Gel ice packs on airplane

Hello all,
I’ve been doing some planning for my bilateral surgery with Dr. Hackman coming up in mid-May. I booked the flights and requested assistance at the airport, like many have suggested (thank you!). I was just on the TSA website looking for information on gel ice packs, and I copied this from their website:

"Gel Ice Packs

Carry On Bags: Yes (Special Instructions)

Checked Bags: Yes

Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements.

Note that medically necessary gel ice packs in reasonable quantities are allowed regardless of their physical state of matter (e.g., melted or slushy) with or without the presence of breast milk. Please notify the TSA officer at the checkpoint for inspection."

I was under the impression that it was a little more tricky to get through with ice packs. Can anyone share their experience regarding this? Our travel time back home will be close to 8 hours including layover, so I was thinking about bringing an extra frozen ice pack in an insulated bag… if I’m interpreting this TSA info correctly.

And, as many others have also said, this forum has been a Godsend! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate reading all of your experiences and comments. This is a nerve-wracking journey (quite literally!), and I feel much more calm and better prepared for this because of all of you.

Many blessings, and thank you. :sparkling_heart:


@DeeCeeNorth - Actually, what you posted is great information. What we’ve advised is not to carry gel packs on board in case your particular TSA agent is picky & doesn’t accept your post surgical need for them. You should be able to get ice in a plastic bag from any flight attendant onboard the plane & (save the bag from the plane) in the airport at any food vendor who sells soda in cups i.e. McDonalds, Chidk-fil-a, etc. - Ask for a cup of ice & reuse your airplane bag (though you may be charged even if you don’t get a drink). If you opt to get ice on the plane, we do recommend that you have one or more thin towels or washcloths with you to place between the ice bag & your skin.

My airport experience dictates that once the person who pushes your wheelchair gets you to your gate, whomever is with you can run errands for you (i.e. get food/ice/drinks) or can take you in the wheelchair to do those things. If you don’t have to walk through the airport, you may be fine taking short walks to do little side trips while waiting for your flights.

I’ve based the above recommendations on my experience w/ thawed gel packs that were taken away from me by TSA…I was not post ES surgery when I had them in my carry-on ice chest…just ignorant of the rules.

I’m really glad the information you’ve found here has been helpful & it’s great to know you’re preparing for surgery ahead of time rather than stressing at the last minute.

You know we’re here to answer any questions you have as you get closer to your surgery date. :hugs:


I’m glad that you’ve got surgery arranged and have find info on here helpful! It sounds as if the info you’ve found out is up to date, if you do decide to use your own ice packs I’d either print that info out or have their website & info handy on your phone to show if there’s any issues…plus maybe have a couple of cloths or towels handy with your carry on bag in case there is any problem and then you can ask for ice as @Isaiah_40_31 has suggested.
Let us know when you have a definite date!


Hi @DeeCeeNorth,

Thank you for the information. I didn’t know that those gel ice packs can be carried on board completely frozen though thats a bit difficult. I had them inside my checked bag.
After surgery in Denver they gave me Kerma fillable Ice Bags in large (No. 4003). One for cooling directly and one empty additional for traveling. Those are pretty handy and the personnel on board was very kind and happy to (re-)fill them.
Wishing you already good luck for comfy travels and your appointments / surgery.


Hi! I just flew Delta to Dr. Hackman from Florida out of Orlando airport. So maybe I can offer some insight.

After surgery, my husband grabbed some dry ice packs. You pop them when you need ice and they turn to gel ice, but they don’t seem to be considered a liquid. I waited until we were through TSA to pop them. They worked well for ice on the plane and waiting to board. We got them at a CVS near our hotel so we didn’t carry them both ways.

I think these are them: CVS Health Instant Cold Pack Portable Pain Relief, 2 CT - CVS Pharmacy

I was fresh out of the hospital, spent a night in a hotel after I was released and my face was swollen and no one questioned anything, if they did worst-case scenario we figured we lose a few dollars and ask for ice on the plane. We also bought some plastic baggies in case our ice packs did get tossed through TSA, that way we could fill them with ice.

I also had a wheelchair service which I’m not sure was necessary, but I’m also glad I didn’t try to tough it out - steroids make it deceiving those first few days, at least for me. You do get to board first and it probably makes the ice more understandable getting wheeled through.

If I missed anything or you can think of anything I’m here to help! You’re in good hands with Dr. Hackman.


Good advice about the dry ice packs, @ectocake. Thank you for sharing your experience with them & the wheelchair at the airport. I think the fact that people in wheelchairs get priority in going through TSA & boarding the flight is very helpful when you’re so soon after surgery.

I’m glad you were able to go home so soon. Recovery at home is the best! How are you feeling now?


Thank you all so much… great things to consider! I’m reading more about the gel ice packs, and they only stay cold for about 30 minutes or so… doesn’t make sense to even pack them! Definitely checking out the fillable and the instant cold packs… and I’ll bring some good old fashioned ziplocks just in case!

I’m one to kind of push myself at times, so i think the fact that I requested the wheelchair service will be good for me, lol! Also used points to splurge for first class on the way home. Hope I can enjoy that, though!

My timing sounds similar to yours, @ectocake (also flying Delta). Because of your and others’ stories, I feel very good with my choice to go with Dr Hackman…. and I love Marsela (his surgery scheduler)! She is so kind and helpful.

I’m scheduled for a May 21st pre-op appt with him, with surgery on the 22nd. I was a little nervous, wondering if there was a chance he wouldn’t do the surgery for whatever reason after our first appt, but was reassured by Marsela that he’s looked at all the records from Dr Hauser and read all my CT scans… so I guess he’s confident.

I’m so ready to do this and to be done! Got a full list of recovery items, food, and things to do. Fingers crossed it relieves my symptoms!

Thanks, all!


I feel pretty good! There are some side effects, but I’m hoping they subside. I have started to exercise again which is good. My incisions look great and healed well. I plan on posting a picture and catching everyone up more soon. I have a lot to share. :slight_smile:


Did you see Dr Hauser here in Florida? I’ve been debating whether or not it’s worth the cash pay and the drive across the state. I just wanted to get more dynamic imaging done before I go under the knife for the other side.

Delta’s first class was definitely worth it on the way back! Though, I think their comfort plus would have been just as good.

The instant cold packs lasted a while. I think we used one up to TSA, then broke a new one after getting through TSA and it lasted me the flight which was probably about two hours. I could be wrong.


Will pray all goes well for you! :hugs: :pray:

1 Like

I did see Dr Hauser in Florida. I know that the experiences from others on the forum have been varied, but I felt very grateful to have found him and his team. I had 3 prolotherapy treatments, which I felt did help slightly. More than that, I gained a ton of insight and knowledge into my situation. He was the one who finally ordered the right scans to properly diagnose me. He went over the scans with me in great detail, and suggested not continuing with prolotherapy until I had the styloids removed, and referred me to Dr. Hackman. I am also continuing to work on curve correction, as I have more of a “military neck.” I’ll wait to see if prolotherapy still makes sense after surgery, but for sure I’m going to see a local atlas orthoganist, as I know C1 is also playing a role in my IJV compression. Certainly can’t hurt.


Thank you, Jules! :purple_heart:

1 Like

Thank you for sharing your experience!