Long flights, sweaty bus rides, and tropical climates will make you longing for a shower, but that’s not always possible while traveling. A smarter option would be to take your favorite perfume with you, so you can avoid some embarrassment. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about bringing perfume and cologne on planes. We’ll also teach you how to properly pack perfume to avoid spills, let you know why it’s a smarter choice to pack perfume inside of hand luggage, and teach you everything about duty-free perfume.
Can You Bring Bottles of Cologne or Perfume on a Plane?
According to the TSA (Transport Security Administration), perfume and cologne are allowed on airplanes in hand luggage and checked baggage. There is no size limit for checked luggage, but if you’re packing your perfume in hand luggage, you have to follow the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. Essentially, the 3-1-1 rule dictates that liquids in hand luggage have to be in 3.4 oz (100 ml) bottles or less. Each passenger can have only one quart-sized, transparent zip-lock bag, and all of their liquids and gels have to fit inside. If you’re bringing perfume in your carry-on, you’ll have to store it in the same bag together with your toiletries.
Having said that, using too much perfume before your flight or during the flight is highly unadvisable. Although it’s not illegal, it can cause irritation and annoyance to people who are sitting next to you, especially if they have allergies or asthma. Our advice is to use only a little amount of subtly-scented perfume to avoid annoying other passengers.
How Much Perfume Can You Take on a Plane?
Perfume is treated as a regular liquid, so the normal rules for liquids on flights apply. If you’re placing perfume in your hand luggage, you can fit around seven to twelve 3.4 oz (100 ml) bottles in your single quart-sized bag. But if you’re placing them inside your checked baggage, there aren’t any limits set in stone. You could bring any amount you’d like. Having said that, if you bring too many bottles, you might have to pay a duty tax. That extra tax is regardless of whether it’s duty-free or not. Whenever you’re traveling internationally, you have to go through the customs as well, not only security. If they see that you’re carrying an amount that’s not intended for personal use, they’ll ask you to pay a duty tax.
For example, for the U.S., the customs duty is calculated as follows. Depending on where you’re flying from, you can import $200, $800, or $1600 worth of merchandise for personal use (for instance, perfume.) Anything over that has to be taxed. For perfumes, the import tax is quite high. For non-alcoholic perfumes, it’s 20%, and for perfumes containing alcohol, it’s 75%. Also, you should always keep receipts when you’re traveling with perfume. For instance, if you bring three expensive perfumes on your vacation which you’ve bought in the U.S., the customs agents could ask you to pay customs duty if you don’t provide the appropriate receipts. They base this on the assumption that you’ve purchased them during your vacation.
Should You Pack Perfume in Checked Luggage or Hand Luggage?
We always recommend that you pack perfume in hand luggage instead of checked luggage and there’s a good reason why we suggest this. Perfume is usually pretty expensive, and expensive items tend to get ‘lost’ from checked luggage. Especially if you’re flying through third-world countries. Even if your perfume doesn’t get stolen, it could get damaged, because checked bags are known to get thrown around quite a bit by the baggage handlers.
When it comes to hand luggage, perfume is limited to 3.4 oz containers, and they usually don’t come in containers that are larger than that. That means meeting this rule shouldn’t be too hard. You should pack your perfume in checked luggage only if it’s in a container larger than that.
How to Pack Perfume in Luggage to Avoid Spills and Damage
If you have any small test-samples of perfume, the best chance to use them is on vacations because the small test vial is usually made out of plastic and won’t spill. If you have any of these small, plastic vials lying around the house, it may be a good idea to fill up one with your favorite perfume. They’re useful when you’re bringing perfume for personal use during the vacation. One small bottle should easily last you a few weeks, which is more than enough for a vacation.
But if you’re bringing perfume in the original glass bottle, it’s important to pack your perfume properly, both in checked luggage and carry-on. If you don’t do that, you might find that it spills or leaks inside of your luggage. It’s likely to ruin ALL of your clothes, electronics, foods, and everything will smell like your perfume. The smell is almost impossible to get out, so you better pack well!
Here’s how you do it:
- First of all, ensure that your perfume bottle is sealed properly.
- Put each perfume bottle inside a separate zip-lock bag and seal it tightly. Some prefer to keep their perfume in two zip-lock bags for additional security. A nice trick for ensuring a proper seal is to suck the air out of the zip-lock bag with your mouth to ensure vacuum-like conditions.
