If you want to bring an ice pack with you on your next flight, the rules can vary depending on the type of pack that you want to bring.
Instant cold packs are fine, but there are restrictions when bringing freezer packs and gel ice packs on a plane.
Table of Contents
- 1 Gel Packs vs. Freezer Packs vs. Instant Cold Packs
- 2 Bringing Ice Packs on International Flights
- 3 Airline Regulations
- 4 Different Rules Apply for Medically Necessary Ice Packs
- 5 You Can Bring Dry Ice on a Plane
- 6 Ice Packs Are Unlikely to Explode on a Plane
- 7 Can You Bring Water on a Plane?
- 8 You Can Bring a Frozen Water Bottle Though
Gel Packs vs. Freezer Packs vs. Instant Cold Packs
The rules can vary depending on what type of cold pack you want to bring with when you fly.
- Freezer Packs: You are allowed to bring freezer packs in your checked bags, but they must be frozen solid if packed in your carry on bags.
- Gel Ice Packs: You are allowed to bring gel packs in your checked bags, but they must be frozen solid if packed in your carry on bags.
- Instant Cold Packs: You are allowed to bring instant cold packs in both your carry on and checked bags.
Note that the TSA state that if the ice pack is “partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements.”
So the ice pack really does need to be frozen solid.
The TSA doesn’t give you much leeway.
This is because of the TSA’s 3-1-1 Rule that restricts passengers from bringing any liquid, gel, or aerosol in a container that exceeds 3.4oz/100ml through airport security in their carry on bags.
This is down to liquids being a potential security issue.
Bringing Ice Packs on International Flights
While the TSA handles the security of air travel in the USA, you will find that the same rules apply in other countries.
So this means that you will only be able to bring ice packs in your carry on bags if they are frozen solid, regardless if you’re flying to or from Canada, Mexico, the UK, Europe etc.
Typically, it doesn’t matter if you’re flying with Southwest, United, Delta, American Airlines, or any other major or regional carrier.
All airlines follow TSA regulations.
However, when it comes to ice packs, as long as you have passed through airport security, an ice pack can be partially or fully melted and will be fine to bring on a plane in your carry on bags.
Different Rules Apply for Medically Necessary Ice Packs
The TSA have different rules when it comes to medically necessary items.
Ice packs are no exception.
The TSA state that “medically necessary gel ice packs in reasonable quantities are allowed regardless of their physical state of matter (e.g., melted or slushy).”
You just have to make sure that you notify the TSA officer at the checkpoint for inspection.
You Can Bring Dry Ice on a Plane
Dry ice can be a great alternative to ice packs, so you might be wondering if you can take it on a plane.
The TSA states that you are allowed to bring dry ice on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags.
Note that the TSA also state that “5.5 pounds of dry ice that is properly packaged (the package is vented) and marked” is allowed.
As long as the above is followed, dry ice is one of the very few items that the TSA defer to the airlines.
They recommend checking with the airline to make sure that you won’t run into any issues.
Ice Packs Are Unlikely to Explode on a Plane
There is an unlikely yet slim possibility that an ice pack will explode on a plane.
This is because dry ice (or frozen carbon dioxide) turns into gas as it heats up, which results in a buildup of pressure that can then explode.
However, as long as the ice pack allows gas to pass out, there is nothing to worry about.
Related: Can You Bring Glass on a Plane?
Can You Bring Water on a Plane?
Due to the TSA’s 3-1-1 Rule that restricts passengers from bringing any liquid, gel, or aerosol in a container that exceeds 3.4oz/100ml through airport security in their carry on bags, you cannot bring water on a plane.
Once you have passed airport security, you can then buy a bottle of water and bring it onto a plane.
It’s also good to be aware of a loophole that allows you to go through airport security and bring water on a plane in your carry on bags.
If you are traveling with a baby or young child, you can say that the bottle of water is for them.
There are also other exceptions to liquid/gel items that you are allowed to bring past airport security.
- Breast milk and formula
- Baby food
- Liquid medication
- Hand sanitizer
- Jumbo disinfecting wipes
- STEB items (secure, tamper-evident bags purchased at the airport)
- Cough syrup
- Gel-filled bras
- Saline solution
You Can Bring a Frozen Water Bottle Though
If you want to bring a frozen water bottle on a plane for any reason, the same rules apply.
So this means that the water inside the bottle must be completely frozen.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).