How to fly with a laptop

Business travellers usually have their travel routine down to a fine art, knowing the ins and outs of travelling with laptops. But for those that don’t travel frequently there are multiple questions surrounding flying with laptops — from previous laptop flight bans causing confusion, to questions around where to place laptops. Can you put a laptop in a checked bag?

If you need to fly with a laptop, this short guide is for you. Where to pack your laptop, how to pack it, and exactly when and where you can use it!

FAQs

Yes. It is perfectly legal to fly with a laptop in both checked and hand luggage. This is applicable to virtually all major carriers worldwide.

However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! Like any valuable item, we would recommend where possible travelling with laptops in hand luggage only.

Yes, however there are restrictions on most airlines. Airline rules class laptops as Large PEDs. These are personal electronic devices that cannot be held in one hand like a smartphone or small tablet. As a result, laptops need to be stowed under seats or in overhead storage during taxi, takeoff, and landing phases.

After takeoff — most airlines use 10,000 ft — seatbelt signs are switched off, inflight Wi-Fi is enabled if fitted, and you are free to use your laptop until the signs are switched back on again.

Yes. As of 2021, there are no restrictions on the number of laptops you can bring on an aeroplane, only on the number of some types of spare batteries. So if you are planning on travelling with a business and a personal laptop, that’s absolutely fine.

using a laptop on a plane

Where should I put my laptop when flying?

In an ideal world you should travel with your laptop in your hand luggage.

This could be in your carry-on suitcase, or even in a laptop case as a personal item — small items that some airlines allow you to carry onto the plane in addition to your hand luggage.

Smart luggage manufacturers have dedicated impact-resistant front pockets to keep your tech safe, with cases like Horizn Studios M5 having a waterproof, toughened front pocket for laptops.

However, we appreciate everyone smart luggage doesn’t suit everyone and people travel with a wide range of luggage styles! Here’s our flowchart for travelling with you tech showing where to place your laptop and other electronics from best to worst!

how do i pack my laptop on a plane infographic

5 tips for travelling with a laptop in checked luggage

Laptop sleeves keep your electronics free from dirt and dust, and a slimline layer of memory foam works surprisingly well at protecting laptops from smaller shocks. Lightweight, they also won’t add much bulk to your luggage allowance.

  • Previously laptops have been the subject of specific travel bans — many countries including the USA and the UK banned laptops on any flights to or from countries in the Middle East during 2017 for up to 2 years!
  • While this ban has been lifted, as a result and as general good practise you should always travel with some charge in your laptop. This is because some security officials will still require you to be able to turn your device on and prove it is a legitimate computer.

  1. Make sure you travel with a full case (to minimise your laptop moving around)
  2. Pack heavy items and shoes at the bottom of your case.
  3. Divide your clothes in two and pack a layer of your clothes until your case is half full
  4. Pack your laptop in its case in the centre
  5. Pack the second half of your clothes
  6. Carry liquids or toiletries in your hand luggage.

Travelling with a more expensive or newer laptop might seem counterintuitive — why would I risk travel with a more expensive device? — but technology has moved on significantly.

Most new laptops have solid-state drives (SSDs) for storage. In contrast, older and some cheaper laptops use traditional hard drives, and have significantly more moving parts and are much more susceptible to damage from bumps and shocks.

No, we don’t mean physical protection.

  • While business laptops have had fingerprint scanners since IBM’s famous ThinkPad in 2004, many people travel without a second thought to the security of their personal laptop.
  • While luggage theft is rare, lost bags do still occur, and an unsecured laptop is packed full of your personal data and therefore a prime target for identity theft, financial scams and more.
  • You should always lock your laptop with a secure password, regardless of whether it’s locked away in your suitcase.

using laptops on airplanes with map passport camera and sunglasses

Summary

While travelling with a laptop had varying rules and provided some confusion in the past, in 2021 it is a straightforward process.

As a recap:

  • There are no rules prohibiting laptops in checked or carry-on luggage
  • You can bring more than one laptop, and use your laptop throughout the flight
  • Similarly to delicate items and virtually all electronics, it is always recommended to travel with your laptop in the cabin, rather than in checked bags

Finally, travelling with laptops is arguably why smart luggage was invented!

If you frequently travel with your tech, you might want to look at our buyers guides for smart luggage bags. Aside from a wealth of clever features, smart suitcases come with dedicated front pockets for keeping your laptops easy to access and secure, whilst being carry-on sized.

Our latest smart luggage reviews: