9 Things You Should Not Pack in a Carry-on Bag

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A TSA agent inspects carry-on bag luggage
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Packing and getting through airport security are among the biggest hassles of travel, especially if you have a carry-on bag.

Bringing a carry-on can save you money on checked-bag fees, so you might decide to pack carefully and bring everything with you. Before filling your bag, though, make sure you know what you shouldn’t bring with you.

Here are some items that you should leave out of your carry-on bag.

1. Flammables

Mosquito fogger insecticide
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Be careful of bringing flammables on the plane. For example, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) won’t allow flammable aerosols over the limits for liquids and toiletries in your carry-on bag.

It’s possible to bring a single disposable or Zippo lighter in your carry-on, however, if you’ll need a light.

2. Firearms

Glock handgun
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No firearms or ammunition are allowed in carry-on bags.

The TSA will allow you to bring these items in your checked luggage, but you have to meet certain requirements. For example, you must put unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided container to bring them in checked luggage. Additionally, you need to declare the items to the airline when you check in.

Not all airlines allow you to bring firearms even in checked luggage, so review the rules ahead of time.

3. Other weapons

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It’s not just firearms. Other weapons aren’t allowed, either.

Knives and tasers aren’t allowed in your carry-on, according to the TSA. I’ve lost more than one pocket knife to a TSA checkpoint due to forgetting it was in my bag or pocket.

Exotic items, like sword canes, and even toy weapons, like foam swords, aren’t allowed in carry-on bags. You need to pack those in checked luggage or leave them behind.

4. Liquor

Woman in liquor store
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You might feel like you need a drink when you fly, but you might not be able to bring your alcohol of choice.

If you want to bring liquor with between 24% and 70% alcohol, you can in your carry-on bag, but it must be in retail packaging and adhere to other liquid rules such as the limit to containers of 3.4-ounce or less.

Liquor with above 70% alcohol by volume, though, isn’t allowed in either carry-on or checked luggage.

5. Bulky jacket

Senior standing on a sidewalk in a city
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If you want to save space in your luggage, wear your bulky jacket to the airport. Once you get on the plane, you can stuff it under your seat or hold it in your lap.

Your jacket can take up a lot of space in a carry-on bag, and if you’re traveling without checked luggage, you need all the room you can get.

6. Regular neck pillow

Travel pillow and suitcase.
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Many travelers like to have a neck pillow. However, they can be bulky and take up valuable real estate in your carry-on bag.

Instead of trying to stuff a regular neck pillow into your carry-on bag, consider getting an inflatable neck pillow. It does the trick, and it takes up much less space in your carry-on bag.

7. Beach accessories

Couple retiring overseas and standing on the beach
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If you’re heading to the beach, you might be tempted to bring everything: beach towels, sunglasses, flip-flops and sun hats. However, these items can take up a lot of space in your carry-on bag and they aren’t that expensive to buy. Consider buying them on the other side.

For example, on a recent beach trip, I bought a cheap pair of flip-flops and a beach towel at the local dollar store after landing. I didn’t feel bad about leaving these items behind at the end of the trip, and they didn’t take up room in my bag.

8. Guidebooks and reading materials

Passenger on airplane
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During my first trip abroad, there were no smartphones. I had a small guidebook and a book of commonly used phrases in the language of the country I was visiting. These items took up space in my bag, leaving less room for other essentials.

These days, you can easily download an app to take care of your needs. You can also download books to your smartphone and use the translate function.

During my recent trip to China, I was able to use my phone for all of the things I previously needed books for, and my bag was much lighter as a result.

9. Styling tools

Hairdryer or blow dryer
Alexandr Makarov / Shutterstock.com

It might make more sense to keep items like hairdryers and curling irons in checked baggage rather than putting them in your carry-on. They are often bulky and take up space. In fact, you might not even need the hairdryer. Many hotels and vacation rentals offer hairdryers to guests.

If you aren’t checking bags, consider whether you want to take up space in your carry-on with a curling iron and other styling tools. Does your trip require you to have these items? In some cases, especially if it’s just for one night or one event, you might be better off booking a hair appointment ahead of time. That way you can look your best when it matters, without using up space in your carry-on for a single event.

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