How To Safely Pack Electronics in Your Checked Luggage (2023)

From carry-on loversto overpackers, only bringing a tablet to traveling with afull-on mobile office, everyone has their own packing style and their own arguments for why it’s the best. There’s one aspect on which everybody seems to agree, though: never, ever, put your electronics in your checked luggage.

We wholeheartedly agree. The risk of damage or theft is far greater in a checked bag than in your carry-on, not to mention the fact that some electronic items are banned from the cargo hold anyway.

Even so, we realize there are few absolutes in the world, and this isn’t one of them. Whether it’s due to carry-on weight restrictions, a sudden change in airline policy (as happened a few years back), or anything else, there may be a time when you have no choice but to stow your electronics in your suitcase and hope for the best at the other end.

If this happens to you, it’s important to know what to do. That’s why we’ve put together these 10 “best practice” tips to help keep your electronics safe in checked luggage.

Table of Contents show

Know What Can Go in the Hold

The first thing to confirm is whether the device you plan to put in your checked luggage is allowed to be there. Rules and guidelines change regularly, but at the time of writing, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States and most of their global counterparts forbid the following in the plane’s cargo hold:

  • spare (uninstalled) lithium metal batteries and lithium-ion batteries
  • electronic cigarettes
  • vaping devices

Note that the prohibition on lithium-ion batteries in the hold extends to power banks of any size. Any damaged, defective, or recalled lithium-ion battery isn’t permitted to be carried at all, either in checked or carry-on bags.

How To Safely Pack Electronics in Your Checked Luggage (1)

Make Sure the Device Is Turned Off

There are several reasons to leave your devices in sleep mode while at home, but manufacturers and others recommend fully turning them off if you are going to transport them anywhere.

(Video) Is it safe to put Electronics in your Checked in Luggage ? Check it out

This is even more true if you have to check your laptop or tablet on a flight. Leaving it turned on could result in overheating or damaging the hard drive, and if you encrypt your data (see below), not turning your device off can leave that data accessible to others.So, power down your gear before you pack it.

Invest in a Solid-State Hard Drive for your Laptop

If you’re in the market for a new laptop, make sure you get one with a solid-state drive (SSD.) Unlike standard hard drives, a SSD has no moving parts. That makes it less prone to being damaged by movement, bumps, and magnets, so it’s the perfect option for any laptop that might end up traveling in a checked bag.

Most manufacturers offer models with SSDs, so just check the spec sheet carefully before you buy. If you want to upgrade your existing laptop, it’s often possible to switch your existing hard drive for an SSD (although it can void the warranty if you do so).

Set Up a Hard-to-Guess Password or Passcode

This is particularly true oftablets and phones, but important for laptops as well. Using the basic security features built into the device is the first step towards preventing data theft, so don’t ignore them.

Setting up an intricate password or passcode (think random numbers or the classic upper case-lower case-number-symbol combinations) should be the very first priority when securing your devices. If they allow for enrolling your fingerprints or face, like the latest smartphones, tablets, and laptops,go ahead and do so.

The more barriers you set up between your data and those who’d like to steal it, the better.

How To Safely Pack Electronics in Your Checked Luggage (2)

Encrypt Your Data

Passwords aren’tinfallible, sadly. Some would argue they’re a pretty weak way to protect your devices, in fact.So, take things up a notch, and encrypt your data to make it unreadable by others.

Most operating systems, including Windows and MacOS, include an encryption system, but you need to make sure it’s enabled. You can also choose to pick your own software and do it manually. We’ve used VeraCrypt for years, andAxCryptalso gets good reports. You can encrypt your entire drive, or only those files with sensitive data.

The same applies to phones and tablets. Encryption is enabled as soon as you choose a passcode on iOS, and is straightforward to do on Android if it’s not enabled by default, so make sure you do it long before you get to the airport.

Use Monitoring Software

Knowledge is power, and knowing whether your data has been compromised as soon as it happens (or at least, as soon as you land) may be the difference between a small problem and a very large one.

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Software programs like Little Snitch or ActivTrak let you know whether any new activity or data access has taken place, so you can change passwords, remotely wipe your device (see below), and take whatever other steps are necessary to remedy the situation.

Wipe It Clean of Data & Use External Storage

Another option for keeping data away from prying eyes is to store it somewhere else. Putting it in practical terms:copy all your files ontoexternal storageor into a cloud-based file system, then remove them from your device. So far, at least, external drives and USB sticks are fine in your carry-on.

Make sure, too, that none of your apps, programs, or websites have your login details saved. It will be a mild annoyance to log back into everything once you’re at your destination, sure, but much less serious than if anybody were to have full access to your personal information.

