Nobody wants to be the stinky passenger on a plane. And most people prefer to smell good when traveling to different places.
So it’s no wonder that a lot of travelers want to bring cologne or perfume with them when heading to the airport.
But are you allowed to bring cologne through airport security and is it a good idea to wear cologne when on a plane?
In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about bringing cologne or perfume on a plane including what TSA rules apply and a special trick that will make your life easier.
I’ll also give you some things to consider about wearing cologne and flying so that you can make life less miserable for other passengers around you.
Can you bring cologne or perfume on a plane?
Yes, you can bring cologne or perfume in your carry-on or checked baggage but there are some restrictions that you need to be aware of such as the TSA liquids 3-1-1 Rule and FAA regulations.
In addition, there are some travel etiquette considerations you need to think about when traveling on a plane. Keep reading below to find out everything you need to know.
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Bringing cologne as a carry-on (TSA liquids rule)
TSA allows you to bring liquids like cologne and perfume on board as long as they are contained within a container no larger than 3.4 fluid ounces or (100 mL) and all of those containers can fit comfortably inside of one clear quart sized bag.
You will need to remove this bag from your carry-on bag when going through the security checkpoint unless you have TSA Pre-Check.
This procedure for dealing with your liquids is known as the TSA Liquids 3-1-1 Rule
Something super important to know about cologne and perfume is that the focus on the 3.4 ounces is on the size of the container and NOT the amount of liquid inside the container.
So let’s say you had a 6 ounce bottle of perfume and only about 25% of that bottle is full. That means your container has under 3.4 ounces of liquid but the container itself is 6 ounces.
There’s a good chance that a TSA agent will not allow you to bring that on board and you might be forced to throw it away!
The other thing to be aware of is that your cologne or perfume bottle needs to fit comfortably inside the quart size bag. It’s basically just means that the bag needs to be able to close and not be bursting at the seams.
Some people prefer to pour their cologne or perfume into a smaller clear container when traveling through the airport. This is what people do whenever their cologne bottle is larger than 3.4 ounces.
You are allowed to do this just like you are allowed to do this with alcohol but there is a better alternative for cologne and perfume.
The better alternative is to use something like a Mini Refillable Perfume Atomizer.
This allows you to fill up a small atomizer container with your perfume or cologne and easily travel with it anywhere. You might be limited to something like 50 squirts per container but you can always take a few of these with you if needed.
They are very easy to use and you can see how it works in the video below:
In the past, there have been isolated reports of TSA agents confiscating unmarked bottles with liquids such as perfume.
However, I think that is extremely uncommon and as long as your container is under 3.4 ounces you should not have anything to worry about.
Related: Can You Bring Hair Spray on a Plane?
A lot of airports are packed with stores selling beauty products including perfume and cologne. At these stores, you’ll often find containers that are much larger than 3.4 ounces.
If you are already passed TSA security and all you need to do is board your flight for domestic travel you should not have any issues bringing these larger bottles on a plane.
If you are coming from an international destination, you may still be able to bring the larger fragrance bottles with you but if you have a connecting flight make sure that you comply with these special requirements:
- The duty free liquids were purchased internationally and you are traveling to the United States with a connecting flight.
- The liquids are packed in a transparent, secure, tamper-evident bag by the retailer and do not show signs of tampering when presented to TSA for screening.
- The original receipt for the liquids is present and the purchase was made within 48 hours.
Read more about this rule here.
Bringing cologne in your checked baggage
If your perfume bottle is larger than 3.4 ounces then another option you have is to put it in your checked baggage. There are two things you need to consider when bringing cologne or perfume in your checked baggage.
Related: Can You Bring Makeup on a Plane?
Cologne and perfume checked baggage size requirements
The first consideration is making sure you are not bringing more liquid fragrance than you are allowed by law.
Some people believe that you can bring as much cologne or perfume as you like as long as it is in your checked baggage but this is not true!
The perfume and cologne requirements are spelled out by the FAA and they state the following:
The total aggregate quantity per person cannot exceed 2 kg (70 ounces) or 2 L (68 fluid ounces). The capacity of each container must not exceed 0.5 kg (18 ounces) or 500 ml (17 fluid ounces).*
Individual airlines also abide by these same requirements and you can often find them on the website. For example, United Airlines states:
Personal items such as deodorant, hairspray, nail polish, perfume and certain medicines have some restrictions… If you’re packing these items in your checked bag, each container can’t be more than 16 ounces. There’s a limit of 70 ounces total for each traveler.
