There’s a lot of confusion around what can and can’t be taken on an airplane, especially when it comes to liquids. And the last thing you want is to have to throw away an expensive toiletry item in the airport security line. So can I put toiletries in my checked luggage?
It is possible to pack liquids, aerosols and gels – and everything in between – in both your carry-on and checked baggage. You just have to know how much you’re restricted to and how to safely pack these items. The problem is that most travelers are so busy that it’s hard to find time to research all the rules about how to pack specific items and what can actually be carried onto the plane with you versus what must be left in checked baggage.
But once you understand the TSA rules surrounding liquids and toiletries, you’ve mastered most of the confusing information! And, in fact, these rules apply to all liquids, including food. So once you know how to properly pack toiletries, you’ll have all the information you need to travel with just about any liquid!
Not only will we share the different toiletry items that can be packed in your luggage, but we’ll, more importantly, tell you how to pack toiletries in checked luggage so they don’t get confiscated by the TSA or end up leaking into your expensive clothes.
Table of Contents
- 1 First Take Stock of All Your Toiletries
- 2 Do Toiletries Have to be in a Clear Bag in Checked Luggage?
- 3 Can You Pack Full Bottles of Shampoo in Checked Luggage?
- 4 Will Shampoo Explode in Checked Luggage?
- 5 Can you Bring Aerosol on a Plane in Checked Baggage?
- 6 How to Pack Full Size Toiletries in Checked Luggage
First Take Stock of All Your Toiletries
To begin packing toiletries for a flight, you first need to decide what you can leave behind or substitute so you’re dealing with fewer items. Remember that not only liquids, but aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes must adhere to these rules, especially for carry on luggage, – which are the formats of virtually every toiletry product known to man.
Even though you don’t have too many restrictions surrounding harmless liquids in your checked suitcase, toiletries tend to add up and make your luggage heavy or take up too much space.
Things you might not realize, like liquid and gel makeup, also count, so choose wisely or you’ll end up with a lot of products in your bag that you have to haul around with no chance of using it all up while you’re gone.
Here are a few ways you can pare down the list of toiletries you travel with. This will limit the risk of losing your product, and you’ll find that your carry on and checked bags are a lot lighter, too.
Choose products that do double duty
Any time you can opt for a product that has more than one purpose, that’s a traveling win! Some examples of 2-in-1 products include the following:
Several products, like coconut oil, are great products to travel with. Coconut oil is fairly stable compared to many cosmetic liquids, and it can be used as many different things, including a facial moisturizer, hair conditioner, and body lotion.
While you may not have all the comforts of home, using multi-purpose products – like a regular bar of your favorite soap – can really cut down on the hassle of packing many different products and the overall weight of your luggage.
Another bonus to packing these items is that they can be your designated travel toiletries, so you will be able to effortlessly pack toiletries for your next flight.
Eliminate anything unnecessary
If you can cut out an item completely, then leave it behind! This includes multiple lotions, face moisturizers, and hair products. Embrace your hair and skin’s natural appearance and just take what you absolutely need. If you can go without hairspray or facial serum for a few days, those are two fewer items to worry about.
Another way to eliminate the hassle of packing multiple toiletries is to buy products when you get to your destination. Look for travel sizes so you can use them up or toss them before heading back home, and you’ll never have to worry about packing them when you have souvenirs to bring back.
You can also use the hotel’s complimentary products to avoid packing shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion. If you have sensitive skin or other specific needs, ask the front desk if it’s possible to switch out the regular complimentary toiletries for ones that suit your specific needs.
Choose solids when possible
You may be surprised to find that many toiletries come in solid forms now. This includes everything from bar soap and solid deodorant – which you already knew about – to newer products like shampoo bars and solid body fragrances.
Solids are much more stable and less likely to make a mess in your checked bag, even when it’s being tossed around by airport staff. The solid form of any toiletry product is allowed on flights, either in carry-on or checked luggage, so opt for these varieties whenever possible. Powders are also allowed.
