Susan Michelle's Compass
The Drag Of Carry-On
By Susan Michelle
May 27, 2009 - 7:36:49 PM

LOS ANGELES—I hate carry-on.  Sure, there are things I love about it: not waiting at check-in or baggage claim, never losing my luggage, traveling light, avoiding checked baggage fees.  But there’s one big negative to not checking my bags that outweighs all of the pros: the security restrictions.  

Ever since the shoe bomber incident of 2005, I’ve had to think way too much when I pack. Rather than throwing it all in my suitcase, I now have to be selective about my bottle sizes, liquids, creams and makeup.  I have to transfer these things from my makeup and toiletry cases into a clear, quart-sized bag, then switch contents around during my trip, then switch again when it’s time to come home.  I have to double-think souvenir gifts I buy on the road: Wine from Napa? Custom-scented lotion from Paris?  Can’t do it.  And that mere thought process about every little item when I’m packing, traveling and shopping is mind-numbing, time-consuming and, frankly, the entire reason why I, again, hate carry-on.

Despite the hassle, many of us still choose carry-on over checked bags.  And, therefore, staying current on all the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) rule changes is vital.  But, it’s also hard to keep up.  So, if you’re not so sure about what’s allowed in your carry-on, and what isn’t lately, here are some pointers.

Basic rule: 3-1-1. You should know this rule by now, but you might not know the nuances.  The 3 oz. limitation refers to the container, not the contents.  So, if your 12 oz. bottle of hairspray is only a quarter full, it’s still not allowed.

Some liquids are excluded from the rule.  If you’re traveling with a kid, their baby milk, formula, and/or juice are excluded.  Medications, prescription AND over-the counter, are also excluded.  So, you don’t have to squeeze your saline solution, eye drops, acne medication, lubricant, or Neosporin into your quart-sized bag too, but you are supposed to tell the security officer about them.

Gel shoe inserts, pocketknives and lighters WITH lighter fluid are not allowed.  Empty lighters, cuticle and nail clippers, corkscrews, ONE matchbook and knitting needles are allowed.  You no longer have to remove your laptop if it’s in one of those new “checkpoint friendly” laptop bags.  And, the TSA is now requesting you put your shoes directly on the conveyer belt instead of in a tray, but it is not yet a rule.

If you’re confused by all the rules, trust me, security officials are too.  Print out a copy of the TSA’s regulations from their Web site, and keep it in your carry-on just in case of any hassles.  Also do this for your checked luggage, in case you forego carry-on completely because checked bags have rules about contents too.

That said, I have noticed security officials are becoming a lot more lax about enforcing all the rules lately. Perhaps because there are rumors of dropping some of them altogether this year?  I, for one, am keeping my fingers crossed that that rumor becomes a new “rule.”

About the Author: A former Hollywood producer and now 2nd-generation travel professional, Susan Michelle travels the planet as the “face” of the fashion-forward Compass travel lifestyle brand. For more articles, tips, and hot spots from Susan write her directly at


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