Everyone knows that there are some prohibited items for being packed in your luggage, like firearms, chemicals, e.t.c. But how about knives? Can knives be packed in checked baggage? And which types of knives are good for taking: kitchen knives, hunting knives, swiss army knives?
When reading about some problems that people encounter while traveling, I’ve heard this question being asked countless times. Not only that, but knives have a tendency to be stolen and confiscated from your luggage. And so I decided to write this guide that will teach you all that you need to know about traveling with knives.
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and I am not an attorney. Just a travel enthusiast, who’s talking about my own experiences traveling with knives. If you’re looking for legal advice, you should talk to an attorney.
Can you bring knives in checked luggage
TSA states that knives can be packed in checked luggage, but are prohibited on hand luggage or carry-ons. Furthermore, any sharp objects are forbidden to be taken with you on the plane and have to be checked in.
What’s interesting, is that TSA allows you to take blunt butter knives and plastic knives in your carry on. All other types are prohibited, even a swiss army knife and other pocket knives. Actually, in 2013 they allowed to take pocket knives with you on the flight, but the rule was soon canceled.
Finally, TSA states that all sharp objects must be safely packed so that the TSA agents can safely check the contents of your bag. If they screen your bag and see that it’s not packaged correctly, you could get your knife confiscated.
Do you have to declare knives in checked luggage
Officially, you are not obligated to declare knives in the customs when traveling. That’s because a knife is classified as a sharp object, not as a firearm. (Which has to be declared)
However, I would advise declaring your knife in the customs voluntarily. That’s because often the airline screening employees themselves get mixed up in the rules. What’s allowed for one, could be interpreted as prohibited for another, because the rules are so vague.
Most people who travel with knives always declare them, and they report having no problems. If you get a random check on your bag and a TSA agent finds an undeclared knife, you could be unnecessarily questioned for hours. (Justice is on your side, but you could get challenged nevertheless)
Which types of knives can be packed in luggage
Generally, all knives are allowed in checked luggage. However, some knives are illegal in some countries and states. The airline customs, TSA agents and luggage screening employees are not obligated to enforce the state laws. However, an employee may recognize that the specific type of knife is illegal in the country or state and could contact the police, which could get you arrested for carrying an illegal knife.
So my advice is to always check both your destination and home country laws on specific knives before purchasing a knife or a sword. You could get in real trouble due to lack of research.
I’ve gathered a list of knives that are safe to pack in your checked luggage:
- Knives with a blade of fewer than three inches (Some can still be illegal);
- Pocket knives;
- Kitchen knives;
- Tool sets with blades in them;
- Most decorative knives with blunt blades;
- Knives that are classified as tools;
And here are the types that you should avoid:
- Misleading knives resembling different objects, like a pen or a lighter;
- Knives with a concealed blade;
- Butterfly knives;
- Flick knives, where the blade opens with a press of a button;
- Throwing stars, death stars;
- Push daggers;
- Bowie knives;
How to pack knives in checked baggage
Okay, so to comply with the TSA, you should follow their rules. Here’s what they have to say about knives:
“Any sharp objects in checked bags should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors.”
Your primary goal is to safely pack your knives so that when the TSA inspectors screen them, they don’t have to open your bag to see if the blade is safely secured. If your bag is checked and the knife is packed unsafely, your knife will get confiscated. (Possibly even a lawsuit: “I was just doing my job when suddenly I cut myself upon an open blade”)
There is no single best way of packing a knife, so all of the ones below are good to use:
- Some people pack their knives in a safe metal or wooden container, locked with a TSA friendly lock;
- If you don’t have a container, I’d recommend taping the sharp side of the blade with scotch or duct tape, so that nobody can get cut;
- You could zip-tie all of your knives together, wrap them in several layers of toilet paper and put them in a separate plastic bag;
- If you carry boots or shoes, you can wrap your knife in socks or underwear and stuff the contents in your boots;
- Create a DIY container: Cut out two pieces of cardboard, put your knife between them and tape the two pieces together with scotch.
How to keep your knife from getting stolen from your checked luggage
It’s well known that there are many corrupted TSA agents who are on the lookout for easy-to-steal items that are highly priced, like knives or perfumes. Although I’ve never had anything stolen from my bag, most people who travel frequently have. And you basically can’t do anything about it, as most of the times airlines won’t take responsibility.
So how do you combat the theft of your precious knives? First of all, never pack knives that you’re afraid to lose or are irreplaceable, as with anything that you pack in your checked luggage. If your knife is valued over a hundred dollars, I’d recommend purchasing separate insurance for the contents of your bag.
When it comes to packing, you can’t adequately protect your knives. What you can do is make it harder for the thieves to get to your blade, which will decrease the odds of your knife getting stolen. (Hopefully, because they’re too lazy)
Here are some things that you could do:
- If your knives have a hole in them, use a copper wire to tie your knife to the frame of the suitcase;
- Make it disgusting for anyone to get to your valuables: Put your knife in a plastic bag, that’s full of your dirty underwear. Add some water to make it look disgusting (You can put your knife in a separate plastic bag, to prevent rust);
- Locking it in a larger metal box will make it harder for the thieve to hide the knife in his pocket and slip by unnoticed;
- Put it in a cardboard container and write “Not sharp and safely packaged. DO NOT TOUCH” on the sides. Although it doesn’t help much, at least the TSA agents won’t have a reason to remove the knife because it’s improperly packaged.
To sum up, the most important thing is never to pack your knives in your carry-on and always check your destination countries laws regarding knives before boarding.