Hand luggage on your USA flight

Rules & Regulations

The regulations on hand luggage in the airplane repeatedly cause confusion among travellers. Particularly on flights to the USA, the regulations are often very strict and sometimes unclear. Even though the security officer at the airport always has the last word, the following tips will help you prepare for your flight to the USA.


The official entry permit for the USA!

Size and weight limits

Both the amount and the dimensions of the luggage you may bring depend primarily on the airline you are flying with as well as the fare you have booked. Therefore, you should check the airline's website before your departure to find out how big and heavy your hand luggage or luggage can be.

Hand luggage for your flight to the USA

However, most international fares include one checked bag and one piece of hand luggage. Hand luggage is subject to clear regulations regarding its size and weight.

Lufthansa, for example, limits the size of hand luggage in the Economy Class to 55 x 40 x 23 cm and 8 kg. In addition, another small piece of luggage, such as a laptop bag, with the maximum dimensions of 40 x 30 x 10 cm, can be carried on board.

Liquids in your hand luggage

How liquids are to be transported in hand luggage is one of the most discussed topics around international flights.

The official rules for the transport of liquids, creams and gels are as follows:

  • They must be in containers that can hold a maximum of 100 ml each.
  • These containers must be in a transparent plastic bag with a zip closure that can hold a maximum of 1 liter.
  • A maximum of 1 bag per person is allowed.
  • It does not matter how many containers are in the plastic bag.

Many travellers think it's okay to take a bottle that holds 150 ml, for example, but is only half full. However, this is not the case. Regardless of the filling level of the contents, the container must not hold more than 100 ml.

Products such as mascara, toothpaste, perfume or deodorants are also covered by this directive.

Tip: If you don't want to buy special luggage bags, you can also use simple freezer bags with a zip closure from the supermarket for the liquids on your flight.

Powder in your hand luggage

Since 30 June 2018, powders or powder-like substances have been added to the list of prohibited items and may no longer be carried in hand luggage if they exceed a volume of 350 ml. This affects, for example:

  • baby powder
  • make-up
  • coffee
  • spices

If you carry these substances with you, you must expect stricter checks, as security personnel are required to pay more attention to powders or powder-like substances and also to inspect them.

This regulation is a further safety measure to prevent explosive powders from being brought into the cabin.

Animals in your hand luggage

Whether pets may be transported in the cabin of the airplane depends primarily on the regulations of the airline. In most cases they allow the carriage of small animals such as cats, rabbits or dogs.

However, the following regulations apply:

  • The animal must be transported in an approved transport container.
  • Depending on the airline, the animal may weigh a maximum of 8 kg.
  • The animal must be registered with the airline in advance.
  • A leash must be carried.
  • During the security check at the airport, the transport containers must be x-rayed and the animal must be carried through the security check.
Animals in hand luggage

Dogs up to 8 kg may be carried in the flight cabins.

Special rules apply to assistance dogs, which must be requested from the respective airline.

Irrespective of the airline's rules, the import regulations of the destination country must be complied with. 

Medication in your hand luggage

In general, it is advisable to carry important medication in your hand luggage, even if it is only needed after the flight. Checked baggage may be lost during transportation or may arrive late at its destination, resulting in a late intake.

The following medications may only be carried with a written, Englisch certificate from the doctor:

  • liquids containing more than 100 ml, e.g. creams
  • syringes, e.g. for thrombosis or diabetes patients
  • prescription drugs

Walking aids, such as a walking stick or crutches, can in most cases be taken without registration or attestation. For safety reasons, however, travellers should check the airline's website in advance.

Tip: It is best to carry all medicines in their original packaging with an instruction leaflet so that in case of doubt you can prove what they contain.

The USA has particularly strict regulations for the import of medicines. That's why we provide more detailed information on which medicines are allowed to be imported, regardless of whether they are carried in hand luggage or checked baggage.

Duty-free products in your hand luggage

Popular products from the duty-free shops at the airport are tobacco products, cosmetics and alcohol. Especially in the USA, strict regulations apply for these products.

The regulations for liquids do not apply to duty-free shop items. However, if you have a stopover ahead of you, you should definitely not open the seal of the transparent plastic bag affixed by the shop, as otherwise the liquids will be confiscated during the security check of the onward flight.

What can I carry in my hand luggage?

Here is a summary of the most important things that may be carried in hand luggage:

  • Liquids, if they are transported in 100 ml containers in a transparent plastic bag with zip closure.
  • Non-prescription and prescription medicines in original packaging with a doctor's certificate in English.
  • Syringes for diabetes patients, for example, with a medical certificate.
  • Medical walking aids, such as crutches or walkers.
  • Duty-free products. With liquids, the seal of the bag must remain intact.
  • Small animals in a certified transport box.
  • Electronic devices, such as laptop or camera.
Laptop in your hand luggage

The laptop is allowed in your hand luggage!


  • Powerbank up to 100Wh. With most airlines, an additional battery may only be carried in hand luggage, if at all, but not in checked baggage, as there is an increased risk of fire.
  • Disposable lighters and matches.
  • E-cigarettes must be stowed in hand luggage and are not allowed in checked baggage.
  • Food, as long as it complies with the import regulations of the USA or is consumed before landing.
  • Baby food. An exception to the 100 ml rule is made here, provided the infant or toddler travels with them.
  • Drinks purchased after the security check or filled at the water dispenser.
  • Money, gold, tobacco and gifts.
  • Musical instruments. For large instruments you may have to pay for an extra seat.
  • Buggies, strollers, baby carrier bags and child car seats can usually be taken into the cabin free of charge.

What is not allowed in my hand luggage?

According to the entry regulations of the USA, there are also a number of things that are forbidden in hand luggage and therefore may not be carried along:

  • Liquids that do not fit in 100 ml containers and are not in a transparent plastic bag with zip closure.
  • Powders exceeding 350 ml in volume.
  • Weapons of any kind, such as firearms or pepper spray.
  • Dangerous or sharp objects, such as nail scissors or knitting needles.
  • Tools, such as pliers or wrenches.
  • Alcoholic beverages containing more than 70% alcohol.
  • Spray cans. Only pumping devices are allowed.
  • Petrol lighters and electric lighters.
  • Sports equipment, such as ski sticks or skateboards, which can be used as weapons.
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