Can You Carry Empty Water Bottle on a Plane?

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With so many rules imposed on liquids and vessels containing liquids, it would not be wrong to ask yourself: “Can you carry empty water bottles on a plane?” 

If you are in a hurry and do not have the time to read through this complete article (which we suggest you do), here is a quick answer for you: Yes, you can carry an empty water bottle on a plane

Now, before we move on with the article, let us first understand the TSA’s liquids rule, which shall constantly be brought up in this article.

TSA Liquids Rule

TSA has a 3-1-1 rule when it comes to carrying liquids as carry-on or in the hand luggage. The rule states that you can only carry 3.4 ounces (or less) of liquid in the same (100 ml) containers. 

All containers of liquid (including aerosol, gels, toothpaste, etc.) should all be kept inside one clear quart-sized bag of about 0.94 liters. The last 1 from the 3-1-1 liquids rule denotes that each passenger is allowed to carry only one quart-bag with them. 

Can you carry an empty water bottle on a plane?

Yes, you can for sure carry an empty water bottle on a plane. Empty water-holding vessels are not only allowed through security but also ON THE PLANE. For example, if you are carrying an empty water bottle, you will surely be given a green signal by the security to pass to the other end of the checkpoint. 

Next, if you choose to keep the bottle empty, even when you are boarding the flight, you are free to do so, which means you can bring an empty water bottle on a plane (literally).

However, can you only carry certain types of bottles while abandoning the others at home? Let’s look at more about that in sections:

  • Plastic Water Bottle: You can always bring an empty plastic water bottle with you on a plane. Irrespective of the size, as long as it is empty, it shall be allowed on the plane.
  • Hydrolyzed Flask: Yes, you are allowed to bring hydrolyzed flasks with you on the plane and through the security checkpoint. The security officials will scan your bottle and most likely allow it to pass through the screening.
  • Glass Bottle: Yes, glass bottles and glass vessels meant to hold water and other fluid are allowed on the plane and through the security checkpoint, as long as they can fit the cabin-hold comfortably.
  • Glass Pistol Jar: A glass pistol jar resembles a pistol with gun prints, used as a vessel for holding water. Unfortunately, you can not carry any weapon-resembling object as a carry-on with you, which includes the glass pistol jar, even if it is empty. On the other hand, you can carry it in the checked-in luggage; however, make sure it is properly packed.

Can you bring a filled water bottle on a plane?

It’s clear so far that the TSA is more than happy to let you through when you bring an empty water bottle on a plane. How about the filled ones?

If you are stowing it in the checked-in luggage, you shall have no problem since the TSA’s liquids rule is not applicable to liquids being carried in the checked-in luggage.

But, what about carry-ons or hand luggage? The answer is, it depends. If you look at it one way, you can bring a filled water bottle on a plane, and other times you can not. 

When are you allowed to bring a filled water bottle on a plane?

If you have a sealed water bottle (the key term being ‘sealed’) that is about 3.4 oz. or 100 ml, you can bring it with you through security and not have it tossed away unluckily. As it should be clear by now, you are allowed to bring a filled water bottle on a plane ONLY if it is sealed and does not size over 100 ml or 3.4 oz.

When passing through the security checkpoint, you will be required to keep this sealed water bottle in a clear ziplock bag or transparent bag that does not size over 1 liter.

When are you NOT allowed to bring a filled water bottle on a plane?

In simple terms, you will be asked to discard or toss away any sort of liquid, including water, from a filled water bottle if it is not sealed and is over 100 ml in size. 

If you are carrying a reusable water bottle (irrespective of its holding capacity), thinking that filling it to only 100 ml before passing through security will likely not get you in trouble, you are wrong.

As long as the vessel, be it a water bottle, a mug, a cup, etc., is reusable, you will have to discard the liquid before passing through security, meaning that the filled water should be emptied before it is given a green check by the security. 

Once you have passed security, you can fill your water bottle to the brim and carry it on the plane, and no one will bat an eye over the same.

The Workaround

Although the TSA does not mention anything about bottled solids passing through security on their official information handle, many travelers have asked if they could freeze the water in the bottle and bring it through the security as carry-on, without the liquids rule applying to them.

