Many flight travelers choose cardboard boxes to carry their items than a suitcase. Sometimes it’s to reduce cost and sometimes it’s because the item not fit any suitcase. I’ve heard many travelers have this question. And people have their mixed responses. So, after doing some research, I’ve found out the best way you can travel on air with cardboard boxes.
Can I Carry Cardboard Boxes on an Airplane? Yes! As long as the boxes meet the size and weight requirements, you can carry cardboard boxes as check-in luggage.
Cardboard boxes are common to use in American carriers. So, long as it’s sturdy, you are good to go. But you have ensured that the cardboard box would make it well and good on the trip because your box isn’t the only luggage flying. To make it sturdy, we suggest you shrink-wrap it. However, you also have to keep in mind that it will inspect and you need to unpack the box, so it’s wise to carry some extra duct tapes with yours.
Also, don’t forget to mark a ‘fragile’ sticker if you are carrying such items. Plus, fill up the box with packing peanuts. However, there’s more to just carrying your items in a cardboard box; you have to know how to pack it, what are its dangers if it is a viable option, etc.
Are Cardboard Boxes Better than Suitcase?
Suitcases are chunky, heavy and come only in a fixed shape. If you wish to fly carrying a lot of your stuff, you will have to buy a lot of suitcases, making your luggage heavier than allowed and you have a pay a hefty price for that. Do you know that the largest 23 airlines in the USA earn around $5 billion only in baggage fees!
For any international flight, the most standard baggage allowance is a maximum weight of 50.71 lbs and a maximum size of 62.2 inches. If you are planning to carry the suitcase, you should be aware of the fact that a large suitcase alone weighs around 15 lbs when empty. For a smaller one, it’s around 7 lbs. Now consider its weight when you fill it up will all your items!
Moreover, if you are carrying something unique, like an antique piece, it would fit in your general suitcase, even though it is within the maximum baggage size limit. Now, to overcome this problem a simple solution will be cardboard boxes. It’s lighter and can carry any item with good packing.
Get a triple walled corrugated box, pack your stuff, use fillers and tape it up. All it takes some 30 minutes of your work and you are good to go. Plus, it’s cheap. You can get a big box for just $5, and the best part is you dispose of when the work is done. You don’t have to purchase multiple suitcases only for one trip.
The next thing to consider is that if cardboard boxes are allowed as check-in luggage for your airline. As far as I know, no airline refused to accept a cardboard box as long as it meets the weight and size demands.
However, it has some tradeoffs! You will get no wheels or handles with boxes. If the item is particularly heavy, you will have to flex some muscle to carry your box. Although, it will be easier once you reach the airport, as you can carry it on carts.
Then again, make sure it’s shield shut. Cardboard boxes are good at picking up moisture and don’t in a moist or humid climate. This is where you should take good notice on how you pack your boxes. Bubble wraps, shrink wrap or the good old packaging tape will help you make it watertight.
If all goes well, you will find that your packaged item is shorter and lighter than the suitcase you are carrying. If you go for a suitcase shopping, you will find some extra large models which would not even meet the free airline requirement.
Plus, they carry extra weight with the wheels, handles and extra paddings. And you have a good eye; you will notice almost all suitcases are curved or have rounded edges. If you do the math, a suitcase will weigh around 7 kg including all zippers, wheels, handles and other stuff which you can’t take off.
The price is around $80 for 38L capacity, some costing even more. Whereas for cardboard, you pay only under $10 and will probably cost you under $15 considering the wrapping, tapes, fillers, etc. If boxes don’t seem safe, note the fact that most cheaper suitcases are not sturdy and may even break or rip.
Problems of Carrying items in Cardboard boxes
Corrugated cardboard boxes have become a common choice to carry luggage. It’s cheap, it’s lightweight and can hold up to heavy items considering its construction. But, a corrugated box is not always the best option. You should be aware of these inherent problems with these boxes that make them off-putting.
When bought new out of the mall, the boxes look great with its tan, brown color. But, when you pack an irregular item like a craft, such as a vase, or a sculpture, you have to pack it likewise, which gives a messy appearance to your box. The wavy structure also called the flute that is present between two layers of paper to bring strength to the cardboard but is also the reason they easily get wrinkled. Practically you will find a few boxes that hold up their original appearance, but mostly they give an untidy appearance.
Considering its weight and material that is used to make, corrugated cardboard boxes are significantly strong. But, they are not for all products; if you are carrying something heavy, you should consider something sturdy like a rigid box. The wavy flute paper structure is the only that that’s keeping the box together and most of the mass of the box is just air. So, considering the fact that it will be carried with other heavy luggage in the flight and you don’t know where will the crew stack your box, there is always a danger of your box getting damaged. It can easily crumple and can affect the item inside.
Being basically paper, it’s vulnerable to moisture. If it’s a rainy day, your box may get wet while loading or unloading the luggage. It will soften the paper and make it into a pulp, affecting both the holding capacity of the box as well as the item inside. To avoid this, consider shrink-wrapping the box.
Corrugated boxes hold well in their original shape. If you want to cut the sheet to make a custom package for your item, it will leave the material untidy. A little pressure while cutting will crush the flute making it soft; on the other hand, if you are going to wrap the items with corrugated cardboard, the curves will simply make it look untidy and mushy. If you fold the cardboard, the corrugated structure will bend and curve in unintended ways.
How to pack or wrap cardboard boxes?
