What Bags Can You Bring On A Plane?

Last Updated on December 4, 2021

So you need a bag to bring on board your next flight.

The airlines don’t have any regulations about the types of carry-on bags allowed. You only need to worry about how big your carry on can be, and sometimes how heavy it can be.

Let’s see what kind of bag you can use as hand luggage.

Types Of Carry On Bags

Most airlines allow you to carry two bags on to the plane.

Only one of these bags is called ‘the carry-on bag’.

The other bag is called the personal item.

The carry-on bag is stowed in the overhead compartment.

The personal item should fit under the seat in front.

But some low cost airlines and basic economy fares have started charging for the carry-on bag.

If you’re flying on one of those fares you’ll only be able to bring personal items that you’ll place under the seat in front.

Examples Of Carry-On Luggage

Most people bring a rolling carry-on suitcase.

The most common carry-on size limit in the US is 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

Wheeled suitcases are great when you are in the airport and walking on flat sidewalks.

This bag from Aerolite is just the right size, not too expensive, and a good example of the type of carry-on that is most popular.

It has spinner wheels so that you can wheel it when upright. Most travelers prefer 4 spinner wheels rather than 2-wheeled luggage.

But if you are heading over rougher terrain or cobbled streets you might want to consider a backpack.

This Osprey backpack is close to the maximum size permitted as a carry-on.

But you could use any backpack so long as it was smaller than the carry-on size limits.

A duffel bag is another kind of bag that you can take on a plane. There are no wheels so it keeps the weight down. You usually swing a duffle bag over your shoulder rather than strapping it to your back.

One thing you need to be aware of is the possibility that your carry-on bag could be subject to a gate check.

If the plane’s overhead bins are full the gate agent will start forcing passengers to check their carry-on.

So it always makes sense to have a smaller bag in case you need to remove valuables from your carry-on if it is being gate checked.

Airlines usually let you take 2 bags so why not have one larger carry-on and one smaller personal item.

Never let any valuable items like a laptop be gate checked because there is a chance they may be damaged.

Examples Of Personal Items

When talking about the personal items airlines usually give some examples like a purse, handbag, laptop bag, briefcase, or diaper bag.

But the personal item bag can be a lot larger than these examples suggest.

Some brands produce underseater bags that have wheels. They are just a little bit smaller than a full-size carry-on.

If you are flying with only a personal item size bag perhaps you don’t need the wheels. The bag will be lighter and you could just carry it.

But there are some brands that make personal item bags designed to hold as much as possible.

A large personal item bag can hold around a maximum of 30 liters whereas a carry-on might hold 40 liters.

Boarding Blue makes this bag which is designed to use your personal item allowance and fit under the seat.

You can bring a tote bag on a plane as part of your hand luggage.

There really isn’t any limit to the type of bag you can use as a carry-on. It could be a suitcase, a backpack, a duffel bag, a tote bag, a weekender bag, or even just a gym bag.

How Big Does Your Bag Need To Be?

Often people check the carry-on size limit and shoot for a bag that is the maximum size.

A more sophisticated approach is to figure out how much stuff you’ll be packing and choose a bag that will fit the stuff.

There is no sense in bringing a huge bag on the plane if it will be half empty.

As much as half the weight of a carry-on suitcase can be taken up by the bag itself. The wheels and bag frame add weight.

Bags without wheels are lighter and they squeeze into the airlines bag sizer much easier. They can be squashed to fit, whereas a rigid suitcase needs to be under the limit.

You can try out our Amazing Bagometer to estimate how much stuff you might want to pack.

Traveling Light Traveling Light I will travel in:
My clothing size is:

Okay, let's say one days worth of clothes is liters.
40 Liters
15 Clothes Days
45 Linear Inches
Okay To Check In!
My suitcase size is:
Height: 22 inches
Width: 14 inches
Depth: 9 inches

The Verdict

The type of luggage you can bring on a plane is determined by the airline size restrictions.

The plane is not legally allowed to take off unless all bags are stowed either under the seat or in the overhead compartments.

Rolling trolly-style luggage is the most common choice but you can use any style of bag.

Remember that you need to be able to lift the bag above your head to place it in the overhead compartments.

So if you are not physically strong enough to lift your luggage above your head you’ll need to take some tips on how to travel light.

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