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Featured FAQ: What do I Need to Know About Traveling with Cremated Remains?

June 1, 2018

The loss of a loved one is an emotional time and traveling with the cremated remains – whether to scatter the remains or to bring a loved one back home – can add further stress during a taxing period. Knowing what to expect and planning to meet the necessary requirements for transportation of cremated remains can make the experience a little bit easier.

Air Travel Tips

Photo credit: Dmytro Surkov/

As long as the TSA and airline rules are followed, cremated remains can either be carried on or checked in baggage on most airlines. Before you travel, check with your airline for their rules regarding transporting cremated remains. states that airlines which allow you to travel with cremated remains will designate whether they allow carrying them as air cargo, checked luggage or as carry-on.

First go to the airline’s website and search for “cremated remains.” Many airlines, such as Southwest, American and Delta, have “cremation friendly” policies. Some airlines require seven days advance notice before shipping as air cargo, and they have the right to refuse if you do not conform, so don’t wait until the day before you travel to explore the airline’s policies.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires that the container or urn must be able to be scanned. The TSA will not permit a container which returns an opaque image, such as metal or stone, through security under any circumstances. According to the TSA website: “To facilitate screening, we suggest that you purchase a temporary or permanent crematory container made of a lighter weight material, such as wood or plastic. If the container is made of a material that generates an opaque image, TSA officers will not be able to clearly determine what is inside the container and the container will not be allowed. Out of respect for the deceased, TSA officers will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.” If you have any further questions, contact the TSA at 1-866-289-9673.

Your funeral director can help you secure the best container for travel, whether it is a temporary container made for travel or a permanent container that complies with travel requirements. And check with a licensed funeral director both at your departure city and your destination to determine if there are any local regulations for traveling with cremated remains.

Even if you think you have complied with all the regulations, it’s important to arrive earlier than usual to allow enough time to clear the security lines so that you don’t miss your flight. In addition to your airline documents and personal ID, you may be asked to show the Death Certificate, Certificate of Cremation, or other funeral related documentation when going through security. It’s a good idea to attach copies of those documents to the container or urn as well.

International Travel Tips

Traveling internationally is a bit more complicated. As every country has different policies regarding the transport of cremains, it will take some additional research to determine the regulations for your destination. For instance, Germany requires that cremated remains can only be sent to a licensed cemetery and only a licensed funeral director can send them.

First, contact the embassy for the country which you are taking cremated remains to and from and ask about their specific rules and legal requirements. Don’t rely solely on a website as policies can change without notice. Allow plenty of time to complete the process, at least two weeks. Complying with international laws will take more time than working with U.S. laws.

Mailing Cremated Remains

It may be easier to send the cremated remains to your destination rather than travel with them. Or you may need to distribute the cremains to individual family members for their own keepsakes.

Sending cremated remains within the United States must be sent as either registered mail or express mail. If you are sending cremated remains internationally, the remains must be sent as registered mail and the customs form must clearly state that the package contains human remains. However, some countries may have restrictions on receiving packages containing human remains, so it’s important to check the mail requirements of the country receiving the package before sending it.

There are two requirements for the package for mailing cremated remains: The package must consist of sealed inner and outer containers, and there must be sufficient padding around the inner container to prevent movement.

For more information on traveling with cremated remains, please contact one of our knowledgeable funeral directors at any of our locations or call our main office at 1-800-Keohane (800-536-4263).


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