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If you don’t tend to fly very often, or you haven’t flown for a while, you might be wondering: can you bring cologne on a plane? You can find out more here.
I have flown many times, and yet I still feel some anxiety around ‘getting it wrong’ at the airport. The security process can be daunting, even if you’ve flown a lot over the years. This anxiety is naturally going to be worse if you are still getting to know how to travel.
For good reason, liquids are restricted when it comes to hand luggage, and understanding the rules around this is important to allow security to run smoothly (and to save yourself some time, too).
Here is a brief rundown of the rules around bringing cologne on a plane, as well as some more details on how to pack it safely, and more about buying some duty-free cologne.
TSA Rules About Bringing Cologne/Perfume On a Plane
Let’s start by looking at the restrictions around bringing cologne onto a plane. You’re allowed to bring perfume and cologne on an airplane in your hand luggage and your checked baggage. In terms of checked baggage, there are no quantity rules.
However, if you’re bringing cologne onto your flight in hand luggage, you will have to follow the TSA’s liquids rule (the 3-1-1 rule). This means that liquids in hand luggage have to be in 3.4oz, or 100ml, bottles (or smaller). You can have one transparent zip-lock bag (quart-sized) and all of your liquids and gels have to fit inside.
So there’s the official ruling. As long as you stick to these rules, you’ll be fine. In my experience, it’s better to prepare everything before you head out to the airport to make the process through security as smooth as possible!
The exception to this is duty-free cologne. You can take these onto the plane with no problems.
It’s a good idea to check with your airline if you have any concerns or questions, as they’ll be able to give you specific advice.
How Much Cologne Can You Take on a Plane?
If you bring cologne in your hand luggage, you can fit a good number of bottles in your quart-sized bag. This is helpful if you’re hitting the duty-free before your flight (the highlight of an airport trip in my opinion). The more cologne you take, the less room you’ll have for other liquids.
The snag comes from international customs if you’re bringing a large number of bottles on a flight. Customs may notice if you have dozens of bottles of cologne knocking around in your suitcase and may charge you duty tax. The price of this can vary. You can import up to $1600 worth of cologne for personal use.
Going above that will trigger a tax of 20% (for perfumes with no alcohol) or 75% (for perfumes containing alcohol).
This is a pretty hefty tax so it’s worth understanding this before you go if you plan to travel with expensive cologne, or you’re importing a lot of cologne. Keep your receipts with you, too. You will need them to prove that you don’t have to pay the relevant tax.
You can check the specific rules for your destination if you have to take a large amount into the country.
How to Pack Cologne
If you’re carrying cologne in your hand luggage, you won’t have to worry about this too much. Just ensure that you place your quart-sized bag of toiletries in the center of your hand luggage, surrounded by something soft, to cushion it.
Cologne in your checked luggage will require more preparation. Ensure bottles are sealed properly and place them inside a zip-lock bag (you may prefer to place it inside a couple of bags, just to make sure). Wrap clothes around it to give it some extra protection.
If you have any small, sample-sized bottles hanging around, you could decant your cologne into those instead. This saves space in your case and prevents a disaster if your full-sized bottle is broken or stolen.
I always do this with my more expensive toiletries on trips, usually because I want to save space for more clothes! I’ve bought them pretty cheaply online for this purpose, and I wash and reuse them for every trip.
Aim to give your cologne as much protection as possible. If the bottle breaks and it spills all over your luggage, that has the potential to ruin your vacation (or at least make it a lot more stressful than it needs to be). It’s the last thing you want to deal with once you’ve arrived at your accommodation!
Using Cologne on a Plane
Sometimes, flying involves dealing with some strong smells, especially on long flights. While it’s tempting to freshen up with your cologne, I’d suggest not doing it. Strong colognes can trigger sneezing and even headaches in your fellow passengers, and it’s considerate to think of them too.
You never know, for example, if someone sitting next to you has allergies or asthma. A spritz of cologne could cause someone else some real discomfort. Plus, I have found that after a while, I tend to become ‘nose blind’ to the smell of my toiletries. It’s harder to tell if you’ve used too much.
You could go for a gentler cologne if you need to use it on the plane. For example, you can avoid very strong floral scents, avoid chemical-based cologne (these are the prime suspect in terms of triggering headaches and asthma attacks), and choose a fragrance with as few ingredients as you can find.
Citrus-scented colognes could be a good option. They’re refreshing and may make you feel a little better midway through a long flight, and they’re also known to help with headaches and nausea.
If you do have to use it on a plane, I’d say wait until you can get into the bathroom. This will help to avoid accidentally triggering a reaction in the people around you. You can also use solid cologne, which avoids the issue of air particles flying around and disrupting people around you.
Frequently Asked Questions
I hope this has helped to answer some of your questions about bringing cologne on a plane. Here are some other frequently asked questions, too:
Answer: This depends on how long you’re going for. A 100ml bottle of cologne should last roughly a year. So for a couple of weeks, you’ll need a tiny amount of that.
If you’re using sample-sized bottles to decant your cologne, I’d recommend taking 3 for a 2-week trip, which should be enough for each day without having to bring your full-sized bottle.
Answer: In my opinion, it’s better to keep expensive cologne in your hand luggage. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, you’re less likely to have to deal with an ‘exploding cologne bottle’ situation if you have your cologne with you and can keep an eye on it.
Baggage handlers have to work quickly and accidents can happen with checked luggage.
Secondly, there’s always a small risk associated with anything in your checked luggage. Bags get lost, and sometimes items can get stolen too. If your cologne is important to you, keep it with you in your checked luggage just in case.
Answer: Yes, you can. Cologne and perfume are cheaper duty-free, especially for larger bottles. It’s a good opportunity to replace your favorite if it’s running out!
A note on this: if you have connecting flights, don’t buy your duty-free cologne before the first flight. Instead, wait to buy it just before your last flight. You can carry duty-free items onto your first flight, but they’d have to be checked in again on your next flight, and any liquid over 100ml will be thrown out.
Answer: The same rules apply to any kind of liquid toiletries and cosmetics. Any kind of liquid needs to be brought onto the plane in your hand luggage in a 100ml or smaller bottle and has to be stored in a clear ziplock bag.
If you plan to bring mouthwash, sunscreen, and similar items, these count as liquids, and therefore the same rules apply.
To Sum Up…
I hope this has helped you to figure out the TSA’s rules around bringing cologne on a plain. As long as you keep in mind the rules around how much you can bring, you should be able to relax and enjoy your trip with no worries.
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