Can You Bring Ice Packs On A Plane?

Ice packs are a common commodity for travelers looking to keep perishables cool or for medical purposes, such as transporting medication that requires refrigeration. Travelers often query whether they can bring such items on planes, considering the strict regulations imposed post-9/11 on what is permitted aboard commercial aircraft.

Historically, the ability to bring ice packs on a plane has been subject to evolving security measures overseen by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States and similar bodies worldwide. The introduction of the Liquids Rule in response to security threats significantly altered the landscape of permissible carry-on items. In this context, ice packs have become a topic of interest due to their potential dual use: while serving legitimate cooling functions, they also could theoretically conceal harmful substances. Therefore, strict guidelines have been developed to allow passengers to travel with these items without compromising security. As air travel continues to be an integral part of global connectivity, understanding these guidelines ensures that travelers can meet their cooling needs while adhering to the regulations designed to keep air travel safe.

can you bring an ice pack on a plane

Can You Take Ice Packs On A Plane?

Traveling with ice packs on a plane is permissible, but there are specific regulations that passengers must follow. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), ice packs are allowed in carry-on and checked bags. If you plan to take an ice pack in your carry-on, it must be completely frozen at the time of the security checkpoint to comply with the rules for liquids and gels. Partially melted ice packs or those with any liquid at the bottom are not allowed through security in carry-on luggage but can be transported in checked baggage. Ice packs can be particularly beneficial for keeping perishable items cold during a flight or for medical purposes, such as transporting medications that require refrigeration. For a more detailed explanation of the rules and tips for traveling with ice packs, continue to the next section where we delve into the best practices for flying with these items.

Understanding TSA Regulations for Ice Packs on Domestic Flights

Travelers wishing to bring ice packs on USA domestic flights must adhere to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations to pass through security without issues. According to the TSA, ice packs are allowed in both carry-on and checked bags, but with specific conditions that depend on whether they are used for medical purposes or to keep perishables cold. The TSA regularly updates their guidelines for such items, so it is advisable to check the TSA website before traveling.

Carry-On Bags: Conditionally Permitted Ice Packs

  • Ice packs are allowed in your carry-on if they are frozen solid when presented at the security checkpoint.
  • If the ice pack is partially melted and has any liquid at the bottom of the container, it must meet the 3-1-1 liquids rule to be permitted through the checkpoint.
  • The 3-1-1 liquids rule implies that the ice pack must be less than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) and must fit inside one quart-sized resealable bag.
  • For those traveling with medically necessary items, the 3-1-1 liquids rule does not apply, but you need to declare these items to the security officers at the checkpoint for inspection.

Checked Bags: Guidelines for Ice Packs

  • There are fewer restrictions for ice packs in checked luggage on domestic flights.
  • Ice packs can be used to keep perishables cold, and there are no size restrictions as there are for carry-ons.
  • Although it is not a requirement, it’s helpful if ice packs are fully frozen to avoid leakage that could lead to additional screening or damage to other items within the bag.
  • Proper packaging is suggested to prevent any potential mess from melting ice packs in the luggage hold.

Packaging Tips for Traveling with Ice Packs

  • Ensure your ice pack is sealed well and placed in a leak-proof container or bag.
  • Consider wrapping the ice pack in a paper towel or cloth to absorb any condensation.
  • Use a sturdy, insulated container if transporting perishable items or medications that require temperature control.
  • Label any medical items to expedite the security process.

Alternatives to Traditional Ice Packs

  • Gel packs or cooling pouches may be utilized if they conform to the same TSA regulations as traditional ice packs.
  • Frozen items such as vegetables can be used as an ice substitute, provided they are frozen solid at the checkpoint.
  • Dry ice is permissible under certain conditions. According to TSA, up to 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) is allowed if the package is vented and marked properly, and it’s wise to check with the airline for additional restrictions or guidelines.

Coordinating with Airlines and TSA

  • It’s essential to communicate with your airline as each may have specific policies related to the transport of ice packs and frozen items.
  • Airline policies might vary based on the type of aircraft or flight duration.
  • Direct any questions about specific scenarios or items to the TSA Contact Center or TSA Cares, which offers assistance for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions.

To ensure the most current information, consult the TSA guidelines directly regarding traveling with ice packs on their official website: TSA Ice Packs.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) Guidelines

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) provides regulations for the safe transport of goods and materials on aircraft. When it comes to flying with ice packs internationally, passengers must adhere to IATA’s guidelines to ensure safety and compliance. The guidelines specify how ice packs can be carried on board and under what conditions.

