Can You Check Boxes on a Plane?

Size and content restrictions still apply, but checking a box is just as permissible as checking a proper suitcase.
Alisha McDarris
By Alisha McDarris 

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Carry-ons, rolling luggage, trunks and duffels. There are a plethora of baggage options to choose from before you jet off on your next flight. But can you check boxes on a plane?

There are plenty of reasons you might wish to do so. Perhaps you’re moving across the country, bringing a care package of snacks to a friend or you bought more souvenirs than you expected.

Whatever the reason, the question is valid. Can boxes be checked luggage? Here’s what you need to know.

Can I check a box as luggage?

Can you check a cardboard box on a plane in lieu of a more traditional suitcase? Generally, the answer is yes.

As long as it’s sturdy enough to make it through the rough-and-tumble screening and transportation process, follows airline size restrictions and doesn’t contain any prohibited substances, most airlines don’t have a problem with passengers checking boxes as luggage.

Do all airlines accept boxes as checked luggage?

First, you must determine what the right cardboard box size for an international flight or domestic flight should be.

To do so, check with your airline. Size and weight restrictions vary, though the same rules for more traditional checked baggage apply.

If in doubt, contact your airline and simply ask, “Can I check boxes as luggage?” The airline will likely be more than happy to help you out. Just ensure you’re within its size and weight limits.

Here are some guidelines for several airlines.

  • Southwest: Passengers are always welcome to check two bags for free on Southwest flights. And that includes boxes. Each one should weigh 50 pounds or less and all measurements combined (Length + Width + Height) should total 62 inches or less.

  • American Airlines: How many bags or boxes you can check as luggage depends on the class of service and your destination. But a combined measurement of 62 inches and 50 pounds is the maximum for most flights. For travel to and from Mexico, boxes can be a bit larger: up to 80 linear inches, but there are seasonal limitations for checking boxes for destinations with luggage restrictions, so check before you pack.

  • United: Your MileagePlus status and cabin determine your bag or box allowance. But economy includes a 50-pound max while elite members, first and business class get 70 pounds. All can be max 30 inches x 20 inches x 12 inches. Boxes on flights to Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean can only be a combined 42 inches.

  • Delta: Similar to other airlines, bags and boxes you plan to check should have a combined measurement of no more than 62 inches and weigh 50 pounds or less. Boxes specifically are not permitted on flights to and from Brazil, Mexico and Chile. And they are only permitted to Central or South America if they are in original packaging in a factory-sealed box.

Content restrictions

Can boxes be checked luggage? Sure, but what’s in them still matters.

No matter what you’re checking as baggage, the rules for prohibited items still apply. Here are some common items you can’t check in boxes or luggage according to TSA:

  • Alcoholic beverages over 140 proof.

  • Lighters, including arc, plasma, and electronic lighters and lighter fluid.

  • Bear spray.

  • Butane.

  • CO2 cartridges and oxygen cylinders.

  • Explosives.

  • Electronic cigarettes.

  • Compressed gas or other fuels.

  • Fireworks.

  • Lithium ion batteries with more than 100 watt hours.

  • Power banks.

  • Matches.

  • Spray paint.

Additionally, airlines sometimes have different rules and packing requirements for those traveling with firearms and ammunition, so ask your airline before you pack to find out how best to check those items.

Tips for packing a box as luggage

While your can generally check a box as luggage, you’ll want to pack smart. After all, a box can be more easily crushed, torn or damaged than a hardsided or even softsided suitcase, so you’ll want to make sure the contents are protected.

First, choose a sturdy, heavy-duty box that fits within your airline’s size restrictions. If all you have seems a bit flimsy, line the sides with additional cardboard to reinforce the box.

Then, carefully pack the contents, keeping weight requirements in mind. Use plenty of padding materials if any items are fragile.

Then, when it’s time to seal up the box, tape it well, including on all the seams and corners. You may want to add more than one layer of packing tape, just to be safe.

You may be tempted to wrap your box in plastic wrap, but check with your airline before you do to ensure your arrival and departure destinations don’t have restrictions regarding plastic film.

Finally, it wouldn’t hurt to put an extra roll of tape in your carry-on just in case you have to open your box back up at the airport for a safety check.

Checking boxes on planes recapped

Can you check a box as luggage? On most airlines and to most destinations, the answer is yes.

Just keep airline size and weight restrictions in mind, make sure to leave out restricted items and pack your box carefully so it arrives at your destination in one piece.

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