What Can I Take On A Plane In Checked Luggage?

Last Updated on October 17, 2021

Rather than trying to list every item that you can take on a plane in checked luggage, it helps to think about what the TSA is worried about.

Carry-on luggage is taken into the cabin of the plane. So the TSA is worried about two main types of threats that could be hiding in hand luggage.

For hand luggage they are worried about weapons, or items that could be used as make-shift weapons, getting into the cabin because the bad guys could try to use them to gain control of the aircraft.

And they are also worried about explosives and particularly liquids that could be used to make explosive devices.

When thinking about what can go in checked luggage you don’t need to worry about the weapons part. Your luggage is securely stowed in the hold of the aircraft. That’s why, for example, you can pack a knife in checked luggage but you can’t pack a knife in hand luggage.

The main threat from items in checked luggage is hazardous materials aka hazmat – explosives, things that could start fires, or highly flammable substances.

You can probably figure out what you can pack in checked luggage just by applying that last sentence.

But read on and we’ll discuss some of the checked luggage packing items packers are unsure about in more detail.

Packing Food In Checked Luggage

You can pack most types of food in checked luggage when flying.

Solid foods can go in carry-on too. It’s only non-solid foods that are banned from carry-on luggage. That’s because they show up on the scanners as liquids and your jar of peanut butter might not really be peanut butter.

So for carry-on bags, any food that is spreadable, squeezable, or smearable, isn’t allowed.

But you can bring all types of food, solid or liquid, on a plane in checked luggage.

Suppose you are going on a camping trip…

You can pack the food in your checked luggage, you can even pack the camping stove in your luggage, but you can’t pack the camping gas because the gas could blow up. Get it?

It’s the same with things like lighters and matches.

This passenger wanted to bring matches and assumed they’d need to be “checked of course”.

Here’s the thing…

If a small fire starts in the cabin people are around to put that fire out.

If, on the other hand, a fire starts in the checked luggage hold…

Well, there are some sprinkler systems, and praying to god but there isn’t a lot you can do. You just need to hope the pilot can land the plane before gravity lands the plane or smoke fills the cabin.

Fires are the main concern about checked luggage, so any items that are a fire risk tend to be prohibited from checked luggage.

Okay, are you scared enough about fire risks yet?

Let’s move on…

The other thing you need to remember about packing food in checked baggage is any customs laws if you are traveling internationally.

There are usually laws about which foods you are permitted to bring into countries. You will be able to pack meat for example in a checked suitcase, the TSA won’t stop you, but if you take it into another country you may be breaking the rules.

So check the rules of your destination country if you are packing food.

Packing Liquids & Toiletries In Checked Luggage

You are probably aware that you are only allowed small travel-size bottles in your hand luggage.

And that overall you are limited to one small quart-size bag of liquids in carry-on bags.

The TSA can’t check that the liquid inside every bottle of every passenger is what it says on the label.

Those bad guys might fill a shampoo bottle with a flammable liquid and try to use that flammable liquid to make trouble.

I’m hammering this point home because I’m tired of hearing idiots saying how toothpaste isn’t a threat etc…

The TSA knows that toothpaste itself isn’t dangerous. They just don’t know that whatever is in your toothpaste tube really is toothpaste. It could be an explosive substance in disguise.

To combat this the TSA simply limits how much liquid any single passenger is permitted to bring into the cabin. That way the bad guys could only make a small one, and hopefully not one big enough to make the thing you are sitting in fall out the sky. {Note: Advertisers don’t like me to use certain words, sorry}

So what about packing liquids and toiletries in checked luggage.

The worry about liquids in checked luggage isn’t the same, since you don’t have access to the liquids during the flight. You can’t make anything from the things you pack in checked luggage, you don’t have access. It would need to have been made already, and that should be spotted by the scanners.

All checked bags are stored in the hold and are inaccessible during the flight.

The only type of liquids that the TSA is concerned about in checked bags are flammable liquids!

Keep in mind that some aerosol products are only flammable because of the propellant gas. There might exist alternative non-aerosol products that use a pump spray and are non-flammable. This hack can sometimes let you bring cleaning products that would otherwise be prohibited.

As a general rule, flammable liquids and aerosols are prohibited from checked baggage, but there are some exceptions to the rule.

