With the complex and sometimes puzzling regulations air travelers face today, you're right to be concerned about what travelers can and cannot bring on to a plane. Packing forbidden items can cause you to be pulled aside for security checks. Don't risk missing the plane because you accidentally packed something that's restricted. A quick phone call to the airline also can give you specific information about its policies.

Personal Items

Most airlines allow you to bring one personal item such as a briefcase or purse and one larger carry-on bag – most airlines have a maximum size of 9 by 14 by 22 inches – though you may also opt to check luggage. Contact the airline to find out about checked-bag fees and size limits. Place clothing and toiletries in any bag, but you must follow the TSA's 3-1-1 guidelines for liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on luggage. Each item must be in a three-ounce or smaller container, all containers must fit in a one-quart plastic bag and each passenger is only allowed one bag.


Personal electronics are allowed in either checked or carry-on luggage. In fact, it might be preferable for you to keep items such as laptops, MP3 players, video cameras and video game systems with you, because checked baggage might be jostled quite a bit as it's loaded onto and off the plane. Many types of electronics, such as laptops and video cameras that use cassette tapes, need to be X-rayed individually as you go through security, so keep these items at the top of carry-on bags so you can get to them quickly.


Passengers are allowed to carry medications in carry-on luggage, but if you have any liquids or gels that won't fit in three-ounce containers, let TSA agents know so they can screen these items by hand. The same rules apply when it comes to bringing breast milk on board. You're allowed to bring food on the plane, but because you cannot bring large bottles of liquid, buy drinks after going through security. Most airlines will allow certain pets on the plane, but you'll need to buy an approved carrier for your animal and will need to bring the animal through the metal detector with you. You'll also need to pay a fee for your pet; larger animals have to go into the cargo section.

Forbidden Items

Just as important as knowing what you can bring is knowing what you cannot. Certain potentially dangerous items such as explosives and flammable items aren't allowed in either carry-on or checked luggage. Sharp items such as knives and box cutters are only allowed in checked luggage, as are personal defense items such as martial arts weapons and brass knuckles. Most types of sports equipment that could possibly be used as weapons, such as golf clubs and baseball bats, are only allowed in checked luggage. Most airlines allow passengers to pack ammunition and firearms in checked luggage, but these items must be packed in a certain way and inspected by hand at security. Contact the airline for specifics.