What can you bring on a plane in 2021?

Cabin Bags and Checked Luggage: What Can You Bring on a Plane in 2021?

Mind luggage restrictions when packing for your flight! Make your trip easy with this complete list of what you can (and can't) bring on a plane.

15 min read
The ClaimCompass Blog
Thomas Busson
Thomas Busson
Tarifa, Spain

When you're packing for your flight, you may be wondering:

What can I take on a plane?

And you'd be right to ask yourself that.

For one thing, you have to carefully pay attention to your airline's baggage allowance, taking into account dimensions and weight restrictions.

In addition to that, wherever you're flying, there are rules regarding what you can and cannot bring on the aircraft. For example, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a list of items that are strictly prohibited, as they represent a potential security or safety risk. But the rules are different depending on the type of luggage: carry-on bag, which goes in the overhead bin in the cabin, or checked luggage, which goes in the aircraft's hold.

We've assembled the complete list of what you can bring on a plane, and perhaps more importantly, what you can't take with you and must leave at home. This is as essential as knowing your rights on flight delay compensation.

What you can take on a plane
What you cannot take on a plane
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What can you bring on a plane?

The following items are permitted on a plane. However, keep in mind that some may be restricted to only one kind of luggage. Note also that the final decision rests with a TSA agent during the security checkpoint.

Flammables

Flammables that can be packed in both carry-on and checked bags:

Cigarettes and cigars are allowed in both carry-on and hold luggage.

The same applies to dry batteries (AA, AAA, C, and D) and phone chargers.

Solid candles can also be brought on board.

Flammables that can be packed in a carry-on, but only under restrictions in checked bags:

Disposable and Zippo lighters can be packed in your hand baggage. If they do not have fuel, you may also bring them in your checked bag.

Devices with lithium batteries of 100 watt-hours or less may be brought on the plane in the cabin or in the hold. However, loose batteries in your checked bags are prohibited.

Flammables that can be packed in cabin bags only:

Lithium batteries with more than 100 watt-hours may be allowed on board by the airline upon approval, but they are strictly prohibited in checked bags.

Power banks (and portable chargers) equipped with a lithium-ion battery are only allowed in a carry-on.

Safety matches are permitted as carry-on items, limited to one book per passenger.

Flammables that can be packed in checked bags only:

Gel-type candles can be brought on the plane only when packed in luggage that will go in the hold, not in the cabin.

Pepper spray and other self-defense sprays are allowed in your checked luggage, provided that they do not exceed 118ml (4 fl. oz) and it is equipped with a safety mechanism.

Firearms

Only a firearm's holster and a rifle scope can be brought in the cabin. Some firearms or equipment can be brought on the plane, packed in a checked bag, under restriction. As a general rule, passengers should check directly their airline's rules and check the law, which may vary depending on the local, state, and international government. When they are authorized, firearms and rifles "must be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in" (TSA).

A small amount of ammunition is allowed by certain airlines, packed in fiber, wood or metal boxes. BB guns, compressed air guns, pellet guns, and starter pistols may be allowed.

Parts of guns and firearms (e.g. magazines, clips, bolts, etc.) are prohibited in the cabin but may be allowed in the hold.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend that you do not bring a firearm on the plane.

Food

As a general rule, you can bring liquid or gel-type food in your carry-on only if the container doesn't exceed 100ml (3.4 oz) and fits in a transparent, plastic, resealable bag. A great packing tip is to bring an empty water bottle and fill it after the security check.

Solid food can be brought in both carry-on and checked bag.

Food items that can be packed in both hand baggage and hold luggage:

Alcoholic beverages are allowed insofar as they contain less than 70% of alcohol. They are subject to the restriction above. In addition, if they contain between 24 and 70% of alcohol, they are limited to 5 litres per passenger in checked bags. No limitations if they contain less than 24% of alcohol.

Baby food is authorized in reasonable quantities. You will need to remove it from your carry-on at the security checkpoint. Baby formula, breast milk, and juices are also allowed in reasonable quantities.

Creamy cheese, liquid chocolate, liquid coffee, are subject to the 100ml restriction when transported in the cabin. So are hummus, ice cream, jam and jelly, juices, syrup, oil, peanut butter, and yogurt.

Bottled water, bread, candy, gum, cereal, solid cheese, solid chocolate, coffee beans or grounds, pizza, energy powders are allowed in both cabin and checked bags. The same goes for cooked meat, seafood, and vegetables. Snacks can also be packed in both types of bags, including cookies, crackers, dried fruits, pies and cakes, sandwiches.  

Food items that should be packed in the checked bag:

It is recommended to pack canned food in the hold luggage rather than the carry-on baggage because of how they appear on the X-ray machines.