The first exception is toiletries. If you have a flammable toiletry or aerosol you can pack it in checked luggage, but the container must be under 18 oz. The definition of toiletry is that it’s a product that is applied to the skin.

You also can’t pack more than 70 ounces of flammable toiletries in total. The limit is per person so you can’t increase the limit by bringing two checked suitcases.

The other notable exception for packing flammable liquids in your checked bag is alcohol.

Hurrah! Finally some good news!

Packing Alcohol In Checked Luggage

You are permitted to pack alcoholic beverages in checked luggage if it is under 70% ABV.

Liquor that is over 70% ABC is just too flammable and is prohibited in your checked bag.

If the alcohol content is between 24% and 70% you can pack it in your checked bag but you are limited to 5 liters of alcohol in total.

You can pack as much wine or beer in your checked baggage as the weight limit of your airline will allow.

Read this post to get some tips on how to pack alcohol in checked luggage without the glass bottles breaking.

Packing Batteries & Laptops In Checked Luggage

Another potential cause of a fire in the luggage hold is lithium batteries.

Many electronic products we use today are powered by lithium-ion batteries.

The TSA and the FAA have decided that if a battery is installed in the device then it is safe enough to be packed in checked luggage.

That means you can pack your laptop in checked luggage if you really want to, but you’d be an idiot to do so.

You should make sure that any electrical item with an installed battery can’t be turned on accidently. If your laptop was in your checked bag, and it was accidentally powered on by something pushing against the button, the device could overheat and catch fire.

Valuable items are often damaged in or stolen from checked luggage. So it never makes much sense to pack anything valuable in checked luggage.

Loose lithium batteries are not allowed to be packed in checked luggage and must be packed in carry-on bags instead.

When a lithium battery is loose (not installed) the terminal ends of the battery are exposed. If any metal item in your suitcase was to accidentally connect the exposed positive and negative terminals sparks would fly!

That’s why you can’t pack loose lithium-ion batteries in checked luggage.

Packing Electrical Items In Checked Luggage

You can pack all sorts of electric devices in checked luggage.

Power tools are permitted, but again don’t pack loose batteries. Only installed batteries should be packed.

Make sure your device can’t be turned on. Usually, this means packing it in a storage case.

Toasters, blenders, irons, coffee machines, and hairdryers are all allowed in checked bags. Just because something is electrical or has a plug on it doesn’t mean it can’t be packed.

Packing Knives & Self-Defence Items In Checked Baggage

As mentioned above it’s usually not a problem to pack weapons or self-defense items in checked bags.

All those heavy bludgeoning items that are banned from the cabin are permitted in the hold.

Golf clubs, baseball bats, martial arts weapons, and other types of sporting equipment are fine.

Sharp items like corkscrews with a blade can be packed in checked baggage.

Knives, box cutters, and other blades are fine.

But if you do pack any sharp item in your checked luggage make sure it is securely wrapped.

Any TSA agent inspecting your checked baggage should not need to worry about cutting their hand on a blade.

Of course, you’ll understand by now why you can’t pack flame-throwers in hold luggage but you can pack nunchucks.

And if you are worried about being attacked by bugs…

You can pack insect repellant that is sprayed on your skin in checked bags because it’s considered to be a toiletry.

But you can’t pack aerosol bug killer spray that you spray on or at the insect because it’s flammable and it’s not a toiletry.

Pepper spray is also an exception. You can pack a 4 oz pepper spray in checked bags. Presumably, it’s deemed to be a toiletry that you use on someone else’s face!

What You Can’t Pack In The Hold

It’s probably a better question to ask what you can’t pack in checked baggage.

  • Loose lithium-ion batteries
  • Flammable products that are not toiletries
  • Matches, lighters, electronic cigarettes, vape pens, vaping devices
  • Anything that could start a fire or help a fire to spread rapidly.

If you have a question about a specific item the best way to get an answer is to ping @AskTSA a message on Twitter.

They’ll get back to you with an answer within a few hours.

The Bottom Line

Listing everything that can be taken on a plane in checked luggage would take forever.

Instead, I have tried to teach you to think for yourself.

Next time you are wondering if something can be packed in a checked bag…

Ask yourself…

Can this thing start a fire? If a fire starts will this product burn rapidly and help the fire spread?

And lastly, can I bring this thing into my destination country without breaching customs laws?

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