Can I travel with Cremated Remains?
However, the level of convenience you experience will depend on a number of factors:
Are you traveling within the US? Then absolutely! In the US, it is perfectly acceptable to take your loved one’s cremated remains to another state. If you’re heading out of town by car, then we recommend you use an urn or alternative container made of a material that won’t crack or break. Light weight materials with a little give, like cloth, plastic, or even wood would be ideal. Urns made of glass or ceramic may be beautiful on your mantel, but they don’t stand up well to travel. We also recommend that you place your travel urn in a double container, meaning that you place the urn inside one box, and then place that box inside a second box with packing material or other cushioning to protect the urn from shifting too suddenly during your road trip. Be sure to bring your cremation certificate just in case you encounter any issues along the way.
If you’re flying domestically, your best option may be to bring your loved one with you in your carry-on luggage. This would allow you to personally ensure that your loved one’s remains are handled with care and respect. We advise that you use a travel urn that can be inspected with security equipment, particularly x-ray scanners. A travel urn made of plastic would meet this requirement, while providing a certain degree of flexibility, allowing the container to absorb some shock and withstand bumps and knocks that will inevitably occur while rushing through busy airports and cramming luggage into carry-on compartments. Avoid containers made of lead-based ceramics, not only because they are more prone to cracking and breakage in travel, but because airline security cannot inspect the container, which may cause you to miss your flight. As with travel by car, it is important that you bring your cremation certificate should you have to explain the contents of your container to airport security. Considering how frequently airline security measures change, you should also be sure to contact your airline to ask if they have any further requirements.
If you’re visiting, or perhaps moving to another country, there are additional factors to consider. Plenty of people move abroad for school or work, but few people realize that there may be major legal differences in how their destination country handles and regulates human remains.
Consider Germany, for example, where handling cremated remains can be an expensive bureaucratic hassle unless the bereaved traveler has done some research. In fact, in Germany it is against the law to keep an urn filled with cremated remains in your home. It is legally required that human remains – whether embalmed or cremated – be kept at a legally designated cemetery. This applies even if you’re traveling to Germany for the specific purpose of scattering your loved one’s remains – even if it was their final wish. Scattering human remains in Germany is considered littering, and carries a pretty hefty fine and possibly even jail time for the crime of improperly disposing of human remains. There are some exceptions, like the German state of Bremen, where they have allowed the scattering of cremated remains on private properties since 2014, but even in this case a permit must be obtained first. If you would rather keep the remains in an urn after you arrive in Germany, you will need to coordinate with your funeral director to arrange for proper transport and storage in accordance with the Friedhofsamt, or the German Cemetery Office.
Although these regulations may seem strict, there are many countries with similarly stringent regulations on the disposition of human remains. If you plan to travel internationally with cremated remains, please be sure to contact the consulate/embassy before you plan your trip to be sure you have taken the appropriate measures as legally required in your destination.
If you are uncertain about any aspect of traveling with cremated remains, get in touch with your funeral director. They will be able to best assess what action may need to be taken, and if you are traveling internationally, they will be equipped to assist you with getting in touch with the proper agencies.