Carry-on Luggage Restrictions

Pregnant Women Traveling Via AirportOver the last decade, we’ve suffered through many adjustments to luggage restrictions. Some were brought on by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in an effort to keep us safe; others were imposed by airlines dealing with increasing oil prices and passenger safety issues.


It’s frustrating to constantly have to readjust to these new rules as they’re thrown our way, but if we ignore them we’ll face longer lines at security, increased costs due to luggage weight restrictions, and the possibility of seized possessions when we try to bring prohibited items on board.


Recent Changes to Carry-On Restrictions


Immediately after September 11th, the TSA got strict about what was prohibited from carry-on luggage. Generally, anything that could be seen as a potentially threatening object, such as knives, lighters and baseball bats, was prohibited.


Earlier this year, it was announced that the TSA would be lightening many of these restrictions, allowing certain knives and select sporting equipment (such as golf clubs and pool cues), in carry-ons. The change was set to occur in April, but amid widespread public outcry, the TSA changed its policy back to its original standing and is not allowing these items through after all.


Over the years, however, other formerly restricted items have been added to the permitted list, including lighters, screwdrivers seven inches long or smaller, and scissors that are four inches or less.


Travelers are generally able to check property that can’t be carried on, such as baseball bats, axes and firearms. However, some items can’t even be checked. This includes flares and gunpowder.  Before packing for your trip, it’s a good idea to review the TSA prohibited items list so that you fully understand what you can and can’t bring, and where it needs to be packed.




When travelling—especially on a long flight abroad—some travellers need to carry liquid with them on board the plane. For example, mothers may need to carry formula for their babies, patients may need to carry liquid medications such as insulin, and people who want to minimize their risks of illness may want to carry plenty of bottled water.


But the TSA limits the amount of liquids and gels that can be carried on. They’ve developed a handy formula, called 3-1-1, to help travellers understand the restrictions. Basically, each passenger can carry a total of 3.4 ounces of bottled liquids (including gels and aerosols) in 1 clear plastic, zip-locking bag. No more than 1 bag per traveller is permitted. This method allows for quicker screening of the liquids and shorter waits in security lines.


For longer trips requiring more liquids, travelers can declare items for inspection, but they should not pack them in a zip-locking bag and should expect additional screening measures before they’re allowed through to the gate. If you’re traveling with a liquid medication and require more than 3.4 ounces in your carry on, you may want to obtain a note from your physician in order to make the screening go smoother.


Airline Restrictions


The TSA travel restrictions trump all other restrictions, but that doesn’t mean individual airlines don’t have their own guidelines regarding what you can carry onto your flight. Just because you get your bag through security, that doesn’t guarantee it a place in the cabin.


You should always check with your individual airline to get their weight and size restrictions before you get to the airport. For the safety of passengers, most airlines require carry–on bags to be small enough that they can fit overhead or under the seat. If yours is too large when boarding, they may require that it be checked, which can result in delays, additional costs and an increased risk of lost luggage. Note also that many airlines limit you to only one carry-on bag and one personal item such as a purse. If you carry a purse, shopping bag AND carry-on, they may not allow all three. Lastly, some may have weight restrictions for your carry-on that can range from 25 pounds to 40 pounds.


Before flying, you’ll try to protect your luggage by paying attention to TSA and airline restrictions. You can protect it even further from loss, theft and damage, when you buy travel insurance with baggage protection. Not only will this policy reimburse you (up to limits) for the value of your luggage if it’s lost, damaged or stolen during the flight, but it continues to protect you throughout the length of your trip abroad.



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