  • Ice packs may be used to keep perishables cold during the flight.
  • Passengers must declare them at the check-in and security checkpoints.
  • The ice packs must be fully frozen at the time of screening.
  • If ice packs are partially melted or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they may not be allowed through security.
  • There may be restrictions on the quantity and size of ice packs allowed.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information, refer to the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and the IATA website for guidance on traveling with ice packs: IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations.

Country Specific Regulations

Travelers must be aware that in addition to IATA guidelines, each country may have its own specific regulations regarding the transport of ice packs on flights. It is crucial to check the regulations of both the departure and arrival countries to ensure compliance.

United Kingdom

Guidance for flying with ice packs in the UK can be found on the UK government website: UK Hand Luggage Restrictions.


For European flights, regulations can be found on the European Union’s mobility and transport page: EU Aviation Security Policy.


The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority provides details on what is permitted on flights: CATSA.


Information for Australian flights can be found on the Australian Government’s Department of Home Affairs page: Department of Home Affairs.

New Zealand

For New Zealand’s regulations, refer to the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand: CAA Passenger Safety.


Asian countries may have varying regulations; it is advisable to check with the specific country’s civil aviation authority.


Singapore’s guidelines can be found on the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore’s website: CAAS Aviation Security.

10 Airline-Specific Regulations for Flying with Ice Packs

Each airline may have its own set of rules and regulations regarding the transport of ice packs. It is important for passengers to review the airline’s policy before traveling to ensure they are in compliance and to avoid any inconvenience during their journey.

American Airlines

Delta Air Lines

United Airlines

  • Allows ice packs for medical purposes and special items.
  • Must comply with TSA regulations.
  • United Airlines’ baggage policies: United Airlines Dangerous Goods.

Southwest Airlines

  • Ice packs are permitted for medical purposes.
  • They must be frozen solid at the checkpoint.
  • Southwest Airlines’ policy: Southwest Special Luggage.

British Airways


  • Ice packs allowed for medical use.
  • Should be declared at check-in and security.
  • Lufthansa’s baggage regulations: Lufthansa Baggage Regulations.

Air Canada


  • Allows frozen gel packs for medical purposes.
  • Must be declared and cannot be larger than 2.5 kg or 2.5 L.
  • Qantas’ dangerous goods information: Qantas Dangerous Goods.


  • Ice packs are allowed for medical purposes.
  • Should be declared at the time of booking and check-in.
  • Emirates’ baggage policies: Emirates Baggage FAQs.

Cathay Pacific

  • Accepts ice packs for medical items as carry-on.
  • Subject to security screening and approval.
  • Cathay Pacific’s baggage information: Cathay Pacific Restricted Items.

Packing Ice Packs in Carry-On Luggage

Traveling with perishable items or medications that require cooling can be a challenge, but with the right preparation, you can effectively use ice packs to maintain their temperature. When packing ice packs in your carry-on luggage, make sure to follow the regulations set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) or the corresponding authority in your country.

  • Use TSA-approved Ice Packs: Ensure the ice packs are compliant with TSA regulations. Gel packs are usually acceptable for keeping perishables cold.
  • Freeze Beforehand: Freeze the ice packs completely before your trip. They must be frozen solid when going through security to comply with the TSA’s liquid rules.
  • Contain and Seal: Place ice packs in a leak-proof bag to prevent any potential mess in your luggage if they thaw.
  • Positioning: Surround your perishable items or medication with ice packs to ensure even cooling. Place sensitive items in the center.
  • Be Prepared for Inspection: Inform the TSA agent that you are carrying ice packs for medical purposes or perishables, as they may need to inspect them separately.

taking ice pack through airport security

Packing Ice Packs in Hold Luggage

When checking in luggage that contains ice packs, it is important to pack them properly to maintain their cold temperature throughout the journey and to prevent any inconvenience upon arrival.

  • Choose the Right Ice Packs: Use durable, high-quality ice packs that can withstand the duration of the flight and potential shifts in temperature.
  • Insulate Your Contents: Wrap perishable items in insulated foam or bubble wrap, and then place ice packs on top and around the sides for optimal cooling.
  • Bag Separately: To avoid damage from condensation, place the ice packs in separate plastic bags within your luggage.
  • Pack It Tight: Fill any empty spaces with towels or clothes to minimize air circulation, which can cause the ice packs to thaw faster.
  • Consider Luggage Type: Hard-shell suitcases provide better insulation than soft-sided ones. Choose your luggage accordingly if you need to keep items cold for a longer period.

