Sometimes people travel because they want to participate in some kind of sport in another destination. Anything from skiing in the Swiss Alps to surfing in Bali. Many sports enthusiasts have their own equipment and would prefer to travel with it instead of rent something when they arrive. But can you pack sports equipment in your carry-on?
Note: This post is written referencing TSA rules for travel from airports in the USA. Some countries may have different rules, so if you’re flying from an airport in another country, please look up the rules for the authority in that country.
Size of the sports equipment as carry-on
Quite often the size of the sports equipment will prevent you from being able to take it as carry-on. Airlines have restrictions for the size and weight of carry on luggage, which could easily prevent you from bringing certain sports equipment on a plane as cabin baggage.
For example, surf boards and skis greatly exceed the carry-on size limitations and will not be allowed as carry-on.
However, a travel-sized yoga mat should be fine in most cases.
Check with your airline for their specific rules regarding sports equipment as carry on or checked luggage. Airline rules could be more strict than TSA’s rules to avoid complications at the airport.
Safety issues with sports equipment as carry-on
Many pieces of sports equipment can double as weapons. For this reason, TSA and other countries’ security organizations will not allow you to take certain sports equipment as carry-on.
Some examples include baseball or cricket bats, ski poles, hockey sticks, golf clubs, pool cues, any kind of sporting or hunting knives, bows and arrows, and martial arts devices.
Again, you will need to put these in your checked luggage according to the airline’s rules.
>>Read also: Can you bring a lighter on a plane?
Specific Equipment Types
If you must have your sports equipment with you as carry-on, check with your airline directly. In general though, as long as the equipment is not a security risk and fits within the size limit of the airline, it can be taken as carry-on.
Balls in carry-on
Most balls, such as baseballs, soccer balls, and basketballs, are permitted in carry-on luggage. Make sure they are secured in your bag so they don’t roll around and get lost.
Balls that you inflate, like soccer balls, basketballs, footballs, etc., should also be deflated in order to take them in your carry-on luggage.
This is because of the pressure changes while in flight. A fully inflated ball at sea level could burst in the plane due to the pressure, so let the air out before you even check in for your flight.
The chance is low, and some airlines might not even require you to do it. But it’s better to use caution, especially since lower quality balls have a higher chance of bursting.
Skates in carry-on
Ice skates, roller skates, and roller blades are generally allowed in your carry-on luggage. You probably shouldn’t wear your skates on the plane though.
Tennis rackets in carry-on
Tennis rackets are permitted as far as TSA is concerned. However you should check with the airline you’re flying to make sure you know how their carry-on size limitations affect your decision to bring a tennis racket.
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Motorcycle Helmets in carry-on
As always, check with your specific airline, but most will allow them as long as they fit the size restrictions.
FAQs about bringing sports equipment on a plane
Here are some frequently asked questions about taking sports equipment on an airplane.
Do you have to deflate a ball when flying?
I can’t find anywhere on the TSA website that specifically says you must deflate a ball, such as a football, basketball, soccer ball, or volleyball. But airlines themselves can require you to deflate the ball for either carry on or checked luggage.
It’s best to contact the airline ahead of time to ask. But even better, the safest option is to travel with a deflated ball no matter where you’re packing it.
This is because the atmospheric pressure is different at 30,000 feet than it is at sea level. Even though the cabin is pressurized, you do go through a lot of pressure changes as the plane ascends and descends.
This is why a water bottle can sometimes spray at you when you open it. A ball can have a similar reaction, and lower quality balls are more likely to explode.
So even though chances are low, those chances do still exist. It’s best take a deflated ball on a plane.
Can you bring a basketball on a plane?
Yes, basketballs are allowed on a plane in both carry on and checked baggage.
Can you take a football on a plane?
You can bring a football on a plane in either cabin bags or checked luggage.
Can you take a soccer ball on a plane?
Yes soccer balls are allowed in both carry on and checked luggage. Like with other inflatable balls, it is recommended that you deflate them before flying.
Can you take a volleyball on a plane?
Volleyballs are allowed on a plane, and you can pack them in either carry bags or checked bags.
Can you bring a baseball on a plane?
Baseballs are permitted on a plane, and you can pack them in either checked baggage or cabin baggage.
Can you bring tennis balls on a plane?
Tennis balls are permitted on a plane in both carry on bags and checked luggage.
Can you bring a ball pump on a plane?
