Electronics and more: What to pack and what to carry
If you haven't flown in a while, it's easy to forget what you can and can't pack. One item many leisure travelers get confused about is the laptop. Do you check it, or can you bring it on the plane? If you do bring it on board with you, is it considered a carry-on? And then there's the question of laptop batteries. TSA regulations and your airline's policies will provide the answers to these questions.
Can you take your laptop on a plane?
Yes, you can take your laptop on a plane. You can check it or you can carry it on. Carrying it with you is recommended – baggage handlers aren't known for their delicacy when slinging luggage between the tarmac and the terminal. Also, your device is more prone to hacking and other security issues when it's not in your possession.
Is a laptop considered a carry-on bag?
Whether something is considered a carry-on bag is up to your airline, not the TSA. In general, most airlines don't count a laptop as a carry-on since it's considered a personal item like a purse. It can be packed inside a carry-on, but the TSA does require you to remove the laptop at the security checkpoint to run it through the x-ray machine. If you do pack your laptop inside your carry-on, make sure it's easily accessible because you'll have to remove it from its carrying case and place it in a separate bin.
Is it against regulations to pack my laptop battery on its own?
That depends on if you're checking it or carrying it into the cabin with you. You can carry a standard lithium ion laptop computer battery (up to 100 watt hours) with you onto a plane, but it's against TSA regulations to check an extra or spare battery in your luggage. It should be in a protective case with its terminals taped so the battery doesn't short circuit should it come into contact with metallic objects such as keys and coins.
Want to avoid having to remove your laptop?
If you're a frequent flier, consider joining TSA Precheck for a quicker, easier checkpoint experience. Precheck members are screened through their own line and don't have to remove their shoes, laptop, 3-1-1 liquids bag, belts or light jackets. It costs $85 every five years, and you must go through a ten-minute, in-person background check at a TSA office after applying online. After that, you and your laptop will be breezing through security in much quicker fashion.
A wrench in the works
On March 21, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced a ban on all carry-on personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone for U.S. flights originating from certain Middle Eastern countries. This restriction applies only to inbound international flights from certain airports in the Middle East and does not impact domestic travel or outgoing flights from the U.S. You need to worry about this only if you're traveling into the U.S. from one of the ten airports listed by the DHS.