What Not to Take in Your Carry On Luggage

May 15, 2018
Celia Jenkins

An image of a person searching through a carry on

When it comes to packing your travel bags, we all have different methods, don’t we? Some of us like to pack for every eventuality (raincoat in summer, ski jacket for Thailand…) whereas others pack light as possible, leaving lots of room for souvenirs and duty-free.

Carry on luggage is much the same – some of us like to cram in every manner of entertainment, as well as a small picnic (just in case the in-flight meal is ever so slightly late…) whereas other travelers like to go light as a feather. Whether you’re a heavyweight packer or not, there are a number of things that you need to consider before you pack your bags.


The Obvious Things

There are a number of items that have been prohibited in carry on luggage for a good number of years, but these are often what people slip up on. Ok, so most of us can remember not to pack any poison, bombs, baseball bats and knives into our carry on bags – frankly, I think that when most people see those things on the prohibited list, they wonder who usually travels with that stuff anyway? But there are other things that people often forget about.

A picture of deodorant

Toiletries are usually the main offender if you don’t have checked luggage: a pair of nail scissors, spray deodorant, lighters, and liquid items over 100ml. Little bottles can be deceptive, so always remember to check the label for quantities. Also, when it comes to liquids and toiletries – either pack it into a see-through sandwich bag at home, or get prepared before you reach the conveyor belt. Don’t be that guy/girl who holds everyone up – be prepared and you’ll save everyone time.


Food Products

I won’t lie – any plane journey I make that takes more than an hour, I pack snacks. Plenty of them too, given the price you pay for the merest morel in any departure lounge. But you need to consider where you’re going, and what restrictions might be in place. If you’re traveling internationally, you won’t be allowed to take fresh products with you into the country, such as fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy.

Obviously, the idea is that you eat it on the plane rather than actually taking it with you to your final destination, but it’s something to bear in mind – a packet of crisps or a breakfast bar might be more sensible than a ham sandwich. Also, bear in mind that you’re not going to be anyone’s best friend if you roll up to economy class with a bag full of  food – keep it odor free! Also, if you can avoid nuts, do so – you never know if there’s going to be a fellow traveler with a serious nut allergy.


Inappropriate Reading or Viewing Material

What you entertain yourself with, in your own time is your own business but when it comes to confined spaces, try to be considerate. In-flight entertainment will usually give you the choice of some films that are not suitable for children (rating ’15’, for example) but you are unlikely to find something like a gruesome horror movie with a rating of ’18’. This is because you never know who will be sitting in the seat behind you or across the aisle, and it isn’t fair to subject young travelers to inappropriate materials. Similarly, I wouldn’t recommend whipping out the latest issue of Playboy for your in-flight reading or watching an ‘adult movie’ on your iPad.


Unusual Sharp Objects

An image of a fishing rod

We all take it as obvious that ‘sharp objects’ refers to things like knives and scissors, but there are other sharp items which people can forget about. Knitting needles are often prohibited for carry on luggage (although some airlines do allow them, so check beforehand if this is your entertainment of choice). If you’re camping, beware that items such as tent pegs are usually flagged up as sharp objects. Fishing rods, hooks and other tools are also prohibited in hand luggage.


Banned Items

Are you traveling to some far-flung place, perhaps a destination with a culture or dominant religion that’s different to your home country? Think about banned materials that you might have confiscated on arrival. Controversial or political material is sometimes banned in China (such as Beijing Coma by Ma Jian), or erotic material is often banned (such as the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E L James, which is banned in Malaysia), books are frequently banned in Islamic countries (such as Qatar), and also certain authors find their work banned in a number of countries (such as Salman Rushdie, whose book The Satanic Verses was banned in fifteen countries).


Novelty Items

Sometimes you end up packing things which are, to you, so obviously not dangerous that you neglect to consider what airport security might have to say about it. For example, those iPhone cases that are shaped like guns? Not a great idea for air travel. Also, we tend to pack carefully on the flight out, but forget about checking carefully on the way back home, which is when silly things slip our mind. For example – do you collect snow-globes? Remember that those are filled with liquid and are not something you want to stash in your handbag. Souvenirs are easy to make mistakes with, so consider things carefully before you buy, especially if you don’t have checked luggage.


For the most part, the carry on list is just common sense, but there are a few sneaky items that can trip us up. Most importantly, consider the country you’re traveling to (and the specific regulations that they might have) and also think about your airline – while most airlines adhere to the same rules, there are exceptions. If in doubt, call up your airline in advance to check – or better still, email them and print out the reply so that you’ve got proof if someone tries to confiscate something that you were told you could bring.






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