Can You Use a Cardboard Box as Checked Luggage?

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If you’ve been traveling for some time, you’ve probably seen the various types of bags people use for their checked and hand luggage. No doubt, you’ve seen standard suitcases as well as unique ones. You’ve probably seen backpacks and duffel bags as well. But are those all that you can use or are there other ways to pack your things safely? For instance, can you also use a cardboard box as hand or checked luggage?

This article will explore using a cardboard box as a hand or checked luggage. It will shed some light on airline’s rules and regulations where cardboard boxes are concerned and list some of the benefits of using a cardboard box. Finally, you’ll also get to see some tips on how to secure your cardboard box if you decide to use one for your checked luggage.

Can You Use a Cardboard Box as Checked Luggage?

The short and simple answer: YES.

Nevertheless, just as with your other checked luggage, an airline’s standard baggage fees and rules and restrictions will apply. You have to make sure that your cardboard box’s size and weight are within the allowed restrictions for standard checked luggage.

As most airlines allow two pieces of luggage per person, so you can bring one or two checked cardboard boxes. Remember, however, that you need to first check with the baggage rules of the airline you’re flying with, just to be sure that you won’t run into any trouble when you get to the airport.

You also need to confirm that they won’t charge extra because you are bringing a cardboard box instead. Some airlines charge an extra fee for boxes or bags, depending on the size or ticket you have. You also need to be careful of the items you put in as the airline will most likely charge for oversized or overweight boxes.

Tip: While using cardboard boxes as checked luggage is perfectly fine, they won’t provide any protection. If you’re bringing something that needs to stay protected while it’s stored in the cargo hold, you might want to look into Pelican cases, which are one of the most durable checked cases out there. They’re expensive, but they’re well worth it if you’re constantly flying with a lot of checked gear (for instance, for mountaineering, filming, e.t.c.).

What’s the Maximum Size of a Checked Cardboard Box?

A woman moving a large cardboard box

It all depends on the airlines you are flying with. Most airlines have a dimension limit of 62 linear inches and a weight limit of 50 pounds, with some first-class options allowing 70 pounds instead of 50. That’s why most checked baggage has to measure around 27” x 21” x 14”. This is the most common standard worldwide. If your checked cardboard box is bigger or weighs heavier, there’s a chance that you might have to pay more.

You will also need to check with the airlines as to the items you can put in your box. Usually, special items like musical instruments or sports equipment have a separate baggage fee and set of requirements. Unfortunately, these vary per airline, so you will have to check with the specific airline that you’ll be taking.

It’s always best to check with the airlines before you bring anything that might be seen as a special item or before you bring a different kind of box or luggage. That way, everything will be clear and you won’t have last-minute charges when you get to the airport.

Read next: Can Checked Luggage Fly Without a Passenger?

Can You Use a Cardboard Box as a Carry-on or a Personal Item?

In general, an airline’s carry-on rules and regulations have to do with the size and weight of the luggage you are bringing, and not necessarily the kind or the material from which it is made. So yes, you can bring a cardboard box as a carry-on or personal item.

You must remember that you have to make sure it fits their specifications. Most airlines allow a carry-on bag that weighs up to 40-45 liters and measures up to 22 x 14 x 9. That’s because it should be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you or the overhead bins.

If your cardboard box is bigger than that, you might have to consider getting a smaller box or checking in the box with the rest of your other checked luggage. Make sure to check your dimensions and weigh the box ahead of time so you can decide what you want to do in case it’s too big to carry on. In case you decide to check in the cardboard box instead, don’t forget to purchase an additional luggage allowance (if you don’t have any) ahead of time so it’s cheaper, rather than buying more at the airport where the rates are increased.

Read Next: Can You Bring a Shopping Bag on a Plane?

