What Is Allowed In A Personal Item Bag?

Last Updated on September 18, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • You can put anything in your personal item bag that is permitted to go through the airport security checkpoint.

Legacy airlines like American Airlines, Delta, Southwest and United usually allow two bags whereas low-cost airlines like JetBlue, Spirit, and Frontier usually only allow a single personal item bag on their basic fare.

That means that sometimes passengers are flying with only a personal item bag. Think about that for a second.

Individual airlines set their own rules about what size of personal item bag you can fly with. The personal item bag size limit differs per airline, it’s supposed to fit under the seat in front of you, but the actual size limit is often around 18 x 14 x 8 inches and probably larger than you realized.

It’s the job of the Transportation Security Administration to enforce the rules about what is allowed in a personal item bag.

TSA agents don’t distinguish between your carry-on bag and your personal item. As far as TSA agents are concerned they are all just bags, and they will all be screened for the same prohibited items.

Packing Liquids In A Personal Item Bag

You can have liquids in your personal item if they are packed in your quart-size liquids bag. But you are only permitted one quart-size bag so you cannot pack liquids in both your carry-on and personal item.

Besides you’ll need to remove all liquids from your personal item bag to place them in a tray when going through airport security so it doesn’t really matter where you keep your liquids the rest of the time.

You can put clothes in your personal item too. Remember some travelers fly with only a personal item bag, they don’t have anywhere else to put clothes!

You can put your purse in your personal item. It’s a good idea to do that since you are only permitted one personal item and if you don’t consolidate bags then you will have too many.

That’s why you might need to pack your fanny pack inside your personal item instead of wearing it around your waist.

What Is Prohibited From A Personal Item Bag

It’s easier to say what you are not allowed to put in a personal item bag. The list is much shorter!

You are not allowed to pack sharp items or anything with a blade. You can’t pack a knife in your personal item bag. Just like your carry-on bag.

You can’t pack any weapons or anything that could be used as a potential weapon in a personal item bag.

Anything bulky and heavy that could be used as a bludgeon is not allowed to be packed in your personal item.

If you have keep pepper spray in your purse you won’t be able to take that in the cabin since it could be used as a weapon.

You also can’t pack aerosols that are not toiletries since an aerosol and a lighter makes a good flame thrower.

Things That Are Allowed In Personal Item Bags

The list of things that are allowed in personal items is endless. But here are a few things that might be in your handbag that are allowed on the plane.

  • Solid makeup (If makeup if it’s spreadable then it’s considered to be a liquid)
  • Solid chapstick or lipstick
  • Loose change or coins
  • Pens and pencils
  • Gum
  • Headphones
  • Nail clippers (Scissors that are longer than 4-inches from the pivot point cannot be packed in hand luggage)
  • Tissues
  • Wet wipes
  • An empty water bottle (Fill it up after you have cleared airport security)
  • Keys
  • A wallet
  • Cash
  • Your cell phone (It doesn’t need to be removed from your bag when going through the airport security checkpoint)
  • Cables & Chargers
  • Snacks
  • Lighter
  • Matches
  • Vape
  • Cigarettes
  • Laptops, E-readers, Tablets (Electronic devices larger that a cell phone must be removed from personal item bags while going through airport security and placed in a separate tray for screening)

The personal item isn’t only a handbag or purse. It can be a larger bag like small backpack, duffel bag, or even a small rolling suitcase.

The rules about what you can pack in a personal item are the same as for what you can pack in a carry-on.

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