Search the internet about how to pack your laptop in checked luggage, and you’ll find a recurring theme: don’t.
But, in light of the new electronic device restrictions being implemented for flights into the United States from 10 international airports, some travelers won’t have a choice anymore.
For passengers affected by the restriction, there are only two options: ship your laptop to your destination or put it in your checked luggage. Well, there’s a third option don’t take your laptop that’s not so realistic for business travelers.
Let’s break down your best options for a crummy situation.
Placing the laptop in a checked bag
Having to pack your laptop in a checked bag is hardly ideal, as it puts the laptop at risk of damage and increases the chance of it being lost or stolen. But if you’re affected by the new restrictions, you simply have no choice so here are some things to remember.
First, it’s important to consider what’s on the laptop you’re taking along. The best plan is to use a wiped laptop meaning nothing important is on the hard drive. Put any data you need to keep on a thumb drive or a small external hard drive that you can carry on with you. Also, back your laptop data up to your phone or to the cloud.
In the event you have to use your laptop and it isn’t wipeable, consider removing any documents or files that would reveal your personal information. If you’re super paranoid, you could remove your hard drive, though you might need professional help to do so.
You can also wrap the damn thing in layers of bubble wrap; there’s really no such thing as overkill in this situation. And make sure you pad the laptop in the middle of your suitcase, surrounded by clothes and anything else you can get in there to help soften the blow.
Baggage locks are another item to consider if you want to protect against theft, but, remember, if baggage checkers want to get in to your luggage, they’ll have no problem simply cutting the lock off. And a lock doesn’t protect against damage, so you can still crack a screen even if you think the laptop is snug and secure.
Shipping your laptop
This option is even less ideal than placing the laptop in your checked bag because outside of posing the same risks damage, loss or theft it’s also prohibitively expensive for most travelers. Based on UPS’s shipping calculator, shipping a MacBook Air from Dubai to New York, depending on how much you claim for its value, will run you anywhere from $350 to $500.
It’s your choice to make, but if you insist on shipping as the option, you still should take the same precautions you would checking it: wipe the computer and back up your data.
At that point, it’s all about the packaging. That note above about a laptop case? Definitely buy one. No amount of bubblewrap will save your laptop from damage when it’s tossed around like a football in the back of whatever truck or plane it winds up on.
Oh, and don’t be dumb and use a box that’s way too big for your laptop. You don’t buy XXL t-shirts if you fit into an L, do you?
Again, neither of these options are ideal, but it’s better to be prepared as the new restrictions roll out. The luggage option actually seems the less terrible of the two, but just barely.
These restrictions likely won’t go away any time soon we’re still screening our shoes 16 years after that incident so if you’re a frequent traveler through any of the affected airports, investing in laptop cases and lots of bubblewrap is in your future.