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What liquids can you take in your hand luggage?

What liquids can you take in your hand luggage?

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I was looking for information on how to bring medicine at your hand luggage in Spain (regarding the liquids restrictions in the European Union). And then I came across the Iberia site with the full list of what is considered liquid when flying, and yes I found very weird things, like cream cheese or butter.

liquids definition in spanish


So, in order to clarify and avoid the risks of getting stopped at the security control for bringing a jar of Nutella with me, I’ve decided to publish a comprehensive list on what you can and cannot take with you. Here we go:

1. What liquids can you bring on your hand luggage?

No liquid is forbidden by itself. The issue is not about bringing liquids but the amount you bring. Here are the rules:

  • Each of the “product” you bring with you in your hand luggage has to be in a packaging of no more than 100 ml. The important rule here is “the packaging”, not the liquid inside. If you bring a bottle that could contain 200ml it cannot travel with you, even if it only has one third of the original content.
  • All your liquids must go together in the same transparent plastic bag that can be closed (zip, for example). And only in ONE per passenger, as some airports double-check you if you are carrying more than one, just in case you are bringing more liquids than allowed.
  • All liquids together cannot amount over 1 litre of liquids (the equivalent of a bag of 20 x 20 cm.)
  • Kids can bring their own liquids and they follow the same rule.

Additionally, if you need to use (or might need to use) a certain liquid during your trip because of a medical condition or diet (babies food, insulin…) you can also bring those liquids with you and they don’t count for the liquids restriction (you can bring as many as you need). But I would recommend:

  • Bringing with you the doctors’ prescription (unless it’s baby food, then bring the baby)
  • Keep food closed until you go through security if you can. Security people tend to question opened packaging
  • As long as you can, bring the ticket/receipt with you

And, remember that they could ask you to taste the food to check it’s legit.

2. What shouldn’t you bring with you on your hand luggage? What’s a liquid?

Everybody talks about liquids, but what is a liquid for the security control in airports? Many, many things:

  • Drinks, including water, soda, soup, milk, wine, liquor, juices, et.
  • Products that have a cream consistency, such as toothpaste, shoe cleaning products, hair masks, hair conditioners and similar
  • Oils, including food oils, like olive oil, and cosmetic oils or industrial oils
  • Perfume and makeup that are not solid, such as eyeliner and gloss
  • Products with a gel consistency, such as shower gel, shampoo, aloe vera after-sun,  etc
  • Things in a pressurized pack, such as hairspray, shaving cream, deodorants, spray water and all sorts of spray cans
  • Spreads, such as cream cheese, peanut butter, Nutella, butter and all the things you can spread on something else
  • Food that you would eat with a spoon, like soup, yogurt, Jell-o, custard cream…
  • Products that mix solids and liquids, such as small wet towels (like the ones you use to wipe your glasses) and things that you need to mix to work (such as some face cleansers)
  • Products in a roll-on packaging, such as deodorants, easy-to-use gels and pain-killers, etc.

Plus, there are some liquids that have always been forbidden. These are still forbidden on your hand luggage, no matter the quantity:

  • Inflammable liquids such as gas, camping gas stations, filming materials, adhesives, paint , varnish and similar things
  • Diagnosis items, vaccines, herbicides, insecticides…
  • Compressed gases and machines that use it, such as oxygen bottles, breathing machines and other things
  • You can check the full list at this document from Iberia.

3. What happens with the liquids I buy at the airport?

You can buy all sorts of liquids at the airport, from alcohol to makeup and olive oil, on all sorts of quantities and packaging. They will put it in a plastic bag that you shouldn’t open until you reach your destination (unless it’s food & drink to eat at the airport). As long as you keep it inside that plastic bag and keep the purchase ticket, you should be fine traveling with it (the only limit here will be customs when you enter a new border.)

But, can you take it back with you? As long as it fits the rules above, yes. So avoid big perfumes and things like that (you can always buy them when you come back).

And, can you take it with you through a flight transfer with luggage pick-up? Sorry to say this, but no. When I was a kid, airlines would do anything to make you feel on top of the world, so connecting flights was easy and you didn’t have to go through security again when changing to a different airline. But many are changing to the “low-cost” way of things and things like transfer buses to different terminals have disappeared in many airports, forcing us to go through security controls again, so no duty-free liquids unless they follow the above rule.

4. At the airport, what happens if I don’t bring the liquids in a plastic bag?

If you want to go fast through security control, follow the rules for liquids (sizes, quantity, plastic bag) and when you reach the line, take them out of your bag and put them in the tray. Take also the electronic equipment (cell phones, laptops, cameras) out in a tray.

If you do this, they will be able to search through with the X-ray easily and you should go through security fast. If you don’t, you will be delayed (UK airports can add 20 minutes) as they will search for forbidden items and will do a drug test by hand.

If they take your luggage for a special screening in search for liquids and other forbidden items, let them do it and don’t touch anything until they finish. If you touch, they will start again or take you to a different room to see why you are so nervous.

5. How to make your hand luggage smaller (liquids-wise)

With all the limits and rules about liquids, you end up with a crazy hand luggage. These are some tips that can help you cut the liquids in your hand luggage:

  1. Use sample or travel sizes. They are available at Duty Frees, drug stores and department stores (not for all brands, though). But if you go to your hairdresser or local spa, they will sure have sample sizes of their products.
  2. You can always make your own travel sizes of your favorite products by filling small bottles (you can find them at Primark and other outlets).
  3. Change your liquid, roll-on or spray deodorant to cream deodorant or stick deodorant. They are usually smaller and being almost flat, they allow to fit other liquids better. Also, there are some hard deodorants (mineral ones) that can travel out of the transparent bag.
  4. There are one-use make up removal sachets, wet cloths and sample sizes you can use. Or you can buy sparkling water, which is a really nice make up remover in case of need. There are also some make up remover bars (solid) but they are harder to find.
  5. Dry shampoos are also handy for those places where you can’t wash your hair properly and they can be used as texturizers in most cases.

Any extra recommendation? Oh, just check the 15 things you should take in your hand luggage and I’m pretty sure you’ve never have.

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