Melissa Locker
August 4, 2017
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

You can’t bring a gallon of sweet tea to your friends up north or even a bottle of Cheerwine in your carry-on bag. However, the TSA recently clarified their list of food items that can be brought on board (mashed potatoes, gravy, and your prize-winning peach jam are out, but an entire cooked ham is a-okay). One thing that the clever folks over at The Kitchn noticed is that with a few caveats, ice is TSA approved as carry-on. That means, if you use your imagination and a lot of freezer space, you may soon find yourself carting your nana’s sweet tea to friends in California to defrost and enjoy.

Here’s how it all works: The TSA doesn’t care if the item will eventually return to its liquid state. They only care if it’s a solid when it goes through security. That means whatever liquid—be it a can of NuGrape soda or a jar of your red eye gravy—it has to be completely frozen solid. If it becomes partially melted or slushy, the liquid must be less than 3.4 oz. Luckily, frozen food can be packed in either ice or ice packs. Once again, though if the ice melts and there is liquid at the bottom of the ice pack, they are subject to the TSA liquids rule—or they’ll get tossed in the trash, which is a terrible fate for perfectly good red-eye gravy. That’s why the best option for those of us determined to hand-deliver soups or sodas is to use dry ice. According to the Kitchn, the FAA limits the amount of dry ice that can be carried on board to five pounds. That’s more than enough to keep that sweet tea frozen all the way to Michigan or wherever your travels take you.

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That said, even though the TSA has nominally approved this, keep in mind that they are a federal agency tasked with keeping us all safe while we fly. To that end, sometimes the rules change or carry-on items may require additional screening. “Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns,” according to the TSA's website. “The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.” And, no, you can’t bribe a TSA agent with a glass of tea.