An ounce of prevention?
January 14, 2007 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm flying to DC this week, and all of my travel sized containers are four ounces, not the 3 oz. specified in the TSA bulletin. I went shopping to try to find some more compliant containers, and everything I found was 4 oz. as well!!! The bottles are short, I'm only using 2 of them, and they easily fit into the quart-sized baggie. What are my chances, MeFi? Would I be courting trouble to use what I've got?

How irritating! I naturally want to avoid hassle at the airport, would really prefer not to have to check my luggage (got to get to my meeting on time), but also don't want to spend inordinate amounts of time scouring the landscape for smaller containers, either. Any recent first- or second-hand experiences both positive and negative with the slightly-out-of-bounds travel container appreciated. I'm flying out of a smaller midwest airport, if that matters. Alternatively, just tell me where you've found spout- or screw-top containers of the right size so I can quit the goose chase.
posted by shelbaroo to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you've got time to mail-order something, the 'Gotta go' travel kits are great -- see 'where to buy,' but also sold at Amazon. Largest bottles are c. 2oz.

If not, Crabtree & Evelyn trial-size sizes are 1.7oz. They stay closed, and fit in the above-mentioned kits.

Cheaper: the 'trial size' section of the drugstore.
posted by kmennie at 2:07 PM on January 14, 2007

go to the trial size section of the drugstore/grocery store.
Empty the contents and put your own stuff in.
Alternatively, The Container Store has a large selection of bottles.
posted by j at 2:14 PM on January 14, 2007

i think you could make it through
posted by sophist at 2:15 PM on January 14, 2007

Best answer: At the Vegas security checkpoint I had all of my bottles taken away that weren't 3 oz. I even had a nearly-empty bottle of hairspray that they took away because it wasn't from America & they couldn't figure out how to convert millileters to ounces. So yeah, I'd definitely just play it safe & get 3 oz. bottles.

Worst comes to worst, buy the very cheapest travel samples you can find, empty them & fill the bottles with your own stuff...
posted by miss lynnster at 2:16 PM on January 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Shelbaroo - A drug store, or just skip bringing anything and buy it at your destination.

Osmanthus - I never check bags unless I have to, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. While it is easy to schedule time for baggage claim, it is not easy to schedule time for lost luggage, misplaced luggage, someone taking your luggage, TSA going through your luggage (and the subsequent repack), or any other bad thing that might happen.
posted by bh at 2:59 PM on January 14, 2007

It might be easier to just buy the liquids you need on arrival.
(I can't fucking believe that we're reduced to such idiocy, but here we are)
posted by Flashman at 3:04 PM on January 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just an additional data point: I for some reason thought this ban was no longer in force and carried full-size toiletries between New York and Nashville in late December. I had no problem at either airport.
posted by lackutrol at 3:05 PM on January 14, 2007

I've flown out of a small airport in the Midwest twice in the last couple of months and they didn't look for liquids either time. So I'd say take them and if they get confiscated, buy new at your destination.
posted by MsMolly at 3:06 PM on January 14, 2007

Response by poster: Miss Lynster - Thanks for the first-hand experience - my post was intended first and foremost as an informal poll of the precision of scrutiny, so your response was helpful. Other direct experiences welcome.

And peep...get out of my head! That's just scary :-)
posted by shelbaroo at 3:09 PM on January 14, 2007

I just flew to Dulles last week. The entirety of my liquids was one small tube of toothpaste. I threw it in my toiletry bag and it went through security without a problem. They seem to be so crowded and overworked there that, unless you're bringing in two liter bottles of soda they probably won't notice.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:13 PM on January 14, 2007

Best answer: I haven't checked luggage since 9/11, and don't plan to ever if I can possibly help it.

I've hit sporadic and inconsistent enforcement of the carry-on liquids/gels regulations. This article in todays New York Times raises the spectre of taking the ridiculous to new heights- it seems some airport security agents are insisting that bottles have commercially printed labels- the small pack-your-own travel bottles aren't being let through. (Idiotic, but airport security is more theatre than substance, so not suprising.) Given that, if you are really attached to a particular brand of product, go get a trial size at the drugstore, empty it, and put your own stuff inside.
posted by ambrosia at 3:24 PM on January 14, 2007

Best answer: I know someone who regularly travels with 4oz containers and hasn't had a problem in four journeys in the last two months, but they didn't go to LAS, just DEN, DFW, FLL, and LGA.

Only for the final journey did they even bother with the plastic baggie nonsense. Previously, they just left the liquids in their carry-on.

Everyone knows what nonsense it is, so it's rarely enforced unless you're being blatant about it, apparently.

