Don’t know what items can you take on a plane in checked luggage?
Well, then you’re in the right place because in this article we’ll explain everything. We’ll tell what items are allowed and which are prohibited, and all the other essential TSA restrictions for checked luggage.
Although the TSA’s list of prohibited and allowed items is quite long, we won’t talk about all the items. We covered only the most important ones that we get the most questions about, without adding any fluff.
Disclaimer: Prohibited items in checked luggage change all the time, so some information may be inaccurate. For fresh information, it’s best to contact the TSA, specific airlines, or the customs at your destination country.
Liquids and Alcohol
The 3-1-1 rule, which dictates that liquids in bottles shouldn’t exceed 3.4 oz only applies for carry-ons. Basically, you’re free to pack any amount of liquids in all kinds of bottles in your checked luggage, with only a few exceptions.
There are no limitations from the TSA for alcoholic beverages below 24% alcohol (beer, wine, champagne.) If the beverage contains 24%-70% alcohol (whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum), you can only bring 5 liters (1.3 gallons) per passenger. Alcoholic beverages above 70% alcohol (over 140 proof) are banned from checked luggage.
That said, additional customs rules for each country apply, and you have to study them individually.
When flying from Europe to the U.S., you’re free to bring 1l (33.8 oz) alcohol per person without any duty tax. Anything over that has to be taxed, but usually it’s not too expensive. For example, the duty tax for whiskey is 1.99$ per liter and 1.59$ per liter for wine. You’ll find the current tax rates for most items over here.
Liquids and alcoholic beverages often come in glass bottles, which could easily break while your checked bag is being tossed between conveyor belts. So make sure always to pack them in bubble wrap and don’t place them near the edges. Here’s a detailed guide on packing fragile items in luggage.
Food and Organics
If you’re flying domestically, you can bring meats, dairy products, dry and canned goods, and basically any other type of food in checked luggage without any restrictions.
However, if you’re flying internationally, often there are limitations for organic items. You should check each country that you’re flying to individually, but generally speaking, prepackaged foods are allowed (chips, granola bars, cookies, sweets, e.t.c.) and all organics are banned (meat, fruit, veggies, dairy, nuts, grains, e.t.c..)
Furthermore, TSA encourages packing food inside checked luggage because often food that’s stored in carry-ons clutters images on the X-ray screening machine. And because of that, the TSA agents have to open up the bag and do a manual inspection.
Toiletries and Medications
When it comes to toiletries, generally speaking, in your checked luggage, you can pack anything with only a few exceptions. You’re free to pack any shampoo or gel, nail clippers, hairspray, any liquids, e.t.c., and you don’t have to put toiletries in Ziploc bags (although it’s a good idea nevertheless.) However, any aerosols intended for toiletry purposes must not exceed 18 oz in each container, and the total amount of aerosols can’t exceed 70 oz in each bag.
We highly discourage people from packing medications in checked luggage, because often checked bags get lost or delayed, and you won’t be able to access them during flight. Instead, you should pack your medications in your carry-on.
However, if you do decide to put any medications in checked luggage, there are certain rules you should follow. All medication should be in their original packaging, prescription medication has to come with your prescription, and you should bring medication only in ‘normal’ quantities. Also, note that medical marijuana is still banned in some states, and oxygen cylinders are banned from checked luggage because they’re considered a hazardous material.
But other than that, you’re free to pack any medication you need, and it doesn’t have to be stored in a plastic bag.
Inside checked luggage, you can basically pack any sharp object – knives, swords, scissors, knitting needles, cleavers, and even throwing stars.
Just note, that any sharp objects should be properly secured by wrapping in a cloth or bubble wrap, or stored inside a container so that the baggage handlers and TSA inspectors won’t get accidentally injured. Otherwise, you could get sued.
When packing swords, knives, and similar items, you should make sure that they’re legal in the countries you’re flying through. Otherwise, you could get arrested. For instance, knives with a concealed blade, butterfly knives, throwing stars, and knives resembling different objects (like a pen or a lighter,) are often illegal in some states or countries.
Sports and Camping Equipment
Quite often sports and camping equipment is banned from carry-ons because some of the items are flammable or can be used as weapons. Although most you’ll be able to pack safely inside checked luggage, some are banned even there.
Here are all the banned sports and camping items in checked luggage:
- Aerosol insecticides that are labeled as hazardous (HAZMAT.)
- Bear bangers.
- Bear spray.
- Camp stoves filled with fuel or with some fuel residue left inside. Camp stoves clean of fuel should be packed so that they’re easily accessible to be inspected.
- Only two CO2 cartridges for live vests are allowed per person.
- Compressed gas cartridges.
Tools and Household Items
Generally, you’re safe to pack most household items and tools that aren’t flammable, hazardous, or with non-removable lithium batteries. You’re free to pack regular batteries, any sharp tools like axes, saws or screwdrivers, any electronics with cord, and similar items.
That said, there still are some banned tools and household items in checked luggage:
- Cordless butane curling irons.
- Cooking spray.
- Engine-powered tools and equipment. Some airlines will allow engine-powered items in checked luggage if they’re completely clean of fuel.
- Spray Starch.
- Spillable batteries.
- Turpentine and Paint Thinner.
- Vacuum-sealed bags.
