Did you ever stop to wonder why references to luggage sizes typically only give one dimension?
People talk about a “30-inch suitcase” or “25-inch luggage” but one measurement alone doesn’t tell us how big a suitcase is.
It reminds me how very young kids don’t realize that a tall thin glass doesn’t always have more juice than a short thick glass.
Jimmy is fooled because the tall container just looks bigger to him.
As adults, we know you can’t tell how much juice is in the glass from only the height.
But enough developmental psychology, the point is it’s the same with luggage sizes, to know the capacity of a suitcase you need to know the three dimensions, height, width, and depth.
These measurements are also crucial when it comes to airline size restrictions.
The same goes for the “carry on bag” label. It’s pretty meaningless since many bags labeled as carry-on size could land you with the cost of being forced to check it for being an inch too big.
So don’t trust the labels and also don’t assume that the bag with the bigger headline number will hold more clothes when packing.
Average Suitcase Sizes Chart By Type (Dimensions & Capacity)
Luggage manufacturers don’t always count the wheels and handle in their specifications. Airlines do count wheels and retracted handles! So this luggage size chart measures luggage dimensions from the bottom of the wheel to the top of the collapsed handle.
|Luggage Type||Height||Width||Depth||Capacity Litres|
|Under-seat Personal Item||16 – 18||10 – 14||8 -10||25 – 30|
|International Carry On Luggage||18 – 20||13 – 14||7 – 8||27 – 33|
|Domestic Carry On Luggage||21 – 22||13 – 14||8 – 9||36 – 40|
|Small Checked Bag||23 – 24||15 – 16||9 – 10||50 – 60|
|Medium Checked Bag||25 – 27||17 – 19||11 – 12||75 – 90|
|Large Checked Bag||28 – 32||17 – 21||10 – 15||105 – 120|
Personal Items & Under-seat Luggage
Personal Items are usually a purse, handbag, briefcase, or laptop bag that is taken on board in addition to a carry-on.
But since low-cost carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and United Basic Economy stopped allowing carry-on bags for free the personal item has become somewhere you might pack your clothes to save money.
Personal items need to be small enough to go under the seat. Check your airline to see what their size limits for personal items are.
A weekender bag often fits under the seat and as the name suggests these are good for 2 or 3 nights away.
But it’s possible to travel for extended vacations carrying only a personal item if you follow our traveling light tips. Basically, you need to pack quick-drying clothes and be prepared to do a bit of hand washing.
International Carry-On Size
If you are traveling internationally then the limit for your carry-on bag can vary tremendously. A good carry-on bag size for international travel is 21 x 14 x 8 inches. These measurements will be compliant with many airlines around the world. If you know the airlines you’ll be using you can check international carry-on luggage size limits before you travel.
Make sure you get a lightweight carry-on if you will be globetrotting. Airlines around the world often have restrictive weight limits for carry-on luggage.
Domestic Carry-On Size
The most common size limit for domestic carry-ons is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Unless you fly exclusively on Southwest there is no good reason to buy a larger carry-on for travel within the US.
Carry-ons are great for business travel, short trips, or weekends away. Taking your luggage into the cabin saves time because you don’t need to wait at the baggage claim carousel.
It’s also easier to make sure your bag doesn’t get lost or valuables damaged if you keep your bag close in the cabin.
However cabin luggage introduces a little stress since space in the overhead bins is limited. Priority boarding helps with this since you get to the overhead lockers before the crowd.
Small Checked Bags
Small checked bags are basically over-sized carry-on bags. Often manufacturers “forget” to count the wheels or a protruding handle. This can mean that a strict airline will force you to check that bag.
Or perhaps you simply prefer the experience of checking luggage. It’s easier to board a flight if you are not worrying about getting your suitcase into the overhead bin.
Medium Checked Bags
The maximum size for checked luggage is often given as 62 linear inches. This means that height + width + depth must not exceed 62 when summed.
People often wonder how medium checked suitcases compare to the larger checked suitcases.
It seems like a reasonable question. How much space does a 25-inch suitcase have compared to a 32-inch suitcase?
But remember the story about the juice. One dimension doesn’t help us determine how big a case is. Taller isn’t always bigger.
The suitcase with the largest capacity for checked luggage would actually be a perfect cube 20.66 inches x 20.66 inches x 20.66 inches. That box would be under the 62 linear inches limit and have a capacity of 144 liters.
This very extra-large 32-inch checked luggage from IT Luggage is exactly 62 linear inches and has a capacity of only 90 liters. That’s a lot less than the perfect cube would be.
So the capacity of the bag doesn’t only depend on how tall it is. Width, depth, and how chunky the bag is matters a lot.
Large Checked Bags
Given the rectangular nature of most suitcases, 32 inches is about as high as they come. The largest checked bags will be in the 28-32 inch range.
A 28-inch suitcase can hold more than a 32-inch suitcase if the width and depth are greater.
Heck a 20-inch suitcase can hold more than a 32-inch suitcase, see the cube above.
With large checked bags in this range, you need to make sure that the sum of the three dimensions does not exceed 62 linear inches.
22-inch, 25-inch, & 30-inch Luggage Bag Sizes Visually Compared
I get it. Online shopping is tough and sometimes you just want to eyeball it. Here are 4 common suitcases stood next to two people.
But if you really want to know how big the suitcase is your need to do the math.
Suitcase Size Calculator
Don’t worry, I did the calculations for you!
The model assumes 0.5 inch thickness of the suitcase. It also assumes you need 10 liters for things like your toiletries, your shoes, and laptop.
The remaining capacity is used to figure how many days worth of clothes you will fit into each size of bag depending on the season.
A standard large suitcase size will be 30 – 32 inches in height. Sum the three dimensions and check they are under 62 to qualify as checked luggage.
Medium checked suitcases are around 25 – 26 inches.
The answer really depends on if you are willing to do laundry or not. If you have no intention of doing laundry and are traveling for many days you’ll need a large checked suitcase. If you are willing to wash clothes quick-drying fabrics can be washed quickly in the evening and will be dry in the morning. You can manage with a small carry-on even on long trips.
A carry-on suitcase can typically hold around 35 – 40 liters.
The size of a 25-inch suitcase depends what the other 2 dimensions are. Use the suitcase capacity calculator on this page to get the capacity in liters.
Multiply the three dimensions to get the size in cubic inches. Then convert cubic inches to liters.
A 28-inch suitcase is the same height as 4.5 dollar bills laid end to end. But you need to know all three dimensions to know how much clothes you’ll be able to pack.
A 62-inch suitcase would be massive, around the height of a teenager. A 62 LINEAR inch suitcase can be many different heights. The sum of the three dimensions needs to be be 62 inches. For example 32 x 20 x 10 inches.
There are 28.3 liters per cubic foot. A large suitcase will be at most 4 cubic feet.
Well… is it hot or cold where you are going? Do you need a different sweater for each day or can you wear the same one twice? Are you only packing clothes or do you need a laptop and 6 pairs of shoes? The size of suitcase you need for 10 days depends on the weight and volume of 1 days worth of clothes. Divide your suitcase capacity by how many liters you think 1 days worth of clothes is.
Will you be wearing shorts or jeans? Are you a size XXL or small? To determine the size of suitcase you will need try to figure what size a bundle of clothes for 1 day will be in liters.
Could you imagine 1 days worth of clothes rolled into a 2 liter soda bottle? 14 days x 2 liters would mean you require 28 liters for clothes. Then add on your laptop, your toiletries, and your shoes to get the total capacity you require.
You can’t judge the size of a suitcase on only 1 dimension.
You need to multiply the three dimensions to get an idea of the luggage capacity.
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