If you’re traveling frequently, getting a reusable quart-size bag is more efficient than switching to a new Ziploc bag after every flight.
But the problem is that not all “quart-size” bags are exactly 1 quart in size. A lot of them are larger, which sometimes causes problems with airport security. And in addition to this, there are other restrictions for toiletry bags. It’s important to understand them so that you can have stress-free flights.
What TSA Defines as a Quart Size Bag
TSA (Transport Security Agency) limits the size of all liquids, pastes, gels, and aerosols in hand baggage with the 3-1-1 rule for liquids. It states liquids must be in 3.4 oz (100 ml) containers or smaller, and packed in a single 1-quart bag (3 oz – 1 bag – 1 quart).
When it comes to providing a complete description of the 1-quart bag, TSA is very vague in its answers. Usually, whenever someone asks them for specific details, they answer a single vague response, which doesn’t tell much. But in some answers, they revealed more details.
Here are the main requirements for toiletry bags based on official information from Twitter and their website:
- “TSA-Approved” quart-size bags aren’t actually approved by the TSA. They don’t approve or endorse any specific bags. Instead, they only say that the bag should be 1 quart in size
- TSA doesn’t mention 3 dimensions for the 1-quart bag. But they do say that it should not exceed 6 x 9 inches (15 x 23 cm)
- They recommend that the bag is transparent, but it isn’t a requirement
- The bag has to be resealable
- It has to be removed and placed in a separate bin when going through security
How Big Can a Quart Size Bag Be
Your quart-size bag should be below 1 quart in volume, resealable, and ideally transparent. Acceptable sizes would be 6 x 9 x 1 inches (0.94 quarts), 8 x 7 x 1 inches (0.97 quarts), or 7 x 5.5 x 1.5 inches (1 quart).
The problem is that most quart-size bags for sale are above 1 quart in size. Some of them can even go up to 1.7-2.2 quarts in size.
To calculate quarts, you need to multiply all three dimensions of the bag (height, width, and depth) and then multiply it all with 0.017316. For example, the most popular quart-size bag on Amazon measures 7.5 x 5.5 x 2.2 inches, which is 1.57 quarts (7.5 x 5.5 x 2.2 x 0.017316). If you encounter a strict TSA officer, this bag wouldn’t be allowed onboard.
What Size Ziploc Sandwich Bags Are Counted as Quart Size
Calculating the volume of a Ziploc sandwich bag is difficult because it’s hard to estimate its depth. That’s why TSA has another requirement for Ziploc bags. TSA has stated in their official Twitter response that Ziploc toiletry bags should be below 6 x 9 inches in size.
You can also look at the measurements on the packaging of the Ziploc bag, which should ideally state 1 quart. 1-liter Ziploc bags are also accepted because 1 liter equals 1.06 quart.
TSA Isn’t Very Strict About Quart Size Bags
In reality, TSA allows passengers to use slightly oversized quart-size bags. If the bag is transparent, resealable, and doesn’t look much larger than a 1-liter Ziploc bag, it will be allowed. You’ll only encounter problems if your toiletry bag looks way too large or if you encounter a very strict officer, but this happens rarely.
If you always carry a 1-quart backup Ziploc bag, then you can use a 1.5-2 quart reusable toiletry bag. It will be allowed 90-95% of the time. In fact, a lot of travelers use this hack to carry more liquids in their hand baggage. The only downside is that sometimes you’ll have to throw out some liquids that don’t fit in your Ziploc bag.
Flying With Toiletry Bags Internationally
Overseas, the rules for carrying liquids in hand baggage are similar, but in different measurements. The toiletry bag is usually restricted to 20×20 cm or 1 liter in size.
Security officers in other countries are generally more strict than TSA. Oversized, reusable quart-size bags very often aren’t allowed. When flying internationally, we recommend traveling with a 1-liter Ziploc bag that doesn’t exceed 20×20 cm, instead of a reusable quart-size bag.
Pros and Cons of Using Quart Size Bags
- A more sustainable choice if used long-term
- Offers more space than Ziploc bags. You can usually fit about 10-12x 3.4 oz / 100 ml bottles inside
- Much more durable, so you won’t have to find a new bag after every few flights
- Quart-size bags aren’t spill-proof
- Most quart-size bags are over 1 quart in volume, which means that occasionally, they won’t be allowed
- They aren’t 100% transparent. Some countries require toiletry bags to be transparent
Pros and Cons of Using Ziploc Sandwich Bags
- Lighter than quart-size bags
- 1 quart/liter Ziploc bags will always be within the size limit, so you won’t have to stress about them when going through security
- Ziploc bags are 100% spill-proof
- 100% transparent, which means they follow the rules in all countries
- Sandwich bags get tears very easily, so you should always bring a backup
- They fit fewer liquid bottles inside. You can fit about 5-7x 3.4 oz / 100 ml bottles inside a Ziploc bag
Quart Size Bag vs Ziploc Sandwich Bag – Which One Is Better?
Using a quart-size bag as your toiletry bag isn’t always better, especially if you’re flying internationally. That’s because they’re often over 1 quart in size and some countries don’t allow them. They also aren’t spill-proof and 100% transparent. For a lot of travelers, using a regular 1 quart/liter Ziploc bag is the best option.
But if you’re mostly traveling domestically within the US, then using a quart-size bag is a better option. They’ll be allowed most of the time, and you’ll get to pack 2-5 extra toiletry bottles inside. Plus, they’re a more durable and sustainable option. Just don’t get a toiletry bag that’s way over 1 quart in size, since they’re more likely to not be allowed.