According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), one can carry perfume on a plane in carry-on bags or checked baggage. However, there are different rules for taking perfume on the plane or checking it in.
There’s no size limit for the checked luggage, but if you pack perfume in carry-on baggage, you must follow the 3-1-1 rule.
Essentially, the rule states that every passenger can bring aerosols, gels, and liquids in small containers of 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters). Passengers are also limited to bring one quart-sized bag or transparent zip-lock bag of gels and liquids.
If you’re bringing perfume in a carry-on, you have to ensure you store it in the same place as other toiletries.
That said, though, spritzing on too much perfume before long flights is frowned upon. Although it’s not considered illegal, fragrances can irritate people sitting next to you, especially if they have allergies.
The best thing to do is to use a small amount of subtly scented fragrance before the flight, or bring a travel-sized bottle that can be used when you land.
Do Airlines Allow Perfumes?
Yes, they do.
Perfume is treated like any other liquid, so the standard rules for liquids on a flight apply. If you bring perfume in your carry-on luggage, you can fit about seven to twelve 3.4 oz bottles in one quart-sized plastic bag.
The TSA hasn’t placed any limits on carrying perfume in a checked bag, so you can bring any amount you wish. However, bringing too many bottles can subject you to paying duty tax (regardless of whether the perfume is duty-free or not).
When traveling internationally, one has to go through customs as well, not only security. If the officials see that you’re carrying more than the accepted amount, they’ll ask you to pay duty tax.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a passenger can only import $200, $600, or $800 worth of goods for personal use. Anything over that is taxed.
Bringing back perfume (that you bought in the US) from your vacation can also subject you to customs duty if you don’t provide the appropriate receipts, so it’s best to save them.
Can I Carry Perfume in Carry-on Bags?
Yes, you can.
In hand luggage, liquid perfume falls under the 3-1-1 rule. This rule permits every passenger to bring perfume in containers of up to 3.4 ounces (this refers to the maximum capacity of each bottle, not the actual amount of fragrance), with all bottles fitting in a quart-sized bag.
That’s not a problem for most perfume lovers since few perfume bottles come in containers larger than 3.4 oz anyway. Moreover, carrying around a full-size bottle in your carry-on bag can be tiresome.
If you have a big bottle, decant a significant amount in a smaller container, and place it in your carry-on bag. That should be enough for more than two weeks.
The TSA allows you to carry containers bigger than 3.4 ounces in checked luggage if you want to bring more.
Like all other rules, though, there are exceptions to the 3-1-1 rule.
Certain liquids that are deemed medically necessary are permitted in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces, as are baby food and duty-free items.
When traveling by plane, you will come across duty-free perfume in every airport. Sometimes you’ll find good deals, but more often than not, these perfumes will be costly; but, you’ll be exempted from the 3-1-1 rule.
However, the TSA stresses that you should keep these fragrances in a secure, transparent bag and retain the original receipt. Keep in mind that some countries have their own rules regarding duty-free perfume, so be sure to check in advance.
If you don’t have more space in your carry-on bag or are buying perfume larger than 3.4 ounces, many airlines recommend that you purchase duty-free perfume before or during your last flight (if you’re flying more than once).
That’s because the TSA permits carrying duty-free items plus a carry-on bag only for the flight you purchased the items on. If you buy perfume over 3.4 oz on the first flight, you’d have to check it as a carry-on item on the second flight.
That can be close to impossible if your checked baggage is automatically transferred.
Are Perfumes Allowed in Checked Luggage?
Typically, flammable liquids are restricted from checked bags, but perfume is allowed in checked baggage since the FAA makes exceptions for toiletries.
There are no set restrictions for liquid container sizes in the checked baggage department, meaning you can pack your full-size perfume bottle there.
However, packing perfume in a checked suitcase comes with some risks. These include:
- Bags get jostled in the screening process, so your perfume could break and spill in your luggage;
- Baggage handlers could steal your perfume; and
- Your checked baggage could get lost by the airline.
To avoid this, ensure that you double bag the fragrance bottle to contain any spillage or wrap the fragrance in bubble wrap to cushion the glass (your suitcase will inevitably get tossed around).
How to Pack Cologne or Perfume for Flights?
If you decide to bring your perfume on board, it’s best to bring small test samples. This is because the sample size vial comes in a plastic bottle that doesn’t spill easily.
Additionally, one small bottle can easily last you a week or so, which is more than enough for a vacation.
However, if you bring cologne in the original glass bottle, ensure to pack it properly, both in your checked luggage and carry-on.
If you don’t, you’ll find perfume leaking inside your luggage, inevitably ruining your electronics, food, and clothes.
So you better pack well.
To do so:
- Ensure that you seal the perfume bottle accordingly.
- Put each fragrance bottle inside a separate zip lock bag and seal it tightly. A brilliant trick is to suck all the air out of the zip lock with your mouth to create a vacuum effect.
- If it’s in checked luggage, wrap the bottle in bubble wrap and place it near soft objects in your luggage.
- If it’s in your hand luggage, pack the perfume together with your other toiletries in a quart-sized zip lock bag
The Bottom Line
No one smells heavenly after a long flight. However, dousing yourself with a significant amount of perfume before the flight can be disastrous. So what’s the best way to smell good?
Pack two small bottles of your favorite scent (as long as it doesn’t exceed the 3.4 ounces limit) in your carry-on, so it’s handy after landing.
International airlines treat perfume bottles like any other liquids, so it’s safe to take them on a flight. However, since fragrances can do a lot of damage, make sure to pack perfume carefully.