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Get the 411 on 3-1-1 Kits

Are you looking for the 411 on 3-1-1 kits? Airport security regulations are the stuff of quirky and peculiar legend and it pays to be prepared and organized – and never have your liquids confiscated again.

What’s a 3-1-1 Kit?

The term “3-1-1” kit refers to a TSA regulation dating back to the summer of 2006, when restrictions on carry-on liquids came into place in the United States, closely followed by most other jurisdictions. Travelers with carry on luggage are allowed to carry 1 transparent bag, no bigger than 1 quart, in which to carry their liquids in containers of 3 ounces of less. While you can only carry 1 bag and it must be 1 quart or less, there is no limit to the amount of little containers you can take – provided they fit in the bag and are under 3 ounces each.  If you’re checking your luggage, there are no restrictions on liquids (save the usual safety restrictions on such products as lighter fluid).

What’s A Liquid?

So what counts as a liquid? It’s harder to judge than you think! 3-1-1 kits are meant to cover all liquids, gels, and permitted aerosols and the best “test” is to ask yourself if the product can pour, spread, or spray, and does it hold its shape when it’s outside the container? Many seemingly non-liquid products – like peanut butter -are consider liquids as they are spreadable.

Happily, things that are simply wet or damp are NOT considered liquids, as they cannot be poured, spread, or sprayed. Damp bathing suits and cleansing wipes are safe, provided that they are not so wet they can be wrung out, producing a pool of liquid.


What’s An Exception?

Everyone has heard a horror story of a nursing mother having their own pumped breast milk confiscated by over zealous security agents but there has been considerable improvements in the rules and regulations since the liquid ban first hastily came into effect. According to the TSA:  Medically required liquids, such as baby formula and food, breast milk and medications are allowed in excess of 3 ounces in reasonable quantities for the flight. It is not necessary to place medically required liquids in a zip-top bag. However, you must tell the Transportation Security Officer that you have medically necessary liquids at the beginning of the screening checkpoint process. Medically required liquids will be subjected to additional screening that could include being asked to open the container.  We recommend, but do not require, that medication be labeled to facilitate the security process.

What’s a Girl To Do?

To maximize space in your 3-1-1 kit, consider the following tips. Choose non-liquid toiletries and make up. Select soap instead of body wash, cleansing cloths instead of face wash, solid foundation sticks and lipsticks over liquid foundation and glosses. Remember that common toiletry items, like shampoo, are provided in virtually every hotel in the world. Reputable hotels will be able to arrange in room delivery of your favourite toiletry products to your hotel room and have them waiting there for you upon arrival. And every major airport in the world will have a store in the post-security departures area that sells toiletries.

Increasingly, more airports are setting up water bottle refill stations to encourage environmental friendliness. Happily, this is reducing dependence on pricey bottle water that is sold in the post security convenience stores.

Why Bother With Carry On At All?

Wouldn’t it just be easier to toss all your regular toiletries and liquids in checked luggage and save yourself the hassle of 3-1-1 kits and carry-on liquid restrictions? Maybe – depending on your definition of hassle! For me, there is a sublime happiness in never waiting at a luggage carousel and never once worrying that I’ll be separated from my belongings during a trip. I’d rather do a mid-trip load of laundry or pay a little extra to buy some more shampoo than give up my precious carry-on only policy.

I’m hoping all your travels are smooth sailing, no matter how you pack and where you go!

Photo credit Vanessa Chiasson

Vanessa Chiasson is an ocean loving Maritimer now settled as a professional travel blogger, freelance writer, and social media strategist in Ottawa. Her diverse travels include the coffee farms of Hawaii, the national parks of Malawi, and the streets of Paris - where she ran a marathon! Vanessa is the 2013 Norfolk County Travel Writer of the Year and was named on the White House's list of the top 100 most influential travel bloggers. You can read more about her adventures at TurnipseedTravel.com and follower her on Twitter @Turnipseeds

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  1. I don’t travel much, but this is good information to know! Interesting about the peanut butter, and wet bathing suits.

  2. We don’t fly much but I will have to remember this for the next time we do fly. Thanks for all the tips!

  3. I find the overpriced water bottles ridiculous, and would love to see more water fountains post-security in airports, particularly with filtered water!

    • I couldn’t agree more – I hate having to pay extra for overpriced water. I’m going to start tweeting my happiness to cities where the airports offer complimentary water!

  4. I fly quite a lot and do find it a hassle with these regulations. Unfortunately, I doubt that this would stop someone doing something terrible if they wanted to.

  5. I am on the other side of most folks here it seems! I dislike when other travellers pack on as much as they can over head, causing a competition for space. I find it annoying when people have to continually get up and down to get things from the over head.

  6. When flyin I am always stressing about this lol- great post & ideas! Loving the complimentary water standards that are starting too! Never heard of that before

  7. I remember traveling before all of these restrictions and it was so nice. Although the sizes are small you can always take a a couple of small bottles with your necessities and put your big bottles in your luggage


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