I am moving from the US to India with a layover in Dubai (Emirates). I have an Indian passport.

I was wondering if there would be any issues in checking in a cardboard moving box. The box would potentially contain bedding material, pots and pans, clothes and souvenirs collected from my time in the US.

I'm fine with TSA opening up the box but I'm wondering what they would do with regards to resealing it. Should I plastic wrap it prior to going to the airport or should I use the airport plastic wrap service (Houston IAH)?

This is the first time I'd be doing something like this so any help would be appreciated.


3 Answers 3


I carried cardboard boxes like these a few times to Ghana in Africa involving a layover (like in your case) and plane change at JFK.

I sealed the boxes myself using tape. I never used the airport wrapping service. Out of about six to eight trips I made with one or two boxes each, two or three boxes of the total ten came somewhat apart. TSA does open some (I don't remeber if all) and did a poor job of taping together some of them. Add in the rough handling by baggage handlers and it can spell disaster and losses.

A wrapped suitcase might make a baggage handler think twice before rifling through your luggage. However, it won't stop the Transportation Security Administration from opening your bag if needed.

I believe in retrospect the airport shrink wrap service would have been better because even if TSA tore open the top, the boxes would have been better able to maintain their integrity because of the shrinkwrap.

So in conclusion definitely seal it, either yourself or at IAH despite knowing TSA will open them and do some resealing themselves. If you're sending quite a few boxes, you can buy the large industrial shrinkwrap yourself for $20 and shrink wrap yourself if you want to save the $10 to $15 per bag.


American moving boxes are far too weak and I would not expect them to survive a checked baggage adventure. Perhaps they make them out of tougher stiff there (they certainly don't in China, if that's any help). But a moving box is only intended to go from house to truck and from truck to house.

I would use a box intended for shipping. And make sure the weight is appropriate for the structure of the box, do not assume handlers will be gentle with it because they really, really won't. And then, I would seriously price just actually shipping it. That is my favorite trick when I fly (mind you that is within my customs area, no customs/duties/taxes): ship my stuff then board with only a carry-on. Plane lands, door opens, I'm out of the airport just like that. No staring at the belt for a half hour. Also don't need to own luggage lol.

The difference is, shipping such as FedEx is loaded into modular containers for each of their flights, and never thrown around roughly. Aircraft luggage is break-bulk loaded piece by piece by muscle power in many aircraft (not least, because if they eject someone from the plane, they must eject their luggage too; so they must be able to get to it without unloading all the containers).


You have to check with your airline. American Airlines, for instance, has seasonal baggage limitations and does not check boxes on some flights.

  • 1
    I did not know that. My feeling is you would be OK on international flights - but I may be wrong. I was amazed to learn recently that some (most?) US airlines won't take animals in the hot months (probably a good idea), so, there may be something similar.
    – Fattie
    Jun 18, 2017 at 2:05

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