Transporting Cremated Remains: Following Rules, Minimizing Problems


Most people who choose to be cremated want to have a portion of their ashes scattered or buried in a place that was exceptionally meaningful to them. However, families may hit a snag or two in the transportation process, if they do not plan ahead. The rules to transport cremated remains require some forethought and the purchase of the right cremation urn. With attention to detail and local regulations, families can move the ashes of their loved ones to a fitting final resting place.

Moving Ashes by Car

Deciding to transport ashes by car is the simplest method. Families need not worry too much about the rules they must follow, so long as they do not intend to cross into another country. Urns for ashes comprise quite a large variety of materials, from brass to ceramic, even paper. The right urn for someone moving ashes by car will be easy to carry but difficult to break. The contents of the urn should be sealed very tightly, so that if the urn topples over during transit, there is no concern about the ashes leaving the urn. Many urns offer a sealable container for the ashes that goes inside the urn. This is an ideal solution for motor travel. Once families arrive to the place where they intend to scatter or bury the ashes, they should obey local ordinances for the disposition.

Transporting Biodegradable Urns

flying with cremated remainsSince 2004, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has affirmed its commitment to helping families bring a loved one’s cremated remains with them by plane. However, the TSA requires that certain standards be met. In order to pass security, urns for ashes placed in a person’s checked luggage must be able to be seen in an x-ray viewer. Many urns do not meet this requirement, as the urn itself shows opaque on the screen. Inspectors will not open urns under any circumstances.

As a way to mitigate this concern, the TSA recommends that families wishing to transport urns by plane should select urns that have a removable container that may be shown to TSA officials. In particular, many biodegradable urns are ideal for this purpose. They do not block the TSA from viewing the contents. Most biodegradable urns also contain a bag for the ashes, which may be shown to TSA inspectors as necessary. Airline passengers are encouraged to contact TSA directly to confirm that their chosen urns will safely pass through security.

Sending Cremated Remains by Mail

Many families realize that they must send remains by mail because transport by car or plane is simply not an option. Residents of the United States must follow governmental regulations to ensure that the ashes arrive as expected. Since 2013, the United States Postal Service (USPS) asserts itself as the only legal method for shipping cremated remains in the U.S.

People who wish to ship remains to a domestic location need only to follow USPS guidelines. The selected cremation urn must have two containers–an outer urn and an inner container to hold the ashes. The inner container must be sift-proof, meaning that the ashes cannot spill out during transit. USPS suggests that families put the inner container in a sealed plastic bag, just in case. The urn should also be sift-proof, as well as wrapped in padding and placed in an appropriate box.

USPS recommends using a Priority Mail Express box, as this is the only mail service that USPS will approve for the transport of remains. The postal service provides stickers that senders may attach to the outside of the box to identify its contents. If people cannot obtain one of these stickers, the contents of the box should nevertheless be cleared identified. Under these circumstances, the USPS will consent to ship urns for ashes to a domestic location.

Families who want to ship remains to a foreign locale (e.g. to a loved one’s birthplace) must follow all the rules for domestic shipment, as well as other regulations. Some countries do not permit the transport of human remains by mail. USPS maintains lists of countries that will accept human remains through postal service. The remains must be sent by Priority Mail Express

International service, to a country where this service is available. With these standards obeyed, families are free to follow USPS instructions for packaging. They must complete appropriate customs forms and declare the contents. At that point, the remains will be shipped to the correct international address.

Moving a cremation urn to its final resting place requires some attention to detail. If families wish to transport by car, all they really need is an urn that is tightly sealed. For transit by plane, the urn should be made of materials that can be seen through security checkpoints and x-ray scanners. People who want to ship remains through the postal service must package the boxes correctly and follow all rules for shipment to international addresses. This knowledge helps families to decide on the appropriate urns for ashes for their needs, and ensure that the remains arrive intact in the proper location.


  1. Darlene

    Can you make an Ohio state buckeye key chain for cremation ashes?

  2. //

    Hi Darlene,

    We do have a line of key chain keepsakes for ashes that can be customized with an image to represent the Ohio State Buckeyes – whether it be a logo or personal image you wish to provide we can definitely work with you. If you would like to place an order you can reach us at 1-800-757-3488 and one of our representatives can further help you with placing a custom key chain order.

    Susan Fraser

  3. Marilyn

    Can you open a vacuum sealed urn by yourself to put ashes into jewelry?

  4. //

    Hello Marilyn,

    Here is a How To video to guide people transferring their loved one’s ashes into cremation jewelry.

    Hope this helps!

    Susan Fraser

  5. Jordan Blake

    Thank you for the video of cremation jewelry, really helpful.

  6. Keiryu Yamazaki

    Dear Sir,

    This is Keiryu Yamazaki from Buddhist temple in Japan.
    I wonder if you could help me with the following inquiry.