Carrying solid products eliminates the risk of spills in your bag. Only in extreme cases would you have to worry about a solid product melting enough to damage anything in your suitcase, and they aren’t susceptible to air pressure changes.
Know the TSA’s rules
The best thing you can do is arm yourself with information. The more you know about what is allowed and how to pack your items, the less hassle you’ll undergo at the airport and on your trip. Fortunately, the TSA governs all airlines, so you only have to learn one set of rules that transfer to any airline you use.
Generally, the TSA sticks to its 3:1:1 rule for carry-ons but this rule does not apply to medicines, wet wipes, and foods and drinks necessary for feeding babies. You just have to clear these specific items with airport security when you get to the line.
How much liquid can you take on a plane in checked baggage on international or domestic flights? Inexperienced flyers may be hesitant to pack any toiletries in their checked baggage, assuming the same rules are in effect. However, there are no TSA checked bag liquids restrictions on the size of toiletries that can be packed. So while we wouldn’t recommend it, feel free to pack all your favorite full-size products in your checked bag wherever you’re flying to.
You can read the TSA liquids rules about toiletries in your carry-on luggage word for word here, or download the TSA app for your smartphone so you can check each and every item you plan on packing in checked luggage as well as carry-on.
If you are going on a longer trip where you will need more product that a travel-size can offer, you don’t have much of a choice. You either need to figure out how to pack full-size products or be prepared to purchase items while you are traveling.
Just realize that if your bag gets searched, the items may not end up as neatly packed as you initially had them. This can lead to a bottle leaking during the flight and ruining items in your luggage. So while you are certainly allowed to bring full-sized products in checked luggage, you need to consider whether this is actually your best option.
Do Toiletries Have to be in a Clear Bag in Checked Luggage?
No, there are no rules concerning how liquids in your checked luggage must be packed.
However, due to the risk of leaks, you may want to do it anyway. You can find zip top bags in gallon size or larger to accommodate full size bottles that are packed in your checked luggage. Vacuum sealed bags are also great at preventing leaks when flying.
Your bag will be x-rayed, of course, so the security official will be able to see that there are bottles and tubes inside your luggage. If you are chosen for a random search for suspicious items, it will not matter if the toiletries are in a clear bag or some other type – or no bag whatsoever.
There are no guarantees that the items will be put back in their sealed bags properly, so if you have a chance to check the bags after going through security, definitely do so.
Can You Pack Full Bottles of Shampoo in Checked Luggage?
Yes, containers like shampoo that are larger than 3.4 ounces can and should be packed inside a checked bag. This goes for full-size conditioners, hairspray and other hair-related toiletries as well.
You can pack these items in with other luggage, or you can pack them all together in a single bag to keep all toiletries away from other items.
We’d like to offer some practical warnings, though, if you do carry full-sized products, like shampoo:
Will Shampoo Explode in Checked Luggage?
Explode is a tricky word. No, shampoo won’t explode in a fire or like a bomb. It can, however, erupt like a volcano due to drastic air pressure fluctuations during the flight.
This happens because excess air in the bottle or aerosol expands and pushes the product out, regardless of how well it is packed. One way to combat this is to squeeze out extra air before securing and packing full size products like shampoo.
Rough handling by airport staff and machinery are other causes of “exploding” bottles in checked baggage. This isn’t really the same thing, but results are the same.
Can you Bring Aerosol on a Plane in Checked Baggage?
Yes, you may pack aerosol cans in your checked luggage. Common aerosols that are allowed include dry shampoo, mousse, hairspray, perfume, deodorant and sunscreen.
We’d still recommend packing these items safely within a plastic bag just in case the expellant is deployed in order to protect the rest of your items. Read more about the possibility of an aerosol can exploding in checked baggage.
Will Aerosol Cans Explode on a Plane?
