Can You Take Reusable Water Bottles on a Plane?

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As society finally moves away from single-use plastic, more people are starting to think about buying a reusable water bottle, and what they can (and can't) do with it.

Having had my reusable bottle for some time now, one question I am often asked is can you take reusable water bottles on a plane?

The answer is yes you can - but with some exceptions.

  • All empty reusable water bottles are permitted on your person, or in your carry-on bag.
  • Full or part-filled water bottles must go in your checked bags unless they are less than 3.4oz.

In this article, I will explain the TSA liquid rule in full, explain why these rules apply, and give some tips if you are looking to bring a water bottle on your next flight.

TSA Regulations on Reusable Water Bottles

TSA security checkpoint

The Transportation security administration (TSA) has published a list of regulations known as the 3-1-1 rules, that dictate what you can and cannot take on a plane in your carry-on bag.

These rules are designed to limit the quantity of liquids, aerosols, pastes, or gels that can be taken through the airport security checkpoint by any single traveler.

The rules also apply to bottled water or any other beverage.

All liquids must be placed inside a transparent quart-sized bag which must be separated from your other belongings during security screening.

What You Can Take on a Plane

  • An empty water bottle of any size and type.
  • A full or part full stainless steel water bottle, or a plastic water bottle with a total capacity of not more than 100ml (3.4oz).

What You Can't Take on a Plane

  • Reusable or plastic water bottles with a capacity greater than 100ml (3.4oz), even if the bottle is only partially filled.

Exceptions to Rules for Bottles in Carry-On Baggage

Bottles containing the following are permitted on board an aircraft and may be carried through the security checkpoint even if they are over the 3.4oz limit:

  • Essential medications
  • Breast milk and Baby formula
  • Boiled or sterilized water
  • Containers carrying live fish (providing your airline permits them)

If you are carrying any of these in bottles or other liquid containers then they do not have to be placed in the same clear plastic bag as your other liquids.

Instead, they should be placed in a separate bag and you should let a member of the TSA security staff know that you are carrying them.

You will usually be directed to a separate line where these items can be scanned individually.

Refer to the latest TSA liquid rules for more information.

Tips for Travellers with a Reusable Water Bottle

refill reusable water bottles at a drinking fountain

  • You can buy a reusable water bottle from some duty-free or other airport stores, but they are usually much cheaper online. So get one before you travel!
  • If you fill your bottle at home for your journey to the airport, be sure to either drink or empty out the entire contents before you pass security.
  • Take only empty water bottles through the airport security line. You do not need to declare your empty bottle, just pack it inside your carry-on.
  • Fill your empty reusable water bottle at water fountains or coffee stands in the departure lounge area.
  • You may also be able to refill empty bottles in flight, but bear in mind that water on a plane is limited.

Do not be discouraged from bringing your reusable water bottle on a plane, and don't be tempted to fall back into buying single-use plastic. I've carried an empty water bottle through the security checkpoint several times and it really is not a problem.

Just follow these simple steps and you can enjoy a hassle-free and plastic-free flight.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you bring a stainless steel water bottle on a plane?

Yes, stainless steel water bottles are allowed on board any aircraft flying to or from the United States.

However, you will not be allowed to take your stainless steel bottle through security if it is full. The best thing to do is simply take an empty water bottle of any size through, which is permitted, and fill it on the air side of the security checkpoint.

Can you bring a glass water bottle on a plane?

Yes, it is permitted to take a glass bottle on a plane, there are no additional restrictions for particular water bottle materials.

The rules are the same for glass bottles as they are for plastic bottles or refillable bottles made from stainless steel or any other material.

What is the TSA liquid rule on reusable water bottles?

Anybody travelling on a flight to or from the US are subject to the 3-1-1 liquid rule. Why is it called the 3-1-1 rule? It's because you are permitted to carry:

  • 3.4 oz bottles or containers
  • in 1 quart-sized bag
  • 1 bag per passenger

Similar rules apply for most other countries including Canada, the UK, the EU, Australia, and Mexico.

For the purposes of this rule, any paste, gel, or aerosol is also counted as a liquid. Typically this covers all cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. But it also extends to any spreadable foodstuff such as peanut butter, and to bottled water.

The only exceptions to the rule are for essential medications, baby milk and formula, and water for carrying fish. If you wish to take any of these on board with you then you need to declare them to a TSA agent before you pass security so they can be screened separately.

The 3-1-1 liquids rule only applies to liquids in your carry on luggage. You can place any larger liquid containers in your checked bag without any restrictions.

Can you take water through airport security?

You can carry water through airport security, but subject to the 3-1-1 rule, you would only be able to carry a very small quantity. 3.4oz is not sufficient water to stay hydrated on a long flight.

That's why the recommended method is to bring an empty water bottle with you and fill it up from a water fountain in the departure lounge. Some coffee shops such as Starbucks will also let you fill up your water bottle for free if you make a purchase.

Can you take water in your checked bags?

Yes, you are allowed to bring a water bottle on a plane in your checked luggage and it can potentially be of any size.

However, bear in mind that water is quite heavy, and so this could affect your weight allowance. There also isn't a lot of point, as you can't drink water when it's in the luggage hold.

Why can't I bring water in my water bottle?

The restrictions on taking liquids past security have been in place since 2006, when intelligence agencies uncovered a terrorist plot to create an explosive device using a combination of liquids on board an aircraft.

As a result, all liquids were banned from flights, period. This was relaxed a month later and the current 3-1-1 rule was introduced, which has been in place ever since.

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Arabella Ruiz is a senior researcher at The Roundup. She lives in San Antonio, Texas and has been interested in the environment from an early age. Arabella loves to campaign for environmental causes and fundraise for charities that aim to preserve wildlife habitat, protect endangered species or help people with climate change problems.
Arabella Ruiz
Arabella Ruiz is a senior researcher at The Roundup. She lives in San Antonio, Texas and has been interested in the environment from an early age. Arabella loves to campaign for environmental causes and fundraise for charities that aim to preserve wildlife habitat, protect endangered species or help people with climate change problems.

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