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Luggage Rules USA 2020: 7 Things you Need to Know

Luggage Rules USA 2020: 7 Things you Need to Know

USA 7 Things to Remember


How much liquid may you carry in your hand luggage on your flight to the USA? Can the laptop still be carried as carry-on baggage during your upcoming trip to the USA? What about knives in your hand or checked baggage? A trip to the USA needs to be well planned because nowhere else in the world are there such strict baggage regulations as in the country of unlimited possibilities. Let’s take a look together at how you can prepare yourself perfectly for your trip to the US so that the flight and the journey can take place as stress-free as possible!

To begin with...
As far as the size (dimensions) and the maximum weight of your (hand)luggage are concerned, these are comparable with the dimensions and the weight, which also apply in the European area.

Accordingly, it should be noted that there is no standardized maximum size and no normalized maximum weight for hand luggage even for trips to the USA. Consult our epic list for information on the hand luggage regulations of all popular airlines worldwide.

How heavy and how large your hand luggage may be when travelling to the USA is ultimately decided by the airlines themselves.

In the US, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for the regulations and rules regarding hand luggage. So whenever you have any questions about the baggage allowed on USA trips, it’s a good idea to visit the TSA website.

In the following, however, we will focus on the 7 essential things that you should definitely consider when travelling to the US with regard to luggage regulations.


1. Liquids in Carry-on Baggage on US travels

Liquids in Carry-on Baggage


When travelling in the USA, the amount of liquid you are allowed to carry in your hand luggage is strictly limited. The so-called Liquid Rule 3-1-1 is used. This rule is practically identical to the Liquid Rule that we use in Europe. If you want to transport larger quantities of liquids, make sure you pack them in your checked baggage!

Also about liquids in hand luggage, the regulations for the USA are very close to those for the EU and the rest of Europe. In the USA the so-called “Liquid 3-1-1 rule” is used.

The Liquid 3-1-1 rule means:

3 for 3.4 oz, which corresponds to a maximum capacity of 100 ml per container.

1 for ONE transparent liquid bag with a maximum capacity of one litre in which the containers (per container max. 100 ml) must be stowed.

1 for a maximum of one such liquid bag per person.

All other essential regulations for liquids in hand luggage can be found in our article Liquids in Carry-On Baggage | Regulations and Rules

As already mentioned, there is hardly any difference between liquids in hand luggage when travelling to/from the USA and in Europe. This means that you can essentially comply with the regulations for liquids in the EU.

In your checked baggage, on the other hand, you may also transport larger quantities of liquids when travelling to the USA. The 3-1-1 rule is NOT used here.

However, as far as the purchase of liquids in the duty-free shop is concerned, there are some things to consider when travelling to/from the USA. For more information, see Tip 4.


2. Take Note of the New Powder Rule

Powder Rule | Hand Luggage

From 30 June 2018, containers containing powder and with a capacity of more than 350 ml may no longer be carried in hand luggage on direct flights from European airports to the USA. Moreover, additional controls are to be expected at the gates, which may lead to longer waiting times.


Since the end of June 2018, in addition to the Liquid Rule, which was issued by the TSA, there is now also the Powder Rule to follow, which was also initiated by the American transport safety authority.

The Powder Rule states that powders and powdery substances may only be carried on direct flights to the USA in containers with a maximum of 350 millilitres in hand luggage. If necessary, these can be examined more closely. Such powders and powder-like substances include, for example, make-up products, proteins, sugar, but also spices. However, the rule does not apply to baby food, medicines or cinerary urn contents. The exact provisions of the TSA, which you can view here, are as follows:

Powder-like substances greater than 12 oz. / 350 mL must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening. They may require additional screening and containers may need to be opened. For your convenience, we encourage you to place non-essential powders greater than 12 oz. in checked bags.


Why this measure?

The fact that powdery substances are now checked more closely on flights to the USA is not based on arbitrariness. The background to this is a thwarted assassination attempt on an Etihad flight in Australia last year. The terrorists tried to smuggle a homemade bomb, which consisted of powdery substances, among other things, on board. Fortunately, the terrorists already failed at the security check.


3. Laptops in Hand Luggage are allowed (again)

aptop | Hand Luggage | USA


For certain countries (airports) there was a laptop ban in the meantime when travelling to the USA. However, these bans have been lifted again, and you can usually take your laptop with you into the cabin without any problems.