- If packed in checked luggage, wrap it in clothes or bubble wrap and place it near soft objects in your luggage. Avoid placing it near the walls.
- If placed inside hand luggage, pack your sealed perfume together with your other toiletries in the transparent, quart-sized zip-lock bag. Wrap the bag of toiletries in clothes, and place in your hand luggage. Avoid placing it next to hard objects and the walls.
What About Duty-Free Perfume?
Whenever you’re flying, you will find duty-free perfume in every single airport. They’ll try to sell it to you before you board, during the flight, and after you land. Sometimes you can find good deals there, but more often than not, they’re overpriced. If you do decide to get duty-free perfume, you don’t have to follow the 3-1-1 rule. If you purchase the perfume in the duty-free airport shops or with the airline, you can carry it separately and won’t have to store it inside your hand luggage.
There’s one thing you should keep in mind, especially if you don’t have any more space in your quart-sized bag, or you’re buying a perfume that’s larger than 3.4 oz. You should always purchase duty-free perfume before or during your last flight if you’re flying more than once. That’s because you can carry duty-free items in addition to your hand luggage only for the first flight. If you had purchased perfume over 3.4 oz on your first flight, you would then have to check it in before your second flight. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible if your checked bag is automatically transferred. Also, always keep the receipts for duty-free items because airlines will ask for it before boarding.
Is Duty-Free Perfume Cheaper?
The real answer is that duty-free perfume isn’t always cheaper. Although duty-free tobacco and alcohol are cheaper, you will likely find that most other items aren’t. Occasionally, you can find good deals, but you have to do some thorough research. It helps to have your phone handy to search. Of course, you won’t be able to do that during flight, so if you want to get duty-free perfume from airlines, it may be worth it to look up their perfume prices on their website before the flight.
Can You Use Your Perfume During the Flight?
You’re allowed to bring perfume onto your flight, so you might want to apply it while you’re in the air. While this isn’t technically against the rules, you might want to reconsider before you whip out of your bottle. Put yourself in the position of others around you on the flight. Imagine one of them takes a bottle of cologne or perfume out and starts spraying themselves. What if you can’t stand the way it smells? Or what if you find out that day that you’re allergic to one of the ingredients? You can’t exactly open a window to air the plane out! It’s very common for people with asthma to have severe reactions to perfume.
If you have to spritz yourself while you on the plane, consider doing so in the bathroom. Use a minimal amount and wait in the bathroom for a while to let the airplane cycle out the smell. If you use too much, you can always use some water and a paper towel to wipe off your skin. The reality is that we’re not likely to notice overpowering scents on our bodies but other people definitely will. Keep this in mind before you decide to spray!
Are There Perfumes That Are Unoffending?
There are some better options out there when it comes to using perfume while traveling. Consider these tips before you apply your perfume or cologne.
- Avoid chemical-based fragrances as they can contain ingredients like phthalates that can cause headaches and irritate respiratory conditions.
- Citrus scents have been known to aid in nausea, vertigo, and headaches, so this might be the best choice.
- For some, inhaling fragrance particles is an issue, so using a balm or twist-up glide stick can help avoid this problem.
- Choose fragrances with as few ingredients as possible.
Perfume is allowed on flights, but if packed in hand luggage, you have to follow the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for liquids. So you’ll have to pack it together with your other toiletries. There aren’t any limits for checked luggage, but we wouldn’t recommend packing perfume in checked luggage, just because valuables tend to get stolen from there. You have to be very careful about packing perfume because if it spills, it’s nearly impossible to get out.
So we recommend that you put it inside a zip-lock bag, wrap it in some clothes, and avoid placing it near the walls of your suitcase or any hard objects. If you do decide to get duty-free perfume, you should look up the prices before you purchase one, because they aren’t always cheaper. Also, if you purchase too much, you might have to pay a customs duty, which is pretty high for perfume. One or two bottles is acceptable, though.
Also, if you plan to pop open your perfume or cologne while you’re on your flight, make sure that you keep other passengers in mind. You don’t want to cause someone to have an allergic reaction or an asthma attack. Use scents sparingly!
Other Frequently Asked Questions
We get questions about bringing stuff on planes all the time. So we’ve written a lot of other guides, where we answer the most commonly asked questions.
You can check them out over here: