So you’ve made the decision to fly taking a checked bag rather than taking only hand luggage.
You now need to decide which items on your packing list go in the checked bag and what items will go in your carry-on bags.
The full list of items that answer the question “What can I take on a plane in checked luggage?” is enormous.,
It’s far better to ask “What items are not allowed in checked luggage?”.
This list is much more manageable and if your item is not on the banned list for checked baggage it’s safe to say you can pack it in your suitcase.
But it’s also important to highlight the difference between what is prohibited from being packed in checked bags and what is not sensible to pack in checked bags. There are things that you can’t pack in your suitcase when flying and things that you shouldn’t pack in your suitcase when flying.
I’ve seen it written that airlines lose 2 bags per 1000 passengers. Or if we assume an average of 100 passengers per flight that means that every 5 flights someone is losing a checked bag.
There is also a risk of theft or damage by baggage handlers.
So if you really don’t want to lose something then you should never pack it in checked luggage and pack it instead in carry on luggage.
So this post also lists items that it’s recommended NEVER to pack in your checked bag in addition to those that are prohibited from checked baggage.
TSA Checked Luggage Rules
The transportation security administration screens over a million checked bags every day. They do this mainly using x-ray scans as they do at the security checkpoint, but if an alarm is triggered they will open your bag for a physical inspection. Around 10% of bags are opened and physically inspected, so you really need to make sure that everything you put in your checked bag is permitted.
If your bag has been opened they will leave a note in your case so you know why and it will look like this:
It can feel like an invasion of privacy to have someone rummage around in your suitcase but the rules are in place for aviation safety. When it comes to checked bags, the FAA sets the rules and it’s the job of the TSA to enforce the rules.
The items that are flat out banned from checked bags almost always related to the risk of fire. A fire inside the cabin is one thing, it can be put out using fire extinguishers. But a fire in the cargo hold is much more dangerous. So checked bags are screened to stop hazardous items and materials from getting inside the plane’s cargo hold.
Items Not Allowed In Checked Luggage
- Alcoholic beverages over 140 proof or 70% ABV – Strong liquor like grain alcohol is flammable
- Bang Snaps –
- Arc Lighters, Plasma Lighters, Electronic Lighters, E-Lighters – The battery-powered lighters could start a fire
- Bear Bangers
- Bear Spray
- Blasting caps
- Butane Gas – Flammable
- Butane Cordless Curling Irons
- Camp Stoves – Only allowed if they are cleaned and emptied of all fuel
- Car parts – Car engine parts may be placed in checked bags only if the parts are packed in their original box and free of gasoline and oil
- Chlorine for Pools and Spas
- CO2 Cartridge – you can only carry an EMPTY compressed gas cylinder on a plane, it must be made clear to the TSA that the cylinder is empty by removing the valve.
- CO2 Cartridge for Life Vest – You may bring a life vest with up to two CO2 cartridges inside, plus two spare cartridges in your carry-on or checked bag.
- Compressed Air Guns – You can only carry a compressed air gun without compressed air cylinder attached
- Cooking spray
- Disposable and Zippo Lighters – Fully empty and cleaned lighters without fuel are allowed. Full lighters can only be
- Dry Ice – 5.5 lbs maximum
- Electronic Cigarettes and Vaping Devices, Vape Pens
- Engine-powered Equipment -The TSA will allow engine-powered equipment if it’s completely purged of fuel however check with your airline
- English Christmas Crackers –
- Fertilizer –
- Fire Extinguishers and Other Compressed Gas Cylinders –
- Firearms – Firearms carried in checked bags must be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in. Check with your airline to see if they allow firearms in checked bags. When traveling, be sure to comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international government.
- Flammable Liquid, Gel, or Aerosol Paint
- Flammable Paints
- Flare Guns
- Flares – We’re talking the burning distress signals not bell-bottomed jeans
- Gas Torches
- Gun Lighters
- Gun Powder
- Laptop Batteries – You can actually pack a laptop with an internal battery in your checked luggage. but spare batteries are not permitted in checked bags and must go in your hand luggage.
- Lighter Fluid
- Liquid Bleach
- Lithium Batteries – You can pack lithium batteries smaller than 100 watt hours in checked bags. Larger than 100 watt hour can go in carry on bags if under 300 watt hours
- Medically Necessary Personal Oxygen
- Parachutes – You can’t pack a parachute inside a suitcase it must be in its own individual bag.
- Party Poppers
- Power Banks
- Recreational Oxygen
- Rocket Launcher
- Safety Matches
- Small Compressed Gas Cartridges
- Spillable Batteries
- Spray Paint
- Spray Starch
- Tear Gas
- Torch Lighters
- Turpentine and Paint Thinner
Items You Shouldn’t Pack In Checked Luggage
These things are not banned in checked luggage but are better packed in hand luggage in case they go missing.
- Anything Valuable – Checked bags do go missing and sometimes
- All Your Clean Clothes – If your bag was to go missing you won’t have any clean clothes to wear, it’s a good idea to pack at least 1 change of clothes in your hand luggage
- Vacuum-sealed bags – Some people like to compress clothes using vacuum-sealed bags when traveling. These compression bags are not banned in checked luggage but they are not encouraged. The TSA officer may need to inspect your clothes and they will not repack your clothes. A better option is compression packing cubes like these.
- Boarding passes – You’re going to need them to get on the flight!
- Cell phones – despite it having a battery you could pack your cell phone in your checked suitcase. For most people the thought of losing their cell phone brings out a cold sweat. Keep it in your pocket or hand luggage for safety
- Credit Cards – If your suitcase is lost you would need to cancel your credit cards.
- Details Of Your Hotel Booking – If your checked case was lost would you still know how to get to your hotel? Make sure you have this valuable information when you land
- Electronic Devices – These are usually fragile and valuable and better packed in hand luggage.
- House keys – There is no ban on packing your house keys in your checked suitcase but they could be lost if the case goes missing
- Jewelry – Too valuable to risk packing in checked luggage.
- Laptops – These are fragile items and are best packed in hand luggage where you can look after them
- Medication – If you are going on vacation you don’t want to lose any regular medication that you are on. Keep it in your hand luggage for safe keeping.
- Money – Better kept close at hand.
- Passports – You will need these
- Photographic Film – The x-ray scans used at both the security check point or the scanning of checked luggage can damage photographic film
Although it’s safer to bring valuables in your hand luggage don’t assume your bag is safe on the plane. There have been cases of in-flight theft of valuables from within bags during the flight. Remain alert to the possibility that your fellow passengers might try to steal your belongings.
What is allowed in checked baggage for international flights?
Everything else! If the item you are considering isn’t banned then it is allowed in checked baggage for domestic or international flights.
Can you pack food in checked baggage?
Yes. Solid food can be transported in either your carry-on or checked bags within the continental United States. Generally, liquid foods can go in checked bags but not in carry-ons although there are exceptions for breast milk and juice for kids.
If you are flying internationally you need to check with the customs of your destination country to make sure you are permitted to import the food you want to bring.
There are a few simple rules that will help you understand what not to pack in checked luggage.
If it is flammable or hazardous then it will be banned from checked luggage for safety reasons. Loose batteries are considered flammable.
If there is compressed air or gas it will be banned for safety reasons.
If something has a high monetary value then it’s safer to keep it close in your hand luggage.
If something would be highly inconvenient to replace keep it in hand luggage.
Lastly. it’s a travel document or an identity document keep it handy in hand luggage too.
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