For many, it’s Thanksgiving weekend that marks the beginning of the holiday season. That first taste of turkey dinner and pumpkin pie with the family whets the appetite for the holidays. And the abundance of leftovers is a great way to keep the celebration going until the December holidays.
Whether you’re hoping to share your special gravy recipe with friends across the country or you know your parents are going to insist you bring back enough Thanksgiving leftovers to stock your fridge until the December holidays, there are specific rules and regulations you’ll want to keep in mind before checking in for your flight.
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to navigate what you can and cannot bring with you when traveling through the airport. Most Thanksgiving leftovers get the green light from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). But if you’re unsure about taking anything through security, you should consider packing it safely in your checked luggage rather than in your carry-on bag. Here’s what you need to know about traveling with those Thanksgiving leftovers.
The million-dollar question: Can you bring leftover turkey in your carry-on bag? Thankfully, the TSA allows for unlimited cooked meat to be transported in carry-on bags as well as in checked bags. Note that TSA officers might ask you to remove the leftover turkey from your bag if it obstructs other items in the X-ray machine.
Mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables
Mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables are allowed in both your carry-on bag and your checked luggage as long as they’re separated from any sauces or stews. If you do have liquid in your veggies, you’ll want to ensure it’s less than or equal to 3.4 ounces.
If you happen to have fresh vegetables or crudités in your leftovers, you’ll want to be a little more careful. Travelers flying from Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands to the US mainland will not be permitted to bring most fresh vegetables due to the risk of spreading invasive plant pests.
Many families have their own special gravy recipe, which is why it’s such a vital part of Thanksgiving leftovers. Unfortunately, you’ll only be permitted to bring gravy and other liquids like cranberry sauce or dressing if they’re less than or equal to 3.4 ounces, taking note of the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. Note that larger portions can be packed in your checked luggage if desired.
Pumpkin pie — as well as other dry cakes and desserts — are permitted in both your carry-on bag and in your checked luggage. On the other hand, whipped cream will need to follow the 3-1-1 rule and be less than or equal to 3.4 ounces.
Wine and other alcoholic beverages with less than 70% alcohol by volume are allowed in checked luggage in limited quantities (up to 1.3 gallons per passenger) and must be unopened and in original retail packaging. Note that mini bottles of wine or alcohol are permitted in carry-on luggage as long as they fit into a single quart-sized bag.
Frozen ice packs
If you’re traveling across the country with Thanksgiving leftovers, it only makes sense that you’ll want to keep them fresh in transit. Frozen ice packs are allowed through security as long as they are frozen solid at the time of the security screening. If your ice pack is even partially melted or slushy, it won’t pass inspection.
The best packaging containers for easy travel
Understanding the rules and regulations of traveling with leftovers is one thing, but you’ll also want to ensure all that good stuff is properly sealed and won’t leak in your luggage. We’ve pulled together some of the best reusable containers to ensure your leftovers arrive safe and sound.
Pyrex Simply Store Meal Prep Glass Food Storage Containers ($33.92, originally $43.99; amazon.com)
This multiuse food storage container set is a game changer for traveling with leftovers. Not only is it completely see-through and easy for TSA officers to instantly see what you’ve packed, but it’s also crafted from high-quality glass and BPA-free plastic.
Rubbermaid Brilliance Storage ($29.99; amazon.com)
If you’re planning on bringing back a fair bit of leftovers or you’re hoping to check most of the goods in your suitcase, you might want to consider something with an additional snap closure. The Rubbermaid Brilliance Storage offers a 100% leakproof design that’s both BPA-free and dishwasher-safe too.
Stasher Platinum Silicone Food Grade Reusable Storage Bag ($12.99; amazon.com)
You don’t need a cupboard full of reusable containers if all you’re planning on packing is a couple of turkey sandwiches for the road. Think of the Stasher storage bag as a more eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to a single-use Ziploc-style plastic bag.
Rubbermaid TakeAlongs Twist & Seal Food Storage Containers ($6.99; amazon.com)
This “twist and seal” food storage solution from Rubbermaid is a great option for everything from small snacks and veggies to sauces and gravies. The leakproof design mimics that of a childproof medicine bottle and won’t come loose or open up in your bag.
Sweet Creations Pie Carrier ($17.95; amazon.com)
What would Thanksgiving leftovers be without a healthy serving of pumpkin pie? This pie carrier by Sweet Creations is large enough to fit an entire small pie, and the locking system allows for easy transport through the airport and beyond.
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