How To Safely Pack Electronics in Your Checked Luggage (3)

Enable Remote Data Wiping

If you choose not to wipe your device beforehand, at least make sure you can do it afterward. Enabling remote data deletion could be a real lifesaver if your checked luggage gets lost, or if your monitoring software tells you someone is tampering with your device.

Apple’s Find My iPhone does this for the company’s laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and Google’s Find My Devicedoes the same for Android devices. Another good option is Prey, which works across multiple platforms including Windows. They’ll all help locate missing devices, or wipe them if worst comes to worst.

Consider Using a Burner

Another option is to buy a no-frills, inexpensive laptop or tabletfor travel, and use it along with your externalhard drive or cloud storage. For travelers with a home base, this might be the perfect compromise: you can stay connected on your trip, while your main device stays safely behind.

If you’ve got an old device lying around that’s still serviceable, you might be able to use that instead. Just be sure to fully wipe it beforehand.

Business traveler? Raise this possibility with your company, as it may actually make things easier (and safer) for both parties.

A Chromebook is particularly good for this, as they’re typically inexpensive and store their data in the cloud by default. You can reset them back to factory settings before a flight, then restore everything just by logging in when you get to your destination.

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How To Safely Pack Electronics in Your Checked Luggage (4)

(Video) 10 Things to NEVER Pack in a Checked Bag (checked baggage packing rules & tips 2023)

Pack Your Suitcase Extra-Carefully

When it comes to the actual packing, err on the side of caution, and try to think of everything that can possibly go wrong with checked luggage.

(Video) Travel Tip: Traveling with Large Electronics

Exploding shampoo? Bad enough on your clothes, devastating on your laptop. Take as few liquids as possible, wrap them tightly in one or more Ziploc bags, and pack them as far away from your electronics as possible. Put your laptop or tablet in a padded case in the middle of your suitcase, with soft items like clothing above and below.

Dented suitcase? Smashed handles? Imagine what that means for thevaluables inside. For starters, consider adding a “Fragile” sticker to the suitcase. It might also be worth asking at check-in if there’s a special serviceavailable for fragile bags. Some airlines offer it, and could be up for lending you a hand (sometimes for a fee, but still).

Lost luggage? Maddening in any situation, but especially so if your most important business tool is inside. Take a look at trackers like the Tile Pro—they could be a lifesaver in this situation.

Images via Anete Lūsiņa (suitcase with laptop and camera), Danila Hamsterman (man with suitcase looking at screens), Pete Linforth (encrypted data),Matthias Ripp (man in waiting room)

About the Author

How To Safely Pack Electronics in Your Checked Luggage (5)

Patricia Rey Mallén

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A roaming writer and tech enthusiast, Patricia has been wandering the globe for 10-odd years. A passionate Apple lover, she is familiar with Genius bars from Sydney to Reykjavík to Mexico City, and only vaguely remembers life before the internet.

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Can I put electronic devices in checked luggage? ›

Most consumer personal electronic devices containing batteries are allowed in carry-on and checked baggage, including but not limited to cell phones, smart phones, data loggers, PDAs , electronic games, tablets, laptop computers, cameras, camcorders, watches, calculators, etc.

Where do I pack my electronics when flying? ›

In Standard Screening Lane

Remove personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone from your carry-on bag and place them into a bin with nothing placed on or under them for X-ray screening. (E.g. laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles.)

What electronics are not allowed in checked baggage? ›

1. Electronics. Any item of value should never be checked into the belly of a plane. Small digital cameras, DSLR cameras, video cameras, laptops, Kindles, iPads, cell phones and even portable hard drives are all included in this category.

What happens if you have a lithium battery in checked luggage? ›

Such a hazard, in fact, that the FAA has issued a new warning on the dangers such batteries could pose to aircraft, and the could on board, essentially calling for their ban. Lithium batteries present a risk of both igniting and fueling fires in aircraft cargo/baggage compartments.

What not to pack in checked luggage? ›

Packing Basics: Never Put These 14 Things in Your Checked Bag
  • Medicine. Maintaining your health while on the road is crucial to a successful trip. ...
  • Jewelry. ...
  • Other valuables. ...
  • Irreplaceable items. ...
  • Camera film. ...
  • Cash or credit card. ...
  • Confidential papers. ...
  • Car or house keys.

Do you have to take electronics out of your bag at airport security? ›

Do I need to remove electronics from my carry-on bags? Yes, you should plan to remove personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone from your carry-on bag and put them in a separate bin with nothing placed on or under them for security screening. (This does not apply to TSA PreCheck™ passengers.)

Why does TSA check electronics? ›

TSA protects transportation systems: they scan your luggage, ensure your ticket is valid, and provide airport security. The only reason they might be interested in your phone is if it looks suspicious.

Can I put my laptop charger in my checked bag? ›

Checked Bags: No

Portable chargers or power banks containing a lithium ion battery must be packed in carry-on bags.