Osmanthus obviously doesn't fly much, not realizing how common it is for bags to be lost or delayed. The aforementioned friend did check a back on the first three trips, and 2 of the 3 times the bag was delayed. While that is unusually bad luck, 1/3 isn't particularly unusual on some routes. Also, it's not too uncommon for it to take 30 minutes for bags to arrive at larger airports, in my experience. If that wasn't enough, traveling with a checked bag significantly reduces your flexibility in the event of schedule irregularities.
posted by wierdo at 3:28 PM on January 14, 2007

Best answer: I fly EWR to ORD weekly for work, and I never check bags. I've been taking a stick of deodorant (only liquid/gel i need to carry in a plastic baggy, which doesn't count the electric toothbrush with the toothpaste inside of it that I just pack in the bag and don't take out). The stick is bigger than 3 ounces and I've never yet had it taken away - many times I've even not bothered to take the baggy out of my luggage.

That said, I got nailed at ORD coming home this Friday by some over-zealous TSA employees who saw, on the radar machine, that it wasn't in the bag - I hadn't bothered when packing in the morning. I just put it in the bag and they still let me go with it.

So I'd say if your containers aren't explicitly labeled as above 3 ounces, you have a 99% chance of sneaking through, if they are explicitly labeled, and you toss them in a bin in a plastic baggy along with your laptop / keys / whatever, your chances decrease to maybe 9% of getting through.

My money's on you (as opposed to TSA), let us know if you make it.

Oh, and mattamyn - if you're reading this, I flagged Osmanthus' comment as "noise" because there's no category for "head-up-ass un-answer."
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:31 PM on January 14, 2007

I haven't checked luggage since 9/11, and don't plan to ever if I can possibly help it.

There's no real reason to avoid checking baggage. It doesn't take any longer now than it did before 9/11, barring some specific scare. I can think of only three bad experiences I've had with checked baggage, and only one of them (coming off a connection from Europe in Philadelphia) resulted in my not leaving my final destination with my luggage, and that was because the baggage system in Philadelphia wasn't working.

I have never had any problem with putting all my liquids and gels into my checked baggage. It's really just easier all around.
posted by oaf at 3:33 PM on January 14, 2007

I was at Vegas airport recently and the woman in front of my got tagged for having bottles in her hand luggage. I wonder if it was misslynster trying to smuggle >3oz quantities of liquids onto the plane.

I've done both the "travel size" option and the "buy stuff when I get there" option. I do think it is the peak of idiocy that the most common sized small bottle of stuff [non-trial sized] is 4oz/120ml yet they made the rule 3oz/100ml. I bought a few trial sized toothpastes and shaving creams and rely on the stuff at the hotel for shampoo. Buying things when you get mean there will be leftovers. This works when I went home at Christmas so now I'll have my brands of stuff when I go see mom again.

Both are preferred to the "just check your bags option". Because more people are checking their bags, the bellies of the plane are fuller and it takes forever for the bags to get unloaded. And more bags are getting misdirected and lost.
posted by birdherder at 3:41 PM on January 14, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone - I've marked a few comments from both positive and negative experience as best answers to help future searchers, though I fully expect that these policies are perpetually in flux.

Great point, birdherder - I was just anticipating my typical luggage anxieties and desire for streamlined travel, but I can totally see how all of the typical issues would get magnified with the increase in checked baggage.

All this serves me right for getting addicted to my Aveda hair products, but whatever. I'll post an update with my experience.
posted by shelbaroo at 3:55 PM on January 14, 2007

Because more people are checking their bags, the bellies of the plane are fuller and it takes forever for the bags to get unloaded. And more bags are getting misdirected and lost.

I haven't noticed this, and I have flown a fairly large number of segments since 9/11. My only problems were due to equipment malfunction and not to anything else. There was the broken baggage belt in Philadelphia that actually resulted in my bags being delayed, the one in Boston that resulted in me having to carry my bags all the way across the airport, and the stuck baggage container in Toronto that caused me to have to wait an hour to get my bags.
posted by oaf at 3:59 PM on January 14, 2007

(Of course, I will probably have a huge problem or something the next time I fly, just because I posted this.)
posted by oaf at 3:59 PM on January 14, 2007

I've flown several times since the new security rules.

Philadelphia: very picky. Carefully marked on my ticket the >4 oz (allowed) bottle of triaminic I'd segregated into its own plastic bag, and hassled me about the several containrs of baby food that I was allowed to bring but hadn't realized I needed to put into quart-sized zip-top bags. They also found the small bottle of 100% deet bug spray that I hadn't realized was in the bag, but they were happy to let me fly with it once I had put it into a quart ziploc (!!). [Since it's way flammable, it only serves to convince me even more that this is all just a load of crap.]

St. Louis: didn't seem to pay much attention to the >3 oz stuff I'd bagged---no ticket marking or anything.

