One of the most enticing aspects of motorcycle riding is rolling through new sceneries, breathing fresh air.
As a traveling motorcycle writer, I tend to meander. There’s been more than a few occasions where I’ve had to stash my bike, fly to where I need to be, and come back to my motorcycle later.
Even if you’re not a weird, wondering writer, flying is a part of moto-touring for countless cross-country bikers.
Whether buying or renting a new bike or picking up or dropping off your motorcycle, you’ll eventually have to ask yourself whether a motorcycle helmet can serve as carry-on hand luggage. We answer this question comprehensively in this article.
Can I take My Motorcycle Helmet on an Airplane as Carry-on Hand Luggage?
If you put your motorcycle helmet in a bag that fits carry-on specifications, you can take it on an airplane as carry-on luggage. The “helmet-bag” that comes with most helmets works in most situations, but a small duffel bag is frequently recommended.
Can I Bring It on Domestic Flights in the U.S.?
You can bring your motorcycle helmet on most U.S. domestic flights if it’s in a bag that meets airline carry-on specifications. Riders have reported taking unbagged helmets onto planes as hand luggage, but it isn’t guaranteed.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has rigid rules regarding wearing anything that could be considered armor on an airplane. However, in most cases, it seems airlines understand that planning a bike trip takes a lot of coordination and that sometimes you’ll need to jet-hop to and from your bike along the way.
Some of my trips have taken me to one city for over a month, while other times I’m in a new town or middle-of-nowhere campsite every night for three months.
The details of how you travel dictate how you pack. For example, you should take care to bring luggage that checks in and stays safe at the airport and straps to your bike or fit in your saddlebags with ease.
If you ride fully padded, take the pads out of your gear and bag them up, and you can wear the padless riding clothes onto the plane without raising an eyebrow.
But your most expensive and personal piece of riding gear, your helmet?
You probably don’t want to throw it in your travel bag and check it; you might not have space, and I’ve heard some accounts about airline employees treating checked-in helmets with reckless force.
Here’s the good news:
Slip your helmet into a small backpack or a duffel bag, and you can carry your cranium curator onto the plane with you as carry-on-hand luggage.
What About International Flights?
Motorcycle helmets can be considered carry-on hand luggage on many international flights if kept in a small backpack, helmet bag, or a small duffel bag. However, you’ll need to check with the specific guidelines of the airports and airlines involved in your travel.
Some of the best ridings in the world are in places outside of the U.S. When writing this article, I wish I could say that I’ve ridden outside of the country. But, unfortunately, I haven’t, so I had to ask around on this one.
It turns out I know someone who’s flown into South Asia with a helmet and rented a bike when they got there.
They said it’s best to speak to a representative for the specific airline you’re traveling on, though; they’ve heard stories of mixed reactions towards particular riding gear.
That said, some gear contains metal protective pads, and I can see how some airlines might consider this to be “armor.”
How to pack a helmet:
- Use a small duffel bag, soft enough to roll it up and strap it to your pack when it’s empty, and you’re back in the moto-saddle.
- Take all your pads out of your riding gear. If your gear uses metal pads, contact TSA and a representative ahead of time to make sure they’ll let you bring them onto the plane.
- Fit as many of the protective pads into the helmet as you can.
- Wrap your duffel bag with your empty riding jacket.
- Pack your helmet in the center of the duffel bag.
- Wrap your t-shirts around any pads that wouldn’t fit into your helmet.
- A complete, rigid bag best protects your helmet, so throw in your socks and undies (all preferably clean). I’ve heard of some people using cardboard too, but I’ve never tried it.
- Once you’ve stuffed it so your helmet is nice and snug, zip it up and take it on the plane.
Note: Every airport is different. Besides staying informed about international airline policy, it’s crucial to investigate the specific security policies of the airports in which you’ll be boarding, departing, or laying over.
You may, unfortunately, find that one airport will let you bring it on the plane without a duffel bag, while another will make you check it in if it’s not stored correctly.
Can You Wear a Motorcycle Helmet on a Plane?
There are cases where riders have been allowed onto airplanes with their helmets on. Wear it at your own risk, though. TSA’s rules aren’t always published, and decisions like the one in question are often left up to the discretion of the security screener.
