Things To Not Pack In Your Checked Bag

June 16, 2018
Katie Uniacke

An image with a bunch of items ready to be packed in a suitcase

Much as we all love going on holiday, not many people enjoy the process of packing.

It’s always a bit of a nightmare trying to decide what you’ll need, neither under-preparing nor taking things you won’t use, and, of course, never going over the weight limit.

Thankfully, the restrictions on what you can carry in your checked luggage are far less stringent than the rules about what you can pack in your carry-on baggage which you’ll have in the cabin with you.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t some rules you need to follow.


What You Shouldn’t Pack in Your Checked Luggage

The first rule when dealing with suitcases is that you should never pack more than the weight allocated to you, or you could end up paying hefty charges at the airport.

Saying that, it’s not just the weight that you need to think about. There are, of course, plenty of things that it’s illegal to pack.

An Erie International Airport (ERI) TSA Officer let the cat out of the bag this week. Literally. And the cat’s name is Slim. Slim’s owners packed her in their checked bag. While this could have been extremely dangerous for the 6-month old cat, Slim is just fine and is currently residing under the care of the Humane Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania. … No worries though if you’d like to travel with your pets. Here’s how! … Checkpoint Screening: … Check with your airline first to inquire about any fees and policies. … Your pet will need to be screened via checkpoint screening if it’s traveling with you in the cabin of the plane. … We do not X-ray pets. However, there have been many occasions where passengers have assumed their pet needed to go through the X-ray. You can imagine the surprise of the X-ray operator when they see Fluffy’s skeleton roll across their monitor. It is not an unusual occurrence. Your pet will need to come out of its carrier, so it is a good idea to know how your pet will react. Many a cat has gone into a feline frenzy after being removed from its carrier. An angry cat is never a good thing. … Even if your travel is “off the leash,” you should strongly consider keeping your pet on a leash. The checkpoint is a noisy environment that can cause your pet to flee at its first opportunity. This happens with humans occasionally as well. Your pet can be carried through the walk through metal detector or walked through on leash. If your pet triggers an alarm, one of our officers will have to take a closer look. Pets are not screened with the body scanners. … Checked Baggage: … If your pet is traveling in a kennel, your airline will arrange for a TSA Officer to screen the kennel. Officers will need to inspect your kennel/carrier for prohibited items with you present. Sometimes this can be done visually, but it’s good to have a leash handy in case the officer asks you to remove your pet from the carrier.

A post shared by TSA (@tsa) on

Check out the TSA’s list here.

It’s not just the illegal items that you should be avoiding, however. There are a few things that you should never pack in your check-in luggage in case it should go astray.

They should either be taken on the plane with you in your carry-on, or left at home.


Important Documents

Despite your own efforts to keep your luggage safe, there is a possibility that an airline can lose it. Even though this is happening far less often these days than even the 0.12% as reported by SITA in 2010. You can check out why your luggage is safer than ever here. It’s better to be on the safe side.

With that in mind, make sure you keep any important documents (maybe in a travel document holder) on you at all times rather than keeping them in your suitcase. Think hotel details, insurance policy details, etc.

A good idea is to make copies of everything and keep those in your checked baggage, with the originals on you in case you should happen to lose your carry-on instead.



Again, if your bag goes astray you definitely don’t want it to contain any expensive electronic devices or anything expensive full stop.

Keep anything valuable with you in the cabin.



It’s highly improbable that your luggage will be either lost or a baggage handler might steal your belongings but these things can occur from time to time. CNN reported as recently as 2015 about baggage handlers stealing from luggage so it is better to be on the safe side with your Jewellery or things like wedding rings.

Cash and Cards

A picture of credit cards & cash

Most of your money and means of accessing money should always be kept with you. You can, however, stash some for emergencies in case your carry-on suitcase gets lost or something happens. We actually recommend you keep a very small amount of money in the checkin bag to be on the safe side.



Not all airports have a fancy completely automated baggage setup where you suitcase gets taken from the counter all the way to the belly of the aircraft without anyone having to lay a finger on it.

Your bag has a long journey to go on between the check-in desk and the baggage carousel, and the people that deal with it might not always be as careful as you’d expect them to.

Before you start blaming them, bear in mind that they’re normally under time pressures to get your flight off the ground.

Your bag might end up getting thrown around a bit, so make sure that anything breakable is well-wrapped, or left at home if not absolutely essential.


Things That Might Spill

As mentioned in the point above, baggage handlers won’t always be super careful with your things.

Although you can take liquids in your check-in baggage without the restrictions placed on carry-on, it’s still not a good idea to take anything that has a risk of spilling.

I’ve ended up with coconut oil all over my clothes in the past, not an easy thing to clean up. Whilst you might want to take that bottle of gin away with you, think how you’d feel if your whole holiday wardrobe ended up smelling like a bar.

Use your common sense with this, and make sure any liquids are in plastic bags.


All the clothing you intend to take

If the worst does happen and your bag goes astray then you’ll regret it if you don’t have any emergency clothes in your carry-on.

Just one change of clothes will make a big difference, as will a few essential toiletries (no liquids over 100ml).


Food and Drink

If any packages are at risk of splitting open and ruining your clothes, it’s best to avoid them. Plastic bottles can blow up as a result of the pressure in the cabin.

Bear in mind that if your bag goes astray, any food in it could end up sitting there for days on end and going bad.

As a side note, lots of countries have rules about what you can and can’t bring into the country food-wise, especially as regards fruits and vegetables. Make sure you check out the restrictions before you fly.



A change of underwear is nice, but not a matter of life and death. If you have any essential medications, however, then you don’t want to end up without them.

Don’t check-in something that you literally couldn’t live without.


Matches or a Lighter

A picture of a cigarette lighter which is banned when checking in luggage

This isn’t just a recommendation; it’s actually illegal to pack anything flammable in your checked luggage.

As innocuous as they might seem, you can’t pack that box of matches for your camping trip or take your favourite lighter with you.


Prepare for the Worst

Murphy’s Law means that if you prepare for something, then it won’t happen. Pack like you’re definitely going to lose your luggage by keeping all your essentials in your carry-on luggage.

You’ve got nothing to lose by doing so, and everything to gain if your bag doesn’t make it to your destination.

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