Can You Bring an Air Mattress on a Plane? Travel Tips
Can You Bring an Air Mattress on a Plane? Travel Tips

Can You Bring an Air Mattress on a Plane? Travel Tips

Are you going traveling and hoping to do a camping trip? You must be wondering then, can you bring an air mattress on a plane?

Having your own air mattress is essential for a good night’s sleep in the great outdoors. Let’s find out everything you need to know about flying with an inflatable air mattress or sleeping mat (sometimes called a sleeping pad).

Can I fly with an inflatable mattress or sleeping pad?

Planes parked at airport terminal gates.

The short answer is yes. You can bring all kinds of air bed aboard a plane including lightweight self-inflating and inflatable mats, and heavier double air mattresses, for example. I have traveled a few times with my own self-inflating camping mat in checked luggage.

The good news is that practically every airline allows to you to fly with an air bed or sleeping pad. I’m yet to discover an airline that doesn’t.

You shouldn’t have any issues getting it through airport security either.

The staff operating the luggage scanning equipment may pay particular interest to your inflatable mattress as it’s not an item passengers typically travel with. However, there shouldn’t be any security concerns.

Taking an air mattress as a carry-on bag

A backpack next to a rolled up sleeping mat.

An inflatable mattress can be brought aboard as carry-on luggage as long as it does not exceed the size restrictions and any weight limits. It also needs to fit either under your seat or in the overhead bin.

Airlines typically set carry-on baggage size limits as 55 x 45 x 25 cm. Low-cost airlines tend to be stricter about hand luggage dimension, usually setting them at 40 x 30 x 10 cm. Sleeping pads should fit these dimensions without a problem, but you might struggle with an air mattress.

Size and weight restrictions for carry-on items differ between specific airlines. Make sure to check that your air mattress or sleeping pad doesn’t exceed them by looking on the airline’s website.

If you’re backpacking, then it’s unlikely you are traveling with a large, heavy air mattress. Instead, you probably have either a lightweight inflatable mat, self-inflating mat or a roll mat.

These won’t use up much of any hand-luggage weight allowance, but they will take up a lot of space in a cabin backpack. For example, even the most lightweight camping mats typically take up at least 20 x 10 cm when rolled up and packed away.

Some airlines are generous and allow you to bring aboard a carry-on bag and an additional personal item free of charge. If your air mat is small enough, then you could bring it as your personal item.

However, I don’t recommend this unless your sleeping mat doesn’t fit in your checked luggage.

Why use up carry on or personal allowance with a relatively large item if it fits in your checked backpack and you’re under the checked bag weight allowance?

If you’re not checking a backpack and your air mattress doesn’t fit in your hand luggage, you might have to pay to bring an additional item of hand luggage aboard depending on the airline.

Taking an air mattress in checked luggage

A large backpack. The bottom compartment is unzipped and inside is a rolled up camping sleeping pad.

As long as your air mattress doesn’t cause your checked baggage to exceed the weight or size restrictions, you’ll have no problems.

The maximum linear dimensions of checked baggage for most airlines is typically around 158 cm. The maximum weight is usually 23 kg.

Can I bring an electric air pump on a plane?

A black electric air compressor in the palm of a hand.

If you are traveling with a larger inflatable mattress, then you might also need to bring an electric air pump. Your mattress might even come with a built-in pump.

Normally you can bring an electric air pump on a plane as long as it doesn’t exceed size and weight limits, and any battery restrictions.

Plugin air mattress pumps are typically allowed in checked luggage and hand luggage. Rechargeable and battery-powered electric air mattress pumps must follow airline rules for transporting batteries.

If the battery is under a certain wattage, usually 100 watts, it can go in checked luggage or as carry on. But if it’s over the checked-bag watt limit then it must be brought on the plane as hand luggage.

If the pump uses non-spillable batteries, they must be under a certain voltage and watt-hour rating. This is typically 12 volts and 100 watt-hours.

You can take non-spillable batteries in hand luggage and they can go in checked baggage as long as they can’t be activated accidentally.

Make sure to check the airline’s rules for batteries before you pack your bags. This includes the rules on how many batteries are allowed per passenger. This will help you avoid having any batteries confiscated in the airport.

Bringing a non-electric air pump on a plane

A small handheld air pump and needles.

You can bring an air pump and needles on a plane, but it’s a good idea to pack both in checked luggage.

Bringing a pump in hand luggage shouldn’t cause any issues. However, there is the small chance that it may be considered a blunt force dangerous object depending on what it’s made of and its size.

Although airport security in some countries allow you to bring pump needles in hand luggage, others might consider them a sharp object and confiscate them.

How do you pack an air mattress for a flight?

Make sure that the air mattress is fully deflated. To do this, open the valve and use your body weight to push all of the air out.

I recommend kneeling on the mat and rolling it towards you as you crawl backwards. This way you maintain a constant pressure on the matt so air cannot creep back in. Roll the matt towards the valve end.

A man kneeling on a black camping sleeping mat rolling it up.

Close the valve once you have rolled the mat up completely and then let it unroll. Then fold the mat in half lengthways, or fold the sides of the mat into the middle lengthways, depending on the shape of the mat.

Begin rolling it up a second time. Just before you completely roll it up, open the valve again and finish rolling the mat up to get any remaining air out.

Quickly close the valve again once the mat is completely rolled up. If you have elastic bands to keep the mat rolled up, put those around it and then pop the mat in its bag. You might have to re-roll the mat if it isn’t tight enough to fit back in the bag.

Pack your rolled-up, deflated air mattress in checked luggage whenever possible. I’d avoid placing sharp objects near it so you don’t risk any punctures.

Good air mats for backpacking

You want to make sure you pick the right type of air mattress for your trip.

For backpackers, an inflatable or self-inflating sleeping mat is the best option. They have a compact size and can easily fit in a large backpack when rolled up.

When choosing a mat, make sure to look at the R value, which is the warmth rating. Anything less than 5 is generally OK for spring, summer and autumn camping. For cold cold weather camping you’ll need an R value of at least 5. The higher the R value the more expensive a mat tends to be. 

I currently use the Berghaus Peak XL self-inflating mat. It has an R value of just over 4 and works well down to temperature of around 3°C. It’s comfy and affordable and I recommend it for 3 season camping.

A black inflated Berghaus camping sleeping mat.

I wouldn’t recommend the Berghaus mat for temperatures below freezing though. I also wouldn’t recommend it if you are traveling with a smaller backpack as it’s quite big when rolled up.

Therm-a-Rest have a solid reputation for producing lightweight and warm sleeping pads that are small when packed. They are pricey, but have high-end features. 

My Berghaus self-inflating mat takes up more room in my backpack than I’d like. I see myself upgrading to something like a Therm-a-Rest inflatable sleeping pad at some point.

Alternatives to bringing your own air mattress on a plane

You don’t have to bring an air mattress on a plane. You could buy one after you start your trip. Most major cities around the world have outdoor and camping shops.

If you’re going to a popular camping destination, then there might even be shops that rent air mattresses or sleeping pads. This way you won’t have to worry about the extra weight in your luggage when you fly home.

More adventure travel advice on A World Over

So can you bring an air mattress on a plane? Most definitely. I hope this guide has been helpful and that your air mattress or sleeping pad keeps you comfy on your trip.

Let me know in the comments if you found my advice useful. It’s always good to get some feedback from my audience.

Head to the Travel Tips page for all my travel advice.

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