How do I pack my laptop in my checked luggage? ›

When packed in checked luggage, the laptop always has to be in a switched-off state and closed, so it couldn't accidentally turn on, overheat, and cause a fire. It's also important to protect the laptop with a padded case to prevent it from getting damaged during the flight.

Are checked bags scanned for lithium batteries? ›

Are checked bags scanned for these lithium batteries before loaded? -- Dan K., Va. A: The bags are scanned for security, not specifically for lithium batteries. If you leave a lithium battery in your bag it will travel with you.

Why are batteries not allowed in checked luggage? ›

Last year the FAA warned that transporting pallets of lithium-ion or nonrechargeable lithium-metal batteries in the cargo holds of planes could cause a "catastrophic explosion" if a single cell were to catch fire.

Will TSA check checked bags for lithium batteries? ›

Checked Bags: No

Spare (uninstalled) lithium ion and lithium metal batteries, including power banks and cell phone battery charging cases, must be carried in carry-on baggage only.

Does TSA look inside checked bags? ›

Checked Baggage Screening

The majority of checked baggage is screened without the need for a physical bag search. Inspection Notices: TSA may inspect your checked baggage during the screening process. If your property is physically inspected, TSA will place a notice of baggage inspection inside your bag.

What do you do with electronics at airport security? ›

So mobile phones, laptops, tablets, electric shavers and e-cigarettes are fine. Hairdryers, straighteners and travel irons are also allowed. You'll also be able to get through security with spare batteries. Remember you'll need to take any large electronics out of your bag and place them in the tray.

How many electronics can you bring on a plane USA? ›

We allow up to 2 of each device and 2 spare batteries intended for personal use only, with restrictions: Approved devices and batteries are safely packaged in carry-on only. Bags and boxes carrying more than the allotted amount for personal use will not be accepted.

Do electronics need to be in separate bins TSA? ›

airport security update: tsa to require separate bins for all large electronic devices. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that they will be boosting their security measures by requiring all carry-on electronics larger than a cellphone to be screened separately at the airport.

What happens if your checked bag gets flagged? ›

The TSA will collect your prohibited item and dispose of it according to Government Services Administration rules. Normally, this means your item will be thrown away, but some airports donate useful items to community organizations, such as schools.

Can I put power bank in checked luggage? ›

When a carry-on bag is checked at the gate or at planeside, all spare lithium batteries and power banks must be removed from the bag and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin.

Can I put extension cord in checked luggage? ›

Checked Bags: Yes

Please carefully pack your electronics items, making sure all cords are wrapped and any DVDs, CDs, or cassettes are removed from their devices. While you can pack expensive, fragile electronics items in checked or carry-on bags, we recommend packing them in your carry-on.

Can I put USB in checked luggage? ›

A2A. Yes it is permitted. I generally carry couple of External Disk and couple of USB storage devices. It is advisable to keep them in carry on luggage as checked in luggage are at innate risk of getting misplaced.

Should I put my laptop in my suitcase or hand luggage? ›

In some cases, security may also ask to examine your laptop. Experts from Sky Refund advise always packing laptops in your hand luggage rather than in your hold luggage. They said: "Checking it with the rest of your luggage may lead to damage and in some cases, it could be lost."

Do electrical items go in hand luggage or suitcase? ›

Wondering what you can take on a plane when it comes to electrical items? Your laptop, hair straighteners and travel razor are, generally speaking, allowed on board in the cabin. Most airlines simply request that your electrical item has enough battery for the duration of the flight.

Can I put phone charger in checked luggage? ›

Do not pack you portable charger (power pack) in hold luggage: Taking your portable phone charger (power pack) on a plane is fine, but just remember to pack it in your hand luggage. Do not put them in your hold luggage as this is not permitted and could result in your luggage not being loaded.

Can I put laptop charger in checked luggage? ›

Checked Bags: No

Portable chargers or power banks containing a lithium ion battery must be packed in carry-on bags.

Can I keep laptop in checked in baggage? ›

Pack Safe With Your Laptop For A Hassle-Free Trip

In conclusion, you can bring a laptop to your checked baggage, but it's not ideal. The best option is to put it in your carry-on bags with a protective case to minimise the risk of damage or theft.

How does TSA check electronics? ›

You will be asked to remove personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone from your carry-on bag and place them into a bin with nothing placed on or under them for X-ray screening. Common examples of these devices include laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles.

Why do electronics have to be taken out during airport security check? ›

The rule allows screeners to get an unimpeded look at each computer, which might help them discern whether it contains hidden explosives. And removing a laptop also makes it easier for screeners to see whatever else is in the bag. Computers can be large and dense enough to conceal parts of a suitcase in an X-ray image.


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