Are you thinking about bringing glass objects through TSA security and on a plane?
The good news is that this is most likely possible but you definitely want to be aware of some of the challenges that might arise when doing so.
In this article, we will take a deep dive into transporting glass through security and on a plane and give you some specific packing tips and recommendations to make your life as easy as possible.
Table of Contents
Can you take glass on a plane?
Yes, TSA allows you to bring many types of glass with you on a plane as a carry-on or checked bag item.
However, depending on the item and how you plan on transporting it, there are special rules and considerations you want to think about before heading through airport security.
Keep reading below for a detailed and thorough overview of bringing glass items on a plane!
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Are there liquids in your glass container?
If you have liquids in your glass objects you need to be mindful of two things.
First, if you’re transporting the item as a carry-on you’ll have to comply with the TSA liquids rule.
This rule means that you can only bring in liquids that fit in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less. In addition, you can only bring along the number of 3.4 ounce containers that can fit comfortably into a clear, quart sized zip-top bag.
Second, whether you are bringing your item as a carry-on or in your checked bag, if you have liquid inside of a glass container it is highly recommended that you bag or tie up the container so that if it breaks your liquid will not spill.
Carry-on or checked bag?
People often ask if they should bring glass items in their carry-on or checked bag? My answer is neither!
Bring your glass in your personal item
My biggest bit of advice would be to place your glass items in your personal item if they can fit.
For example, when I transport glass objects on a plane I wrap them sufficiently in newspaper, clothing items, or some other type of padded wrap depending on how fragile they are.
I then secure them snuggly in my backpack which counts as my personal item.
This allows me to exercise care when sliding my backpack underneath the seat in front of me or keeping it between my legs or even on my lap.
If you don’t have a personal item, you might be able to just bring the glass object with you as a personal item itself. This is kind of a gray area where airlines differ in how they handle personal items.
But we once brought back a large ceramic piece from Spain that we simply carried with us as a standalone item.
However, I would say it is best to have a plan to fit your object into a bag just in case an airline gives you pushback. Try using a simple tote bag.
Transporting glass in your carry-on
If you place the glass item in a carry-on bag that has to go in the overhead storage compartment you add the risk of someone else knocking around your bag and it will be easier for your item to bounce around during turbulence.
This means that you might need to take extra measures to protect your glass and I’ll go into detail on those additional measures below.
One important thing to note when bringing your glass as a carry-on is that it’s possible that you may need to get your items screened which means you or TSA may have to undo the packaging.
This is why I would generally not recommend transporting things with too much tape or peanuts because it could be harder to pack everything back up after getting an inspection.
Transporting glass in your checked baggage
While I strongly recommend to transport glass in your personal item or at least a carry-on bag, sometimes you will just have to resort to packing them in your checked baggage due to size/quantity.
If you do decide to place glass items in your checked baggage then you need to work overtime on securing those objects. They need to be properly packed and below I’ll outline the steps for safe transport.
How to safely transport glass objects on a plane
If you can’t simply secure your items in your personal item then you may need to transport it in your carry-on or checked baggage.
If it’s particularly fragile then you should go through the following steps to make sure that you do not break your item.
Packaging your glass object
First, chances are if you purchased the glass object from a store it came in some type of padded box or container so try to keep that with you.
If the original container contains bubble wrap or tight-fitting styrofoam, chances are it will be good enough to use when traveling.
However, be on the lookout for cheap boxes and foam. Just because they held up in the store, that doesn’t mean they’ll hold up against a reckless baggage handler.
My poor Statue of Liberty souvenir is still missing its torch thanks to cheap packaging!
If you’re not using the original product packaging then your first step is to wrap the glass object in bubble wrap or something similar (here are the steps).
You can use paper if space is an issue but it doesn’t work as well as bubble wrap for protecting against breaks.
Next, you need to find a box that is just slightly larger than your object (after your object has been wrapped in bubble wrap). Leaving about 2 inches between the box and all sides of the item is usually a good rule of thumb.
Then, if you have peanuts or any type of filler substance you can pour that around the object inside the container, equally on all sides if you can.
If you’re dealing with something very fragile you can consider double boxing it.
In that case, you will find a second box with about 3 inches of space on every side of your original box. Then, just put filler in that space and you’ll have an added layer of protection.
Note: Even if you weren’t able to package up your item in a box, if you simply wrap your glass item with enough bubble wrap and then place it in the middle of your clothes in a tightly packed luggage bag, that can work.
The final step is to then tape your box(es) shut. Don’t go overboard with the tape just in case TSA needs to open it up to inspect it.
If you feel like you could drop the package on the ground and nothing would break, that’s a good sign that you sufficiently protected your glass.
By the way if you are nervous about your wrapping abilities you can head to a shipping store like UPS and ask them to simply pack the item for you in a box (for a fee). This is a good idea for harder to pack items like drinking glasses, wine glasses, etc.
Securing your glass object
Glass objects need to be sufficiently secured so that when (not if) it gets knocked around it will not hit other hard items and break.
This can be easily done by surrounding the container you just packaged with a bunch of clothes, towels, etc.
A good way to do this is to utilize the side of your luggage bag that contains a zipper cover.
That’s because you can sufficiently pack that compartment down with soft items and place your glass objects in the middle (with soft clothes surrounding the object on each side).