Other personal items like cologne or hairspray are allowed in checked baggage, as long as there is less than 16 ounces of each item and less than 70 ounces total.
A 17 ounce container of cologne or perfume would be pretty gigantic but I have seen some pretty strange things so it’s probably not completely unrealistic for someone to try to bring something like that aboard.
Also, a fragrance lover relocating or someone trying to transport fragrances for sale could easily exceed that 68 fluid ounce requirement.
So while the average person will probably never come close to violating these size limitations, if you are heavy into fragrances then you should be aware of them.
Packing cologne and perfume in checked baggage
The second main consideration here is to avoid your bottle getting broken during the transport process.
I don’t care how much you might love your cologne, you probably don’t want your entire wardrobe drenched in that fragrance when you arrive at your destination.
Plus, that’s a great way for your money to go to waste.
I’ve traveled with cologne bottles many times in my checked baggage and never had an issue.
What I always do is first put the bottle of cologne inside of a Ziploc bag. This will prevent leakage in the event that your bottle is broken.
Some people use tape to cover the nozzle but that has always felt like overkill to me.
To be super safe you could double bag but I usually only double bag containers like shampoo or conditioner bottles which are more prone to leaking.
Next, you need to place the bag with your bottle somewhere in your luggage where it will not be bouncing around and potentially colliding with other hard objects.
If you have bubble wrap on hand you can wrap your bottle with that but that’s not always necessary.
Instead, you could just roll your bottle up in a shirt or stuff it snuggly between clothing items.
You could also put it in one of the zipper compartments if your luggage is full of soft contents.
Be careful about putting your perfume bottle in your toiletry bag. You might not think that anything could happen to your bottle but others have had bad luck.
If you do stick your cologne bottle in your toiletry bag consider wrapping it in something like a sock first. Fragrance bottles are often not as robust as they feel.
Key considerations when traveling with cologne or perfume
Don’t wear cologne or perfume on the plane
Even though you might not be aware of it, it’s actually pretty inconsiderate to wear a fragrance on a plane.
About 30% of the general population find scented products on others irritating.
A certain percentage of the population also has extreme sensitivities to fragrances and if you are seated in an enclosed area like a plane, there is no escape for them.
It isn’t just that they have to deal with the intensity of your fragrance, some of these people suffer some pretty serious health complications from exposure to fragrances.
For example, you could trigger a massive 24 hour migraine headache for someone. In a worse situation, you could even trigger a severe asthma attack.
It’s just not worth it.
If you’re worried about smelling bad then try to take a shower right before your flight and if you are dealing with long-haul flights and connections then maybe consider getting access to an airport lounge with a shower.
Remember, you are allowed to bring deodorant on planes.
If you are flying in a business class or first class product where you have your own suite or where you are spaced out from others, you can probably get by with wearing cologne or perfume without issues.
But wearing a fragrance in economy class is often NOT a great idea.
Don’t spray cologne on the plane
Wearing cologne to the airport and on the plane is one thing.
Spraying yourself with cologne or perfume while inside of the plane’s cabin is quite another.
The intensity of the fragrance will be amplified and there is a much stronger chance that other passengers will get a strong whiff of it.
It’s just not a good idea to ever spray anything while in an air cabin, especially pepper spray.
Avoid bringing gimmicky cologne and perfume bottles
Sometimes perfume and cologne makers get a little too creative with their bottles.
For example, there was the Spicebomb cologne that came in a grenade shaped bottle which obviously did not go very well when taken through airport security.
Other types of cologne or aftershave upcoming shapes like a revolver and so it is best to just avoid anything resembling a weapon or explosive regardless of how benign the contents are.
Bringing cologne or perfume through airport security and on a plane is a pretty straightforward process.
As long as you comply with the liquid rule, you should not have any issues going through security and if your bottle is bigger than 3.4 ounces simply bring it in your checked bag if possible.
If going to checked bag route, make sure you abide by the FAA requirements and that you make an extra effort to wrap your bottles in soft clothing items.
My recommendation is to avoid wearing cologne or perfume while traveling on a plane and to definitely never spray it on while seated inside of the cabin. The strong scent can be jarring to other passengers and could even trigger medical issues for some.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.