While you can also bring fresh meat and seafood, and frozen food in your carry-on, the restrictions simply make it easier to pack them in your checked luggage instead.

Household & Tools

Household items and tools that can be packed in both carry-on baggage and checked bags:

Airbrush makeup machines, curling irons with cord, breast pump, solid deodorants, electric razors, pillows, sewing machines, tampons, toothbrushes, and vacuum robots can be brought in either bag.

The same applies to cell phones, desktop computers, laptops, tablets, printers, iPods, radios, DVD players, extension cords, video game consoles, selfie sticks, and speakers.

Bottle openers, forks, graters, utensils, clocks, license plates, coat hangers, corkscrews (with no blade), duct tape, flashlights, LED lights, light bulbs, screwdrivers shorter than 7 inches, staplers can also be placed in either hold luggage or a carry-on.

Baby powder are allowed in both cabin and checked bags. Considering that powder-like items greater than 350ml must be placed in a separate bin at the security checkpoint, it's recommended to pack them in the checked bags instead.

Items that contain a blade, such as blenders and other multi-tools are allowed in the cabin only if the blade has been removed.

Deodorant (aerosol and liquid), liquid detergents, hand sanitizers, lotion, must be placed in smaller containers that do not exceed 100ml when placed in the cabin bag.

Household items and tools that can only be packed in cabin bags:

Cordless curling irons are forbidden in checked bags, but can be placed in your carry-on.

Household items and tools that can only be packed in checked bags:

Axes and hatchets, crowbars, hammers, mallets, nail guns

Medical

Medical items that can be packed in both carry-on and hold luggage:

Most medical items can be placed in either piece of luggage, including blood sugar test kits, canes, casts, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, life vests, prosthetics, support braces, medical masks, contact lenses, instant hot/cold packs, pills, supplements, and thermometer.

Medical items that can be packed in both carry-on and checked bags but are subject to restrictions:

Some of them are subject to the liquid and gels restrictions: contact lens solution, eye drops, liquid medications and vitamins. If their original containers are larger than 100ml, they must be placed in smaller containers.

Other medical items, such as inhalers and liquid medications, are allowed in larger amounts than 100ml, but must be declared for inspection to a TSA officer.

External medical devices attached to your body must be declared to a TSA officer before the start of the screening process. Depending on whether or not they can be submitted to X-ray machines, you may or may not be required to go through additional screening.

You must notify a TSA agent that you're carrying insulin, an insulin pump and supplies.

Medical marijuana and some cannabis-infused products remain illegal under some federal laws. Make sure you declare those items to TSA.

Medical items that can only be packed in cabin bags but are subject to restrictions:

Medically necessary personal oxygen cylinders can be brought to the security check and into the gate area, packed into your carry-on luggage. However, they are prohibited in the cabin, so you must ask the airline whether they can arrange oxygen service. According to the TSA, many do not provide such a service.

Sharp Objects

It is recommended to place sharp objects in your checked bag. However, some sharp objects are also allowed in the cabin, usually under restrictions.

Sharp objects that can be packed in both carry-on and checked bags:

Crochet hooks, knitting needles, sewing needles, disposable razors, lock picks, nail clippers, pencil sharpeners, and tweezers are not subject to restrictions.

Cigar cutters are generally permitted but TSA recommends to pack them in your checked bag instead, or leave it at home if you're traveling without one.

Scissors are allowed in the cabin as long as they are less than 4 inches from the pivot point.

Sharp objects that are only authorized in checked bags:

Box cutters, darts, ice axes, ice picks, kirpans, non-plastic knives, pocket knives, swiss-army knives, razor-type blades, sabers, swords, saws, meat cleavers, and throwing stars can only be placed in checked bags.

Sporting & Camping

Sporting and camping items that are allowed in both types of luggage:

Sports equipment is best transported as hold luggage, but some items can be packed in your carry-on. Balls (footballs, basketballs, baseballs, etc.), bowling balls, golf balls, golf tees, boxing gloves, helmets, tennis rackets, bicycle chains, bicycle pumps, longboards, skates (including ice skates and rollerblades), snowboards, snowshoes, empty coolers, fishing poles, small fishing lures, GPS, rocks, sand, rope, sleeping bags, vacuum sealed bags, and trophies are allowed in both cabin and checked bags.

Air mattresses with built-in pump can be brought in the cabin, as long as they do not exceed dimensions an weight restrictions, just like skateboards, tents, and umbrellas.

Camp stoves must be emptied of all fuel and clean.

To transport a bicycle, you should check your airline's policy first. The same applies to parachutes, as they require you to follow special instructions.