Trenton (very small): didn't seem to care about the stuff I'd bagged, but did confiscate a small bottle of water from the lady in front of me.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:25 PM on January 14, 2007

I flew over 150k miles in 2006, with 50k or so of those and 30+ segments after the new restrictions were put into place. The enforcement varies from airport to airport - at La Guardia I've been asked to show my baggie of dangerous liquids (omg mascara!) to someone at a table prior to even entering the checkpoint area, but in Nashville I wasn't even asked to take the baggie out of my luggage. At O'Hare, LAX, and JFK it seems to vary from flight to flight.

The only consistency I've noticed is that if the TSA folks do notice anything out of the ordinary, they will pay extra attention and overly scrutinize everything in your bag. They also will take things away if they are in a container over 3 oz., even if it is nearly empty. And as some in the thread have noted, some checkpoints have been known to take things that are in unlabeled bottles (though I have not experienced this personally, a quick read through the Travel Safety & Security forum over at Flyertalk will find several such stories.

So, like others have said, just buy trial size bottles of cheapie stuff at the drugstore and refill them with your preferred products.
posted by bedhead at 4:45 PM on January 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and as for checking bags - I don't check them if I don't have to (and I've had to on flights out of Europe recently), but it's not for the asstastic reasons suggested upthread. I don't check bags so that I have my belongings in my sight at all time, including if/when they are searched, I retain the ability to fly on standby or be rerouted easily if needed, and because I prefer to spend as little time inside an airport after landing as possible. With more people checking bags after the liquid restrictions went into effect (some reports say there has been as much as a 40% increase in checked bags), the possibility of delays/misrouting/lost luggage has increased, and I prefer to limit the possibility of my luggage being caught up in that craziness.
posted by bedhead at 4:53 PM on January 14, 2007

peep: comment only if you're going to contribute.

shelbaroo: i read an interesting trick: stick your plastic containers in your pockets if you can; they'll be missed as you walk through the metal detector. for myself, i flew portland to phoenix with nary a peep about how much or little i had in my containers. they were even extremely nice about the pocket knife i forgot about in my wallet.
posted by gretchin at 5:21 PM on January 14, 2007

When I flew over the holidays I had two things in my carry-on that are apparently non grata: a glass tub of hair pomade, which falls, I suppose, under the gels aspect of the rule, and a syringe filled with sterile water for mixing into a powdered medication I inject (this has to be kept refrigerated or in in ice pack.)

The hair pomade passed muster, apparently. I didn't mention it -- I actually didn't think to on the way out, and just didn't bother on the way back. It went through the x-ray and nothing was said.

I took out the ice pack with the syringe at the checkpoint to show to the agent. I had researched this online because I was afraid they were going to mess with me, and I knew I was allowed it, but I figured I'd get a hassle. As it turned out I held up the black zippered pouch containing he medicine and rapidly melting ice pack and said, "This has a syringe and medication in it," prepared to have it hand-inspected. Instead the agent just asked, "Can it go through the x-ray?" I said yes and it went through and nothing more was said or done. Huh. OK.

This took place at YYZ Toronto.

(This whole thing is so infuriating. It's positively infantilising. I thought this would be a temporary measure until the hysteria about some attacks that weren't even planned calmed down. And because the US is so far up Canada's ass about security we have to follow along like idiots. Grr.)
posted by loiseau at 5:45 PM on January 14, 2007

Oh, but it gets better: we just flew out of Hong Kong a few days ago (back to the US via Tokyo Narita), and United (and maybe all of the US carriers, I dunno) is isolated in their own little ghetto way, way down at the end of the terminal. I figured it wouldn't be a problem, since all of the notices I had seen before we left said they were doing the liquid/gel enforcement on flights originating in the US or UK, but apparently they're gettin' ya on the way back, too.

Anyway, they've got the last five or six gates all closed off (complete with little corrals you can follow to the bathroom), and there's a bonus security checkpoint where they root around in your carry-on bags for any juicy contraband. They took our toothpaste and we chugged down our bottle of water. To their credit, though, they've got bottled water dispeners (with paper cups) inside the dry zone.

Tokyo Narita had the same action going on, but they didn't check until you were on the jetway walking to the plane. They were pretty reasonable about it, I was just asked if I had any drinks and I said no, and they let me get on the plane. My wife had to open her backpack, but they didn't really dig around.

On the up side, and a hint for any of you flying through Narita: they've now got coin operated full-body massage chairs at the gates (at least in the terminal that United flies out of). They're 200 yen (about US $2) for ten minutes. I don't understand why there aren't people mobbing these things, because they are just fabulous. My wife and I kept one busy the entire hour we had to sit and wait (alternating so the other could do laps around the terminal chasing our spawn on the slidewalks). Buy a bottle of water to drink while you wait (cuz you can't take it with you), get your change in 100 yen coins, and away you go.

