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What can I take on a plane?

Ready to jet off on a much-needed break but worrying about what you can take with you on the flight?

We’ve answered some of the questions you may be asking about what’s allowed on the plane. From limits on liquids to essential medications or electronics you need with you in the cabin, plus rules on carry-on baggage and travelling with pets.

Posted: 1/1/2022 | By Darren Williams

Woman wearing backpack walking at the airport pulling wheeled luggage behind her

What liquids can I take on a plane?

Security restrictions have been in place for many years to limit the amount of liquids you can take onto planes in your hand luggage. Even so, many flyers remain confused over the amount of food, drink, cosmetics, sprays, pastes and gels they can carry aboard, and how they need to be packed.

The official restrictions are published on the government website, but this guide to taking liquids on flights should help too. It includes the special rules for baby milk and food, special diets, and items you buy once you’re through security. There’s a separate section on medication below it.

The 100ml rule for liquids

The main rule to remember is that you must not take any more than 100ml of a restricted liquid into the cabin of a plane, and those liquids should be placed into individual 100ml containers.

Any liquid that you need more than 100ml of should be packed in your hold luggage.

“Liquids” include:

  • Drinks
  • Partially or fully liquid foods (such as soup, baby food, honey, etc)
  • Toiletries and cosmetics (make-up, perfume, creams, lotions, gels, mascara, lip gloss, toothpaste, etc)
  • Sprays and aerosols (deodorant, hairspray, etc)
  • Gels (hair gel, shower gel, etc)
  • Contact lens solution
  • “Any other solutions and items of similar consistency”

The 100ml limit applies not just to the actual amount of liquid, but also the bottles or containers they are held in.

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ALL liquids must be taken through security in a clear polythene bag no larger than 20cm by 20cm. These are normally available for free at airport security terminals.

You can take one clear bag per person, so it’s wise not to bring too much liquid with you, even if it’s in containers of less than 100ml.

If you use a lighter, you can take one on board in the same clear plastic bag. Lighters are not allowed in luggage that’s to go in the hold.

You’re not allowed to take containers of more than 100ml through security even if they’re only partially full. The bag needs to be able to close and be sealed.

If you’ve gone through security and bought yourself a bottle of something larger than 100ml in the airport, such as alcohol, cosmetics or perfume, you’re allowed to take this on your flight provided that it remains sealed.

There are certain situations when you might need to take more than 100ml of liquid on a flight: if the liquid is medically necessary (see below); baby formula and baby food; and liquids/partial liquids for special dietary requirements.

With the exception of baby food and formula, you may need to provide evidence of why you need to take more than 100ml of liquid through security in these cases. For instance, if you need more than 100ml of a liquid for medical reasons, you’ll need a prescription (if it is a prescription medicine) and a doctor’s note.

Various liquids in containers inside a clear plastic bag

Taking medicines on a plane 

Before deciding whether to pack your medicine in your hand luggage or hold luggage, you need to ensure that they’re not prohibited in the country you’re visiting and that you have the necessary approval to travel with them.

If these are prescription medications, then you can find this out by contacting the embassy of the country you’re travelling to. They may need to give you special dispensation to travel with medicines that are otherwise restricted in their country.

If you travel with medicines that are illegal in the country you’re visiting – even if they are common in the UK – the penalties can be severe. This can be true of over-the-counter medicines as well.

  1. Discuss with your doctor

    Your GP or travel health specialist will be able to advise on whether you need immediate access to your medicine. If so, it’s no good if it’s bundled away in the hold.

    Your doctor can also furnish you with a valid prescription and a note explaining why you need to take your medicine or use your medical equipment. It’s a good idea to back these up so that you have a digital copy should the physical version get lost.

    Airport security may need to check that your medical equipment is safe for air travel so have your note to hand when you’re going through the checks.

  2. Taking medicine in hand luggage

    If you take a full supply of the medicine you need for your holiday in your hand luggage then you’re covered for things like delays. You’ll also have what you need in case your hold luggage goes missing.

    Whether this is a large amount or just a couple of pills, it’s important to make sure it’s in its original packaging, correctly labelled and the same as what’s identified on your prescription. Again, having a copy of your prescription is crucial.

    You can then have a back-up supply in your hold luggage too, just in case.

    If your medicine is a liquid over 100ml or a sharp (such as a syringe or EpiPen), you’ll need to make sure you have the necessary documentation ready for when you go through security. There are special rules in place to allow you to travel with medical equipment like this and so if you’ve got everything to hand you shouldn’t have a problem. It just may take a little longer. You can always contact your airline in advance to ask whether they have any special restrictions you need to plan for.

  3. Make sure you look after your wellbeing

    Airlines are concerned with the wellbeing of vulnerable passengers. This doesn’t just mean the elderly or infirm; it can mean people who need extra comfort for a host of reasons.

    Explain your situation (for instance, if you’ve recently had surgery) and see whether they can upgrade your seat.

  4. Controlled medication

    Some medications are controlled substances, meaning that they are only legal in some contexts. Examples of these medications can include anabolic steroids or painkillers containing opioids (such as morphine and codeine). These may require you to have a personal licence to travel with them, which can be obtained from the Home Office.

    This process can take a little time – you need to apply at least 10 working days before your travel date as well as provide an explanation from your prescribing doctor as to why you need the medicine – so if you’re in any doubt, get your application in with time to spare.