The answer is, you can bring water past the security checkpoint, freezing it completely, and then you do not have to worry about the hassle of abiding by the TSA’s liquid rules. However, this is a viable option only if you live ‘real close’ to the airport and you can get the frozen water through security before it is half-melted or mushy. 

If it does get semi-solid, it will be considered a liquid and probably be tossed away if it does not meet the TSA’s liquids rule.

Can I Carry A Travel Mug/Cup On A Plane?

Okay, so far, we have covered water bottles, but what about mugs and cups (especially travel mugs)?

It would not be hard to guess the answer when it comes to ‘travel’ mugs. It’s right in the name – they are meant for traveling. What’s the use of buying these insulated, portable mugs if you can not bring them with you on a plane when you may need them the most? 

The good news is: Yes, you can carry travel mugs on a plane, both as carry-on and as a part of the checked-in luggage. The condition imposed is that it must be empty when passing through the security checkpoint, and you can later fill it with water (or other beverage) from the airport’s water dispenser or the duty-free shop after you have passed security.

If you are holding a mug filled with any liquid while being scrutinized by the security, you will be asked to discard it (the liquid, of course, not the mug) before you can be allowed on the other side of the security checkpoint. 

To be upfront, there have been some isolated instances where the TSA officials have confiscated travel mugs and prohibited the traveler from carrying them with them. As far as we could say, the TSA officials conducting the security search were probably either just overeager or wanted the cup for themselves. The information available on TSA’s official website nowhere says that you can not bring your travel mugs with you.

Another thing worth mentioning is that if you are carrying some hot beverage such as hot chocolate or coffee with you on the plane in your travel mug (after passing the security checkpoint, obviously), the airline may not allow it.

However, this is at the discretion of the airline you are traveling with, and the TSA has nothing to do with it. Again, the incidents are a handful, and it is best to check with your airline if you could carry hot beverages in your travel mug with you on the plane or not.

Can you bring Yeti cups on a plane?

You can carry Yeti cups, amongst other kinds of insulated stainless steel cups, on a plane with you. 

These vessels are allowed in both hand luggage well as checked-in luggage. Make sure that the Yeti cup or any other cup you are carrying is empty when you are passing through security. 

Similar to how it is for empty water bottles, you can later fill your Yeti cup with water from the other side of the security checkpoint once the security officials have scrutinized your luggage.

Why is the TSA so strict about carrying water bottles on a plane?

Sometimes, more than tedious, it is absolutely grating to abide by the set of rules imposed by the TSA on the carrying of liquids and bottles (water bottles, in this context). We all know it is nowhere near convenient, but is it unreasonable and incoherent on the part of the TSA?

No. It’s not. In fact, the TSA did not always have the rule to carry empty water bottles, or the 3-1-1 liquids rule from the beginning of time. The ban of carrying more than 3 ounces of liquid through security to carrying empty water bottles all seem to have stemmed from Operation Overt that exposed how an individual associated with a terrorist group had bought a container of ‘orange liquid’ on the plane that was supposed to blow up while in air. 

Ever since, the directive was put into place by the TSA, way back in 2006. Now, if you are wondering that 2006 was a long time back, it is worth noting that Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, ISIS, and other terrorist cults have always targeted aviation for attacks, and the TSA believes it is better to be safe than sorry.

So, why does SA allow a little over 3 oz? (or approximately 100 ml) of liquid (water, in this context) through the security? According to the TSA, limiting the quantity of the liquid apart from the size of the container (so that it can fit inside the quart-size bag) prevents a ‘critical diameter’ from blowing anything up. After all, the size of the container preludes the carrying of potentially explosive liquid from being taken on the plane.

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Author - Willa Carson
Happywayfarer author Willa Carson
Hi, I'm Willa Carson, a passionate traveler who has been exploring the world for 7 years. Whether it's trekking through the Himalayas, exploring ancient ruins in South America, or simply savoring a cup of coffee at a local cafe, I believe that travel has the power to enrich our lives in countless ways. So join me on my journey and let's discover the world together!
Read more about me here.

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