Sporting and camping items that are only allowed in checked luggage:

Insecticides in the form of aerosols are only allowed in checked bags, provided that they are not labelled HAZMAT (hazardous material).

Baseball bats, bowling pins, canoe and kayak paddles, cricket bats, golf clubs, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, snow cleats, and similar sporting equipment can be used as bludgeon and as such, can only be transported in a checked bag. They are not allowed in the plane's cabin.

Bow and arrows, martial arts weapons, spear guns, hiking poles, snow spikes, shoe spikes, ski poles, tent spikes and poles must also be placed in a checked bag.

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous items that are allowed in both types of luggage:

Baby items such as baby carrier, baby wipes, and child car seats are allowed on the plane. Cosmetics and toiletries are also allowed, keeping in mind that liquids and gels should not exceed 100ml per item and should fit in a transparent, resealable bag.

You can also pack belts, clothes, shoes, blankets, electric blankets, body armor, electronic toothbrushes, hair dryers, hair straighteners, hookahs, and tobacco in both checked bag and carry-on, as well as binoculars, books, flowers, plants, and headphones.

It is recommended to transport cremated remains in a temporary or permanent crematory container made of a lighter weight material, such as wood or plastic, which does not generate an opaque image during screenings. Security officers will not open the container.

Snow globes can be transported in the cabin if they contain less than 100ml of water.

Fun fact: you can even bring your Harry Potter wand and light saber. The TSA website says so, no joke.

Miscellaneous items that are only allowed in cabin bags:

The FAA forbids passengers to place electronic cigarettes and vaping devices in their checked luggage. Those can only be carried in the cabin of the plane.

You can also bring your live fish from vacation with you in a carry-on. Not sure exactly how, considering that you're not allowed to bring liquid containers that exceed 100ml, but in theory, you can.

Miscellaneous items that are only allowed in hold luggage:

Self-defense items are not allowed in the cabin as they would represent a security concern. They are, however, generally authorized in the a checked bag.


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What can you NOT bring on a plane?

Keep in mind that the final decision regarding whether an item is allowed on board rests with the security officer. However, the following items are guaranteed to be refused if you try to bring them on the plane.

Flammables

Most flammable items cannot be brought on board, whether it is in your carry-on or checked luggage.

An extensive list of prohibited items includes: Arc Lighters, Plasma Lighters, Electronic Lighters, E-Lighters, Bang Snaps, Blasting Caps, Butane, Chlorine for Pools and Spas, CO2 Cartridge, Dynamite, English Christmas Crackers, Fire Extinguishers and Other Compressed Gas Cylinders, Firecrackers, Fireworks, Flammable Liquid, Gel, or Aerosol Paint, Flammable Paints, Fuel, Gas Torches, Gasoline, Hand Grenades, Lighter Fluid, Liquid Bleach, Party Poppers, Propane, Realistic Replicas of Explosives, Realistic Replicas of Incendiaries, Recreational Oxygen, Sparklers, Spray Paint, Strike-anywhere Matches, Tear Gas, Torch Lighters, and Vehicle Airbags.

Firearms

No firearms are allowed in the cabin. Some are also strictly prohibited in the aircraft's hold. This includes: Flare Guns, Flares, Gun Lighters, Gun Powder, and Rocket Launchers.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend that you do not bring a firearm on the plane.

Food

Among food items, only alcoholic beverages containing more than 70% of alcohol (over 140 proof) are prohibited on a plane.

Household & Tools

Cooking sprays and spray starch are forbidden on board the plane, as well as engine-powered equipment with residual fuel and spillable batteries.

Medical

Obviously, no medical item is prohibited on the plane. There are, however, restrictions for some of them (see above).

Sharp Objects

It may come as a surprise, but sharp objects are not forbidden on a plane. Most of them are, however, can only be transported in the aircraft's hold, in your checked luggage. As a rule of thumb, "any sharp object in checked bags should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors" (TSA).

Sporting & Camping

Bear rangers, bear spray, compressed gas cartridges are forbidden on the plane.

Miscellaneous

Fertilizer is not allowed on the plane.

FAQ on what you can and cannot bring on a plane

How much liquids can you take on a plane?

Your liquids, as well as gels and aerosols, must be in containers that do not exceed 100ml (3.4 oz) when packed in your carry-on luggage. All of them must fit in a 1-litre bag (quart-sized bag). Containers larger than 100ml must be packed in your checked bag. Otherwise, transfer the items into smaller containers.  

Tip for water: pass through the security checkpoint with an empty bottle and fill it with tap water after the screening to bring more water on board.

Keep also in mind that duty-free alcohol and bottles are not subject to the limitation rule. Just make sure to keep the bag and receipt as proof.

