Don't let an epic shopping trip during your travels lead to unpleasant surprises when you try to bring items home in checked bags. While more types of goods can be placed in checked bags than in carry-on luggage, the Transportation Security Administration still has rules regarding what's allowable on your flight.
Liquids in Luggage
Alcoholic beverages are allowed in checked bags, as long as the bottles are sealed and contain booze that's under 140 proof. The TSA allows 5 liters or 1.3 gallons per person. Miniature bottles must be sealed; all minibottles must fit into a single quart-sized bag. Any size container for liquids and gels such as lotions, toothpaste or shampoo is allowed in a checked bag. Although it's not required, keep such containers in a zippered bag in case of spills or leaks. This way, the mess is contained to the bag instead of getting all over your clothing and travel gear.
The TSA allows a surprising range of food items in checked bags. Everything from cheese to canned goods and fresh or frozen fruits and meats are allowed in checked bags. Packing perishable items isn't recommended, as these could leak, spoil, bruise or otherwise get damaged in your luggage. If you decide to take perishables along anyway, pack them in sealed zippered bags along with ice packs and ample cushioning material to keep them in the best shape.
If traveling internationally, check the rules for exporting or importing foods, as each country has specific rules regarding what's allowable on flights. The same holds true for travel to and from Hawaii. Ask an airline representative if unsure.
The TSA bans most flammable items from both carry-on and checked bags, including a few seemingly harmless items such as bang snaps and party poppers, pool chlorine and CO2 cartridges. Any liquids or sprays marked "flammable," including paints, should not be placed in checked bags.
Explosive materials such as hand grenades and dynamite, as well as replicas of such, are also banned from baggage. Matches are allowed in carry-on bags, but not in checked bags. Disposable and refillable lighters containing fuel are only allowed if stored in a case approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Torch-style lighters are not allowed at all.
Weapons and Related Goods
Martial arts weapons such as throwing stars are allowed in checked bags. The rules regarding guns and gun parts are up to each airline; check the airline's website for specific details. The same applies to ammunition; while the TSA allows some bullets if packed in special boxes, the airline might not. Toy guns are allowed in checked bags. Flares and gunpowder are not allowed in luggage at all.
Sharp Objects and Tools
While knives and similar items might be banned from carry-on luggage, they're perfectly allowable in checked bags. Items such as chef's knives, box cutters and pocketknives are allowed in checked bags. Tools such as drills, hammers and saws are allowed in checked bags, but engine- or fuel-based tools such as chainsaws might be banned by some airlines, even if the tool's fuel tank is empty.