What is Allowed in a Carry-On Bag? 7 Surprising Things You Can Bring on a Plane (And 4 Things You Can’t)

Air Hostess open overhead locker on airplane

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Once, a few years ago after many years of flying, I took my seat on a flight to Boston and started rooting around in my carry-on bag for my book. Instead, I pulled out a package of disposable razors that I had completely forgotten about.

I froze. How did this get past security? And what if a flight attendant saw me?!

Turns out my anxiety was completely unfounded, because disposable razors (and plastic razors in general) are totally fine. Loose razor blades on the other hand are a whole different story. But it got me thinking about what kind of other surprising things I could pack in my carry on…or things I thought I could carry on, but actually can’t.

Turns out the list is rather long. Here are seven surprising things that are allowed in your carry-on, and four things you can’t take on a plane.

What is Allowed in a Carry-On Bag?

1. Knitting Needles

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a horror movie or two where knitting needles were used as deadly weapons. Fortunately, crafty folks who enjoy passing the time on flights with some textile artistry (also known as knitting a pair of wool socks) can do so in peace. Crochet hooks are also allowed.

But you never know when the TSA will change their mind on something. If you’re still worried about your knitting needles or crochet hooks getting confiscated, opt for a pair of circular needles or plastic ones instead. 

2. Tobacco Products

It’s pretty common knowledge that you can’t smoke on a plane, but it never occurred to me that other tobacco products or nicotine products are perfectly fine. If you’re a smoker and you know you’re going to experience some intense cravings mid-flight (especially on a long-haul flight), finding a nicotine product that works for you is a great idea.

Some people use snus, which is a smoke-free tobacco that comes in pouches that you place under your lip. But there’s an even better solution if you’d like to get your nicotine fix: nicotine pouches (available on online stores like Prilla) that you can also place under your lip to absorb the flavor and nicotine, but there’s no tobacco involved! You can discreetly deal with your cravings, and enjoy the flavor in the process.

3. Offensive Shirts

This one isn’t entirely surprising, but in this case, it’s the flight attendants who can kick you off your flight for wearing a shirt that says something offensive. You’ll make it past security, but if a flight attendant spies any derogatory or questionable language on your shirt, you’ll be quickly booted off the flight. After all, there’s a good chance that kids are onboard. Dress with manners, and you’ll only receive positive attention.

Super revealing clothing may also get you into trouble, but that’s a whole different story.

4. Lighters

Honestly, this might be the most surprising item on this list. I’m not even sure why you’d have a lighter in your carry-on, considering it’s illegal to smoke on an airplane and a lighter costs maybe a few dollars at your final destination. 

But, whatever the case, if you need a lighter for a campfire or a celebratory cigar, you’re allowed to carry one disposable lighter or one non-torch lighter (like a Zippo) with you. You can also carry one book of safety matches with you. 

5. Corkscrews

You can’t bring a bottle of wine onboard with you (although mini bottles of liquor are permitted), but corkscrews are acceptable! To be fair, on more than one occasion I’ve found myself needing a corkscrew in my travels—there’s nothing more aggravating than being excited about opening a bottle of red at a picnic in the park, and then realizing you forgot the corkscrew! (Woe is me, right?)

There’s one caveat: the corkscrew can’t have a blade. Makes sense.

6. Grooming and Manicure Tools

What better way to pass the time on a long flight than give yourself a manicure? Maybe avoid clipping your nails next to your seatmate, though. Don’t be that person.

Surprisingly, you can carry nail clippers, short scissors for nail trimming, and cuticle cutters in your bag. Tweezers are also okay, as well as the aforementioned disposable razors. The general rule of thumb is that if it’s less than 6 centimetres in length, you can bring it onboard with you. Otherwise, it goes in your checked bag.

7. Camping Stoves

Preparing for a big camping trip or long-distance trek? You’ll be happy to know that you can indeed bring your camping stove on the plane with you…but not the fuel, of course. 

Make sure your stove is thoroughly cleaned and there’s no trace of fuel left behind. If there’s an odor of propane at all, you won’t be allowed to bring it. 

What Not to Pack in Your Carry-On Bag

On my way back from Asia one time, I completely forgot that I had a bag of curry powder in my backpack. When I went through security, the agent was NOT happy about it…at all. I nearly got fined. Food is a big no-no, and while that’s obvious to me now, it wasn’t back then. 

Some things aren’t so obvious though, including:

  1. Gel insoles – Gel insoles are technically allowed on flights these days despite exceeding the 3.4-ounce liquid limit, but they were banned by the TSA for a long time. For some people, they’re a medical necessity to help ease back and foot pain. But to be on the safe side, it’s probably a good idea to put your gel insoles in your checked luggage just in case. 
  2. Foam swords – You really have to wonder what happened in the past for a foam toy sword to be banned from your carry-on. They’re allowed in your checked luggage, however. 
  3. Snow globes – Unless it’s a super tiny snow globe, you won’t be able to bring this lovely souvenir on your flight. Who knew such an innocent knick-knack could also be a weapon?
  4. Bowling pins – While you can actually bring your bowling ball onboard, you’ll have to check your pins. I have no idea why you’d need either one (unless you’re a professional bowler, maybe?).

Did any of these surprise you? Leave a comment and let me know.

Candice Walsh
Candice Walsh
Candice Walsh is a travel writer, blogger, and destination marketing specialist living on the North Atlantic in Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada. She has spent over 10 years traveling the world and is happiest when she's on the Mediterranean with a glass of wine in hand.

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