Someone told me they watched a family get denied at the TSA checkpoint because their teenage son was wearing his football uniform. The screener deemed the helmet as a piece of armor, and they forced the family out of line and back to the baggage check.
I have had some bad experiences with checking my prized possessions at the airport.
I wouldn’t suggest wearing the helmet; while they might let you on, if the particular screener at your gate decides to classify your helmet as armor, you either leave your helmet behind or check it as is, without a bag.
If you want to carry your helmet onto an airplane, the best thing is to correspond with that particular airport ahead of time. Save the email response and bring it with you to let the screeners know your helmet has been pre-approved for carry-on hand luggage.
We suggest keeping it in a small duffel bag, bowling bag, or the helmet bag it came in.
Even though we’ve seen it done, we don’t suggest harboring the expectation of wearing your helmet on a flight.
Having to check your helmet creates a turbulent traveling situation for some folks, we’re aware, but there are some helpful ways to travel with your motorcycle gear.
Instead of focusing on the fact that you can’t wear your helmet on the plane, let’s look at ways to compensate for that helmet hand luggage space by wearing some of your other gear.
You’ve still got your boots, gloves, jacket, and pants to worry about.
Why not wear your riding boots and riding jacket? Planes stay pretty cold anyway.
As we mentioned in the helmet packing guide earlier, you can take the pads out of your riding gear and pack them with your helmet as hand luggage. Then, you can wear your riding pants and gloves without risking the TSA screener considering them pieces of armor.
Most riding pants are more comfortable than regular pants, anyway.
What Is the Best Way to Bring a Motorcycle Helmet on a Flight?
Packing your helmet into a helmet bag or small duffel bag and carrying it on as hand luggage is the most secure way to bring a motorcycle helmet onto a flight.
If you’re on your way to pick up your motorcycle, you should be packing light, anyway. All you should have is your travel pack and riding gear, as your tools and camping gear can stay in storage with your motorcycle.
After doing it a few times, most moto-travelers become masters of packing light. So, you check your road bag, pull your pads out of your riding pants and jacket, wear them, and throw your helmet, gear pads, and maybe even your gloves into a small hand luggage bag.
In fact, if I have the option, I try to treat both packs as carry-on items, so I’m not chasing my road bag through the luggage carousel.
You will have to check your road bag; most airlines allow helmets as a carry-on if it’s in a small handbag.
The TSA has established helmets are suitable as both carry-on and checked bags, so you should be able to take them anywhere. Remember, though, TSA screeners have the final discretion, and an agent may contest your right to fly with your helmet.
If a TSA agent feels that your particular helmet is unsafe, destructive, or has the potential to be used maliciously, they can always make you ditch it.
Consider any accessories you added to your helmet that may be deemed dangerous. Also, think about any damage or blemishes on your helmet that makes it sharp or textured in a way that might make a TSA suit shake their head.
As we mentioned earlier, U.S. flights are pretty straightforward, but international flights have the potential to get a little complicated.
Once abroad, different airports and airlines start to handle things a little differently. The best way around helmet-culture-shock is to contact a representative of the airport you plan on dealing with ahead of time and try to get written permission to bring your helmet in a bag as hand luggage or even as a personal item.
If it’s a carry-on, remember that whatever bag you’re packing has to fit into the overhead compartment.
Also, pay attention to your makeshift helmet bag’s dimensions and cross them with the airline’s protocol; the hand luggage regulations differ from airline to airline.
TSA can be strict, and I’m here to condemn nor condone their regulations. I think at the end of the day, though, if \you’re not a threat to yourself or others, the airlines want you on the plane, if for no other reason because it’s their customers who keep them in the air. And moto-heads like to travel.
TSA’s official statement is that helmets are ok to travel with. We just want to reiterate the policy that allows their agents final say so that you’re not surprised if a TSA screener, or a nosey airline passenger for that matter, raises their eyebrows at your helmet hand luggage.
Just be respectful, and explain your situation, and that as far as you know, TSA has posted helmets as a suitable item to carry on a plane as hand luggage.