    One old Japanese woman in L.A. want to send her mother’s cremated remain to her hometown in Japan. But she is too old to fly to Japan by herself. So she wants to send cremated remain to us and we bring it to her hometown’s temple.

    In this case, does she need to change the burial place on “certificate of cremation” ?
    And can licensed funeral directors only send it to us? Is it impossible to send cremated remains to outside of the U.S as individuals?

    Sorry for sudden contact to you.
    Thank you for your cooperation in advance.

    Best regards,
    Keiryu Yamazaki

  7. //

    Hello Keiryu, thank you for reaching out, I would love to help. Any individual can ship cremains outside of the US, they do not have to be a licensed funeral director. I would suggest having the place of burial changed on the certificate of cremation because proper documentation is important when shipping cremains. It is required that the cremains are packed in 2 boxes, the inner box being an actual cremation urn. We do have several to choose from on In The Light Urns if you would like to take a look. The only way to ship cremains internationally would be through Priority Mail Express International, here is a guide from USPS that better explains the proper way to pack and ship cremains,
    There are different laws for each country when it comes to receiving cremated remains from outside the country. In your case I would suggest contacting the embassy to get the most current information for Japans laws in regards to receiving cremated remains from outside the country. Hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.

  8. Erica Wofford

    Yes what do I need to do to move my father’s ashes and plot to a different resting place

  9. //

    Hello Erica,

    Laws tend to vary from state to state. What state are the ashes located in and where are you wanting to move them to?

    Susan Fraser

  10. Ivory Langmyer

    Hi you have a very easy to follow site It was very easy to post it’s nice

  11. Rick

    I am taking a sealed urn from Arizona to Illinois. I have a Department of Health Services Disposition Transit Permit that was given to me at the Tucson funeral home. Is that all I need? I am driving him to Illinois. I already have the columbarium reserved complete with inscription.

  12. //

    Hello Rick,

    You should be fine traveling with the cremains since they are classified as ‘non-toxic’. To be safe though, and since you were given a permit by the funeral home, I would contact each state you have to travel through to confirm they do not have their own laws set in place when it comes to traveling with cremains. Let me know if there is anything else I can help with.

    Susan Fraser

  13. leyland Persaud

    Hi. Do you know which magistrate dept in the bronx and the steps I would need to legally move my Mum’s ashes from the Bronx crematorium to Canada? Thank you kindly.


  14. //

    Hello Leyland,

    You will need to make sure you have a certified copy of the death certificate as well as a “burial or removal” permit. You should be able to obtain both from the funeral director who dealt with your mum’s ashes. Each state is a little different when it comes to certain legalities, especially when transporting cremains, but the funeral director should be able to help answer any other questions when it comes to the legalities within your state.

    Susan Fraser

  15. HelenaV Garilano

    I would like to drive cremated remains from two different cities in the same state of NJ. Do I need a permit? What about a permit to mail them? What kind of containers would be outer and inner?

  16. //

    Hello Helena,

    Traveling by car is probably the easiest option and if you are staying within the same state you don’t have to worry about a permit. When it comes to mailing cremains there are some guidelines to consider. Here is a guide USPS published explaining how to properly pack and ship cremains through USPS,, hope this helps.

    Susan Fraser

  17. AZ

    I wanna bring the ashes in the philippines. By April 2019 this year. Whats the requirements? Thanks

  18. //

    Hello AZ,

    If you are going to be flying with the ashes you will want to make sure the ashes are in a lead free Urn. You will also need a copy of the death certificate and the cremation certificate. HERE is a list of requirements that the Philippines consulate lists as well. If I were you, I would also get in contact with the consular to make sure the requirements are up to date so you don’t run into any issues during your time of travel. Hope this helps.

  19. Liliana Morales


    Can you drive ashes to Mexico fromTexas?
    What documentation is needed?

  20. //

    Hello Liliana,

    You can transport ashes from Texas to Mexico. You will need a copy of the death certificate and a notarized copy translated into Spanish. You will also need a copy of the cremation certificate as well as a notarized copy translated into Spanish. I would suggest getting in contact with your local Consulate of Mexico as well to make sure the requirements have not changed, where in Texas are you located? I can look up the number for you if you would like.

    Susan Fraser

  21. Peter M. Falk

    What is required to take my son’s ashes to Thailand? Want to be scattered in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of Koh Samui. While TSA is very clear on the requirements, the Thai authorities are not. Need more info and where to find it. We have not yet decided on the airlines.
    Want to transport the remains in Sept of this year.



  22. //

    Hello Peter,

    Sounds like a beautiful place to take your son’s ashes to be scattered. The most common documents needed when transporting cremains internationally are a copy of the death certificate, copy of the cremation certificate, and the passport of the deceased(if available). Normally you will also need to provide translated and notarized copies of all the documents required. The best thing to do though would be to check with the Thai Embassy. Here is a link and phone number for the Royal Thai Embassy located in Washington DC, (202) 944-3600, hope this helps.

    Susan Fraser

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