What’s allowed in my carry on baggage?
Trekking through the airport is a feat in and of itself, but trying to remember all the rules and regulations about your luggage is another issue altogether. Recalling the size of bottles you’re allowed to carry on board is a little like trying to remember exactly how many metres you’re supposed to park away from a fire hydrant. I mean I could ballpark it, but if you asked me the actual distance I’d definitely draw a blank.
Worse, how are you supposed to know what’s considered “dangerous” and what’s not? I was recently stopped because I had a lighter in my pocket. It was quickly confiscated, yet the manicure set in my purse was fine, which contained a pointy metal file, clippers and scissors – each of which I’m sure is more easily transformed into a weapon then my mini Bic. But I digress.
To confuse matters just a little more, there are certain things you’re allowed to have in certain areas of the airport, but not in others.
So here’s the quick ‘n dirty lowdown on what to take with you through the airport, what to pack in your checked baggage, and what to go without entirely.
Let’s start with the obvious – your carry on liquids:
- Bottled water: a common mistake I nearly always make is to carry a bottle of water in my purse. Problem is you can’t get through the first checkpoint with it, even if it’s unopened—this rule is much stricter in North America than it is in Europe, mind you. But on our side of the pond, you’ll either have to put it in your checked baggage (which makes little sense), or toss it. Sometimes (rarely) security will let you chug it on the spot and carry the empty bottle through to refill with tap water once you’re at the gate. The moral? If you’re buying insanely expensive water (or any drink for that matter) at the airport, WAIT until you get through to the gates.
- Food: another common item you might not think of as “liquid.” Foods like yogurt, cottage cheese, Jell-o, etc. are all considered liquids. Yep, I was stopped once for that, too! I had some single serving peanut butter and jams in my purse that I’d snagged at the hotel breakfast buffet. I never would have thought of those items as “liquids” that needed to be bagged up for air travel. Now I know.
- Make-up: guys, most of you don’t have to worry about this On a separate trip, as my carry on went through the scanner, I was stopped and forced to bag up my liquid foundation, which was in its own little makeup bag in my purse. They also made me dig out my lip gloss, eye-liner and even mascara. Who knew these could be construed as a threat!
- Toiletries: we all like to freshen up quickly after a long flight, so it’s common to put a small overnight bag together and keep it with you, filled with things like toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo and conditioner, perfume or other sprays. These items will need to be less than 100ml each in size (stop by a dollar store before you travel and grab mini versions of everything) and will need to be put into a small 1L resealable baggie – a Ziploc from home will do, but if you forget, they have some at the airport (so far they’re not charging for them).
Other carry on items you may not think of as dangerous, but you likely won’t be allowed to take them on board, include:
- Anything that can make fire. Don’t take your favourite zippo with you in your pocket or carry on, security will snag it.
- Same goes for any type of all-purpose utility gadget – I used to keep a small one on my keychain that had a corkscrew (my most valuable travel companion), tiny scissors (if you want to call them scissors) and a dull little nail file. I couldn’t even get aboard the boat to Ellis Island with that in my purse, let alone an airplane. Small pen knives are also not allowed.
- Tools are a no-no. Anything longer than seven inches has to go into your checked baggage. Same goes for power tools, or anything with a sharp cutting edge. If you’re checking a tool box as part of your luggage, make sure it doesn’t contain any of the banned items, like utility lighters or flammable liquids.
- Cash or any items of monetary value, including credit cards, travellers cheques, money orders, etc.
- Medications: keep prescription medications in your carry on baggage, including epipens, puffers and insulin—anything you’ll need in an emergency or on a daily basis (in case your luggage gets lost, you’ll need a few days’ supply until you either refill the RXs or find your bags). Also keep small photos and eyeglasses with you.
- Valuable items such as jewellery should always be carried on board with you. Again, just in case your luggage goes missing, you’ll be relieved you didn’t lose your grandmother’s diamond ring! Better yet, leave your valuable jewellery at home if you don’t need it. Other valuable items include electronics, such as cameras, iPods and tablets. These are small enough to carry on the plane and expensive enough you don’t want to risk loss or damage by checking them with your other luggage.
- Personal paperwork including business documents and financial records should be kept with you. Again, in case something happens to your checked bags, you don’t want your personal information going missing, which opens you up to potential identity theft.
- And above all else – this is a BIG one – make sure you haven’t checked your tickets or your passport! Always double and triple check to make sure you have at least these two items with you before you check your bags. Trust me! I’ve never packed my passport, but I’ve travelled with someone who has, and let me assure you, it’s no laughing matter.
Be careful with backpacks, too, as it’s easy for kleptos to lift your stuff at any given time. Have you had any issues with your carry on baggage recently? Share your story (and warnings) with us here.