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What items are not allowed on a plane in hand luggage? Everything you can and can’t carry onto a plane

Plane hand luggage header man placing items in a tray at security control

Carry-on rules can be confusing, but our guide to what items are and aren’t allowed in hand luggage should save you a lot of time and effort

There’s a certain art to remembering what you can and what you can’t take on an aeroplane in your hand luggage. Security is, understandably, very tight and some certain rules and regulations need to be followed. Even if an airport has the latest scanning equipment, you still need to know what’s allowed in your carry-on bag, as well as what you’ll need to have ready for inspection.

How can I prepare for a trip in advance?

If you want to get through security as quickly as possible, make sure you’re organised well in advance and have everything ready before you even leave for the airport.

First things first: make sure you check the hand luggage restrictions and weight limits with the airline you’re travelling with, as they can differ, with budget airlines typically not allowing as much as premium ones. If you’re just sticking with a carry-on, our recommendations for the best hand luggage will give you a wide selection of robust bags to choose from. If you’re on a longer haul trip and need to check in your baggage for the cargo hold, then our selection of the best suitcases on the market will help ensure all your belongings arrive safely in one piece.

Remember that you can only take liquids in individual containers with a maximum capacity of 100ml on the plane (more on liquids later), so be careful what you pack. Place your liquids – including gels, pastes and balms – into a transparent, re-sealable plastic bag. Liquids and certain electronic items – laptops, tablets, phones and other similar devices – will need to be scanned separately, so it’s a good idea to pack them at the top of your carry-on luggage, or in a separate pocket section, keeping in mind that you’ll need to be ready to remove them for inspection. You can usually make sure your laptop is still protected by using one of the best laptop sleeves (just make sure that it’s switched off first to prevent overheating).Best backpack

Then, at the airport but before you get to security, remove any coats, jackets and belts (some airports also require shoes and boots to be removed – check the signage for information as you join the queue). Take your electronic items out of your luggage and place them in a separate tray for scanning. And don’t forget to check your pockets for any metallic items, like keys and loose change, as these will set off the detector and require you to go through again, or even to be taken aside for a personal search.

If you’re a smoker, you’re only allowed to travel with one lighter and, after screening, it’s not permitted to go in your luggage, it must stay on your person.

READ NEXT: Best backpacks


Why does airport security take so long?

Although they seem annoying and time-consuming, security checks are an important airport procedure. They’re there to keep passengers and staff safe from potential dangers or threats, so you do need to remember that these measures are in place for your benefit, as well as the benefit of your fellow travellers. These checks include full-body scanners or metal detectors and X-ray baggage scanners to check bags for any prohibited items.

What items are allowed on a plane in hand luggage?

Let’s start with the items that you are allowed to carry in your hand luggage.

1. Liquids

You can take liquids in your hand luggage, but containers can’t hold more than 100ml. All these containers must go in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20 x 20cm. You are limited to one plastic bag, which must be able to be sealed at the top. Liquids include:

    • All drinks, including water
    • Cosmetics and toiletries, including creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascaras and lip gloss
    • Liquid or semi-liquid food, such as jam, honey or syrups
    • Sprays, such as shaving foam, hairspray and spray deodorants
    • Pastes, such as toothpaste
    • Contact lens solution
    • Gels, such as shower gel and hair gel
    • Any other liquids of similar consistence

    There are some exemptions to the liquids rule. If you’re travelling with a baby, you’re allowed to take enough baby food, baby milk and sterilised water to cover the journey. You are also permitted to travel with breast milk, though individual containers of breast milk cannot hold more than 2,000ml and airport staff may need to open the containers to screen the liquids at the security desk.

    You are also allowed to carry more than 100ml of essential medicines, including dietary foodstuffs and inhalers. You may be required to provide proof that the medication is prescribed to you, whether that’s a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription.

    2. Medical equipment and mobility aids

    You are allowed to carry any essential medical equipment for your journey, including tablets and hypodermic needles. However, again, you do need to carry proof that the medication is prescribed to you if it’s a liquid in a container larger than 100ml, or if your medicine is a controlled substance (do check the rules for the country you’re travelling to as well).

    Mobility aids, such as pushchairs, wheelchairs, walking frames and walking sticks, are usually allowed in the cabin in addition to your hand luggage, though they will need to be scanned through security. You will need to check with the airline if your aid has batteries, or if you need to take oxygen cylinders. It’s advised that you notify the airline at least 48 hours before you’re due to fly if you’re likely to need any assistance.

    3. Electronic items

    You can take your mobile phone, laptop, tablet, MP3 player, hairdryer, straighteners, camera, travel iron, electric shaver and e-cigarettes onto a plane in your hand luggage. Make sure they have enough charge to be switched on if security staff request it. Do note that e-cigarettes and anything with a lithium battery have to be carried in your hand luggage as these items cannot go into the hold. Lithium batteries with 101-160 Wh are only allowed with airline approval – anything higher than 160 Wh is banned.

    4. Personal items

    You might be surprised to learn that these items are all permitted in hand luggage:

      • Small scissors with blades no longer than 6cm
      • Round-ended/blunt scissors
      • Nail clippers/nail file
      • Tweezers
      • Knitting needles
      • Sewing needles
      • Umbrella
      • Safety matches
      • Fixed-cartridge razor blades

      As mentioned earlier, you are permitted to travel with a cigarette lighter; however, it must be placed in your plastic liquids bag as you go through security and then remain on your person – it is not allowed in your hand luggage.

