Ever been stopped at security and had your souvenir jar of jam confiscated? Or wondered why you were able to sail past with certain items undetected?
It seems that confusion still reins when it comes to carry-on luggage, with most of us left perplexed by airline regulations on suitcase size and what is permitted in the cabin. But this is your chance to have your say, and help demystify the rules to make travelling as stress-free as possible.
If you have any puzzling questions about cabin baggage or think you can shed some light on the matter then leave a comment at the bottom of this article.
Food and drink
Most of us have been there – chugging a full bottle of water at security, followed by a swift dash to the toilets in departures. But it seems some of us have had a few bizarre experiences when travelling with certain food and drink items.
Skyscanner reader, June Cutayar tells a familiar tale: “I was drinking from a small bottle of water when it was snatched from me and thrown in a bin, I had it to take medication but no one would listen. I was told you can buy it on the plane.”
Meanwhile, Heather was left dumb-founded after her encounter with airport security: “Leaving Chile, I was carrying a small water bottle which I’d saved from an Icelandic flight the previous year and liked enough to carry with me all the time. It was empty. I was accused of carrying water but I said "it’s empty". Would you believe I was not allowed to keep it?! I said it was a souvenir and I’d flown with it many times.”
Another reader laments the loss of a rather unusual inflight snack: “They confiscated a tin of peaches from me. The peaches were not the offending item, it was the syrup that they were canned with. Fortunately I had another tin in my checked in luggage, so I was not devoid of my favourite anchovy and peach pizza.”
Not even jam can escape judgement: “I had two jars of German apple and pear jam confiscated at Weeze Airport on my way home – I still argue that doesn’t count as liquid since it wouldn’t fill the space it was put into unless heated! I wound up buying replacements from an import shop based in London. So how come they can bring it into the country in large enough amounts to sell and I can’t bring two jars for breakfast?” – John S.
Turns out their not that sweet on honey either: “Apparently honey is potentially an explosive!! Tell my bees that and my niece who was going to be the happy recipient of a jar. I even offered to let them taste it but they said no. Then, before we boarded, they took my hand luggage and said it had to go in the hold! Tragedy doubled!” – LizJustice
Let’s not even start on Vegemite…“What baffled me was my Vegemite getting confiscated from my carry-on. The stupidest part of it was my tub of hair removal wax was allowed on. The purpose of that is to heat it until it turns into a liquid!” states BecPicklum. However, another reader was quick to point out, “if you’re flying to England, of course Vegemite would be banned. We only eat Marmite here!"
Equipment and personal items
You’d be surprised if you were allowed to waltz on to an airplane with a set of darts or a crossbow in our hand luggage, but how about a tennis racquet or golf club? As for nail clippers, forget it! The list of items you told us you were forced to ditch at the security gate included:
• Duct tape
• A ceramic teapot
• Knitting needles
• A swiss army pen knife
• Camera batteries
• A travel clothes line
Some travellers were brave enough to try their luck with golf clubs, fishing rods and archery equipment (all of which are banned from the cabin).
“Tent poles are risky,” warns reader Josh, “I removed the pegs and thought I’d be good, but was told to leave the poles behind too. Luckily the tent was a cheapy, so I told them to ‘keep the ****ing thing’ and stormed on through with some extra room for duty free!”
But what about an innocent child’s football?
“We travelled back from Spain when the youngest was four with a ball he’d won at a fair over there. The ball was in his bag but at check-in we were told he couldn’t carry it on board and would have to leave it – fair enough. I explained this to him – cue lots of tears, lots of Spanish between the airport workers and then they let him take it. Surely it’s either banned or it’s not?”
To help guide you on what sports equipment and personal items are allowed in your carry-on bags, check the UK Foreign Office website – they also lay down the law when it comes to things like baby milk and electronic devices in UK airports.
What if your suitcase gets lost and you’re left without important medication? This can be a serious concern for many travellers and one you might try to solve by packing personal prescriptions in your hand luggage. But, occasionally, this cause a few headaches.
“I have a quite serious heart condition and was stopped (until the matter was resolved by someone with a brain) from boarding a flight with my (quite essential) GTN spray. The moron who stopped me insisted (from reading the label) that I was attempting to board with nitro glycerine, and not Glyceril Tri Nitrate.” – Ludlum Mckenzie
However, another reader responds to Ludlum’s complaint: “actually the moron who stopped you was absolutely correct. Nitroglycerin, the active ingredient in many explosives is exactly the same active ingredient in GTN spray, a powerful vasodilator used in treating heart conditions. Glyceril Tri Nitrate (more accurately glyceryl trinitrate) is merely an alternative name. I am not unsympathetic to your issues though, I have been an insulin dependent diabetic for many years and that means liquid insulin (which must be kept in hand luggage for many reasons) and needles. I have travelled many times and have had a couple of problems with people that don’t understand the internationally accepted rules.”
To avoid some of this hassle, Skyscanner reader Geriann Jones recommends getting “a pill form of whatever medication you need” if possible and “always carry any prescription medication in its original container.” The best advice according to Geriann is to “get a note from your doctor confirming the medicine’s name, the dosage, when you need to take it and what you take it for. That way any airport people know it’s legally yours and you need it with you.”
Consult the NHS website, for more information on packing medication in your carry-on.
What’s the answer?
The easiest way to end the confusion about what you can and cannot take on board in your hand luggage is to check with the airline you’re flying with, as well as the airport you’re travelling through. You can find a directory of all of the airports on the Skyscanner website here. Another good rule of thumb comes from Ray Mikesha: “if you don’t need it while in transit, put it in the hold.”
Alternatively, you could forget about suitcases and carry-on bags altogether and opt for wearable luggage, as suggested by our reader Alfonso: “My standard travel clothes are specifically made to carry lots of things, even including space for camera, little laptop or tablet. I’ve never had any problems: just take out the jacket and put it in the basket for scanning. Take care that there is nothing forbidden or metallic in the pockets of the trousers. An extra advantage is that items in your clothing aren’t counted as part of your cabin luggage allowance. On short trips I even manage to do without any luggage! Everything goes into my trousers and jacket.
Find yourself a new holiday wardrobe, save yourself some security stress and check out our review of the best wearable luggage options on the market right now.
As a last resort, reader Laura offers this nugget of wisdom: “to be sure, absolutely sure, of getting onto the flight, turn up naked with nothing more than your passport to conceal your ‘assets’.”
For more practical information about baggage sizes, restrictions and tips on packing, check out these:
Size does matter when it comes to easyJet cabin baggage rules. Don’t get caught out at the boarding gate and follow these top tips.
Beat baggage stress: compare cabin luggage sizes and weight allowances on short-haul flights with major European airlines.
As a very well-travelled company, we asked Skyscanner staff what bags they actually used when flying with hand-luggage, and why?