  5. Get travel insurance with good health cover

    If you need to travel with prescription medicine then it’s especially important to have travel insurance that has health cover to meet your needs. Before you buy a policy, read the policy documents carefully so that you can pick the cover that best suits your potential needs. Not all travel insurance is alike, and when it comes to your health, it’s important not to compromise.

Can I take my gadgets and other tech on a plane?

In general, taking small bits of electrical equipment such as laptops and tablets in your hand luggage isn’t problematic. There was a period when travel to certain countries required electrical equipment to be stored in the hold, however that has since been rolled back.

At security you’re likely to be asked to remove your piece of tech from your bag and pass it through the scanner separately. In order to keep things running smoothly, you can pack to anticipate this.

You may need special dispensation to take some electrical items on flights (such as medical equipment – see the above section). Consult your airline and GP or consultant to find out what permissions you might need.

Now that you can travel internationally with as little as your phone and your passport, it’s important that your batteries have enough life in them to see you through your travel. Not all are absolutely necessary, but they can help you have a more comfortable experience.

Male with laptop on his lap with cup of tea in his right hand and left hand hover keyboard

Travel tech checklist

  • Phone
  • Chargers
  • Country adapters
  • Portable battery pack
  • Data bundle (for the country you’re visiting or if your flight's delayed)
  • Noise-cancelling headphones (but don’t miss announcements)
  • Electric toothbrush (and less than 100ml of toothpaste)

Don't forget a pen and paper, too. They're important to remember in case all else fails.

Can I take my pets on a plane?

It’s not always practical to arrange accommodation for your pets while you’re away. And besides, you might want nothing more than your best friend by your side if you travel.

There are international rules regarding transporting pets, and there are those imposed by airlines. It’s important to know which is which.

Can my dog or cat fly in the cabin?

Whether you dog or cat can fly with you, and whether that’s in the cabin or the hold, varies by airline.

It’s important to check their policies and any prices involved up front – before you book, if having your pet with you is essential for your trip. The government also maintains a list of airlines and airports you can use to travel with your pet.

It’s not uncommon to see dogs in the cabin as some airlines relax their approach to pets onboard. Even those that don’t typically allow dogs in the cabin will usually make an exception for guide and other assistance dogs, which can often travel for free.

If your pet is able to fly, make sure you’re clear where you need to take them and when. If they’re flying in the hold, you may need to take them to a cargo rather than a passenger terminal.

International rules for travelling with pets:

If you’re taking your pet to the EU or Northern Ireland, pet passports issued in the UK are no longer valid. Your pet will also need to be microchipped. Your pet will also need to be certified vaccinated against rabies and have been wormed/had recent worming treatment.

A valid animal health certificate (AHC) will also be required, which you can get from your vet. It may take a few days to process, so the government recommends applying for your pet's AHC at least one month before you plan to travel.

Taking your pet outside of the EU will depend on the country you’re visiting. Embassies should be your first port of call for questions and information about what certifications your pet needs before it can travel.

You’ll need to make sure your pet has a suitable and comfortable carry case for the trip, whether they’re in the hold or the cabin. This needs to include plenty of water.

Remember that travelling in the hold – or even travelling at all – can be a traumatic experience for animals. If you can find alternative means of getting your pet to your destination that involves less discomfort and stress, it’s good to consider this.

Pet insurance policies offer limited coverage for pet travel. However, this requires your pet to be allowed to travel. If you travel with your pet without the necessary approvals, you are likely to invalidate your insurance.

Baggage allowances

It’s all too easy to get stung by an unexpected fee for a bag that’s an inch too big for your hand luggage or a suitcase that’s a few grams too heavy for the hold.

Each airline will have a different set of allowances and restrictions for hold and hand luggage. These can vary from route to route and change at short notice, as can charges for excess baggage.

Avoid any nasty surprises at the airport by knowing your luggage restrictions, double-checking your baggage allowance on your airline's website, and remembering to pre-book any excess charges to make sure you always pay the lowest fees.

Hold luggage

Pretty much everything you own can be flown in the hold of a plane (including pets, bikes, musical instruments and coffins), but each airline has a strict set of restrictions and hold luggage allowances that can end up costing you a lot of money if you ignore them.

Within reason, most airlines will let you check as many heavy bags as you like into the hold, but they will usually charge you an excess fee for doing so – which are always much more at the airport than they are online. If you’re planning on flying with a lot of hold luggage, make sure you pre-book your extra bags before you leave home. Most airlines let you do this when you book your ticket, and they often give you a second chance when you check-in online.

If you’re flying with anything valuable in the hold, make sure it’s covered by your travel insurance policy. Unusual extras and expensive items (including golf clubs, skis and business equipment) will sometimes be listed as an optional extra, so it’s worth checking that your policy schedule carefully for golf equipment cover and ski cover before you pack.

Avoiding excess baggage allowance charges

If you want to make sure you don’t pay any extra for your hold baggage, you need to follow the rules carefully. When you get to the airport, your checked bags will all be weighed (and sometimes measured) to make sure they’re within the limits set out in the airline’s hold luggage restrictions. Simply put, if you don’t want to pay for any extra baggage, don't bring any with you. Weigh your packed bags at home before you leave and make sure they’re not over the limit.

You can weigh a packed suitcase easily enough by buying a set of luggage scales (less than £5 online, and often available at airport shops), but don’t make the mistake of filling your suitcases right up to the weight limit. If you’re planning on bringing any gifts or souvenirs back from your trip you need to make sure you’ll be able to pack them without paying for exceeding the checked bag limit.

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