Remember to double-check the airline’s rules and regulations regarding ice packs. Some airlines have quantity restrictions or specific guidelines on how to pack such items.

Travel Essentials Similar to Ice Packs for Airplane Journeys

When preparing for a flight, alongside ice packs, consider packing items such as a travel pillow and a lightweight blanket for added comfort during your journey. Noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs can be a lifesaver to block out the engine noise and chatter, ensuring a more peaceful trip. A portable charger or power bank is essential to keep your electronic devices charged, especially on long flights. Don’t forget to bring a refillable water bottle, which you can fill up after passing through security to stay hydrated. Lastly, eye masks and compression socks can help reduce the discomfort of cabin pressure and assist in better sleep and circulation. These items, much like ice packs, are geared towards enhancing your in-flight experience.

FAQ’s About Can You Bring Ice Packs On A Plane?

Travelers often have questions regarding the transportation of ice packs on planes, especially since they’re commonly used to keep perishables cold during travel. The rules about bringing ice packs on flights can vary by airline and are also subject to security regulations. Below are some frequently asked questions about traveling with ice packs on airplanes to help ensure a smooth experience at the airport.

Are ice packs allowed in carry-on luggage?

Yes, ice packs are typically allowed in carry-on luggage. However, they must be completely frozen when going through security checkpoints. If they are partially melted and have any liquid at the bottom, they might not be allowed through.

Can I bring ice packs in my checked luggage?

Yes, you can bring ice packs in checked luggage. There are usually fewer restrictions on liquids in checked bags, but it’s always a good idea to check with the airline for specific guidelines.

Will TSA confiscate my ice pack if it’s not fully frozen?

The TSA may not allow your ice pack through if it is not fully frozen because it could be considered a liquid. It’s recommended to keep the ice pack fully frozen until you reach the security checkpoint.

Are gel packs treated differently than regular ice packs?

Gel packs are subject to the same rules as regular ice packs. They must be frozen solid at the time of the security screening to be allowed in your carry-on.

Can I use a bag of frozen vegetables as an ice pack?

A bag of frozen vegetables is considered the same as other ice packs, so it must be frozen solid at the time of the security screening. If it’s thawed and slushy, it may be subject to the same liquid restrictions as carry-on items.

How can I make sure my ice pack stays frozen until I reach the airport?

To ensure your ice pack stays frozen until airport screening, use a high-quality, insulated cooler bag, and consider packing additional frozen items alongside the ice pack to extend its freezing time.

Are dry ice packs permissible on planes?

Dry ice is permissible on planes, but there are specific regulations including a limit to the amount you can bring. Generally, the limit is 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) per person, and it must be packed properly to allow the release of carbon dioxide gas. Always declare it to the airline.

If my ice pack thaws, what are my options?

If your ice pack thaws before reaching the security checkpoint, you may need to either dispose of it or repack the items it was keeping cold with alternative methods provided by airport vendors, such as purchasing a new ice pack post-security.

Can I refill my ice pack after passing security?

Yes, you can typically refill your ice pack with ice from an airport restaurant or a water fountain post-security. However, ice packs with screw caps or other openings that allow for refilling might be subject to additional screening.

Are there any ice pack brands that are recommended for airplane travel?

There are no specific brands recommended for airplane travel, but it’s wise to use ice packs that are durable, leak-proof, and designed for travel. Ice packs labeled as “TSA-approved” may offer a smoother security experience.

Packing It All Up

In summary, travelers can indeed bring ice packs on a plane, but there are certain rules and regulations enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that must be adhered to. Solid ice packs are allowed in both carry-on and checked bags with no restrictions. However, if your ice pack is partially melted or if it’s in a slushy state, it falls under the category of liquids, which means it must comply with the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule in carry-on luggage. This rule states that each passenger is allowed to bring liquids in containers that hold 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item, all snugly fitting into a single quart-sized, clear, resealable plastic bag.

For those needing to keep items like medication or food chilled during travel, it’s essential to remember that gel packs are also subject to the same restrictions as slushy ice packs if carried on board. In checked luggage, these concerns are less stringent, but it’s always a good practice to check with the airline for any specific guidelines they might have. Ultimately, planning ahead and understanding these regulations will ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience at airport security. By preparing your ice packs accordingly and knowing what is expected, you can focus on the more enjoyable aspects of your travel.