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Air Travel with Cigars

Air Travel with Cigars
3 years ago 6 comments

There are a few questions that we’re asked frequently here at CigarPlace or that gets asked repeatedly on the social cigar forums so I figured that I would write about them today. These questions are especially timely as I am preparing to travel by plane this week for my annual birthday vacation. Traveling with cigars by air presents a few small challenges, and we will talk about them briefly below.

In this post-9/11 era, torch lighters are banned on planes, even in checked luggage, by the TSA, even if empty, so make sure to leave them home. Butane soft flame lighters are however allowed in both checked luggage and as carry-ons, but the cans of butane themselves are not. So, be sure to leave those home and pick them up at your destination. It is no secret around these parts that my soft flame lighter of choice is the Xikar EX Single Flame Windproof Lighter. I have been carrying mine for over four years now, and it has never failed me, and TSA has not confiscated it yet. Alternatively, very popular with cigar smokers are the Djeep brand of soft flame lighters due to their large fuel reservoirs and cheap cost. In a pinch, a good old fashioned Bic lighter will also get the job done; it will just take longer. Cedar strips also come in handy here if you want to pack some in your humidor. You can light the cedar strip with your Bic and then light your cigar if it is not too windy. I keep a box or two of matches in my carry-on as well as a last resort.

Cigars Cutters and Punches, however, are allowed both in your checked luggage and as carry-ons so feel free to bring them with you. I do, err on the side of caution and don’t bring my favorite cutter with me but instead, a lesser expensive cutter that I do not mind losing in case TSA decides to become overzealous. While my favorite cutter is a long since discontinued Xikar Xi3 Exotic Cocobolo Wood Cutter, I tend to carry a few Cigar Savor Double Bladed Guillotine Cutters and a Xikar 007 Twist Punch Cigar Cutter when flying these days.

I also keep a copy of the TSA regulations in my carry-on that shows both cigar cutters and soft flame lighters are allowed. Additionally, I make sure to leave myself a little bit of extra time just in case a situation does occur. It has yet to be an issue, but I would rather be prepared than not.

Now, there is one thing that those of you with the smaller Xikar travel humidors are going to want to know about and that is cabin and baggage pressurization. When you check, or carry-on your cigars and the cabin is pressurized the backpressure created will cause a seal so tight that you will likely need a butter knife or screwdriver to break it. The solution to this is to leave one of your latches undone while flying. The larger Xikar and Cigar Caddy humidors have a small release valve knob built in for this purpose.

If you do not have a travel humidor yet, might I recommend using a wide-mouth Nalgene water bottle with a Boveda pack tossed in to keep your cigars fresh? I did this for years before I had a travel humidor and it was an excellent way to keep my cigars humidified with 10 or fewer sticks on short trips. The water bottle fits perfectly in the water bottle pocket of my backpack, didn’t take up a significant amount of space in my bag, sit funny, create a bulge or require me to carry it separately. A wide-mouth Nalgene water bottle works wonderfully, will cost you less than $10 and can be found at most any sporting goods store or Target in your area.

Should you not have one of those or want to spend even less, you can use any plastic resealable food container, such as Gladware or other such brands also with a Boveda pack. Although, then you are back to taking up space in your bag again, sometimes that is the trade-off.

When I check a bag, like I am going to do this weekend, I usually put my toiletry bag in my checked bag, so that leaves me an allowance for the infamous TSA 3-1-1 bag of liquids. In that infamous 1-quart Ziploc bag is where I put more than a few airplane sized bottles of my favorite spirits for making mixed drinks on the plane, for a layover between my flights, or in case my flight becomes delayed. It sure beats paying $10/drink in the airport or the air. The in-flight staff is not usually too friendly to this so you might want to keep this on the down-low and by all means, don’t get sloppy, no one likes drunk plane passengers.

So, to recap, no torch lighters at all. Soft flame lighters are okay in checked or carry-on luggage. Your cigar cutter, punch or even small cigar scissors (under 4”) are also acceptable in your carry-on or checked bags. I still wouldn’t recommend taking your favorite items just in case the TSA agent decides to confiscate them anyhow and always bring a box or two of non-strike anywhere matches with you as a back-up. If you have any awesome travel tips to share with us, please be sure to do so in the comments below.


Posted in: Cigar 101
Mike F. 3 years ago at 4:59 PM
If traveling with a travel humidor filled with cigars, be prepared to be pulled aside and searched. A travel humidor filled with stogies looks suspicious under the x-ray. This has happened to me.
Cigar Ninja Jessica 3 years ago at 2:40 PM
After returning from my trip this weekend, I have to say, My 30-50 count humidor made it through TSA without even a eye raise. I usually don't pack it in my bag though and put it right on the conveyor belt. Not once have they ever checked my humidor or the contents, domestically or even when returning from international destinations. Customs hasn't even ever hassled me about checking for Cubans upon my return into the country which is definitely unusual. Maybe, I'm just super lucky or maybe it's because I'm so open about "not hiding what I'm carrying" that they just don't care enough to stop me.

Whatever it is, I ALWAYS leave myself extra time just in case and besides, that extra time makes for great people watching and a bit of cocktail drinking with those mini-bottles I pack!
Mike Schultz 3 years ago at 6:12 PM
I always put my cigars in my carry on bag to prevent TSA from stealing some and also in the cargo hold at 35,000 feet I would imagine it is cold. I also bought an approved cigar lighter case by Otter for Zippo Lighters. Replaced the inside with a butane lighter insert and I have never had a problem with it in my checked baggage. It conforms to DOT-E 14194.
neil b. 3 years ago at 11:05 PM
I always put my cigars in my carry on too, but just in case, luggage/cargo-holds on passenger jets are heated and pressurized just like the cabin. Live animals routinely ride there, maybe they're the ones stealing cutters, etc?
Brian 3 years ago at 7:54 PM
As a business traveler I can attest to the overzealous TSA agent(s) flagging my backpack over a Xikar Xi2. It happens at least once a month. I fly every week and always check my bag. I've had several Xikar cutters stolen from my checked luggage. I now hide my cutter in my toiletries kit between an electric travel razor and an electric beard trimmer. I also carry a filled triple torch lighter on every trip. I use a Colibri Tranzpack to carry the lighter. They are hard to find and in the interest of full disclosure I believe that the DOT may have changed the rules and this unit is no longer approved for checked bags. That said, I have never had a confiscation of a lighter by TSA nor have I had any issues with my lighters that have flown in checked luggage.
Ted fron N.J. 3 years ago at 5:24 PM
Returned from CUBA this weekend (Bucket list). Was traveling with my wife and another couple that did not smoke cigars. I got mixed info on how many cigars I can bring back, even after the $100 limit was lifted. One La Casa del Habano said 50 cigars or two boxes. WRONG!!!!

Each person is allowed to bring $800 worth of goods in duty free. The second $1,000 is subject to a 3% duty. So for $1,800 worth of goods you are looking at $30 worth of tariff. Remember it is per person. So if you have $3,200 in goods and 4 people traveling with you, each can carry-on $800 worth with no expense. Make sure you keep your receipt for the purchases in case the customs official ask to see it. No one in my group was asked.
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