Can I Bring A Coffee Mug in My Carry On?

by Scott Deans | Last Updated: March 31, 2020

I was planning my packing and getting ready for travelling. I wanted to fly with only a carry on bag. When I went to pack my travel coffee mug I was left wondereing, can I bring a coffee mug in my carry on?

According to the TSA, provided the mug is empty, doesn’t resemble a weapon, and has no sharp features, you can bring a mug in your carry on. This is mostly the case worldwide too with all airlines.

But as with anything, there are some conditions your mug has to meet.

Can I Bring A Coffee Mug in My Carry On?

The Transport Security Administration, international security administrations, and Coffee Mugs

Airport security across the world, and in particular, the TSA are more concerned about liquids than containers. So if your container is empty you’re pretty much good to go.

Airline security are well aware that just about anything could cause damage. Even pens are pointy. They’re more worried about what could cause lots of damage. So while you could bludgeon someone with your big meaty mug (don’t do that, thicko) they more have things like flammable materials in their sights.

That said, for liquids, it’s a rule pretty much across the board internationally that you cannot carry on volumes greater than 100ml (3.4 ounces). You can’t have 3.4 ounces of a liquid in a container larger than that volume either. Although you can split it up into multiple 3.4 ounce containers.

There are a few extra cases you need to watch out for.

Does your mug have any sharp points or edges?
It will definitely need to go into checked in luggage in this case. You will not get this into carry on.

Is it broken at all?
Big no no. While the mug itself is fine, again, sharp things can be used as weapons. Put it into checked in luggage if you just can’t part with your broken mug. Or just bin it you hoarder.

Does it resemble weapon?
Some novelty mugs are shaped like knives and guns. Airline security won’t like these at all. They don’t want to risk some lunatic pulling out a mug that looks like a gun mid-flight and scaring the life out of everyone.

Is it made of glass?
You’re usually all good. Again, if it’s broken, it’s not getting through security. Some airlines might restrict glass though. It is fragile. If in doubt ask them at check in.

It is made of stainless steel or other metals?
No problem. You’re all clear here. These are my personal favourite as I’ll explain further on.

How To Bring Your Coffee Mug in your Carry on

You will not get your mug through security with anything in it. Chug your coffee before you get to security or, if you’re a real heathen, throw it down a sink or in a bin. Give it a little wipe to take care of drips.

You could make it even easier for yourself and just have it packed in your bag clean and ready for once you’re past security.

If it has a lid, don’t have it on. Make it obvious the cup is empty. Just pack the lid near the cup.

Once you’re through security you’re free to get the mug refilled at any airport coffee shop. I’ve never found a single coffee shop that won’t fill up my own mug. They’re usually delighted to. Besides its eco friendly.

You might even be able to get a free coffee if you ask staff to fill your mug on the plane! Seriously. Free refills.

In fact airline staff will be glad your drink is in a cup with a lid. Can you imagine how often they have to clean up spills?

What Kind of Mug is Best for Carry On?

In case you don’t already have a travel coffee mug, decide the sweet design, you have a choice to make. The main decision is in what it’s made of. You really have four materials to choose from.

Ultimately the choice is down to your preference but each material has its own pros and cons. You’re mostly weighing up cost, durability, weight, and if it taints the flavour.

A plastic mug will be most durable but is most likely to affect the flavour. While they are often the cheapest, they are also least insulative, your drink will get cold fast.

A glass mug has a fairly high risk of breaking. So far from ideal for taking through an airport. They are also one of the most expensive. They are heavy and about as insulative as plastic. That said, it will have nearly zero effect on the flavour.

Ceramic is an interesting one. It’s just the same material as a regular mug at home. They’re pretty insulative and, like glass, don’t affect the flavour. They can be heavy. Ceramic is essentially a kind of rock. The real unfortunate side of ceramic mugs is that they are only a little tougher than glass. You just don’t want a mug to break in an airport. Not worth the hassle.

Lastly, there are metal mugs. This is my personal choice. Metal mugs are tough. I’d be damn impressed if one broke.
They are insulative, lightweight, and also quite mid-range in price. Their only slight downside is they can have a mild effect on flavour. For me, that’s a trade off I’m willing to make. The metal flavour does seem to go away over time too.

For a bonus: any mug that’s double walled will be a lot more insulative than with a single wall. That’s what makes a Thermos or Hydro Flask so good.

Bringing Your Mug on Full

So you’ve got your mug through security. Filled it up. Want to take that rich brew on your flight?

If your mug can seal up, so it has a lid, and won’t leak you can certainly pop it in your carry on bag, wait until you’re on your flight, and get guzzling it in your seat.

If you can’t seal the thing up be prepared for the staff at the gate to ask you to empty it. Unlikely but possible.

Some airlines might see warm liquids as a risk. So you might have an easier time with a cold brew. If you’re into that.

It’s always worth holding on to the receipt for the coffee to prove to staff at the gate that you bought the coffee in the airport. Just in case they have any questions.

Nine times out of ten they will ask you to just walk right on board while holding your mug. No problem.

Packing your Coffee Mug

So you’re opting to put it into checked in luggage or you’re not going to need it in your carry on? You’re going to want to pack it well so it doesn’t get damaged. Particularly for fragile mugs.

Wrap it up so that it’s protected from bumps, and if it does break, it’s contained. Might be worth stuffing a pair of socks in the mug too, if nothing else, it’s a good use of space.

Bubble wrap makes for one of the best packing materials. Especially cylindrical things. If you can’t find anything else to wrap it up, paper towels are a good option or even just a T-shirt.

If it does break it might cause you some issues. Just be prepared to be friendly and cooperative with the airport staff. Binning it will likely be the easiest option.

Does your mug have a lid? Best not pack your mug with the lid attached. Pack it seperately. If security does go through your things, you want it to be obvious that there are no liquids in the mug. It will just make your life easier.

Keep the mug packed in an accessible part of your bag just in case security want to see it. Keeping it handy will help avoid hold ups. That said, for safety, it’s best to pack more fragile mugs in the middle of your bag.

Can I Bring My Own Coffee On The Flight?

You don’t want the airport coffee and don’t trust you’re going to find the coffee you want at your destination? Jees, you really are making this hard for yourself here.

Well you’re in luck! The TSA say you can take powders, like coffee, if they’re in containers of volumes less than 12 ounces (350ml). Most other national airline security administrations follow a similar rule.

You can usually take it in your carry on. That said, it’ll probably be easier if you put it in check in luggage.

Are you taking whole coffee beans? You’re all good there too. Just make sure it’s in organised 12 ounce containers. Nice and easy for security to check.

Airport Staff and Regulations

Everyone can have a different experience when going though airport security. Whatever comes up, remember to be friendly and cooperative with airport staff. If they do throw a spanner in the works, remember that they are just doing their job. They have been given rules to follow and enforce.

It’s always worth checking with the airline you are going to fly with that your items are all clear. Especially when flying internationally. If you’re left in any doubt, you can always ask before check in.

The TSA have an excellent section on their site which explains everything you can and cannot bring with you.
While not every travel security authority around the world might have a handy list like the TSA, regulations around the world tend to be very similar. Again, do check with your destination and airline.

Can you guess what keeps me up at night? You guessed it! Copious amounts of coffee beans. What? I brew them first.