wedding dress

Can I take my wedding dress as hand luggage?

Planning a destination wedding? Have you thought about how to transport your wedding dress safely for the big day? If you’re looking for tips on flying with your wedding dress, then look no further, as we’ve got all the information you need – no Bridezilla tantrums necessary.

First things first, think about your chosen destination wedding location. If you’ve selected a popular resort for destination weddings, there’s a chance you won’t be the only blushing soon-to-be bride on your flight. More than one bride means more than one colossal dress, so space is likely to be at a premium when you factor in baggage from every other holidaymaker on your chosen flight.

Your dress is a priority for you. Still, in a complicated flight situation, cabin crew have to keep everyone happy – and that means making sure everyone’s baggage is transported safely, too.

If you’re getting married abroad this year, the chances are you’ll be flying. What’s more, the chances are you could be finding it all a bit of a minefield… But don’t stress, or turn into a bridezilla – help is at hand with our useful tips and hints about flying with your wedding dress.

First and foremost, remember, if you are getting married at a popular wedding resort the chances are you won’t be the only bride-to-be on board, which also means your dress won’t be the only one. Therefore, the limited space there is on a flight will be crammed full of more than just your dress. Hanging space is limited, and as much as your dress is the most precious thing to you, it won’t be the only one for the busy air stewards. But with these tips, you can ensure you’ve done the most you can to see that your dress arrives safe and well, and you touch down feeling stress-free!

Bringing baggage on a plane is stressful—fighting for overhead space, wondering if your carry-on meets size restrictions, or getting the dreaded gate check ticket. Now, imagine flying with one of the most valuable pieces of clothing you’ll ever wear—and it’s one that can’t just be easily folded and shoved under a seat? Hello, panic!

Luckily, with a few smart tips, you can make sure your wedding dress makes it to your destination wedding spot in tip-top condition, making you camera-ready on the big day.

Do your research

Start your research by contacting your airline to find out what their rules and regulations are surrounding transporting wedding dresses onboard a flight. With strict hand luggage regulations now in play, it’s unlikely you will be able to bring it as a carry-on, but it’s always worth asking to find out where you stand.

Some airlines have a hanging wardrobe onboard flights which can be used by brides wishing to transport a wedding dress abroad for their wedding, so find out if your chosen airline offers this service. Be warned, and hanging wardrobes aren’t the most spacious, so contact them ahead of time to see if you can be the person who takes advantage of this option for flying with your wedding dress.

Not all airlines will offer you different options for flying with your wedding dress, and some may insist on asking you to check it in as hold luggage. This may be upsetting, as you could be determined to keep it close by at all times, in which case you might want to book with another carrier.

However, the best way to approach the situation is to do your homework, be organised and assess all of the options available to you for a smooth and stress-free flight on the day.

Try for the Airplane Closet

Some planes have a closet (usually reserved for first-class passengers’ jackets, the flight attendants’ personal use, or the captain’s use), but some sympathetic flight attendants may let you use the closet to hang up your dress. Use our sister site seat Seat Guru to scope out the type of plane you’ll be on ahead of time and see if your aircraft has big overhead bins or that coveted first-class closet.

Then, arrive early and plead your case to the gate agent, who may be able to help you snag closet space. In response to our question of how to fly with a wedding dress, American Airlines’ Media Relations team wrote: “Our crews will do their best to accommodate a bride with their wedding dress, as we know it’s an important day in their lives. Not all of our aircraft have a closet, and wheelchairs and other assistive devices will always be placed in those locations first, per federal regulations. Wedding dresses may have to be folded and stowed in the overhead bin if no closet is available. We also recommend the bride speak with the gate agent, before boarding commences, regarding their wedding dress.”

Check The Airline Will Allow a Wedding Dress as Hand Luggage

Don’t assume that just because your dress is your everything, and of course must be with you at all times during your travel, that the airline you’re flying with will let it on as hand luggage. Most airlines, especially those flying long haul to popular wedding destinations, will let you do this and will have a hanging wardrobe for you to use (but it isn’t huge and could be being used by other brides and their dresses). If the airline does not let you carry it on and demand, it must be checked in, and you might want to reconsider booking with them.

Verify Airline Rules

Contact the airline ahead of time and verify that you can pack your dress as a carry-on item. Most planes have closets available to hang wedding gowns. If the airline does not allow you to bring the dress on the plane, it may be better to change your flight plans to an airline that will allow it to avoid the chance of it becoming lost during transit. If a closet isn’t available and you can’t change flights, pack the garment bag inside a hard-sided suitcase in the largest size allowed as carry-on luggage. The dress may arrive requiring professional wrinkle removal, but it won’t be checked luggage that is at the mercy of baggage handlers.

