Does A Purse Count As A Carry On?

Last Updated on June 4, 2020

Most airlines still allow you to take 2 bags with you when you board the plane. American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, and most full-service carriers all allow 2 bags.

These are typically called your “carry on” and your “personal item”.

Usually, the rules allow you to take 1 carry on and 1 personal item.

Carry on luggage is usually a maximum size of around 22 x 14 x 9 inches. It’s the big rectangular one with the wheels 🙂

How Big Can A Purse Be On A Plane?

A purse is not considered to be a carry-on. A purse is considered to be a personal item.

A personal item is usually around 18 x 14 x 8 inches, sometimes smaller. It must be small enough to go under the seat in front of you.

Other examples of personal items are briefcases, laptop bags, diaper bags, small backpacks and under seater luggage.

This means that you can bring a purse AND carry on on a plane. If you have purchased a ticket that includes a carry on.

You probably have purchased a ticket that includes 2 bags but there some flights by budget airlines that do not include a carry on allowance. They only include a personal item allowance.

If your ticket does not include a carry on allowance then you are only permitted 1 personal item.

In this case, you can’t bring a personal under-seat bag and a purse. Your ticket only includes 1 bag so you can’t bring 2 bags.

Examples of this type of fare would be Spirit airlines who don’t include a carry on bag as standard.

Also if you are flying with United and your ticket is Basic Economy that does not include a carry on bag. The United under-seat size is smaller than the others. Your purse or briefcase can only be 17 x 10 x 9 inches.

Also, Frontier Airlines don’t include a carry on for their most basic fare. Their personal item size limit is 18 x 14 x 8 inches.

If you are flying on a cheap ticket that only includes 1 bag… your purse is that 1 bag!

Why Bring A Purse And A Carry On On A Plane?

The reason some budget airlines only allow you the personal item space is because it’s actually quite large. The personal item space is roughly 66% of the full carry on space.

But the size of the personal item space allocated isn’t always realized by everyone.

If you are someone that struggles to fit all your clothes inside your carry on you might want to consider better utilizing your personal item allocation.

Take a look at this graphic. The pink box is the size of the space allocated for carry-on bags and personal item bags (American Airlines).

If you use a typical purse as your personal item you are wasting a lot of space.

If you want to utilize this space you could use a larger bag like a tote bag with a sleeve to attach to your trolley bag.

Of course to do this you would need to pack your purse inside 1 of your 2 bags.

What Can I Carry In My Purse On A Plane?

You can carry the same things in your purse or personal item than you can carry in your carry on.

You can take snacks or chocolate, a tablet, kindle or a book.

The important thing to remembers is that all your liquids need to go inside 1 plastic quart size bag when you are going through security. You can’t have cream make up in your purse and shampoo in your carry on. Not while going through the TSA screening.

After you are through security you can arrange all your items however you like.

For example, if you wanted to keep hand sanitizer in your purse during the flight you could remove it from your carry on and keep it in your purse.

The same goes for liquid or cream makeup. It must be in your quart-size bag during security but afterward, you can put some liquids in your purse and some liquids in your carry on.

Or if you are flying with JetBlue and want to bring your own miniature vodkas you can keep them in your purse too. The JetBlue staff will be happy to pour them for you if you ask!

The Verdict

So, does a purse count as a carry on?

A purse does not count as a carry on. It’s a personal item.

The personal item size limits are larger than you might realize.

So by taking your purse on the plane you are using a large chunk of your hand luggage allowance.

But it’s your personal item luggage allowance not your carry on luggage allowance…

Assuming your ticket has a carry on luggage allowance in the first place.

See! Not complicated at all!

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