When Is It a Good Idea to Use a Cardboard Box Instead of a Suitcase

We’re used to bringing around suitcases because they’re easier to carry and hold our items more securely. Nevertheless, using a cardboard box for your things (whether as your carry-on/personal item or as your checked luggage) can be a good idea too.
Here are some scenarios when you might want to consider using a cardboard box instead of a suitcase:

  • When you have too many items. Cardboard boxes are a great deal lighter than your usual suitcases and bags. If you are bringing some items and you’re worried that they might weigh heavier than the limit, you might want to consider purchasing a cardboard box and placing your items there.
  • When you want to save up on money. If you’re going somewhere and your suitcases are already filled, but you have some extra baggage allowance left and some more items to bring, you might want to consider putting them in a cardboard box. That way, you don’t have to purchase another suitcase that you don’t need yet, saving you a few dollars that you can spend on other things you need. Cardboard boxes are a lot cheaper than suitcases (about less than 5$ around the world, depending on the size) and you can easily get them anywhere.
  • When you are bringing an odd-shaped item. Because they are softer than your standard suitcase, you can easily shape boxes any way you like to fit the item you are bringing. All you need are scissors and some tape and you will be able to get the box to secure your item. Remember, though, that no matter how oddly shaped the item, you still need to fit it within the size and weight limit that an airline has. Special items may also require separate fees, so be sure to check that with the airline first.
  • When you are looking for something easily stackable. Suitcases have handles and wheels that can be a bit of a challenge when you want to stack your items on top of one another. Cardboard boxes, on the other hand, are very easy to stack up without having to worry about weird spaces brought about by wheels and handles.

It’s important to note, that cardboard boxes, while they have a great deal many benefits, also have some drawbacks. They don’t have wheels or handles, which can be difficult if you are transporting big, heavy boxes. They are also less secure than your average suitcase and are prone to falling apart faster especially if water and humidity get to them. Nevertheless, there are ways you can pack your things so they are safe and secure no matter where you go.

How to Secure a Checked Cardboard Box so It Doesn’t Burst

Cheked luggage security storage boxes inside an airport

If you’ve decided to bring some items in a checked cardboard box, you’ll need to take some steps to effectively secure your cardboard box so that it won’t burst.

Add an extra cardboard layer at the bottom.

Because the bottom carries most of the load’s weight, you need to reinforce it to strengthen your box. You can easily do this by adding another cardboard layer on top of the bottom flaps so it will help even the load and won’t burst open.

Place additional padding on the sides of your box.

If your box isn’t that sturdy, it might collapse inward, especially if they are not tightly packed. You can prevent such a thing from happening by inserting cardboard pieces along the length of your cardboard corners. This will strengthen the corners and sides of your box and also strengthen the top layer in case someone decides to put something on top of it.

Tape the inside joints and outside corners.

Taping the inside joints and edges and even the corners and edges on the outside is an effective way to strengthen your box. If you want your box to be sturdier and last longer, you should use packaging tape or duct tape, which is a lot stronger than standard masking tape. Don’t tape the joints, edges, and corners just once, but do it across all sides several times.

Wrap your box with plastic.

One of the best ways to secure your box is by wrapping it with plastic. That way, it will be safe in case some liquid spills on it. Wrapping it with plastic also keeps potential robbers from slashing at it as they might not want to bother having to slash through many layers of plastic and tape.

Note: If you have fragile items, it’s likely that they won’t survive inside a cardboard box. Put them in your other suitcases instead or, if you can, take them in your carry-on.

Read Next: Can You Bring Dumbbells on Planes?

A Simpler Option – Uhaul Cardboard Carry-on Boxes

In case you don’t want to go through the trouble of looking for boxes and putting them together, Uhaul has a Travel Luggage Box that you might want to check out. It comes with a handle that makes it easier for carrying and the size is perfect for a carry-on.

You can put various things in here in case you are looking for a container and don’t want to have to bring a bag or another suitcase. They are also very affordable and easy to pack because of the flaps that open up completely so you can put in your things or take them out without any difficulty at all.

Final Words

Using cardboard boxes as checked or hand luggage may be unique, but they have a lot of benefits as well. They are cheaper and easier to obtain, especially if you’re traveling somewhere and suddenly run out of luggage space. A cardboard box could serve as a quick solution that won’t require you to spend too much.

While most airlines don’t have strict rules and regulations with cardboard boxes (I’ve seen several people using this method and I have done it too), it’s always best to check beforehand. That way, you’ll be able to pack your items and bring them all with you in the best way possible, whether you use a suitcase or a cardboard box, and enjoy your trip to the fullest.

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