Airport Security Beverages: chug or throw?

a woman drinking from a bottle

During travel this time of year we often have that chill-reducing Starbucks or other hydration drink in hand. While we know we can’t bring liquids through airport security (repeat after me—we do know this, right?) which includes bottles of water and other beverages, what do we do when the TSA reminds us of this no-no?  In most cases, your best bet is to buy these beverages at the airport after the security checkpoint or you can also bring in an empty or reusable water bottle and fill it at a water refilling station.

But, what if you got to the airport and realized you still have beverages with you? Who hasn’t first noticed that Starbucks cup still in their hand when producing the app with your pre-check boarding pass in it. So the situation question is …

Do You Throw Them Away or Chug Them All?

On my recent transit through airport security at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport, a “bag screening” was required at the airport entrance. All bags need to go through the machine before you can even go into the airport. I thought.  “Oh no, I still have a small bottle of water in my bag”

Out of habit, I took it out and … chugged the whole thing down. Problem solved.

Since folks in my traveling party also had beverages, I asked one of the security staff.  Translated, the conversation went like this:

Me: “Hi, can we take our bottles of water into the airport?”

Her:  “Yes, you can.”

Me:  “Oh.  Well, I guess it’s not a problem…since I finished mine”.   [I held up my now empty bottle, and then laughed out loud at my own silliness.  Maybe I should have asked first.]

Her:  [Much to my surprise, she cracked a huge smile and shared]   “You’d be surprised. It happens more often with travelers coming from the West. Even when I tell them they don’t need to dispose their drinks at this checkpoint, they’d still drink the whole thing.”

We had a good laugh. I guessed I fit right into that profile.


While most of us don’t intentionally carry beverages to the airport, the unexpected can happen. For example, there might be the well-meaning person in your party who end up buying extra beverage for everyone. The new travelers who legitimately do not know the rules. Those few instances where you can’t take your bottled water onboard even though you purchased it at the airport (though before airport security).

The issue isn’t so much about buying a new bottle of water at the airport. It just seemed so wasteful to me to force people to throw away a perfectly good bottle of water, when clean drinking water is considered a luxury in some places. Meanwhile, most airports can’t do much about confiscated items (water and other beverages) due to contamination concerns.

For my part, I try to plan a little ahead. I don’t buy or take with me what I don’t need. Fortunately, I can hold quite a bit of liquid, so I can chug a bottle or two of water when the need arises. I often joked with my family that they won’t want to be stranded with me in a desert when there’s only a bottle of water.

So, chug away, if that’s your style.

But, as with all things, be prudent and do it in moderation. If you can’t drink it, you can’t drink it. This woman chugged a bottle of Cognac and she didn’t end up on her flight. This guy did the same for his vodka and he nearly died from alcohol poisoning.

While water is generally harmless, be aware that you can actually die from water intoxication. While rare, you can die from consuming too much water too quickly.

What do you typically do in this situation? Do you throw away your beverages?  Try to drink them all before heading to security?  Successfully gave them away? Other options?