White straw cowboy hat with a hatband on a wooden table against dark background

Traveling on an Airplane with a Cowboy Hat

Travel days fuel anxiety because of the restrictions around flying with different items. Flight restrictions can leave you wondering about bringing basic items onto an airplane and hats are no exception.

In fact, many folks love to wear hats and like Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit, rarely take their hat off. This isn’t a problem for something like a baseball cap, but what if you’re wearing hats considerably larger — can you travel on an airplane with a cowboy hat?

You can travel on an airplane with a cowboy hat and there are numerous ways to do so. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) treats cowboy hats like any other clothing, meaning cowboy hats are an acceptable travel item for airplanes.

Are you still unsure of how you can bring your cowboy hat onto an airplane or worried about what airport security will say? Stick around; I dive into how you can stroll through the metal detectors worry-free and explore other travel tips.

4 Ways To Keep Your Cowboy Hat Safe on the Plane

Now, the best method for flying with a cowboy hat will depend entirely on your flight details. The approach you choose is up to you, but I’m going to lay out the options you have for traveling with bulky headpieces.

Wear Your Cowboy Hat

This is no surprise — wearing your cowboy hat on your head is the easiest way to keep your hat safe during a flight. This approach reduces the risk of the hat being dinged by luggage or rough baggage handlers and helps ensure the hat will stay clean.

You’ll be asked to remove the hat when going through airport security (along with other headpieces), but you can wear a hat all the way to your gate afterward. If you have TSA precheck, you might be able to get away with leaving it on your head. But in that case, you may need to go through an x-ray machine or metal detector.

Sadly, cowboy hats may not be a comfortable option for a long flight. If you’re crossing the Atlantic Ocean on an overnight 12-hour flight, you may find your cowboy hat prohibiting you from comfortably getting some sleep.

For that reason, I recommend wearing your cowboy hat for short flights, or if you are flying first class, but you should look for these other methods to store your cowboy hat on longer flights.

Store Your Cowboy Hat Under the Seat

To store your cowboy hat under the seat in front of you, you need to ensure your cowboy hat fits. If your cowboy is larger than 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm), you’ll be unable to store it under the seat.

One other thing to note — the storage space under the seat is also reserved for your personal item. If you use the seat in front of you to store your cowboy hat, you will need to forgo a personal item or store your item in the overhead compartment during takeoff.

If you’re concerned about keeping your cowboy hat clean during your flight, I recommend placing a piece of cloth or paper towel on its top. The bottom of airplane seats can get pretty grimy and are rarely cleaned, so it doesn’t hurt to give the top of your hat a barrier.

Ask a Flight Attendant To Store Your Cowboy Hat

If you find yourself in a bind, ask a flight attendant to help you store your cowboy hat. Flight attendants are always happy to help you if they can. 

However, depending on the quantity of storage space on your flight and the size of your cowboy hat, your flight attendant may be unable to help you store your cowboy hat.

If you’re not afraid of the potential for rejection, asking a flight attendant to store your cowboy hat is my favorite method. Flying with a cowboy hat can build anxiety, and getting a flight attendant’s help will offload some of your anxiety.

Put Your Cowboy Hat in the Overhead Compartment

Using your cowboy hat as a carry-on item is another great choice for flying with a cowboy hat. By storing your cowboy hat in an overhead compartment, you don’t have to worry about a large cowboy hat eating up your limited free space on an airplane.

Before you decide to store your cowboy hat in the overhead compartment, consider your airline’s carry-on restrictions.

The most important consideration is the size of your cowboy hat. If your cowboy hat exceeds 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters), your hat will not fit in most airplanes’ overhead compartments.

Additionally, you may have to pay an additional charge to store your cowboy hat as a carry-on item. Different airlines have different carry-on regulations, so I recommend checking your airline’s carry-on policies before your trip.

Common Questions

Can You Check a Cowboy Hat?

Generally, you can check a cowboy hat to prevent taking the hat through airport security and to keep it safe. This is the best approach to keep your cowboy hat undamaged and reduces the risk of getting it dirty underneath your seat or in the overhead bin.

I understand being an airport novice is a daunting experience. Therefore, if you’ve never checked a bag, I recommend calming your nerves by checking out USA Today’s travel tip on checking bags.

Can You Wear a Cowboy Hat Through TSA?

You can wear a cowboy hat through TSA. TSA treats cowboy hats the same as any other clothing, so you can bring one through TSA. However, there is a chance a TSA officer will ask you to remove your hat, in which case you must comply with their request.

If you’re concerned about bringing other travel items on your flight, you can check out the TSA travel guidelines.

Can You Ship a Cowboy Hat Ahead of Time?

You can ship your cowboy hat to your travel destination ahead of time. This is a great strategy because you don’t have to worry about storing it safely while in transit, but problems in the mail can result in a bare head at your destination.

Unfortunately, shipping ahead of time is not possible for all cowboy hat-loving travelers. To ship a cowboy hat ahead of time, you need to know the address you’ll be staying at and have a long enough trip that you won’t have to worry about its arrival date surpassing your travel dates.

If you’re looking for the proper procedure to ship a cowboy hat, I recommend referring to Rachel Strickland’s YouTube video on shipping oversized hats. 

You can use Rachel’s technique in this video to pack and ship your cowboy hat safely.

Travel Tips — How To Pack a Cowboy Hat for a Flight

Packing a cowboy hat can be a headache. Cowboy hats tend to be larger, meaning you’ll be eating up some valuable travel packing space. Thankfully, I have a great method for packing a cowboy hat for flying.

Hat Boxes

Here is how to pack a cowboy hat for a flight:

  1. Get a hat box. I recommend picking up a HappiBox Hat Storage Box (available on Amazon — affiliate link). I love hat boxes because they’re tailor-made for traveling with oversized hats. When I use a hat box, I can rest assured my hat is safe in transit.
  2. Store your hat. Once you have your hat box, I recommend checking the user manual for how to properly store your hat. Every hat box is a little different, so checking the manual is a vital step.
  3. Check or carry on your hat box. If your cowboy hat fits in a carry-on-sized hat box, you can bring your hat box on as your carry-on item. However, if your hat box is too large for carrying on, you’ll have to check your hat box.

Final Thoughts

The worst part of traveling is traveling. Jumping through the TSA’s hoops can make travel days a headache, but you can alleviate the stress that comes with traveling if you do prior research.

Before your flight, research your airline’s policies on hats, carry-on items, and personal items. After researching your airline’s policies, you’ll be in a better position to make the right packing choice for your cowboy hat.

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