Also, FWIW, I do contact lenses, and my eye doctor has 3 oz or smaller contact lens solution sample bottles all over the place; I got a couple of them from him before we left. The smallest I saw at the stores was 4 oz.
posted by doorsnake at 6:22 PM on January 14, 2007

I guess I don't find myself hugely affected by the liquid ban because I packed my toiletries in my checked baggage for years beforehand. The only annoyances are that I have to pay for the overpriced beverages beyond the check point, and it makes it a lot harder to transport alcohol.

I have to say that I believe loiseau's experience at YYZ is par for the course there. My girlfriend is an insulin-dependent diabetic, and both times she's flown out of there since the ban came into effect, the CATSA screeners have seemed not to know what insulin is, even. Given that at least 200,000 Canadians require insulin, CATSA should at least know what it is. Argh.
posted by oaf at 6:56 PM on January 14, 2007

Concerning checked luggage in both the US and Canada: A bunch of us at work have noticed that larger and heavier bags are routinely delayed, sometimes by more than a day. It's our theory that with flights now frequently at (or over) capacity that there's simply too much baggage to all go on the same flight. The airlines appear to be routinely shipping larger bags on later flights (making deploying field teams really annoying). Big stuff we now try to ship by air cargo. Timing seems to be much more predictable, if more of a hassle.
posted by bonehead at 6:58 PM on January 14, 2007

I liked this askmefi thread's answer.
posted by neuron at 9:48 PM on January 14, 2007

another data point here -- i recently checked a bag for a flight to san francisco because i use brylcreem on my hair and the original container, which was about 75% empty, was 4.5 oz. this was at the behest of the gate agent. my bag was lost for eight days as a result.

i'll never check a bag again.
posted by Hat Maui at 10:27 PM on January 14, 2007

I managed to get a 4 oz. container of contact lens solution through four times, and a 6 oz. deodorant through twice. This was at two screenings in SEA, one in TYS, one in CLT.
posted by kindall at 11:17 PM on January 14, 2007

I haven't flown since 9/11. What's the rationale for this 3oz. limit? Can a 3oz. commercially-labelled baby-oil bottle that now contains nitroglycerin somehow fail to damage an aeroplane?
posted by flabdablet at 5:06 AM on January 15, 2007

flabdablet: What's the point of most of the screenings? 3 oz was specified as an arbitrary amount that seems too small to blow things up, but who determined that, and why, is beyond me.
I have flown through Philadelphia, Portland, Boston, Hartford, and San Juan since the new rules, every time with "liquids" (deodorant, chapstick, make up, etc some over, some under). I put them in a baggie the first time, then began to ignore the rules. They haven't caught me yet. YMMV, but so long as you follow the "script", take out your laptop (and for the love of all things good, put it in it's own bin with nothing else! No one ever does that....), take off your jacket, shoes, etc. You should be fine. Good luck.
posted by nursegracer at 11:34 AM on January 15, 2007

No comment on 3oz vs 4oz but I have a recent anecdote about liquids and flying out of IAD (Dulles). Not caring to fly without a water bottle I hit upon the following method of gaming the system -- take an empty water bottle through the security checkpoint and once inside, fill it from the restroom tap. For some other reason (seemed to be some chocolate fudge) my carry-on was flagged for the secondary. TSA discover the empty, unlabeled plastic bottle and ignored it. Once released, feeling annoyed and brazen, I filled it at a water fountain in plain view of everybody in the dry zone. Nobody noticed or said anything.

Bog help me should a secondary carry-on check occur in the jetway, however -- thanks for the Narita tip.
posted by Rash at 10:13 PM on January 15, 2007

It really depends on the airport. I fly out of ATL to various destinations like ORD, FLL, BFL, FAT, LAX, SNA and PDX. The smaller airports like BFL and FAT are carry-on Nazis. I even got scolded for carrying my albuterol inhaler in my purse instead of my quart-size zip-top baggie. WHATEVER. The bigger airports don't care. I don't even see anyone get patted down any more. I think they are just too busy.
posted by FergieBelle at 5:20 AM on January 17, 2007

I was flying back from Pittsburgh the other day and had a (bigger than 3 oz) jar of chocolate, er, body paint in my carryon. I'd completely forgotten about it when I went through security, and they saw it on the x-ray, stopped me, checked the bag, chuckled about "chocolate body tattoos" (it's a gift for someone else!), consulted a superior, and ultimately let me through with it.

Just FYI, in case you're planning on travelling with chocolate body paint. Or something.
posted by pyjammy at 12:05 PM on January 18, 2007

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