- Each checked baggage can contain up to 5.5 pounds of dry ice that is properly packaged and marked.
First of all, you should avoid packing most electronics in checked luggage, because quite often valuables can get stolen or the bag itself can get lost. Furthermore, you should always charge your electronics before packing, because sometimes the security agents will ask you to power up the devices for inspection.
Another thing that you have to remember is that most electronics with lithium batteries can’t be packed in checked luggage and instead have to be carried onboard. That’s because lithium batteries can ignite if punctured or when malfunctioning.
Remember when the Samsung Note 7 phones ignited by themselves a few years ago? Well, once it happened on a plane in a passengers pocket. Luckily, that happened before the plane took off an nobody was hurt. From that point, all Samsung Note 7’s are banned from planes, and the rules for lithium batteries became stricter.
That said, not all lithium batteries are banned from checked luggage. Laptops, tablets, smartphones, and cameras can be kept in checked luggage, however, the devices must be completely turned off, protected from accidentally turning on, and packed safely so that the batteries can’t get damaged.
Here’s a list of banned electronics from checked luggage:
- Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones.
- Electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.
- Metal detectors.
- Power banks.
- Solar panels.
Mobility, Childcare, and Medical Items
Generally speaking, airlines and the TSA are pretty welcome with any assistive devices because they want to make traveling easier for people who need assistive devices. Although it’s recommended that you check with a specific airline before purchasing tickets, almost always crutches, wheelchairs, canes, inhalers, syringes, nebulizers, thermometers, baby carriers, child car seats, and similar items are allowed in checked and carry-on luggage.
Weapons and Flammables
If you’re traveling with children, remember that toy guns and weapons are usually allowed in checked luggage, but toy explosives and realistic replicas of explosives are banned. If a TSA agent thinks that a toy weapon may pose a security threat, they’re free to prohibit the item at their own discretion.
If, however, you’re bringing real weapons, you should always put them in checked luggage. They should always be properly packed, unloaded/decompressed, declared, and you’ll need all the necessary permits. It’s also a good idea to check the legality of these weapons in your destination and layover countries.
Here are all the banned weapons and guns from checked luggage:
- Flare guns and flares.
- Gun lighters.
- Gun powder.
- Rocket launchers.
And if you’re traveling with flammables, then get prepared to be inspected, because TSA has the strictest rules for flammables.
The list of banned flammables is too long. So instead, here’s a list of ALLOWED flammables in checked luggage:
- Cigarettes and Cigars.
- Zippo and disposable lighters without fuel.
- Regular batteries.
- Gel-type candles and solid candles.
- Lithium batteries with 100 watt-hours or less.
- non-spillable wet batteries.
- One 4 oz bottle of pepper spray per baggage, if it has a safety mechanism. Pepper sprays with more than 2% tear gas are banned.
Any other flammables not mentioned in this list are banned from checked luggage and carry-ons.
Plants and Animals
Generally, all plants are allowed in checked luggage and carry-ons. However, some plants aren’t allowed in specific countries by their agricultural departments, because they could ruin the current ecosystem. So you should check with your destination country first.
Also, sometimes you’ll have to remove all the soil because it could contain parasites, and instead wrap the roots in damp moss or damp paper towels. But if you’re flying domestically, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Furthermore, all seeds meant for planting are allowed in checked luggage as well as carry-ons.
When you’re traveling with pets, you should always check with the airline’s policy. Some airlines allow small pets, while some don’t. You’ll have to transport your pets in pet carriers of appropriate sizes.
That said, there are some plant and animal-related items that are banned in checked luggage:
- Fertilizer. (Quite often it’s used in explosives, so it’s banned altogether.)
- Live coral.
- Live fish.
Rules for International Flights
All the rules mentioned in this list are enforced by the TSA, which has authority only in the U.S. When you’re flying internationally, additional rules may apply, based on your which countries you’re flying to.
So when traveling internationally, always make sure to read the rules for any country you’re flying through – destination AND layover. Especially if you’re flying with knives or organic food.
A Quick Summary of Everything Mentioned Above
- In checked baggage, there are almost no limits for packing liquids and non-perishable foods.
- Avoid packing flammables, illegal weapons and knives, explosives, and lithium batteries over 100mh in checked luggage.
- Don’t pack anything valuable in your checked suitcase, because sometimes checked bags get lost, and sometimes valuables get stolen.
- Pack your fragile items and electronics safely and expect that your checked bag will be tossed around quite a bit.
- When packing sharp objects, pack them safely so that the TSA agents don’t get accidentally injured. Otherwise, you could get sued.
- Avoid packing organic foods (meat, vegetables, fruits, dairy) when traveling internationally.
- Don’t pack medicine and documents in your checked luggage. Instead, pack them inside your carry-on, so that you can get easy access. Remember to pack your medicine in its original packaging and bring any prescriptions.
- There are no limitations for 0%-24% alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, and champagne.) Beverages with 24%-70% alcohol (whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, scotch, brandy) are limited to 5l per passenger. And beverages with over 70% alcohol are banned. Additional import taxes may apply, but they’re not too expensive.
- If traveling with weapons, always declare them, pack them unloaded and in appropriate packaging.
- If you’re not sure about a specific item, you should check with the specific airline you’ll be flying with.
- Additional rules may apply between different airlines and different countries or states.