When packing your items, especially in corrugated cardboard boxes, you have to treat all your items as fragile. When you are traveling on air, you don’t know how your boxes will be handled and where they will be stacked. It has to withstand, bumps, shocks, vibrations, and crew handling. Need to consider an efficient way to pack your items so that both the box and the items inside it last the whole trip.
You have to give extra thought when it’s a fragile item. Your box could be dropped or banged and who knows what. So your packing needs extras cushioning to withstand these shocks and vibration. Many people, use towels and old clothes to act as fillers but, that’s not the best solution.
Here are a few things to consider for cushioning material
The cushioning material should hold its shape under pressure when placed under a heavier item. If it compresses and doesn’t get back to its original shape, it’s not a good cushioning item. It should be able to bounce back even after several bumps and not compress, leaving no cushioning for a second bump. Furthermore, you have to consider its ability to withstand air pressure, temperature, and humidity, especially in the airplane luggage where there is no climate control.
Here are some best cushioning material used for packing the item in cardboard boxes:
If you order stuff online, chances are you have seen what an inflated bubble looks like. The bubble wraps are cheap but provides a great value and gives better cushioning around the item.
These are best when you are carrying electrical equipment. You don’t even have to buy it as most electronic products you come with their own set of structured polystyrene foam along with a box.
Most loose fills are made of polystyrene or biodegradable material which simply fills up the void in the box. They provide an ideal cushioning solution for all types of items and packaging and are also good at taking pressure and shocks.
If you leave in a hurry and you have to make do some cushioning for your items, they crunched or wrapped are good options. Your good old newspaper would do, but it’s better if you use heavy paper or kraft.
Shrink-Wrap Your Cardboard Boxes
What to be definite your luggage is safe? Shrink-wrap it! Why do you ask?
You can’t around asking each baggage handler to work gently on your luggage. You can’t select a spot for your luggage on the airplane, and you can’t control the weather. So, if you want to be sure, your luggage items are well, you should consider shrink-wrapping all your cardboard boxes. A thick layer of shrink wrap will prevent moisture, water, and other elements away plus; it will protect your box from scratches, splits, rough luggage moves, etc. For oddly shaped items, it’s a must-have.
More often checked luggage spend some time in the apron where your luggage is vulnerable to elements. It will affect either during loading or unloading or both. Here shrink-wrap would save the day. The additional polythene layer will prevent your items from a downpour or snow or just moisture and dust.
Bundle multiple boxes
If you are carrying more than one box, wouldn’t you prefer for your boxes to stay together? A better way would be to line up your boxes and shrink-wrap all of it into one. This would enable you to easily carry your luggage as well as have peace of mind, none of your boxes gets lost.
Prevent luggage from opening
A tightly bound shrink wrap would prevent your luggage from accidentally opening, thereby preventing any loss of property. It’s not uncommon for an over-packed bag to burst out at the seam or just snap open. If you have a duffle bag, what if the zipper comes while traveling. Shrink-Wrap will make sure your luggage is intact, which is essential if you are traveling a long distance.
How to carry liquid in cardboard boxes?
Carrying liquid on an airplane is a risky game. Technically, you can, but you have to take caution. Before you even plan to pack your liquid items, check you the TSA to find out the list of liquids which are prohibited. Then again you have to check up with your destination state’s or country’s law to make sure if they will allow the liquid you are carrying. For example, if you are carrying wine, you will not be able to bring into some states in the USA due to liquor import regulations.
Furthermore, you have to have a contingency plan, if the liquid bottle break in the package. Remember shrink-wrap; here is another great reason why you should shrink-wrap your luggage boxes. If the liquid item is essential to you, you should check up if it’s available in your destination in case the liquid bottle breaks.
- Prevent leaks by wrapping the top of the bottle with duct tape.
- Put small liquid containers in a zipper-top plastic bag.
- Put this small zipper bag into a larger zipper-top plastic bag and squeeze out all air to prevent movement.
- If the container is breakable or fragile, wrap the whole thing in a bubble wrap.
- Place the liquid container in the middle surrounded by other items to prevent movement or spilling.
- You could also use a sealed plastic container to carry liquid bottles.
- For fillers use loose fillers or crumpled newspaper or used inflated wraps.
That said, you should expect inspections, after all, you are carrying liquid material. So, take additional duct tape or wraps, in case you have to repack after inspection.
Here are some cardboard box packaging best practices
- Use high-quality corrugated cardboard boxes and fill the object to minimize movement and damages from shock.
- Label your boxes for easy identification
- Place soft cushioning such as towels or old clothes on the floor of the box
- Clean your items and double check before storing
- Keep heavier items at the bottom and lighter or oddly shaped ones on the top
- Make sure you duct tape the box from all sides as well as attach one layer of duct tape around the edges
- Pack books, and files flat at the bottom of the box and use bubble wrap or fill the space with crumpled newspaper.
- Use proper cushioning such as bubble wrap or crumpled newspaper if you are carrying glassware or other fragile items. Moreover, label the box to be fragile.
No matter how well you pack your items, it all boils down to how the baggage handlers carry your luggage. Airline baggage is not handled delicately, even the boxes labeled with ‘Fragile’ are simply tossed over. The baggage handlers have to take care of a lot of luggage, and there’s very little time. Plus, not always the ‘Fragile’ label will notice. When it comes to luggage, you are your best hope. If you follow the tips above diligently, you should be able to receive your luggage in one piece.