Can you bring a laptop on a plane?

Yes, laptops are allowed on board. You can either pack them in your carry-on or use a laptop bag as "personal item", provided that your airline allows you to bring one for free and your laptop case doesn't exceed the prescribed dimensions.

In fact, while you could also bring your laptop in your checked bag, we recommend that you take it on the plane with you instead, even if you don't plan on using it. Why? Because it is less likely to be damaged in the cabin than in the aircraft's hold.

Keep in mind that when you reach airport security, you have to take out your electronic devices, including your laptop, so make sure that it's easily accessible.

Can you bring a lighter on a plane?

Conventional lighters, including Zippo lighters and BIC lighters, can be brought on board. You may either pack them in your checked bag or carry them.

However, note that this rule doesn't apply to non-conventional lighters, such as electronic, plasma, or arc lighters: those are not allowed, whether they're packed in a cabin or checked bag.

Can you bring matches on a plane?

Yes, a book of safety matches is allowed on board. This may be surprising, but just like conventional lighters, matches do not pose any danger on the plane since passengers are forbidden to board with flammable items. In themselves, the matches are relatively harmless.

Can you bring toothpaste on a plane?

Yes, you can bring toothpaste on board. If you pack toothpaste in your carry-on, make sure that the tube doesn't exceed 100ml. Toothpaste is indeed considered a liquid, so it will be included in your liquids and gels limit.

On that note, keep in mind that the liquid container itself must not exceed 100ml. For example, you may think that a half-empty toothpaste tube of 150ml would be accepted since it contains only 75ml. But since the container is larger than 100ml, the tube will be confiscated during the security checkpoint if you pack it in your carry-on. In this case, better bring it in your checked bag instead, or buy a new tube at your destination.

Can you bring makeup on a plane?

Non-liquid makeup can be taken on board without problem. This includes lipstick, lip balms, powders, etc. If you bring any liquid makeup, such as liquid mascara or lip gel, it must not exceed 100ml per item. Remember that all your liquids and gels must fit in a 1-litre plastic bag.

Can you bring razors and scissors on a plane?

Yes, tweezers and razors are allowed on planes, in your cabin bag. So are scissors, as long as the edges are less than 4 inches long (10 cm).

Straight razor blades, however, are not allowed in the carry-on. They must be packed in your checked bag instead, or left at home.

Can you bring food on a plane?

Yes, you are allowed to bring food on the plane, both in your carry-on and your checked luggage. There are, however, restrictions based on the type of food. Your itinerary (whether it is a domestic or international flight) may also influence the type of food you're allowed to bring on board.

For starters, all foodstuff that is in liquid or gel form (e.g. yogurt) is subject to the liquids and gels restrictions: containers must be less than 100 millilitres (3.4 oz). Alcoholic beverages with more than 70% of alcohol are not allowed on the plane.

Solids can be packed in either your carry-on or checked luggage. This includes bread, candy, snacks, solid cheese and chocolate, and even cooked non-liquid meals.

Note that on some international flights, agricultural products are not allowed, whether it's in the cabin or in the aircraft's hold.

Can you bring self-defense items on the plane?

According to the TSA website, any object that could potentially be used as a weapon is not permitted in the cabin. You must transport those items in your hold luggage instead.

This includes, for example, firearms, rifles, ammunition, but also sporting equipment that could be weaponized.

Can you bring sports equipment on a plane?

As a rule of thumb, any sporting equipment that could be used as a weapon can only be brought on the plane in a checked luggage. This includes, for instance, baseball bats, canoe paddles, hockey sticks, golf clubs, or cricket bats. You can, however, bring items such as a football, tennis rackets, boxing gloves, skates in the cabin.

If you are planning on flying with sports equipment in your luggage, consult your airline to know their policy on the matter.

What can you take in your hand luggage?

As a rule of thumb, your carry-on can contain any item that cannot be considered a weapon, doesn't represent a security or safety risk, and isn't a liquid or gel in a container larger than 100ml.

Baby items are generally accepted in the cabin as well, and do not always count as your personal item.

Note that some items won't be allowed in your hold luggage, so you'll have to place them in your carry-on instead. That's the case for lithium batteries, for instance.

What can you take on a plane in the checked luggage?

Oppositely, items that could be weaponized must systematically be packed in the hold luggage. This includes self-defense items, sharp objects, as well as dangerous household items and weaponizable sporting equipment.

Conclusion

Make sure that you check your airline's policy on what you can and cannot bring on a plane when packing for your flight. Keep in mind that your carry-on should be well-organized to make the security screening as smooth as possible.

And don't forget that if your flight is delayed or cancelled, you can claim up to $700 in compensation!