Travel: What you can and can’t pack in your hand luggage explained

The rules on cabin baggage can be strict (Picture: Getty Images)

Holidays abroad have been off the cards for the past couple of years in the wake of the pandemic – but with normal life now returning, many folks will once again be jetting off to foreign shores this summer.

While airports may have been beset by long queues recently – and that’s before you consider the number of airlines which have been plagued by cancellations as foreign travel gets back to normal – the holiday season is expected to be as busy as it was before Covid struck.

But if you’ve not been abroad for a while, it’s not a bad idea to refresh your memory of what you can and can’t pack – particularly when it comes to hand luggage.

Airlines have very strict rules regarding what you can keep with you on a plane, and what has to go in the hold in your suitcase.

Just what can you take in your hand luggage – and what is a no-no?

Here’s what you need to know before you go anywhere…

What can you pack in your hand luggage?

It’s fine to take items such as liquids, food, electronics and medicine in your hand luggage – but there are certain rules around these which you will need to adhere to.


Make sure your liquids are in sealed bottles (Picture: Getty Images)

Most liquids, including water and drinks, can be taken on board a plane.

Cosmetics including creams, oils, lotions, perfumes and make-up such as mascara and lip gloss count as a liquid and are fine to bring.

Toiletries, such as hairspray, shaving foam, toothpaste, shower gel and contact lens solution, are also allowed.

E-cigarettes and vapes also fall into this category, and these must be taken in hand luggage – it is not permitted to put these items into the hold.

There are however, certain rules you need to adhere to:

  • Containers must hold no more than 100ml
  • Containers must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm
  • You must be able to fit the contents comfortably inside the bag and seal it
  • The bag must be sealed, not tied or knotted at the top
  • Only one plastic bag per person
  • The bag must be shown at the airport security point
Vapes and e-cigarettes must go in hand luggage (Picture: Getty Images)

There are some exemptions to the above. These include:

Essential medicines, including liquid dietary food and inhalers – you can find out more information about what you can take on board in this instance on the Government website. You will need supporting documentation for this, such as a prescription or a doctor’s letter.

Baby food and milk – there is no limit to how much you can take, although you should check with your airline to see what their requirements are.

You can take breast milk onboard in containers of up to 2,000 ml – even if you’re not travelling with a baby. However, you can’t take frozen breast milk in your hand luggage.

Once again you can find more information about allowances and what you can and can’t take onboard on the Government website.

Duty-free items – if you have bought anything larger than 100ml in the airport you can take it on board with you, as long as the items are sealed inside a security bag when you buy them, and the receipt is sealed in the bag and visible.


If you want to take honey on board you’ll be restricted (Picture: Getty Images)

Any kind of solid food product such as sandwiches or snacks is generally permitted as long as no other passenger has allergies – so, if you’re planning on taking nuts onboard, for example, you might want to double-check this with your airline first.

Liquid or semi-liquid food (such as jam and honey) falls under the rules governing liquid on planes – that only 100ml maximum can be taken – and you would need to follow the above procedure of storing it in a clear plastic bag.


There are only certain electronic devices you can take in your hand luggage, which are as follows:

  • Mobile phone
  • Laptop
  • MP3 player
  • Tablet devices
  • Travel iron
  • Electric shaver
  • E-cigarettes
  • Hair dryer/straighteners
  • Cameras (although some specialist equipment may not be allowed in hand luggage)

You should make sure your devices are charged before you travel, as if it does not switch on when requested you will not be allowed to take it onboard.

Sports equipment

The majority of sports equipment cannot be taken on board a plane, and will need to be checked into the hold.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, including sports parachutes, tennis rackets, billiards cues and fishing rods.

Once again though you should check with your airline before you travel.

Other items

Laptops are fine – but make sure they’re charged (Picture: Getty)

If you are travelling with anything not included on this list and you are unsure if you can carry it in your hand luggage, you should contact your airline before you travel to check if it is permitted.

You can find more information here.

What can’t you take in your hand luggage?

There are many items that are not allowed in your carry-on luggage, generally including weapons or work tools.

Prohibited items include the following:

  • Oxidisers and organic peroxides, including bleach and car body repair kits
  • Acids and alkalis (for example spillable ‘wet’ batteries)
  • Corrosives or bleaching agents (including mercury and chlorine)
  • Vehicle batteries and fuel systems
  • Self defence or disabling sprays (for example mace, pepper spray)
  • Radioactive materials (including medicinal or commercial isotopes)
  • Poisons or toxic substances (for example rat poison)
  • Biological hazards (for example infected blood, bacteria, viruses)
  • Materials that could spontaneously combust (burst into flames)
  • Fire extinguishers

Baggage Check at the Airport

Make sure your bag is ready for security screening (Picture: Getty)

You also cannot take guns or firearms in hand luggage, although you may be able to take them in your hold luggage – once again check with your airline about this.

This includes the following:

  • Blasting caps
  • Detonators and fuses
  • Imitation explosive devices (including replica or model guns)
  • Mines, grenades, and other explosive military stores
  • Fireworks and pyrotechnics
  • Smoke canisters
  • Smoke cartridges
  • Dynamite
  • Gunpowder
  • Plastic explosives (including black powder and percussion caps)
  • Flares
  • Hand grenades
  • Gun cigarette lighters

Fireworks, flares, and knives or scissors with blades longer than 6cm are also not permitted in the cabin.

You can have one lighter onboard, which must be put in your sealed plastic bag.

If there are any items on the above list which you plan to take with you and you are unsure about, always check with your airline before you travel – if you have anything in your hand luggage which you are not allowed to take on board you may face having it confiscated at security.

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