Flying out to a family celebration or returning home with leftovers in tow? Or maybe you’re coming home from a business or bleisure trip with an unusual souvenir — like a pie or cake. Whatever the case, when trying to get food through airport security, the last thing you want is airport security dumping your beloved leftovers or baked goods in the bin.
The good news? There are actually quite a few foods that you can bring onto your next flight. However, you’ll want to follow a few precautions (and maybe do a little research ahead of time) for the best results.
Federal Guidelines Regarding Flying with Food
When packing your bags for an upcoming trip, you likely know all about your country’s rules regarding things like how much liquid you can pack in a carry-on bag and generally what items are prohibited.
However, pies (and other similar foods) are a bit of a gray area. If it’s homemade, it’s not going to be in a properly sealed container, like a pie you purchased from the store might. Plus, is a pie filling a liquid or a solid? Maybe it’s a gel? It depends on the pie. So — can you bring that pie onto the plane, or is airport security going to toss it?
Exact regulations will differ from country to country and depend on the food items and how they are packaged. For example, some foods and fruits must be “company sealed and packed.”
However, in general, you can expect to be allowed to bring baked goods, even homemade baked goods, on a plane. You can bring them either in your checked luggage or carry-on luggage.
Using the United States’ Transportation Security Administration (TSA) food guidelines as an example, there are actually quite a few foods that you can bring onto U.S. domestic flights or flights exiting the United States. Beyond pies and cakes, you can also bring baked items like bread and cookies, candy, solid cheese, etc. Even unexpected items can come along, like fresh eggs or a live lobster in your checked bag!
Similarly, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency does not prohibit bringing solid foods, such as pies, onto aircraft. Food restrictions when flying within the European Union are primarily only relevant if you’re traveling with liquids or gels, meat, dairy or produce.
Consider your destination, too!
Beyond considering your country’s rules regarding what foods you can or cannot fly with, if you’re flying internationally, also consider your destination. While your country of origin may be fine with you traveling with a pie or something similar, the country you’re headed to might not allow you to actually bring the item in.
For example, some countries do not permit passengers to bring in any items that contain meat. So, if you were to attempt to enter the country with a pie that contains meat, you’d likely leave the airport pie-less. In this case, a possible solution would be to quickly devour your pie rather than toss it in the trash bin or hand it over to security for their holiday potluck party.
Pack Your Pie (and Other Foods) Properly
What’s the best way to bring food through airport security? Regardless of what you’re packing, if you’ve checked your country’s regulations and determined that the item is safe to fly, you’ll still want to pack it properly.
Baked items like pies and cakes should be securely stowed in a box or similar container. Choose something that can withstand a few bumps. After all, an airport environment, especially as you go through airport security, can be crowded and hectic. Your items will likely be bumped and jostled. You don’t want to leave airport security with your food worse for wear.
If you pack a pie or similar item in your carry-on, it’s easy enough to keep an eye on it. The only real risk of danger to your pie will be if you get a little hungry mid-flight and decide to dig in. However, you may not want to pack your pie in your checked luggage. Suitcases are hardly handled with tender loving care when they’re being loaded onto and unloaded from planes. If you must travel with food packed in your checked luggage, consider only packing items that won’t be damaged by the jostling and occasional bump.
Potential Risks When Taking Food Through Airport Security
Yes, if you’re traveling with a pie, you’re not likely doing so just for the fun of it. Maybe that pie is a favorite that your mom always bakes for you around the holidays, and you can’t wait to eat it every year — and she’s sent an extra home with you. Maybe it’s a pie that you bake and that family members and friends rave about, and you’re bringing it on your trip as a surprise for a special someone. Or maybe it’s a pie baked at a local bakery that you just can’t get anywhere else.
Whatever the case, take some precautions and consider the potential risks. Sometimes, it’s important to not just ask if you can do something but also if you should do something. When it comes to bringing pie on a plane or trying to get any food through airport security, ask yourself. Is this worth it? And is it safe?
Give Yourself Enough Time
Attempting to fly with any unusual items often results in a lengthier, more time-consuming security check. You may be held up at the airport’s security checkpoint as security agents double-check the rules regarding bringing food on a plane. You’ll also, in the process, be holding up the Travelers behind you. (Not to mention, you always run the risk of a hungry security officer diving in for a taste test!)
For the most convenient and fastest process, getting you from the airport doors to your gate as quickly as possible, you might consider leaving the pie behind. Remember — you can often ship such items directly to your home. This will free up space in your luggage and eliminate one source of travel stress.
As for safety, while flying with food usually isn’t going to pose a travel hazard, it might pose a health hazard. Keep in mind that some pies, particularly homemade pies, shouldn’t be left at room temperature for very long at all. Homemade cream-based pies or chiffon pies, as well as pies containing eggs, for example, shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Ideally, they shouldn’t be left at room temperature, period, and should be refrigerated until serving. Is taking your pie on a plane worth the risk of food poisoning? (That’s definitely something you don’t need on a travel day.)
Pies that do not contain dairy products or eggs, such as fruit pies, can be left at room temperature for several days. They won’t pose a risk if you store them in your carry-on for a day. Don’t assume that your pumpkin pie falls into this category, though. Many homemade pumpkin pies are made with eggs, meaning they’ll require refrigeration. They should not be left at room temperature.
Flying with Food is Likely Easier Than You Think
Regardless of what food you’re flying with, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to fly with food and how many different foods you can fly with. That said, before you head to the airport, be sure to check your country and destination’s guidelines regarding flying with food and bringing food into the country.
Additionally, realize that, in many cases, regardless of what the rules say, whether or not you can fly with something typically ends up being the decision of whatever airport security official you end up with. When you fly with food, especially homemade food, you always run the risk of airport security tossing your coveted eats.