After the past few years of limited travel, the volume of people that traveled via commercial airlines rivaled pre-2019 levels.
And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably trying to fit everything into a carry-on bag to avoid those additional fees many airlines are charging these days as well as a guarantee to have my bag at the destination.
While doing all the pre-travel planning, something you may want to consider is bringing gear for personal protection. By traveling with only carry-on bags, you’re limited to what you can pass through security checkpoints.
A question we see asked more frequently now is ‘can you fly with body armor?’
In this blog, we’re talking body armor and the short answer is yes, you can travel with body armor!
However, there are some rules and regulations to keep in mind.
Why Would You Want To Fly With Body Armor
Flying with body armor is a personal decision you need to make. Here are a few points to consider when deciding whether or not to bring body armor with you as you travel.
- Peace of Mind – Will traveling with body armor give you a greater sense of protection and peace?
- Local Threats – Does your destination have a history of violence or crime? Do your homework ahead of time to get a feel for the threats local to where you’re going.
- Reason for traveling – Are you planning on spending time relaxing by the pool or on a beach? Or are you traveling for work as a war correspondent or other profession that is more likely to be working in a hostile environment?
- Your identity – are you a high-level CEO with publicly known political views or a diplomat conducting government business that may make you a higher profile target for terrorists or foreign nation agencies?
How you answer these questions can go a long way to deciding whether you should bring body armor with you when traveling.
Once you’ve decided to bring the body armor, you’re going to need to understand the rules and regulations of doing so.
4 Rules and Regulations To Know When Traveling With Body Armor
Generally, body armor is allowed in carry-on or checked bags. Please note however that even if an item is generally allowed, TSA and customs officers make the final decision on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.
For more information on what's allowed and prohibited, visit the TSA ‘what can I bring’ page.
Regulation #1 | Can I Wear Body Armor Inside an Airport?
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not allow you to wear body armor in the airport or on a plane. This applies to both domestic and international flights. While you cannot wear body armor, you can pack it in either your checked baggage or carry-on. So if you’re traveling with a ballistic vest, it must remain packed in your carry-on bag.
You cannot remove the soft armor from your carry-on or put on any type of vest or plate carrier before or after the security checkpoint. Additionally, it is completely up to the security officer as to whether they will allow it through or not.
Regulation #2 | Can I Carry Body Armor Through an Airport?
In general, you are allowed to bring the off-body carry types of body armor with you through the airport and onboard your flight. You just cannot wear it on your body.
Again, keep in mind that it is at the discretion of the security officer.
I have personally flown domestically and internationally with level 3a backpack inserts and have not experienced any issues. My carry-on bag was completely emptied at the customs checkpoint at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and nothing was said about the level 3a insert that I had packed.
Regulation #3 | Can I Bring Body Armor on International Flights?
Traveling to another country with body armor entails a vastly different set of rules and regulations. As stated above, you cannot wear body armor on any flight within the US and that includes outbound international flights. You can, however, carry it on or pack it in your checked luggage…with the right approval.
The rules and regulations that apply to international flights often depend on where the flight originates and ends. Some countries have different rules.
If you’re traveling to another country and plan on taking some type of body armor in your carry-on, check the rules and regulations of the destination country as well as any that you will be passing through along the way.
In the interests of national security, the U.S. administration employs a combination framework governing the transmission of personal protective equipment out of the country.
That framework is known as the Export Administration Regulations and International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
The Export Administration Regulations apply to outgoing military and non-military products and tech. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations has jurisdiction only over the transfer of defense-related commodities.
So, if you’re wanting to take your body armor to foreign countries, you may or may not require written authorization from either the Department of State or the Department of Commerce.
You can, however, export soft armor rated at level 2a, level 2, and level 3a without a license by registering a standing exemption.
If you plan on taking hard armor plates rated at level 3 or level 4, you’ll need prior approval from US Customs and Border Protection.
To be safe, it’s best to seek guidance from one of these entities, so that you’re not surprised when you arrive at the airport or destination country.
Regulation #4 | Can I Cross State Lines With Body Armor?
In the United States, you are allowed to carry or even wear body armor across state lines. Just be aware of the rules and regulations of those states.
Once you’ve made it to your destination, you may or may not be crossing state lines in a motor vehicle.
Most states follow federal regulations when it comes to crossing state lines, however only some states have the same rules and regulations when it comes to body armor within that state.
So, just like flying internationally, it is essential to know what you can and cannot do once you reach your destination.
READ NEXT - Is it Legal to Wear Body Armor in Public?