The other side of your luggage should be layered with soft items on top so that the item will potentially come into contact with something hard.
There are some special luggage bags known for adding extra security and durability for fragile items by utilizing memory foam. These can be expensive but would be ideal for your most delicate items.
Tips for bringing specific class objects on a plane
Glass bottles and jars
Glass bottles and jars can come in all different shapes and sizes. Glass jars can be pretty sturdy while glass bottles might tend to be a little bit more fragile.
A popular item that people bring on planes with them is glass wine bottles.
If you purchase wine bottles from a duty free shop you may have them in a bag which you can just keep by your side. But you could also look into boxes specifically designed for shipping wine and wine bottle protectors.
Although it comes with risks, plenty of people transport wine bottles in their checked baggage with no issues all the time.
Glass beer bottles and liquor bottles can also come on a plane with you. You can bring mini-liquor bottles with you as a carry-on and larger glass liquor bottles in your checked baggage.
You’ll need to make sure that you not only abide by the liquids rule but also the special rules that apply to alcohol.
Drinking glasses can be brought on a plane but packing these can get tricky because of their shape and/or quantity.
Typically, you will fill the well of the glass with paper or bubble wrap and wrap the glass with several layers of bubble wrap.
You’ll then need to fill the box the glass is stored in with peanuts or some other filler. When transporting multiple glasses, it really helps to use a box with cardboard dividers that will prevent the drinking glasses from touching.
Some types of glasses are a little bit more complicated.
Flutes and wine glasses can be difficult due to the stem that you have to deal with. This usually requires extra layers of bubble wrap and means that you might need a pretty large box to transport just a few of these.
So when transporting drinking glasses just be aware of how much volume will be needed to safely transport them. You might struggle to fit the filled boxes in your luggage bag in some cases.
Smaller items like shot glasses can get by with just a couple of layers of bubble wrap assuming you can safely store them in a box or stow them in your clothes.
I once stuffed something like 24 shot glasses in clothes in my checked bag when coming back from Australia and all of them survived. It can be done!
Glass perfume and cologne bottles
Glass perfume and cologne bottles can be a little bit dangerous.
A lot of people feel like these bottles are sturdy and they often put them in a toiletries bag which allows them to be banged around.
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to break a perfume bottle and so extra care needs to be taken when transporting these. I’d highly suggest bagging them up and wrapping them up in layers of clothes.
Glass vases can be brought on the plane just like everything else. When you pack these, it’s usually a good idea to also stuff paper into the middle of the vase and then shove the excess paper into the core as seen below.
If you’re thinking about giving someone flowers in a glass vase I would suggest for you to think twice about that.
The reason is that flowers can be a nuisance on a plane.
There’s not always a safe place to put them and it may require the passenger to hold them the entire flight which can be very annoying. If the person is traveling internationally, they may even have to throw it away.
Also, unless you know how to properly transport flowers/plants they can start dying by the time you arrive at your destination depending on how far you are traveling.
Glass souvenirs make some of the best gifts. Just about everyone is impressed by blown glass, quality glass frames, etc.
Most worthwhile souvenir shops know that you are going to be traveling with your glass souvenir and should provide you with packaging that contains styrofoam, bubble wrap, or some other type of secure wrapping.
However, I’ve also purchased from shops that supplied me with nothing!
So be prepared to improvise and if needed follow the steps above.
Glass pipes and bongs
If you’re trying to bring glass pipes and glass bongs for marijuana use then you need to be prepared for those items to be confiscated.
That’s because in some states they will be considered paraphernalia and while TSA is not actively looking for that type of thing, it’s not unheard of for them to refer you to law-enforcement when they do find things like that.
That could result in a much closer screening of your bag which, if you have marijuana on you, could result in you getting in trouble with the law.
Prohibited glass items
There is no explicit prohibition on glass items but you still need to use common sense when bringing them through airport security.
They also have rules against bringing sharp objects so if you have a glass item with a particularly sharp point or edge to it that could definitely be a problem.
And finally be aware of the liquids rule. Something like a glass lava lamp could be a problem for TSA.
Customs and paying your duty
Sometimes glass gifts and objects can be very expensive and contain a lot of value.
It might be the case that you have to pay a duty when you bring these items back into the country so be prepared to deal with that.
Each individual is usually granted an $800 personal exemption which means that if all of the goods you bring back for personal or household use are under that amount you don’t have to pay anything.
However, the amount of your exemption can vary based on the countries that you have visited.
Mailing your glass
Sometimes you may not want to deal with packing fragile glass items. A much better but potentially more expensive route would be to simply get them mailed.
If you’re buying something from the store even if it is a little mom and pop shop in the middle of a market, sometimes they will offer you the option to mail the item.
Make sure you inquire about how they plan on shipping the item but that can take the worry from you when it comes to making your way through the airport.
Just note that if you are shipping glass internationally it will have to go through customs. A customs inspection could mean an opening and repackaging of your glass item which does not always go well.
Bringing glass items on a plane is very doable.
The best way to do it would be to carry the item with you in your personal item or perhaps your carry-on to minimize potential damage.
But if you need to pack it up in a luggage bag, you can follow the steps above and greatly reduce the odds of something bad happening to your glass object.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.