While the TSA website doesn’t say anything specific about ball pumps, they do allow bicycle pumps, which are similar, in both carry on and checked bags. Small plastic pumps are better than metal ones, but either way they could require closer screening.
If you’re traveling with a battery operated pump, make sure you look at what type of batteries your pump uses. There are different rules for taking batteries on a plane depending on the type of batteries.
Can you take boxing gloves on a plane?
Yes, boxing gloves are allowed in both carry on and checked baggage. Please don’t use them while in flight.
Can you bring a helmet on a plane?
Helmets, such as baseball helmets, football helmets, or motorcycle helmets can be taken on a plane.
Can you bring a yoga mat as carry on?
Yes, yoga mats are allowed as carry on or in checked bags. Just make sure it fits within the airline’s carry on size restrictions.
Can you take hiking poles or walking poles on a plane?
Unfortunately hiking poles and walking poles are not allowed on a plane as carry on. I’ve heard of people using non-spikey ones and claiming they are a mobility device, therefore being allowed to take them into the cabin.
However, the TSA website simply says no. I wouldn’t take a chance on bringing hiking poles in carry on, but you are permitted to pack them in checked bags.
Can you take hockey sticks on a plane?
Hockey sticks are seen as a weapon, and TSA will confiscate them if you try to bring them as carry on. You are allowed to bring hockey sticks on a plane in checked baggage though.
Can you bring lacrosse sticks on a plane?
Just like hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks are considered a weapon by TSA, so they are not permitted as carry on. But you can take lacrosse sticks on an airplane in checked luggage.
Can you bring golf clubs on a plane?
Golfing vacations are very popular with some people, but you will have to pack your golf clubs in checked baggage. They are not permitted as carry on baggage on a plane.
Can you bring pool cues on a plane?
Pool cues are not permitted in carry on bags, but you can take a pool cue on a plane when packed in checked luggage.
Can you take ski poles on a plane?
You can’t take ski poles on a plane in carry on baggage, but they are permitted in checked bags.
Can you take snow spikes on a plane?
Snow spikes, shoe spikes, and snow cleats are all prohibited in carry on bags. But if you want to travel with these, you are allowed to pack them in checked baggage.
Can you take a skateboard on a plane?
Skateboards are permitted on an airplane in both cabin baggage and checked baggage. However, your airline’s carry on size and weight restrictions could prevent you from taking it as carry on, so they might require you to put your skateboard in checked bags.
Can you take a snowboard on a plane?
Snowboards are allowed on a plane in both carry on and checked bags. However, you should look at your airline’s carry on size and weight restrictions, and they might require you to check it.
Can you bring a bowling ball on a plane?
Bowling balls are allowed on an airplane in both carry on and checked baggage. But since they can be heavy, be careful to not exceed the airline’s weight limit.
Can you bring a bowling pin on a plane?
Bowling pins can be considered a weapon, similar to bats. This means that they are not allowed in carry on bags, but you can pack a bowling pin in checked luggage.
Can you bring a baseball bat on a plane?
Bats can be used as a weapon, so baseball bats are prohibited in cabin bags. However, you are allowed to take them on a plane in checked luggage.
Can you take a cricket bat on a plane?
Just like with baseball bats, cricket bats are considered a weapon, so they’re not permitted in carry on luggage. Either pack them in checked bags or leave them at home.
Can you take a pickleball paddle on a plane?
The TSA website doesn’t specifically address this piece of sports equipment. But their Twitter account has said in the past that you can take a pickleball paddle on a plane in both carry on and checked baggage.
However, several people replied stating that TSA agents confiscated their pickleball paddles or required them to put them in checked bags. This is one of those things that is up to the agent’s discretion, so to be safe, I’d pack these paddles in checked bags or leave them at home.
Can you bring cleats on a plane?
This depends on the type of cleats. If they have spikes, like snow cleats, they are allowed in checked bags but not carry on bags.
But if they don’t have spikes, like soccer cleats, you can pack them in either carry on or checked luggage.
Can you bring a Magic 8 Ball on a plane?
Proving that at least one person at TSA has a sense of humor, I quite enjoyed this entry on their website.
If you can’t pack sports equipment in your carry-on bag, you might want to consider renting what you need at your destination, or decide if you’re willing to risk potential damage to your equipment or having the airline lose it if you have to check it.
Read here for more info on packing:
- What NOT to Pack in Your Carry-On Bag
- Packing Light With Checked Luggage
- How to Pick the Best Carry-On Luggage
- Non-Liquid Options for Carry-On Travel