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Can I Use a Cardboard Box as Checked Luggage?

To some this question may be an unusual one as a cardboard box is not something we consider as suitable luggage. However, using a cardboard box as checked-in luggage is more common you think. This practice is especially popular in the United States, with many students attending college in one state and calling another state home. It is also used by those who relocate, within the states and around the world.

Can I Use a Cardboard Box as Checked Luggage?

The majority of domestic airlines within the US will allow you to use a cardboard box as checked luggage or part of your checked baggage allowance. This is as long as it falls under the checked baggage guidelines for the airline you are flying with.

When checking online for specific information, it can be hard to find a definitive answer about the use of cardboard boxes. For example, American Airlines only states which destinations and countries don’t allow boxes from being used as checked-in luggage. Domestic destinations are not mentioned and there are a lot of countries not listed so it is always recommended to contact your airline directly to double-check the specific guidelines for your destination.

What Size Box Can you Check on a Plane?

Like all checked-in baggage, there are size restrictions so you need to check the dimensions allowed of each piece for the airline you are flying with. You will also need to consider the weight limit of each piece as well as the combined weight total per passenger. Additional checked in luggage over your passenger limit does come with a surcharge whether you use a cardboard or plastic box or a suitcase.

The standard dimensions (mentioned by most airlines on their websites) for a piece of checked in luggage is 27” x 21” x 14” or a total of 62” in total, so there should be no worries in regards to the shape of your cardboard box. The airlines that allow cardboard boxes as checked in luggage don’t state any dimension differences if you use a box instead of a standard suitcase so follow your airlines guide on checked in luggage dimensions like Delta outline on their website.

How to Pack a Cardboard Box to Avoid Damage

Ensure that you use a suitable box for packing and shipping, not just one you pick up for free from a grocery store. Not only should you invest in high-quality boxes but packing materials too. Shipping grade bubble wrap and packing paper is worth getting for those very special and fragile items.  For added reinforcement and less wasted space in the box, pack clothes by using vacuum storage bags.

In addition, reinforce the box with extra clothing or linen, especially when packing breakables or items that can get damaged by impact easily. Even hardshell cases get scratched and receive damage from baggage handlers, baggage claim and inflight turbulence.

Some of the major airports around the US and the world offer plastic wrapping services, where you can get your cardboard box and other checked in luggage wrapped in plastic before checking in. Often done by those who do not have TSA approved locks, this offers added security and reinforcement to your cardboard box.

Items to Avoid Packing in a Box

Regardless of what type of luggage you check-in, there are always the standard items that cannot be packed into checked-in luggage. These are outlined by the TSA in great detail and do not vary much per airline. 

You will also need to consider items such as liquids that can leak and possibly cause damage the box. These as well as anything sharp are allowed in checked in luggage only but take care in how these are packed.

It also may be worth the investment to send fragile and expensive items properly by freight and registered because as most frequent travellers know, airlines are not known for handling items with care all the time.

Can I Use a Cardboard Box as a Carry-On?

As long as you adhere to the weight size and contents restrictions for carry-on baggage then there are no issues regarding this. Check with individual airlines regarding whether or not they should be sealed and unopened. 

Airlines That Allow a Box as a Checked Bag

With all travel advice it is up to the individual traveller to check with the airline they are travelling with before your departure for current rules and regulations.

The following airlines currently follow these guidelines for allowing a box as a checked bag:

AirlineCardboard Boxes on Domestic FlightsCardboard Boxes on International FlightsPolicy Link
JetBlueYesNoView Baggage Policy
American AirlinesYesYes (Some Countries ExcludedView Baggage Policycy
SouthwestYesYesView Baggage Policy
United AirlinesYesYes (Some Countries Excluded)https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/help/faq/baggage.html

Final Thoughts

Always ensure you have the correct type of luggage and packing material for the purpose of your travel. Packing effectively to make sure your belongings stay safe will ensure your goods arrive safely and undamaged on arrival.

Hayden Wall

Hayden is the founder of Travel Gear Discounts and tries to vacation as much as possible. He loves finding the latest travel accessories that will make getting out easier and planning the perfect weekend getaway.