Can I Bring a Telescope On a Plane? 2024

If you are a skywatcher then you may want to bring your portable telescope to explore new celestial wonders from different places in the world, but can you bring your telescope on a plane?  and what are the TSA rules for traveling with telescopes?

According to the TSA, you can bring a telescope on a plane, but when transported in cabin baggage, ensure that it is within your airline size limits and it is properly protected, you will need to place a larger telescope in checked baggage.

In this blog post, I will delve into the secrets of traveling with telescopes and help you navigate the confusing world of airline regulations.

Let’s dive right in 🔭.

Can You Take a telescope through the security checkpoint ?

The TSA didn’t mention nothing about telescopes on their website.

So I checked their social media to find some answers.

In the screenshot below Debbie wanted to bring a telescope that stretched to 20 inches.

Take & 20 inch telescope through TSA
Screenshot from Twitter

The TSA customer service replied that ” even though an item isn’t on the TSA prohibited items list, the TSA officers may not allow it past the security checkpoint due to an alarm or other security concerns based on size or weight.”

“If not allowed, you will be given some alternative options; to place it in your checked bag, give it to a non-traveling companion, return it to your car or mail it if the airport has a post office.”

TelescopesCarry-on BaggageChecked Baggage
Small portable telescopeAllowedAllowed
Vivitar portable telescopeAllowedAllowed
Portable telescope pierAllowed (may be subject to additional screening)Allowed
Portable telescope observatoryAllowed (may be too large for carry-on baggage)Allowed
Celestron NexStar 8SE TelescopeAllowed (may be too large for carry-on baggage)Allowed
Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic DobsonianAllowed (may be too large for carry-on baggage)Allowed
Meade LX200 ACF 10″ TelescopeAllowed (may be too large for carry-on baggage)Allowed
Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer ProAllowedAllowed
Zhumell Z12 Deluxe DobsonianAllowed (may be too large for carry-on baggage)Allowed
Explore Scientific ED102 TelescopeAllowedAllowed
This table presents various telescopes, and their allowances for both carry-on and checked baggage.

Can You Take a Telescope In Carry-on or Checked Baggage?

The place where you pack your telescope ( carry-on or checked baggage) is critical because it will contribute to the convenience of your journey.

Carrying Telescopes In Carry-on Luggage 

You can bring your telescope as carry-on baggage as long as it is within your airline size limits.

Here is some advantage of taking your telescope as cabin baggage.

  • Keep it safe: carrying your telescope on board the airplane allows you to keep your eyes on the ball, you will handle it with care and minimize the chance of it tossed around.
  • Avoid potential loss or theft: unlike checked baggage, items In carry-on luggage are less likely to be lost or stolen, whenever you take your telescope in carry-on baggage you will have some peace of mind.
  • Easy access to it : having your telescope in your cabin baggage will make it easy to access whenever you want, especially during the screening process or on board the airplane ( even though I don’t recommend using your telescope on board the airplane).

Packing Telescopes in Checking luggage

If you have a large model of telescope like this ( a National Geographic 114mm Reflecting Telescope ) then there is more chance that you will need to pack it in your checked baggage.

Even though it is not advised to check in an expensive telescope, because it will not be safe or handled with care in some airports, especially on a connecting flight.

If your telescope doesn’t fit as a carry-on, ensure that you use a hard-shell case before handing it to your airline, hard cases are available for different types and sizes of telescopes.

At least a case will provide a secure, custom-fit protection for your telescope and other equipment.

What About Telescope Batteries?

Not all telescopes operate with batteries or need power to work, but some types of telescopes may have them.

So you will need to consider batteries rules, whether you are traveling on a domestic or international flight.

If batteries are installed in telescopes, there are no restrictions on taking them in both carry-on and checked baggage.

On the other hand, uninstalled batteries (not inside a telescope) are allowed only in carry-on baggage.

Take a Telescope On International Flights

a black and white telescope

Before taking your telescope on an international flight it is better if you check the customs regulations of your destination country.

Some countries may have different or specific rules regarding the enter of telescopes to their territories.

They may even require a special license or permit to bring a telescope for personal use.

In case the telescope is accepted, you can either place it in your carry-on or in checked baggage, but most importantly use a hardshell case, to prevent the telescope from being knocked during the flight.

Luggage handlers on International routes may not handle luggage and fragile iItems with care because they are on a tight timeline, and the flights may have longer transit times, compared to domestic flights.

Final Thoughts On Taking Telescopes On Planes.

So, can you take a spyglass on a plane? Yes.

But first ensure that it is within your airline luggage size limits, additionally be prepared for additional screening in case the TSA or the security agent wants to do a manual inspection.

If you are traveling internationally you can either contact the airline you are flying with to confirm with them that you are bringing a telescope, or you can search the official website of the country of your destination.

We hope this helps.

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