Guide to cabin luggage

A cannonball, a gun-shaped iPhone case, and live pigeons stuffed down the pants - travellers have attempted to take some strange and silly items in their carry-on luggage. These might be obvious no-nos, but what about everyday items like medication, electronics and toiletries?

The truth is, carry-on luggage restrictions can be confusing. In this handy guide to cabin luggage, we dive into what you can and can’t take on-board, some common mistakes to avoid, and packing tips for your next trip.


Carry-on luggage: dos and don’ts

Before we dive into a detailed list of what you can and can’t take onto a plane, let’s look at a few practical dos and don’ts when packing your bags.

Do: check with your airline

Confused about whether your moisturiser is permitted on-board? Or whether your backpack is too big for the overhead compartment? Your carrier’s website should be the first place you look when searching for up-to-date information on prohibited items and baggage size limits.

Don’t: try to beat them

Understandably, airport security officers take their job very seriously. You might think that a cigarette lighter in your on-board luggage is no big deal, but chances are they'll think otherwise. Avoid the unnecessary stress by always observing cabin rules.

Do: pack the electronics

Not only will they help you through those long-haul journeys, but packing your electronics in carry-on luggage also ensures they are covered by your insurance if they’re lost, stolen or damaged.

Don’t: bury sensitive items at the bottom of your bag

Items like liquids, gels and electronics will need to be scanned at security checkpoints. Save time and stress at the security line by keeping these sensitive items at the top of your bag, where they can be easily accessed. Gels, pastes, aerosols, liquids and creams should be packed in a separate transparent bag for screening, and never exceed 100ml each.


What can’t you take on the plane?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States is infamous for confiscating some ridiculous items from carry-on luggage. Bear repellent, throwing knives, and even a samurai sword make the list of some of the baffling and dangerous items taken from travellers at security checkpoints.

These are obvious do nots, but even everyday items can attract unwanted attention from airport security. Below is a list of common items you can’t take on the plane in carry-on luggage:


  • Liquids, aerosols, creams, pastes, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara, lip gloss, solutions, sprays and gels that are over 100ml
  • Scissors

Food and drink

  • Drinks (water, juice, coffee, tea etc.)
  • Spreads (Jam, honey, syrup, soft cheese)
  • Liquid foods (yogurt, soup, sauce, oil, vinegar)

Tools and equipment

  • Corkscrews
  • Knives with sharp or fixed blades
  • Cutters
  • Printer cartridges
  • Sporting equipment like bats, clubs, sticks, skates, rods, javelins, paddles etc.
  • Tent pegs
  • More than one cigarette lighter (which needs to be kept on your person at all times)

Medication in carry-on luggage

Most airlines encourage you to pack prescription medication in carry-on luggage, in case it's required during your flight, or if you’re separated from your checked luggage on arrival. However, like liquids, there are some tight controls on how much you can take and how it should be packed.

Generally, all medication should be kept in its original packaging, with a certificate from your doctor stating your condition and the medication you require. Liquid medications (like syrups) should be included in your separate liquids bag. The exact limit of medication you can take is up to the discretion of airport security officers, but it’s recommended you take a reasonable supply that will last should you lose your luggage.

If you require more than 100ml of liquid medications, it’s recommended that you notify the airline or airport in advance and seek advice.


Golden rules of cabin luggage

There are several more items you can’t take on as cabin luggage, and to make matters even more confusing, these rules may vary depending on your country of origin, where you’re travelling to and ongoing policy changes. However, there are a few general rules to follow to err on the side of caution:

  • The fewer liquids you take in carry-on luggage, the better.
  • Don’t pack anything that resembles a weapon, or could potentially be used to harm other passengers.
  • Check luggage size and weight limits before packing your bags.
  • Don’t argue with airport security.
  • If in doubt, leave it out.

Packing tips: carry-on bags

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the rules and regulations impacting your carry-on luggage. The following packing tips will ensure your bag flies right by the law and serves you well while you’re up in the air.

Pack light

If the wardrobe didn’t fit into your checked baggage, it can be tempting to stuff the remaining gear into your carry-on bag. Or like this boyband singer, wear 12 layers of clothes to avoid an excess luggage fee. The technique didn’t go according to plan, with the singer collapsing from heat exhaustion mid-flight.

Keep your carry-on luggage reasonable (and compliant with size limits), and be considerate of other passengers who also need to use the overhead compartment.

Prepare for lost luggage

While it’s important you pack light, it’s also important that you pack enough to cover you if your checked luggage is lost. Include essential items like a spare set of underwear, travel bottles of toiletries and required medications.

Don’t check the jewels

Like your electronics, jewellery, cash, bank cards and travel documents aren’t insured if they’re packed in checked luggage. Always keep these valuable items in cabin luggage with you, and if you can bear to travel without the expensive jewellery, leave it at home. Alternatively, if you do take it with you and you want to be covered for the full value, you’ll need to specify it when buying your insurance.

Keep devices charged

Electronics that won’t turn on before you board the flight can be viewed as a security threat. Ensure all electronics in your carry-on bags are charged, just don’t leave them unattended if you’re charging them at the airport!

If you have any other questions about how your luggage is insured, get in touch with us at


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