Hand luggage: What you can and can’t carry on a plane

What You Can Carry In Hand Luggage

There are restrictions on what you can carry in an item of hand luggage when flying from a UK airport.

As well as the size of the bag being important, what is inside it is also controlled. Airport security staff can also have the last say – that is, take away anything which they deem to be possibly dangerous, even if it could fit within the rules.

Some airlines can also have their own restrictions, usually based on where you’re flying to, so always check before you pack.

So, what can you carry in your hand luggage onboard a plane, and what is banned? Some of the products make sense, but others are a bit trickier to get your head around…

Electrical Items

You can only take certain electrical products onboard flights in the UK.

Mobile phones, laptops, tablet devices, personal music players, electric shavers and e-cigarettes are usually allowed to be in your hand luggage. The latter isn’t actually allowed in hold baggage, so if you do have an e-cigarette it must go into your handheld bag.

Hair stylers and hairdryers are also allowed, as are travel irons, which is great news if you’re away for the weekend on business or pleasure and are travelling light.

You can take most cameras onboard too. However, there can be restrictions on specialist equipment (in most cases, this is to ensure it doesn’t get damaged if it has to go in overhead lockers).

If your device needs batteries, there are sometimes restrictions on the types of battery allowed onboard, so you may have to instead place the item in your hold luggage.

One thing you may not know, however, is that all electrical devices must be able to turn on when requested. So, if a member of staff in security or on the plane asks you to turn your phone, camera or tablet on, you have to do so or you may not be allowed to carry it.

Because of this, you should ensure all of your rechargeable devices are fully charged before you pass through security or board your flight.

Be careful with portable chargers – as they’re battery-powered, they may not be allowed in the hold so must go in hand luggage


This big topic still causes confusion. If possible, liquids should be put in your hold baggage.

Liquids include:

  • Drinks and water
  • Perfumes/aftershaves
  • Soups, jams, honey, and sauces
  • Cosmetics such as face and body creams, mascaras and lip gloss
  • Sprays (body spray, hairspray, deodorant, shaving foam)
  • Pastes and gels (toothpaste, hair gel etc)
  • Contact lens solution

If they must be taken on board, the gov.uk site explains that:

“they have to be in containers that hold no more than 100ml. These containers must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm. Contents must fit comfortably inside the bag so it can be sealed”

The bag must also not be knotted or tied at the top, and you’re limited to one plastic bag per person. Bags must be shown to airport security.

Even if a larger bottle over 100ml is not full, it won’t be allowed. There are a few medical exceptions to this, and every country can also have their own rules so check before you fly.

What You Can't Take In Hand Luggage
Sorry, but the cat will have to stay at home just like your bottle of aftershave…


Only one lighter can be carried on board, and it must be placed in a bag like that for liquids.

You MUST keep this on you during the flight, so it cannot be placed in your hold luggage. It also cannot go into your hand luggage after scanning, so a pocket is best.


Not only can certain countries have rules on what you bring into the country when it comes to food and drink, but certain foods can also restrict the security scanners and obstruct images on x-ray images.

These bags will usually then have to be checked by hand by security staff. To minimalise delays (and reduce your own stress and time), any food is best placed in your hold luggage unless it must be taken on board (for example, if you have any health issues or children flying with you).

Personal Items

There are some surprising allowances here. Disposable razors, blunt-ended scissors, nail clippers, sewing or knitting needles and safety matches are fine.

Pushchairs are also usually fine but check with your airline if you want to bring anything battery operated.

In terms of medication, you need supporting documentation from a relevant medical professional (such as a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription). Everything from tablets and syringes to inhalers and medical equipment is allowed and usually won’t count as ‘hand luggage’, but may require additional scanning by staff.

Work Tools

No work tools, whether chisels and screwdrivers or electricals such as blowtorches are allowed in hand luggage. Most can be placed in the hold, however we can imagine it is rare such items are needed for a week in Spain.