While laptops in hand luggage are the absolute norm in international air travel, the USA, under the government of Trump, introduced a ban for certain airports (predominantly in Muslim countries) which strictly prohibited the transport of laptops in hand luggage on direct flights to the USA from these very countries. The reason for this is the danger that explosives could be hidden in electronic devices, according to the American authorities.

Lifting the ban

The laptop ban (hand luggage) on direct flights to the USA from the ten airports in North Africa, the Middle East and Turkey has now been lifted again. A condition for this was the implementation of stricter security rules at the airports concerned, as demanded by the American authorities.

An extension of the ban on European flights to the USA has also been discussed but has not yet entered into force. However, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, airlines must introduce stricter safety regulations here as well to avoid a ban. For security reasons, however, the exact measures have not (yet) been made public.


4. Caution with Liquids from the Duty-free Shop

Duty Free Shopping When traveling to US


You may also bring liquids from the duty-free shop with you when travelling to the USA. However, special regulations apply to (direct) flights to the USA (see explanation below).

Liquids that come in containers with a capacity of more than 100 ml must be stowed in checked baggage when travelling to the USA. This rule also applies to Europe.

For duty-free liquids, however, in Europe, you can take them on board the aircraft in addition to your hand luggage, even if they are containers with a capacity of more than 100 ml.

When travelling to the USA, the situation is (as so often) somewhat more complicated. The exact regulations are defined here by the American Transport Safety Authority (TSA).

When asked when containers with more than 100 millilitres of liquid in hand luggage may be transported from the duty-free shop, the TSA wrote on its website that transport in a STEB bag (Security Tamper Evident Bag) is permitted if:

  • The duty-free liquids have been purchased internationally, and you will be on a connecting flight on arrival in the United States.
  • The liquids have been packaged by the trader in a transparent, safe and tamper-evident bag and show no signs of tampering when submitted to the TSA for verification.
  • The original receipt for the liquids is available, and the purchase was made within 48 hours.


5. Look for a Suitcase with a TSA Lock

TSA Lock US Travels

If you are flying to the United States, you should make sure that your suitcase is equipped with a TSA lock.


A TSA lock is a lock specially developed by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to secure your luggage.

Your suitcase for your trip to the USA should be equipped with such a lock because if a suspicious or unidentifiable item/material/substance is discovered during the baggage screening, the security personnel can open your suitcase with a TSA master key, search it and then securely lock it again.

If your suitcase is not secured with such a lock, there is a risk that your suitcase will have to be broken open for inspection and will be damaged accordingly.

TSA locks are available at airports and travel shops around the world. The packaging of the locks usually indicates whether they can be opened by the TSA or not.


6. Do without the Swiss Army Knife in your Hand Luggage

Swiss Pocket Knife

Do you like Swiss Army Knives? So do I. But on your next trip to the USA. But on your next trip to the USA, it’s best to pack the little helper in your checked baggage rather than your hand baggage, because according to the TSA, the American Transportation Security Agency, the little helper in hand baggage is prohibited.


This is not easy for me – as a Swiss  to utter, but it needs to be said: Swiss army knives are forbidden in hand luggage when travelling to/from the USA. The corresponding information from the TSA can be found here: Swiss Army Knife | TSA

Swiss pocket knives are also highly controversial in hand luggage in Europe. Although the basic rule here is that knives which do not exceed a blade length of 6 cm may be carried in hand luggage, the small Swiss pocket knives often do not make it through the security check.

So if you want to carry your Swiss Army Knife (of course the smallest version of it), you should do the same in your checked baggage in Europe.

In your checked baggage you can easily transport Swiss Army Knives in the USA as well as in Europe.


7. Visit the Website of the TSA


The website of the American Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the first point of contact for questions about hand and checked baggage in the USA. On the website, you will find, among other things, a useful list of permitted/not permitted items in hand luggage and checked baggage. Get a quick and convenient overview of which items you can bring when traveling to/from the US.


If you would like to see a complete list of items that are (not) allowed in hand luggage and checked baggage during a trip to the USA, you can do so on the TSA website. There is a very useful overview with objects from A to Z, for which it is always declared whether you can bring them in hand luggage or checked baggage or not at all.

Further useful and sometimes very interesting information can be found in the TSA blog.

We also recommend that you download the TSA’s own app “MyTSA“. The app offers the following useful functions, among others:

  • Verification of the airport utilisation on the basis of historical data on your travel day and at your travel time
  • Check delays and current weather conditions at your favourite airports across the country.
  • Search for allowed/not allowed items in carry-on baggage.
  • TSA guide for optimal preparation for security checks and tips on how to get through them quickly and easily.

You can find this app in both the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.