Play-Doh isn’t harmful, nor does it have a pungent smell. It’s also not a liquid (or gel or cream), so there aren’t any specific regulations.
The TSA allows passengers to bring Play-Doh on a plane. It’s not on the prohibited list, and the only thing you need to worry about is the weight restrictions for luggage. It’s possible to carry a large mound of Play-Doh, but don’t be surprised if it’s subject to extra screening.
You can pack Play-Doh in your checked luggage or put it in your carry-on if you want to play with it during the flight.
Just remember that TSA agents are empowered to use their discretion if something seems fishy, and all decisions are final.
Carry-On Size and Weight Limits
Airlines have limits on how big your carry-on can be and how much it weighs.
Most have a size limitation of 22” x 14” x 9” (56 cm x 35 cm x 22 cm), including wheels and handles.
Short-distance flights and smaller airlines have stricter rules, but you’re unlikely to need a bigger bag to bring along Play-Doh, and you probably don’t need to put it in your checked luggage.
Weight limits for baggage vary depending on the airline and ticket class (e.g., economy vs. business class).
You probably won’t tip the scales by adding Play-Doh to your suitcase, assuming the total weight was already below the limit.
If you’re bringing a considerable amount of Play-Doh on your vacation, inform the airline just to be safe.
A good rule of thumb is that if the amount feels questionable to you, it’ll probably be suspicious to the screeners.
How To Pack Play-Doh
Play-Doh comes in a tub, so you don’t need a special place to put it, but I recommend storing the containers in a clear plastic bag to avoid any messes.
If the Play-Doh is for the kids, put it in your hand luggage with their toys and other in-flight supplies.
The carry-on bag you put it in should be different from your infant supply bag (where you have diapers, formula, etc.)
If the Play-Doh is yours (maybe for therapeutic purposes), keep it close for easy access, like in a side compartment or larger zipped pocket.
Should You Bring Play-Doh on a Plane?
Play-Doh gets a bad rep on select air travel forums, and it’s easy to see why the complaints are justified.
Although Play-Doh is just a type of modeling clay (usually marketed toward children), there is a form of plastic explosives nicknamed “Spicy Play-Doh,” which resembles the product.
This substance is obviously not even close to the tub of colorful dough we all grew up with, but anything that alerts the TSA will cause a chain reaction.
It’s vital to always keep your Play-Doh in its original packaging (or at the very least, a plastic container).
Security agents get suspicious quickly, so anything that seems out of place will likely require additional screening.
Some Play-Doh varieties also have a compound that can trigger alarm systems. If your bag triggers an alarm, you’re likely to undergo an exhaustive checking process to confirm you’re not trying to smuggle weapons-grade explosives.
Ultimately, it’s not that serious, and telling the officers it’s a children’s toy will usually do the trick.
The chances of additional screening are low, and you’ll still have your Play-Doh at the end of the process. But, given that it’s not an essential item, it’s easy to see why some parents don’t want to spend an extra 20 minutes at airport security with their children in tow.
Most people just avoid Play-Doh altogether and entertain their kids with other things.
Alternatives to Play-Doh on a Plane
The alternatives listed below are activities or supplies you can bring to entertain kids during the flight.
If your Play-Doh is for therapeutic purposes, but you’re questioning whether you should take it on your trip, contact your mental health provider for other useful alternatives.
Also, remember that you can still bring Play-Doh on a flight – these options are only suggestions if you don’t think it’s worth the potential fuss.
1. Coloring Books
Coloring books are a great way to keep the kids (and yourself) busy during a flight.
You can encourage your kids to color quietly by themselves or work together on a masterpiece.
I recommend bringing twistable crayons instead of markers or colored pencils. This type of crayon doesn’t break easily, keeps little hands clean, and never needs to be sharpened.
2. Sticker Books
Sticker books are another fun way to pass the time.
Each book comes with a variety of stickers, and depending on the size and theme, it can come with anywhere from 100 to 2000+ stickers.
3. Travel-Specific Toys and Games
Carry toys that aren’t a hassle to pack and don’t require much for the kid to have fun.
Anything with small parts can fall between the seats and be gone forever, so bring things that won’t get lost easily.
If your kids are old enough, I suggest magnetic games, playing cards, or Uno. You can get a tournament going and see who wins the most rounds by the end of the flight.
Small children and toddlers may require a bit more creativity, but usually, just having a few stuffed toys (or dolls) is enough to keep them happy.
Some airlines have activity kits for children, so ask your flight attendant if they have something available.
If all else fails, there’s always the in-flight entertainment system or a tablet to keep your kiddies occupied.
While you are permitted to bring Play-Doh on a plane, it makes sense why some travelers might have differing opinions on the subject.
The TSA has almost no problem with it, and even if an officer screens your bags further, you won’t get in trouble (assuming you don’t have any other prohibited items).
If you’re still on the fence, contact the TSA or explain the situation to the airline.
The representatives will advise you on the correct course of action so that your flight is as stress-free as possible.