Package Correctly

Hang the dress inside a sturdy travel garment bag. Fold the train once at the bottom, so it fits inside the bag, if necessary. Stuffing the dress with acid-free tissue paper or plastic dry cleaner bags helps the dress retain its shape. The bodice and sleeves are the areas most likely to suffer from crushing, so they should be stuffed until almost full. Once stuffed, enclose the dress in one or more plastic dry cleaner bags inside the larger garment bag. The dry cleaner bags provide extra protection from moisture and damage during transit and inspections.

When preparing to fly with your wedding dress, you need to have a plan on how to pack it up for safe transportation. The best place to start is with the bridal shop, who will be able to advise about wedding dress packing tips and specialist flight bags for wedding dresses.

Once you have the flight bag or packaging sorted, pick up some acid-free white tissue paper and layer it in between folds in your wedding dress to prevent it from creasing.

If your bridal shop is unable to recommend a flight bag for your wedding dress, you can purchase a special wedding dress flight box to help you transport it securely. Check out Amazon, eBay or specialist companies for this – you may be able to bag yourself a bargain if you start searching ahead of time.

If you haven’t yet chosen your wedding dress, it’s worth bearing in mind the fact certain materials will travel better than others, so you may wish to choose a dress that’s more suitable for transportation abroad. Chiffon and charmeuse will both travel well, as they fold easily and don’t crease as much as heavier fabrics like tulle and crinoline. However, don’t worry too much about this – as long as you pack smartly and carefully, your dream dress should arrive in the same condition it left in.

Don’t overpack hand luggage

Once you have organised how to fly with your wedding dress, think about the rest of your wedding flight luggage. Packing light on your hand luggage will be a lifesaver, as your wedding dress will be extremely heavy to carry so you won’t want to be laden down with much else. A small handbag would be ideal, as you can use it to carry your passport, boarding pass and other documents, plus your purse and mobile – but anything larger and heavier could see you cursing yourself later on!

Remember, the walk from the departure lounge to the boarding gate can be up to a mile at larger airports like Gatwick, which is a long way to carry a heavy wedding dress plus other bags.

Security Procedures

Arrive at the airport early to allow for extra time during security screening. Security personnel may need to open and unpack the dress for screening. You will need the extra time to repack the dress correctly. Adding 30 minutes onto the recommended check-in arrival time for your flight is usually sufficient, although you may need an extra hour at busy airports and those in larger cities.

Book an Extra Plane Seat for Your Dress

As crazy as it seems, think about booking an extra seat for your dress. If it’s a large dress, it won’t fit in the overhead locker, and it can’t be carried as hand luggage as it will be too big. This way, your dress has plenty of space, and it doesn’t leave your sight.

If you go for this option, bear the following in mind:

  • You need to contact the airline you are flying with and explain that you need to book a seat for cabin baggage for a wedding dress
  • It is likely that you will need to provide details of the size of the bag your dress will be placed in
  • Be patient – this request isn’t hugely common so it might take a couple of calls to sort it out, but it will get sorted out, and your dress will be safe
  • This cabin baggage seat shouldn’t cost the same amount as a regular seat; it should be at a slightly reduced price.

Reconsider Checking in Your Dress

You will be given the option to check in your wedding dress with your luggage. However, while unlikely, there is the possibility that your dress could get lost, or more likely, damaged. Our advice does not check in your wedding dress.

Bag Your Dress Carefully

Think very carefully about how you bag up your dress. When you buy your dress, it is worth asking the dress shop about suitable bags for flying and investing in one. Also, if you have layers, fold acid-free white tissue paper in-between to help avoid creasing. There are many companies that sell hard-wearing wedding dress flight boxes – check out:

Keep Your Hand Luggage Light

Remember that your dress will be extremely heavy – even if it doesn’t feel like it when you pick it up and carry it a short distance from the shop to the car. But lugging it around the airport for a while, and that long walk from the Departure Lounge to the Boarding Gate (which could be up to a mile at Gatwick or Heathrow for example) will make it feel extra heavy.

Try to pack very little else as hand luggage. A small handbag, which can be easily placed over your shoulder, is ideal – large enough to place your passport and travel documents in, your purse and a few toiletries, but light enough not to weigh you down.

Unpack Your Dress As Soon As You Arrive

As soon as you have arrived at your final wedding destination, carefully unpack your dress and hang it up – this will let any creases that have formed to fall out naturally.

Arrival Care

Unpack the dress and hang it up promptly upon arrival at your destination. Most wrinkles fall out within 24 to 48 hours. Some wrinkling will occur during travel even if the dress is packed perfectly. Make an appointment with a local dry cleaner prior to arriving for steaming or pressing just in case more severe wrinkling occurs. Select a cleaner that has experience in bridal gown care to ensure it handles the dress correctly.

The first thing you should do when you arrive at your wedding destination is to unpack your wedding dress. Do this carefully and hang it up immediately to allow any creases to drop out naturally. This should leave your dress looking perfect, ready for your special day!

If you follow all these tips, you should set yourself up for a stress-free and fabulous wedding day abroad – please share any other tips you have with us on our social media pages!

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