There’s no real concern that an aerosol can of a toiletry product will explode on an airplane since its contents are already pressurized and fires or extreme heat situations are rare. However, there may be a few products, like certain hairsprays, that are composed of flammable ingredients that aren’t safe to fly with. Fire can cause aerosol cans of flammable liquids, oxygen and other gases to explode, so these are not allowed in a plane at all. If you aren’t sure if your aerosol can is flammable or not, there will be a warning printed on it about not taking it near a flame.
How to Pack Full Size Toiletries in Checked Luggage
Some products may not be easy to put into smaller containers, or maybe you just need a lot of that particular product. If either of these things is true, you need to know the best way to pack toiletries in a suitcase for checking.
If you want to be extra safe, here’s a great travel tip:
Put the product in a new container
There are full-size travel containers that will allow you to transfer the entire contents of a full-size product into them. Look for bottles that are specifically marketed as being leak proof.
These containers are usually made of lightweight plastic, which saves precious pounds in your luggage in packaging alone.
You will probably find that these travel containers are easy to label and change in the future, and most come with their own zip top bag.
If you are leaving your products in their original containers for convenience’s sake, we completely understand. Doing it this way makes it much more convenient when you get back home to put everything away quickly.
It does, however, increase the likelihood of an accident that not only wastes your products but also gets it all over the rest of your luggage.
Here are a few things you can do with the products in their original containers to make sure the inside of your suitcase is safe from spills:
Put the container in a sealed plastic bag
This is an easy one. Any size bag will work since there are no restrictions about checked luggage. Seal as many or as few bottles in each plastic bag as will fit with the zipper able to close securely.
As an added layer of protection, store this bag in a compartment of your suitcase that is separate from your clothes and electronics. Most suitcases have smaller pockets on the interior and soft-sided suitcases even have one on the exterior – any of these will work.
Or store the ziploc bag in a toiletry bag with a hanging hook so that once you reach your hotel, you just remove the whole bag and hang it up with all its contents on a door hook or shower rod. My favorite for checked luggage is the eBags large Pack-it-Flat toiletry bag.
Add a layer of plastic wrap under the cap
This trick works especially well with twist top bottles. Take the top off and place a piece of plastic wrap over the opening. This piece of plastic wrap should be big enough to cover the threads so when the cap is screwed back on, the plastic stays in place.
Twisting the top back on the product holds the plastic wrap in place, but it doesn’t interfere with the cap closing. Other materials like wax paper or aluminum foil are not recommended because they are thicker and/or more likely to tear.
Squeeze the extra air out of bottles if possible
As we mentioned before, squeezing extra air out of full-size bottles prevents them from exploding when the contents become pressurized.
Air expands at high altitudes, which is why your ears sometimes pop on an airplane. This rapid expansion of air can cause liquids to be pushed out of toiletry bottles inside your luggage.
If you decide to forego your full-sized products, the 3.4 ounce travel-size bottles (whether leak-proof or not) that you can find just about anywhere will help prevent this air expansion problem since they don’t have as much air in them to expand.
Tape the cap down
A simple way to prevent accidents, especially for aerosol cans and bottles, is to tape the top on.
These products usually have hard plastic tops, but, unfortunately, they don’t always fit properly, so the tops can pop off and actually be the thing that pushes against the actuator of the product and dispenses it all over your luggage contents.
To keep up with the tape so you can use it again for your return flight, just stick it to the edge of the countertop in your hotel in an area where it won’t be disturbed, or stick it to the mirror.
Add a cloth around the bottles inside the sealed bag
Another precautionary measure is to wrap the bottles or sealed bags with a linen that you don’t mind ruining. This towel or cloth will serve as a barrier for liquids that leak out so hopefully they won’t make it to other, more important items in the luggage.
This tip is also great for breakables, like liquor or wine bottles in your checked luggage, as it will cushion them from the impact of handling while in the airline’s care.
Knowing these things will help you make decisions about what is practical to pack and how to make sure it stays safe in your bag. With the right strategies, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to pack full-size toiletries.