hand luggage?If the tube contains less than 100ml, then sure – just again, as long as it is in a clear plastic bag.
How many bags of liquids can I take?Passengers are limited to one plastic bag per person.
How many bottles can I take?There is no limit, but all bottles must fit within one plastic bag measuring 20cm x 20cm.

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Information correct as of 29th September 2018, obtained from https://www.gov.uk/hand-luggage-restrictions. Please always check the latest guidance at https://www.gov.uk/hand-luggage-restrictions before booking a trip

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