Curious about cardboard boxes as checked luggage? You’re in the right place then! This guide will tell you if it’s possible to check a cardboard box, as well as everything else you need to know about using boxes as luggage.
Read on to see if you can check a cardboard box as luggage, but also to get some tips on traveling with unconventional luggage!
Yes, you absolutely can. People who move overseas do it all the time, and the airlines really don’t care what you’re carrying your things in, as long as you follow their rules. In fact, this is a common occurrence in Asia – students and ex-pats ship cardboard boxes across the country all the time, and airline personnel is used to handling them gently. But it’s not that common in the rest of the world.
It’s important to know that whether you’re checking a suitcase, a cardboard box, or a garbage bag, the same rules apply. If your box exceeds the airline’s restrictions for checked luggage, you will need to pay an additional fee. It will depend on the airline, but there’s usually a fee for oversized luggage and a fee for overweight luggage.
The exact restrictions and fees depend on the airline, but in most cases, the maximum size of checked luggage is 62” linear. This is usually a 27” x 21” x 14” suitcase, and bigger bags are often subject to oversized baggage fees. In addition to that, most airlines will accept luggage that weighs up to 50 lbs – anything heavier than that and you’ll also need to pay an overweight baggage fee.
On the other hand, this also means that you can check as big a box you want, as long as you pay for it.
Sure you can check a cardboard box, but will it survive the trip? It’s unlikely. Baggage handlers are notorious for destroying hardside suitcases that cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars – do you really think a piece of cardboard has any chance against them?
The box won’t survive the trip but the items inside must. Don’t pack anything fragile or valuable in a cardboard box. Instead, use it for items that are bulky but not breakable. Clothes, pillows, towels, and anything else that won’t shatter into pieces if it lands on the wrong corner.
If you are considering transporting valuables in a cardboard box, I urge you not to. They won’t make it to the destination in one piece and you’ve been warned.
There are some things you can do to make that cardboard box a little sturdier. It’s unlikely you will be able to use it ever again, but it can help ensure that the box shows up in one piece on the luggage carousel.
Line the interior of the box with bubble wrap – this can significantly help protect the contents of the box from high impacts. This won’t guarantee anything, but it will increase the chances of your items surviving the trip.
You can wrap the box in plastic wrap. This helps make it a little sturdier, and it increases the impact resistance of the box. Also, if the baggage handlers are extra rough with it and the box ends up destroyed, the plastic wrap can help contain the items inside the box.
However, keep in mind that the TSA still reserves the right to open your checked luggage – even if it’s a box – and see what’s inside. If you want to wrap the exterior of the box with plastic, your best bet is to consult someone at the airport. Let them look inside the box and then wrap it, otherwise, you’re just wasting plastic wrap.
Additionally, some people like to double-line the walls of the box. Glue pieces of cardboard to the inside of the box to really enhance its durability. It’s still not a guarantee, but thicker walls mean better impact resistance and shock absorption.
Have you considered using a plastic box instead of a cardboard one? You can buy polycarbonate boxes with insane capacities that are a hundred times more durable than cardboard boxes.
Polycarbonate is the most popular material for hardshell luggage. It’s also the priciest and most durable type of plastic out there due to the flexibility that allows it to bend upon pressure. And you can get a high-capacity polycarbonate food box! Sure it’s a lot more expensive than a plain cardboard box, but it significantly reduces the chances of your belongings getting damaged in transport.
One thing worth noting is that you’ll need luggage straps or something similar to put on the box. This secures the lid and if you add TSA-friendly locks, your box is just as functional as a suitcase!
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.