      5. Duty free

      Anything you buy from duty-free after security is exempted as long as it’s sealed in a security bag with the receipt visible. You aren’t allowed to open the duty-free until you reach your destination.

      6. Specialist items

      Some specialist items such as sports equipment, musical instruments or professional camera equipment are allowed onto the plane in the cabin as hand luggage, but you will need to check with the airline you’re flying with. Larger pieces of equipment may incur extra costs, such as buying an extra ticket.

What items are not allowed on a plane in hand luggage?

Here is a list of restricted items that are banned from hand luggage on all departures out of the UK:

  • Aerosols
  • Camping stoves with gas or flammable liquid attached to them
  • Catapults
  • Crossbows
  • Darts
  • Explosives, detonators and associated fuses
  • Fireworks, flares and any other pyrotechnics
  • Flammable paint
  • Golf clubs
  • Harpoons
  • Heavy bats and sticks (such as softball, baseball or cricket bats)
  • Large scissors
  • Lighter fluid
  • Liquids over 100ml (unless the liquid is exempt)
  • Liquid oxygen
  • Martial arts equipment
  • Mercury-filled items – including thermometers
  • Party poppers
  • Sharp objects, including any knives
  • Smoke canisters
  • Smoke cartridges
  • Spear guns
  • Walking poles
  • Work tools – including hammers, nail guns and Stanley knives
  • Guns and firearms – this includes replicas as well as live ammunition, mines, grenades, dynamite, gunpowder and plastic explosives
  • Chemicals and toxic substances – these include acids and alkalis (such as ‘wet’ batteries), oxidisers and organic peroxides, corrosives, bleaching agents, vehicle batteries and fuel systems, self-defence sprays, radioactive materials, poisons, toxic substances, biological hazards (such as bacteria or infected blood), materials that could spontaneously combust and fire extinguishers

The best hand luggage to buy in 2024

1. Eastpak Tranverz S Wheeled Luggage: Best all-round soft case

Price when reviewed: From £89 | Check price at AmazonPlane hand luggge Eastpak Tranverz S Wheeled Luggage red wheeled bag on a white background

Eastpak originally produced their bags for the US military and is well-regarded in the backpack and rucksack world. This means you’ll be getting an extremely sturdy and durable bag that’s easily able to withstand a few bumps and scrapes. Of course, there’s also a whopping 30-year warranty if anything major does go wrong.

What we like most about this bag is that it has two large inner compartments, making it easy to separate out anything that needs its own security checks from the rest of your luggage. Lockable zippers keep your belongings safe and there’s also a front pocket that’s perfect for storing smaller items, such as tablets and phones. This clever design has padded handles on both the sides and bottom of the bag and these, along with the telescopic handle, make it easy to grab from any direction. The suitcase is smooth to wheel and not prohibitively heavy. There’s also a huge range of colours to choose from, so you won’t just be stuck with everyday black.

Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 32 x 24 x 51cm; Weight: 2.3kg; Capacity: 42l; Number of wheels: 2


2. Antler Clifton Cabin with Pocket: Best luxury suitcase

Price when reviewed: £220 | Check price at AntlerPlane hand luggage Antler Clifton green suitcase on a white background

Antler has been making suitcases for 100 years and their knowledge and experience show in these high-quality cabin bags. You’ll find all the usual features with the Clifton Cabin with Pocket – four wheels, secure TSA-approved locks, twist-grip handle and a lifetime warranty if anything should go wrong – but the most useful part of the suitcase, in our opinion, is the secure front pocket. This pocket is designed to fit your valuable belongings, with room for a 15.6in laptop and a tablet, as well as smaller pouches to hold your passport and travel documents.

Inside the suitcase, you’ll find a traditional strapped section to keep clothes in place, should you not be taking hold luggage, as well as zip-pocketed sections on the other side. It may be a pricey suitcase, but the Antler is well-designed, superbly made, and should last for many years of travel.

Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 35 x 23 x 56cm; Weight: 3.3kg; Capacity: 38l; Number of wheels: 4

Check price at Antler

3. IT Luggage: Best lightweight suitcase

Price when reviewed: £45 | Check price at ArgosPlane hand luggage IT Luggage black suitcase on a white background

Not only is this suitcase incredibly light, at only 1.56kg, but it’s also extremely budget-friendly; however, neither of these means you have to forego useful design features. There are two easy-glide skate wheels, for smooth 360-degree movement, mounted on a solid fibreglass frame and there’s also an unusually wide handle with comfortable silica-gel padding, which takes a little getting used to but, once you do, you’ll find it makes the case remarkably easy to manoeuvre. And it all comes with a 10-year warranty.

When it comes to navigating airport security, this bag really comes into its own – it has three external pockets that are ideal for storing anything you might need to access quickly, with plenty of room for liquids, as well as passports and travel documents, along with a laptop or tablet. Then, inside, it’s got four mesh pockets for neat and tidy storage, allowing you to keep everything in your carry-on exactly where you want it.

Key specs – Dimensions: 40 x 20 x 55cm; Weight: 1.56kg; Capacity: 39l; Number of wheels: 2

Check price at Argos

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