This is the second post in our Halloween estate planning series. To read part one on the disposition of remains and organ donation versus organ harvesting, please click here.

After thinking about who will make what decisions about our remains after death, your next question might be: where will I go after that? The process of transporting human remains, may it be across town, over state lines, or even internationally, can be complicated if you don’t know where to start.

Ground Transportation

When you’re transporting remains on the ground, especially short distances via car or train, it’s generally the most cost-effective option. Many funeral homes or body transport companies will charge by the mile (anywhere between $1/mile and $4/mile), plus various other fees. This amount may change based on if they are moving a body from a residence, hospital, or between funeral homes, in which case the cost may rise. This option as a whole may end with a bill in the low thousands, between $1,000 to $3,000 on average.

Domestic Air Transportation

Air transportation within the U.S. typically requires a body to be embalmed, refrigerated, or both, although not all airlines will permit it. These remains are held as cargo with the luggage during your flight. This can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000, depending on distance of travel.

Cremains, on the other hand, can be held free of charge in your carry-on luggage. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows cremated remains to be brought on domestic flights as long as they meet the appropriate safety guidelines. Agents will examine urns with X-ray machines or other non-invasive techniques, but they’re not allowed to open them. If an agent feels that a container is unable to be properly examined, they may deny entry to both the cremated remains and living passenger. Specific airline policies on this topic differ.

International Air Transportation

Transporting a body via an international flight is the most expensive option available, costing up to $10,000 plus airfare. If your loved one passes away abroad, regardless of if they are cremated or not, you should contact the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. consulate of the country in which the death occurred. Each country has different laws that will apply.

If you are a frequent traveler in the states or abroad, it may be helpful to look into funeral insurance before leaving on your next trip.

Transportation via U.S. Mail

If you cannot be there in person to accompany your loved one’s cremains, your next best option may be to mail them. U.S.P.S. provides the only legal way to ship cremated human remains both domestically and internationally. You must package cremains with the correct labels, inner and outer containers, padding to prevent leakage, and via Express mail or Registered mail with a return receipt. If they are shipped internationally, the destination country must allow it with the appropriate customs forms.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.