For many travelers, having their laptop with them is essential whether they are flying for business or pleasure. But rules around electronics in checked luggage vs carry-ons can be confusing. Can you check your laptop when flying or does it have to be a carry-on item?

What steps should you take to protect your device?

The quick answer is yes, you can check your laptop in its own case when flying domestically or internationally. However, checking such a valuable electronic comes with risks. Carrying on your laptop is highly recommended as the safest option, but is not always possible.

Read on for a full guide on regulations, precautions, and policies for checking a laptop on flights.

TSA Regulations on Checking Laptops

Laptops are allowed in checked bags on all airlines

If you are wondering whether you can check your laptop when flying, the answer is yes. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows passengers to pack their laptops in their checked bags on all airlines.

This means that you don’t have to worry about carrying your laptop with you in the cabin if you prefer to have it safely stowed away during the flight.

Must be completely powered off when checked

It’s important to note that when checking your laptop, it must be completely powered off. This means that you should shut it down before packing it in your checked luggage. The TSA requires laptops to be turned off to ensure safety during the screening process.

TSA may open bags with laptops for screening

While laptops are allowed in checked bags, it’s worth mentioning that the TSA may open bags containing laptops for additional screening. This is a security measure to ensure that the laptop does not pose a threat.

If your bag is selected for inspection, the TSA will open it, screen the laptop, and then place it back in your luggage before it is loaded onto the plane.

International flights have additional tech restrictions

For international flights, there may be additional restrictions on electronic devices, including laptops. It is advisable to check with the airline or the country’s specific regulations before traveling.

For example, some countries may require laptops to be carried in the cabin rather than checked due to security concerns.

For more information on TSA regulations and travel guidelines, you can visit the official TSA website at

Precautions for Checking a Laptop

– Use a padded laptop case for protection

When traveling with your laptop and planning to check it in, it is essential to use a padded laptop case for added protection. The padded case will help cushion your laptop from any bumps or impacts during the handling process.

It is also recommended to choose a case that is specifically designed for laptops as it will provide a snug fit and better protection.

– Back up data in case laptop is lost/damaged

One of the most important precautions to take before checking your laptop is to back up all your data. In the unfortunate event that your laptop gets lost or damaged during transit, having a backup will ensure that you don’t lose any important files or documents.

You can back up your data on an external hard drive, cloud storage, or even on a separate laptop or computer.

– Remove battery if possible to prevent fire

If your laptop allows for easy removal of the battery, it is advisable to take it out before checking your laptop. This precaution is particularly important as it helps minimize the risk of a fire hazard. While rare, lithium-ion batteries have been known to malfunction and cause fires.

By removing the battery, you eliminate this potential risk.

– Insure expensive laptops

If you have an expensive laptop, it may be worth considering insuring it before checking it in. Laptop insurance can provide coverage for loss, theft, or damage during transit. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to valuable electronics.

Check with your insurance provider to see if they offer laptop insurance options.

– Use TSA-approved locks on case

To secure your laptop case and prevent unauthorized access, it is recommended to use TSA-approved locks. These locks are specifically designed to be recognized by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

If your bag needs to be inspected, the TSA officials can open the lock using a master key, avoiding any damage to your case. TSA-approved locks provide an added layer of security and peace of mind when traveling with your laptop.

Remember, while these precautions can help minimize the risks associated with checking your laptop, it is always advisable to carry your laptop as a carry-on whenever possible. This way, you can keep it with you at all times and ensure its safety during air travel.

Best Practices for Checking a Laptop

– Place laptop case in center of suitcase

When checking your laptop, it is important to ensure that it is protected from any potential damage during the flight. One best practice is to place your laptop case in the center of your suitcase. This will provide a buffer zone between your laptop and the edges of the suitcase, reducing the risk of it getting bumped or crushed during handling.

– Surround with soft materials for cushioning

To further protect your laptop, surround it with soft materials such as clothing or towels. This will provide an extra layer of cushioning to absorb any shocks or impacts that may occur during transportation.

By taking this simple step, you can greatly minimize the risk of your laptop getting damaged.

– Put fragile stickers/notes on outside of bags

A great way to alert baggage handlers to the fragile nature of your laptop is to attach fragile stickers or write a note indicating its delicate contents. This will serve as a reminder for them to handle your luggage with care.

