Whether you’re traveling for business or going on vacation, technological devices are unavoidable nowadays, and that includes laptops.
It really is useful to be able to have your laptop with you from anywhere from Moscow to Manila, but it does come with a problem, too, and that problem is how you’re going to get it there.
With some airlines being pretty stingy with how much carry-on allowance they let you have, you might be considering putting your laptop in your checked luggage instead.
Here we’re going to be looking in detail at whether it’s possible to do this, and also some advice for doing it as safely as possible.
Where Is The Best Place For A Laptop When You Fly?
The ideal place for your laptop when you fly is in your carry-on bag. There are a few reasons for this.
First, if you keep it in your carry-on bag, you will have access to it at all times, which is an obvious plus if you want to use it while you’re in the air.
More importantly, it means that you have it under your supervision all the time. This is good for making sure that it doesn’t go missing, either accidentally or due to theft.
It’s not totally unknown for items from checked luggage to go missing in some places, and high-value items like laptops are prime targets for thieves.
Finally, it means that they’re less likely to be damaged.
You’ve probably seen airport baggage handlers throwing bags around, and it’s not unheard of for delicate items to be damaged as a result.
Can You Put A Laptop In Carry On Luggage?
In almost all cases, the answer is yes. Nearly all airlines will have no problem with you taking laptops (or other electronic devices) with you onto the plane.
However, some airlines might have certain restrictions about how you can use them during the flight, so be sure to check for those if you were intending to get some work done or watch some movies on your laptop during your journey.
It’s also possible that some airlines might have specific policies about where you can keep your laptop or other electronic devices, though this is quite uncommon.
One thing to consider is that your electronic devices will need to be scanned separately from the bag as a whole when you’re going through security.
For this reason, the TSA recommends packing laptops and other electronic devices in the top layer of your carry-on baggage so that it’s easy to remove for a smooth security check.
Otherwise, you might be making yourself – and everyone behind you – late.
What About Lithium-ion Batteries?
You might have heard about lithium-ion batteries and, more specifically, about restrictions on carrying them.
It’s important to understand these since almost all laptops and other consumer electronics use lithium-ion batteries.
While the exact regulations can vary by country, here is what the US Federal Aviation Authority has to say on the subject:
Devices containing lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) should be carried in carry-on baggage when possible.
When portable electronic devices powered by lithium batteries are in checked baggage, they must be completely powered off and protected to prevent unintentional activation or damage.
In electronic devices capable of generating extreme heat, heating elements must be isolated which could cause a fire if activated, by removal of the heating element, battery, or other components.
So, the gist of this is that it is better to keep your laptop in your carry-on luggage, but you are still allowed to put them in your checked luggage as long as they’re completely turned off (not just in sleep mode).
Also, there are often regulations preventing you from carrying individual batteries in your hold baggage (that is, batteries that are on their own, not in any specific device).
Unfortunately, this includes portable power packs that you might be using to keep your phone charged on the go.
Batteries that are damaged or defective in any other way may not be carried at all, either in checked or carry-on baggage.
Is Putting Your Laptop In Checked Baggage Safe?
So, you are actually allowed to put your laptop into your checked baggage if you really want or need to.
However, is it safe to do this? Honestly, it depends.
While there’s every chance your laptop will make it through its journey without you and come out without a scratch on the other side, these things can be a bit of a lottery. There are several risks to consider.
We’ve already mentioned that baggage handlers can sometimes be a bit rough with the bags – it’s not beyond the realm of the possibility that your laptop might be broken if it’s in a bag that gets thrown a little bit too hard.
There’s also a risk that your laptop might get stolen from your bag while it’s away from you.
This isn’t likely in most airports, but there are some where it’s a possibility you’ll need to consider.
Third, there’s always the risk of your bag going missing. It sometimes happens that if you’re transferring planes, then your bag might be put on the wrong flight.
You don’t want to arrive for your important business meeting in London to find that your bag and laptop have accidentally been put on a plane to Los Angeles instead.
It’s even possible that someone else will take your bag by mistake from the baggage carousel after the flight.
If you’ve ever experienced that sinking feeling of getting to your hotel room and then realizing you’ve got the wrong bag and that someone else has yours, you know what we’re talking about.
That journey all the way back to the airport is never fun, and is even less so if your laptop’s missing as a result.
Tips For Protecting Your Laptop In Checked Baggage
If your laptop does go missing, accidentally or otherwise, you could have more to worry about than just your missing PowerPoint slides.
Most of us keep all kinds of sensitive information on our laptops, from banking details to medical records. That’s why it’s a good idea to enable remote data deletion on your laptop before you let it out of your sight.
This will let you wipe the laptop of sensitive information if the worst should happen and you lose it.
When it comes to physically protect your laptop, the first thing to do is get a reliable laptop bag and keep it inside your suitcase.
To go beyond this, it’s also a good idea to wrap your laptop up in something to stop it from being damaged.
Bubble wrap is ideal for this, and you’ll probably want to use two or three layers for maximum protection. In a pinch, though, you can use some of your clothes in place of bubble wrap.
Using a foam pad on each other corners of the laptop will go even further to making sure that it doesn’t suffer any damage.
You should also use an organizer to keep all your power cables and other cords organized – it’ll be worth it when you open your bag up when you land and find well-organized cables there.
Last, but not least, remember to turn your laptop off before you put it in checked baggage, rather than just leaving it in sleep mode.
Not only is this an FAA regulation, but it also means you’ll save power.
The take-home message here is that in most cases, you can either put your laptop in your carry-on or checked luggage.
However, most authorities advise that keeping it in your carry-on baggage is better and safer.
If you do want to put it in your checked baggage, there are several safety tips you can follow to minimize the risk of damage or loss, though these can’t be eliminated completely.
If you follow the advice in the article, your trip is likely to be free of trouble.
However, you choose to transport your laptop, have a good trip, and may your laptop stay safe!