Nobody smells their best on vacation.
Long flights, sweaty bus rides, and tropical climates will make you take a shower, but that’s not always possible while traveling. So a smarter option would be to take your favorite perfume with you, so you don’t feel embarrassed.
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 hand luggage, and teach you everything about duty-free perfume.
Can You Bring Cologne and 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. So 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. So our advice would be to use only a little amount of ‘not-too-powerful’ perfume, to avoid annoying other passengers.
How Much Perfume Can You Take on a Plane?
Perfume is treated as a regular liquid, so the regular rules 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, you might have to pay a duty tax, regardless if it’s duty-free or not. You see, whenever you’re traveling internationally, you have to go through the customs as well, not only security. And 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 traveling with perfume. If you’d bring, for instance, three really expensive perfumes on your vacation which you’ve bought in the U.S., the customs could ask you to pay customs duty if you don’t provide the appropriate receipts, based on the assumption that you’ve purchased them during your vacation.
Should You Pack Perfume in Checked Luggage or Hand Luggage?
We would always recommend you to pack perfume in hand luggage instead of checked luggage. And here’s why.
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 usually are thrown around quite a bit by the baggage handlers.
Although in hand luggage perfume is limited to 3.4 oz containers, usually perfumes don’t come in containers that are larger than that. So meeting this rule isn’t 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 laying around the house, it may be a good idea to fill up one with your favorite perfume, if you’re just bringing it 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 really important to pack your perfume properly, both in checked luggage and carry-on. If you don’t do that, your perfume will spill and them ALL of your clothes, electronics, foods, and everything else will smell like your perfume. The smell is almost impossible to get out, so you better do a good job at packing.
Here’s how you do it:
- First of all, ensure that your perfume bottle is properly sealed.
- Put each perfume bottle inside a separate zip-lock bag and seal it tightly. Some prefer to seal perfume in two zip-locks, 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’re faced with duty-free perfume EVERYWHERE. 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, and sometimes not.
Anyway, if you do decide to get duty-free perfume, you don’t have to follow the 3-1-1 rule. If you purchase your perfume on the duty-free airport shops or with the airline, you can carry it separately, and don’t have to store it inside your hand luggage.
That said, 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’d purchase perfume over 3.4 oz on your first flight, before your second flight you’d have to check it in, which 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.
How Much Cheaper Is Duty-Free Perfume?
The real answer is that duty-free perfume isn’t always cheaper. Although usually tobacco and alcohol is cheaper duty-free, most other items aren’t. Occasionally, you can find good deals, but you have to do your research. Simply find what you like, take out your phone, connect to the Wi-Fi, and do your research. Of course, you won’t be able to do that during flight, so if you really 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.
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 basically impossible to get out. So put it inside a zip-lock bag, wrap it in some clothes, and don’t place it near the walls of your suitcase or any hard objects.
And if you do decide to get duty-free perfume, you should look up the prices before, 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 totally acceptable, though.
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: