How to Transport a Loved One’s Remains After Death: Step-By-Step

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The death of a loved one is always difficult, but it’s sometimes the administrative tasks afterward can become even more challenging. You’re already dealing with loss and grief, and the last thing you want to add to your plate is handling the practical planning and tasks. 

What happens when your loved one dies away from home? How do you return their body to their home so they can get buried locally? This is one of the things many people don’t think about until it happens to one of their loved ones, and it brings up many questions about how to plan a memorial service.

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Whether you find yourself in this situation or you’re wondering what steps to take for the future, there are things you should know about how to transport a loved one’s remains. There are many rules, local laws, and travel restrictions to consider, and this step-by-step guide will lead you in the right direction.

How Much Does It Cost to Transport a Deceased Loved One’s Body or Cremated Remains?

One of the first questions many families ask when transporting a loved one’s body or cremated remains is how much it will cost. It’s no secret that funeral costs are already fairly high. When it comes to how much you’ll pay for transportation, it depends on how the body is handled. 

The most inexpensive option is to transport the cremated remains of a deceased loved one. Flying with cremated remains is relatively easy, and this is something a trusted family member can do themselves with a typical airline ticket. Another option is to ship cremated remains with USPS. Both of these options are affordable and easy. 

It’s much more complicated to transport a deceased loved one’s body in a casket. If you wish to ship a body, this can cost over $1,500 for a domestic flight. The most affordable option for transporting a body not by plane is by driving it. Funeral homes can arrange this, and the price is based on weight and miles traveled.

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How to Transport a Loved One’s Body After They Died

If you’ve recently lost a loved one and need to transport their body, this is understandably a stressful time. Luckily, with a bit of simple planning, you can handle this task with ease. Here’s your step-by-step guide. 

Step 1: Contact a funeral home

First and foremost, you need to contact a funeral home. Whether you choose to ship your loved one’s body or drive, you’ll need to work under the guidance of a funeral home. 

Most airlines have strict requirements for shipping human bodies. The shipping must be authorized by a specialized transport company or a funeral director. TSA designates these professionals as “known shippers,” and this means they’re legally allowed to transport remains. The same is true when transporting a deceased body by road. 

Step 2: Decide how to transport the remains

With the help of your funeral home, you’ll decide the best way to transport the remains of your loved one. It is worth noting that if you are sending your loved one out-of-state or internationally, you will likely need a funeral home in both locations. 

There are several different options for transporting remains:

  • Airplane: If you ship your loved one via plane, their body will be kept in the cargo hold. A funeral director will be at the final gate to receive your loved one and transport them securely. 
  • Driving: You can also drive your loved one with the assistance of a funeral home. This is typically done in a hearse, and it can be an affordable option. 
  • Train: Finally, depending on your location, you might also be able to use a train to ship your loved one. While you’ll still need a funeral director on both ends of the journey, this might be the most cost-effective solution. 

Which is best for you? This is where a funeral director comes in. They can guide you through available options by keeping your budget, local laws, and additional regulations in mind. 

Step 3: Prepare the body for transport

Some states require the body to be embalmed or refrigerated prior to shipping or crossing state lines. This is something your funeral home can assist you with, and you’ll need to ensure the body receives the necessary preparations. 

In addition to preparing the body for transport, the funeral home will need to secure any legal documentation. In the case of shipping your loved one’s body via plane, they’ll need to authorize this as a “known shipper” through TSA. They’ll also assist with arranging transportation to and from the airport for your loved one. 

Step 4: Plan your own travel

In the United States, you have the right to escort the body to its final destination. This means you can travel with the body via plane, car, or train. While you might not be permitted into the cargo hold with the remains, you are allowed to travel with the body between locations if this is what you wish.

Again, your funeral director can assist you in making these arrangements. However, many states and transportation companies require a funeral director to be at the final destination to receive the body regardless of whether a loved one is there. 

Step 5: Prepare for the funeral

Last but not least, prepare for the funeral accordingly. If the transportation of the body will take a while, you might wonder how long you can delay a funeral

There are no strict rules on when you can hold the funeral. Don’t be afraid to postpone it for days or even weeks to ensure your loved one’s body is present if that is what you wish. It’s important that you feel their final wishes are met. 

How to Transport a Loved One’s Cremated Remains

For a more cost-effective, simplified option, it’s always easier to transport a loved one’s cremated remains. To do this, you don’t need the assistance of a local funeral home. Here’s how to ship or travel with cremated remains. 

Step 1: Choose between shipping or air travel

When it comes to transporting a loved one’s cremated remains, you have two options. You can either ship them through a service like USPS or you can travel with them as part of your carry-on luggage on an airplane. Both have their unique pros and cons. 

For shipping them, you don’t have to worry about airline or TSA requirements which means less hassle. However, there’s always the risk that the ashes will be lost during shipping. Your other option is to fly with the cremated remains. This requires following TSA’s strict screening guidelines, but you’re never parted with your loved one’s ashes. 

Step 2: Shipping the remains

If you decide to ship your loved one’s remains, you can do this easily through USPS. It’s not possible to ship cremated remains within the U.S. by any provider except USPS. 

To ship your loved one’s cremated remains with the USPS, you’ll need to use registered mail with a return receipt. You can also use express mail if you need a faster delivery date. Your package will need to be signed for at its destination, and it should be marked as containing cremated remains. 

Just to be safe, include a card with your contact information inside the package. This will help it be returned to you if there are any shipping problems. When in doubt, consult with your local USPS office for assistance mailing any remains. 

Step 3: Flying with cremated remains

If you decide to fly with your loved one’s cremated remains versus shipping them, it is a straightforward but rigid process. First, your loved one’s remains will need to be secured in a TSA-approved urn or container. This is something you can get from your crematorium or funeral home. 

It’s also a good idea to have a letter from your funeral home confirming that these are cremated remains. The TSA agent might need to check what’s inside your approved container, and this letter ensures everything goes quickly. 

Other than that, you can fly with cremated remains on any airline. It’s a good idea not to check these remains with your luggage just to keep them safe. The best place for them to be is with your carry-on baggage.

Using the Right Transportation for Human Remains

In a perfect world, everyone would die near where they wish to be buried. In reality, life doesn’t work this way. Luckily, it’s possible to transport your loved one’s remains in a way that works for you.

Whether you choose airline travel, shipping cremated remains, or another option, a funeral home is a perfect place to seek guidance. 

Everyone deserves to be laid to rest somewhere special to them. This could be a family plot, a hometown, or with someone they loved. Regardless of your loved one’s wishes, make this a reality by following this guide above to transporting remains. 

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