While it is not a foolproof method, it can certainly help draw attention to the importance of handling your laptop gently.

– Have ID tags on laptop case and checked bag

It is always a good idea to have identification tags on both your laptop case and your checked bag. In the event that your luggage is misplaced or lost, having your contact information readily available can greatly increase the chances of it being returned to you.

Make sure to include your name, phone number, and email address on these tags.

– Know airline liability policies if damaged

Before checking your laptop, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the airline’s liability policies regarding damaged or lost baggage. Each airline may have different rules and limitations, so it is important to know what to expect in case your laptop does get damaged during transit.

Being aware of these policies can help you navigate the process of filing a claim and seeking compensation if necessary.

Remember, while checking your laptop may be convenient, it is always recommended to carry it with you in your carry-on baggage whenever possible. This ensures that you have direct control over its safety and reduces the risk of any potential damage during the flight.

What to Do if Your Laptop is Damaged

Having your laptop damaged during a flight can be a frustrating experience. However, there are steps you can take to address the issue and potentially seek compensation for the damage. Here are some important actions to consider:

– File a damage claim immediately

As soon as you notice that your laptop has been damaged, it is crucial to file a damage claim with the airline. Most airlines have specific procedures in place for reporting damage, so make sure to follow their guidelines.

It is recommended to report the damage as soon as possible to increase the chances of a successful claim.

– Take photos to document damage

Before attempting to repair or replace your laptop, it is essential to document the damage. Take clear photos of the affected areas, including any visible scratches, dents, or broken components. These photos will serve as evidence when you file your claim and can help support your case.

– Get repair cost estimates

Once you have documented the damage, reach out to authorized repair centers or laptop technicians to obtain repair cost estimates. This will give you an idea of the potential expenses you may face to restore your laptop to its previous condition.

Having these estimates will help you provide accurate information to the airline and strengthen your claim.

– Submit all paperwork to the airline ASAP

After collecting all the necessary documentation, including your damage claim, photos, and repair cost estimates, submit them to the airline as soon as possible. Ensure that you follow their specific procedure for submitting paperwork. Keep copies of all the documents for your records.

It’s important to note that airlines’ policies regarding damaged items may vary, so it’s worth checking their website or contacting their customer service for more information. By taking these proactive steps, you can increase your chances of receiving compensation for the damage to your laptop.

Alternatives to Checking Your Laptop

When it comes to traveling with your laptop, it’s understandable that you may have concerns about checking it in with your luggage. The thought of your precious device being mishandled or even lost can be worrisome.

Fortunately, there are several alternatives to checking your laptop that you can consider for a smoother and more secure travel experience.

– Carry on your laptop whenever possible

The best way to ensure the safety of your laptop is to carry it on with you whenever possible. Most airlines allow passengers to bring one personal item, such as a laptop bag, in addition to their carry-on luggage.

This means you can keep your laptop close to you throughout the entire journey, minimizing the risk of damage or loss. Remember to check the airline’s specific guidelines regarding carry-on size and weight restrictions.

– Ship via insured carrier ahead of flight

If carrying your laptop on the flight is not feasible for any reason, another option is to ship it to your destination via an insured carrier. This way, you can have peace of mind knowing that your laptop is being handled by professionals who specialize in shipping fragile items.

Be sure to choose a reputable carrier and opt for insurance coverage to protect your laptop in case of any unforeseen circumstances.

– Rent/borrow a laptop at your destination

In some cases, it may be more convenient to rent or borrow a laptop at your destination instead of carrying your own. This option is particularly useful if you’re traveling for a short period or if you don’t need your laptop for specific tasks.

Many hotels, co-working spaces, and even some airports offer laptop rental services, allowing you to stay connected without the hassle of carrying your own device.

Ultimately, the decision of how to transport your laptop when flying depends on your personal preferences and circumstances. It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each alternative and choose the one that suits you best.

Remember to always back up your data and take necessary precautions to protect your laptop, regardless of the method you choose.


Although permitted, checking your laptop comes with inherent risks of damage or loss. Take every precaution such as proper packing, backups, and insurance if you must check it. But the safest option is always carrying on your laptop whenever possible.

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