I am old enough to remember a time when you could bring full-sized liquids, including water bottles, through airport security and onto an airplane.
That changed in 2006, when airline security rules had to account for new threats. Since then, it has not been possible to bring a water bottle through security, but that may soon change.
If you thirst for knowledge about water bottle restrictions, keep reading because we have compiled everything you need to know about current and future water bottle regulations.
TSA Regulations for Water Bottles on Planes in 2023
Currently, the TSA does not allow passengers to bring filled water bottles through airport security.
The only way to get full-sized liquids (larger than 3oz/100ml) onto an airplane is to put it in your checked luggage.
This rule applies to all passengers flying domestically or internationally.
The Short Answer: Can You Bring a Water Bottle Onto an Airplane?
Technically, you can bring a water bottle onto an airplane, but you cannot bring one through airport security, unless it is empty.
There are three ways to bring a water bottle onto an aircraft.
- You buy a water bottle in the terminal after security checks and bring it onto the plane when you board.
- You bring an empty water bottle through airport security and refill it once you are in the terminal.
- You check your water bottle in your checked luggage.
Why Can’t You Bring a Water Bottle Onto a Plane?
Bad people ruin all good things, including our ability to take a water bottle through airport security.
In 2006, British authorities foiled a terrorist plot to circumnavigate heightened post-9/11 screening practices, by bringing enough combustible liquids through security to build an explosive device by combining the volatile liquids together in the lavatory after take-off.
Rather than categorically banning all liquids in airplane cabins, the TSA implemented the 3-1-1 rule, which limits passengers to bringing only 3oz/100ml containers through security.
The rule may seem silly and arbitrary, but it works by making it impossible to achieve a big enough explosion to damage an aircraft.
3oz containers are too small to give volatile liquids the space they need to explode.
But what if bad guys just combine the small containers into a bigger one, you ask?
It is impossible to combine enough 3oz containers of volatile liquids together fast enough to get an explosion. Bad guys might be able to start a small fire this way, but not one big enough to damage an airplane.
So there you have it, a history/science lesson about the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule.
Exceptions to the TSA’s Liquids Rule: Full-sized Liquids You May Bring Through Security
There are two main exceptions to the 3-1-1 rule, “infant and child nutrition” and prescription medications.
Exception: Infant and Child Nutrition
You are allowed to bring breast milk, baby formula, and baby food (purée) through security as long as you are traveling with a child under 12 years of age.
If you plan to bring these items through security, it is recommended to put them into clear containers because a TSA agent will need to inspect them.
Exception: Prescription Medications
You are also allowed to bring any liquid or gel prescriptions through security.
These will be screened separately from your 3-1-1 liquids. There is no enforced limit to the volume of liquid prescriptions you are permitted to bring through security.
Coming Updates to the 3-1-1 Rule
The 3-1-1 rule was implemented because it would be impossible to test and screen all liquids for volatile compounds, but that was in 2006.
We now have the technology necessary to screen liquids just like anything else.
The new technology, known as “computerized tomography” gives airport security the ability to screen liquids and electronics without having to take them out of anyone’s luggage!
It will probably still be a while before this technology is commonplace, so don’t expect to bring a water bottle through security next time you fly, but the time will come when we can bring full-sized liquids through security again.
Now that you understand the 3-1-1 rule and why it exists, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.
➡️ Can you bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up after?
Yes, it is possible to bring an empty reusable water bottle through security and fill it up after you go through security.
Most airports in the US even have refilling stations.
These are, of course, much nicer than trying to fill your water bottle from the bathroom sink.
➡️ What size empty water bottle can you take on a plane?
As long as it is empathy, the TSA does not have any specific rules regulating the size of reusable water bottles that can be taken through security.
That said, if you are traveling abroad, I would limit the size to 34oz, 1 liter, just to be on the safe side.
➡️ Can you bring an unopened water bottle through TSA?
No, sadly, you cannot bring a sealed water bottle through TSA. Unless, of course, it is 3oz or smaller. But that would be silly.
➡️ Can you bring a metal water bottle on a plane?
Yes! You can bring either plastic or metal reusable water bottles through TSA.
➡️ Can you bring a frozen water bottle on a plane?
Yes! You can bring a frozen water bottle through TSA security, but it must be completely frozen.
Why? Because combustible liquids don’t freeze.
➡️ Do airlines provide water bottles on flights?
Some airlines will give you water bottles, especially on longer flights.
Others will not give you whole bottles but are happy to give you a cup of water any time you ask for it.
We can’t always refill your reusable water bottle for you, though, this is because we can’t let a water bottle serve multiple people from getting too close to something that may be germy.
➡️ Can you bring a water bottle with a filter on a plane?
Yes, it’s possible to bring a reusable water bottle with a filter onto a plane, but it must be empty to go through TSA.
This rule applies to various types of water bottles, including disposable ones, reusable water bottles, and collapsible water bottles.
As long as the water bottle is empty, you can bring it through security without any issues.
➡️ What happens if you accidentally bring a water bottle through security?
If you forget and bring a water bottle through security, don’t panic.
If it is a single-use water bottle, TSA will just take it from you and send you on your way.
If it is a reusable one, they will give you the opportunity to dump it out.
➡️ Can I bring a refillable water bottle on an international flight?
Yes, you can bring a refillable water bottle onto an international flight, as long as it is empty when you go through security.
I actually recommend bringing a refillable water bottle and filling it up after TSA because you might get thirsty waiting for the in-flight service.
➡️ What is the 3-1-1 liquid rule?
The 3-1-1 liquid rule is the TSA rule regulating the size and quantity of liquids permitted onto flights departing from US airports.
- 3 stands for 3oz, the size limit of the liquids that can be brought on board.
- 1 quart-sized bag. (All 3oz bottles must fit into the single quart-sized bag.)
- 1 bag per person.
Navigating TSA rules can be stressful and confusing. It’s important to have access to water while traveling because the cabin environment in airplanes is dehydrating.
I hope that you have a better understanding of what liquids you may and may not bring with you so that you can be empowered to travel hydrated.