Can You Bring an Empty Metal Water Bottle on a Plane?

Can You Bring an Empty Metal Water Bottle on a Plane

Flying can be stressful enough without worrying about what you can and can’t bring through airport security. When it comes to empty metal water bottles, the rules are a little complicated. In this blog post, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about bringing an empty metal water bottle on a plane.

Why Bring an Empty Metal Water Bottle?

Can You Bring an Empty Metal Water Bottle on a Plane
Can You Bring an Empty Metal Water Bottle on a Plane

There are a few good reasons to bring an empty reusable water bottle with you when you fly:

  • Stay hydrated: Airplane air is very dry, which can lead to dehydration. Having your empty bottle allows you to fill it up once you’re through security to drink plenty of water throughout your flight. This is especially important on longer flights.
  • Save money: Buying bottled water once you’re past airport security can get very expensive. Bringing an empty bottle saves you from having to pay inflated prices for water at the airport or on the plane.
  • Reduce waste: Airports sell millions of plastic water bottles each year, creating tons of unnecessary waste. Bringing a reusable metal bottle helps lower the demand for disposable plastic bottles.
  • Customize your drink: Plane and airport tap water might not taste great, but you can bring powdered drink mixes or other water flavorings to make your custom beverage on the flight.

TSA Rules for Empty Metal Water Bottles

Can You Bring an Empty Metal Water Bottle on a Plane
Can You Bring an Empty Metal Water Bottle on a Plane

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has specific rules about empty water bottles that you’ll need to follow:

  • Must be empty: Any water bottle you bring through security must be empty to be allowed. Any liquid left inside will require the bottle to be discarded.
  • Should have removable caps: Water bottles with removable caps or lids are ideal. The TSA agent may ask you to remove the lid to examine the inside of the bottle.
  • Size limits: Empty bottles must adhere to the 3-1-1 liquids rule. This means the bottle must hold 3.4 ounces or less of liquid when full. Larger bottles could be confiscated even if empty.
  • Must clear screening: Your empty bottle will need to pass through the x-ray machine without issue and may get additional screening. If it appears suspicious, TSA could prohibit it.
  • Might undergo screening: In some cases, TSA agents may instruct you to open the bottle for visual inspection or have it swabbed for substance testing. This procedure is fairly rare but can happen.

What Kind of Bottle Can You Bring?

You have options when it comes to the type of empty reusable water bottle to bring as long as it follows TSA guidelines:

Metal Water Bottles

  • Allowed: Yes, empty metal water bottles are allowed through airport security. Aluminum, stainless steel, copper, etc. are all permitted.
  • Benefits: Metal bottles are durable, retain temperature well, and come in larger sizes. Brands like Hydro Flask, Klean Kanteen, and Yeti make high-quality metal bottles.
  • Considerations: This may require additional screening. Larger bottles might exceed size limits when full. Can be heavy.

Plastic Water Bottles

  • Allowed: Yes, you can bring an empty reusable plastic water bottle as long as it follows the 3-1-1 rule.
  • Benefits: Lightweight, inexpensive, comes in larger sizes. Easy to find plastic bottles at any grocery store or retailer.
  • Considerations: Not as durable. Could contain chemicals like BPA. Get additional screening.

Glass Water Bottles

  • Allowed: Technically permitted, but not recommended by TSA.
  • Benefits: Glass is inert and of higher quality. Some luxury and high-end glass bottle brands are available.
  • Considerations: Glass raises security concerns and is much more likely to get confiscated. Also heavy and prone to breaking.

How to Get Your Empty Bottle Through Security

To maximize your chances of being allowed to bring your empty reusable water bottle onboard, follow these tips:

  • Make sure it’s empty: Double-check that not a single drop of liquid remains inside before packing it. Any leftover liquid means the bottle must be surrendered.
  • Have it easily accessible: Keep your empty bottle out of your bag and handy to present to the TSA agent during screening. This prevents it from getting lost in your luggage.
  • Be cooperative: Follow all instructions from TSA agents without argument. Be polite if they need to do additional screening, open the bottle, or have it swabbed.
  • Don’t overfill later: Once through security, don’t fill your bottle up beyond the 3.4 ounce/100 ml capacity. Overfilling can get you in trouble at the gate when boarding.
  • Consider a folding bottle: Collapsible silicone bottles flatten when empty, making them easier to get through screening. Brands like Nomader make excellent folding bottles.

What If My Bottle Isn’t Allowed?

There’s a chance the TSA agent denies your empty water bottle even if you follow all the rules. Reasons this might happen include:

  • Appearing too full or sloshing liquid sounds when shaken
  • The bottle is oversized, even when empty
  • Agent determines bottle is a security threat
  • You refuse to comply with additional screening

If this unfortunate situation happens, here are your options:

  • Surrender the bottle: The easiest solution is to give up the bottle to the TSA agent. This lets you continue your travels unimpeded.
  • Exit screening and stow bottle: You can opt to leave the security line, find a bag check, stow your bottle, and then pass through screening bottle-free.
  • Don’t fly: If you don’t want to surrender the bottle and can’t stow it, your only option left is to cancel your flight and leave the airport.
  • File a claim: After your trip, you can file a claim with the TSA for confiscation of property. But compensation is very unlikely.

Your best bet is to try your best to follow the TSA guidelines and agent instructions to successfully get your empty reusable bottle through!

Related: Can You Bring Dry Shampoo on a Plane

Filling Up Post-Security

Once you’re finally through security with your empty approved bottle, it’s time to fill it up! Here are some tips:

  • Use a water fountain: Most airports now have bottle-filling stations, usually near drinking fountains. These are the easiest ways to fill up.
  • Ask at restaurants: Many food vendors and sit-down restaurants will happily fill up your bottle with tap water upon request, sometimes for a small fee.
  • Bring your filter: If you don’t like the taste of tap water, bring a small water filter like a Lifestraw or Bobble to filter water as you fill.
  • Board early: Give yourself enough time before boarding to fill up. Lines can get long at filling stations near busy gates before flights.
  • Stay hydrated: Be sure to drink frequently from your bottle throughout your flight. Dehydration can ruin an otherwise smooth trip.

Traveling with Empty Bottles

Bringing an empty reusable water bottle in your carry-on luggage for flights can be a smart way to save money, stay hydrated, and reduce waste. With careful planning and by following TSA rules, you’ll have the best chance of successfully getting through security with your bottle to use on the other side.

Always arrive early enough so you have time to go through additional screening if needed. Come prepared to graciously surrender your bottle if requested by a TSA agent. The convenience of having your water source for the flight is worth the small effort it takes to follow the guidelines.

With the right reusable bottle and preparation, you’ll stay refreshed and hydrated at 35,000 feet! Safe travels with your empty on-the-go water container.