Can You Use a Duffel Bag As Checked Luggage?

We already know that duffel bags can serve as personal items or carry-on luggage that go in the overhead compartments. But what if your bag is too large to qualify as hand luggage? The questions arise: Can you check in a duffel bag? And more importantly, is it safe to check in a duffel?

In this guide, I will answer all your questions about using a duffel bag as checked luggage, including how to do it safely and how to avoid extra fees.

Can you use a duffel bag as checked luggage?

Yes, you can use a duffel bag as checked luggage. The key is to follow the airline’s rules on size and weight. Most airlines allow bags that weigh up to 50 pounds and have total dimensions (length, width, height) of no more than 62 linear inches.

Read on for more details…   

Understanding airline policies on duffel bags as checked luggage

Can You Use a Duffel Bag As Checked Luggage?

Airlines have specific guidelines for checking in duffel bags. Here are the key points to consider: 

Stick to airline Size and Weight Guidelines for Checked Luggage

First things first: make sure your duffle bag fits within the airline’s size and weight limits. According to international standards set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the total dimensions of any checked bag—height, width, and length combined—should not exceed 62 linear inches. The weight should be between 50 and 70 lbs. These rules are in place to protect the health of airport workers who handle luggage.

If your bag goes over these limits, it may be classified as “oversize or overweight”, and you’ll likely face additional charges. For example, American Airlines allows for oversized bags up to 126 linear inches and overweight bags up to 100 lbs (45 kg), but extra fees apply. Airlines often charge additional fees for bags that exceed their weight limits.

Each airline has its own set of rules, so I advise you to refer to your flight ticket or the airline’s website for accurate information on size and weight allowances.

Always check your airline’s specific baggage policies for the most accurate information. 

Keep valuables in your carry-on, not checked luggage

I recommend storing valuable items in your carry-on bag instead of your checked luggage to prevent theft. This precaution ensures that if your checked bag is lost or misplaced, your important belongings will still be with you.

Don’t pack prohibited items in your checked luggage

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a list of items that you’re not allowed to pack in your checked baggage. This list includes lithium batteries, flammable substances, explosives, and more. If you pack these items and they’re found, you could face fines or even arrest.

For a full list of what you can and can’t pack, check the TSA’s guidelines to be on the safe side.

Why checking a duffel bag is possible

I want to clarify that airlines don’t restrict you to using only suitcases for checked luggage. You can check in various types of bags, including duffle bags, backpacks, and even cardboard boxes if you want to. The primary concern for airlines is that your bag meets its weight and size limits.

Don’t just take my word for it; many travelers have successfully checked in duffel bags. For instance, frequent traveler Kate Wood in answer to this question on Quora said “Yes, you can. People check in all sorts of bags, from backpacks to cardboard boxes.” Jim Mowreader, another traveler, also recommends it saying that he’s checked duffle bags “lots of times, and the airline is fine with them.

Other travelers on different forums like Reddit, Red Flag Deals, Quora, and Trip Advisor, have shared similar experiences of being able to check their duffel multiple times, without any problem.

The key takeaway is that it’s perfectly fine to check in a duffle bag. I have seen it many times. Just make sure the bag is durable enough to withstand the rough handling and that it complies with the size and weight restrictions of the airline you’re flying with.

How to keep your checked duffel bag safe and intact

Can You Use a Duffel Bag As Checked Luggage?

Many people worry that a duffle bag isn’t as sturdy as hardside suitcases for checked luggage. If you’re concerned about keeping your belongings safe and intact, here are some practical tips for safeguarding your duffel bag when you check it in at the airport. 

Choose a duffel bag built to last through rough handling

Duffel bags don’t offer as much protection for fragile items as hard-shell suitcases do. This is a common concern among travelers, including those who have shared their experiences on Trip Advisor and Reddit.

So, if you’re set on using a duffel bag, it’s important to pick one made from durable materials. Strong, water-resistant materials like ripstop nylon, canvas, or leather are better at handling the wear and tear of travel.

Someone on Quora advised the same thing. They said that checked bags get thrown around a lot, so you need a sturdy bag that won’t get crushed under other luggage.

Look for additional features that indicate quality, such as extra padding on the straps, removable hip belts, and YKK lockable zippers. Reinforced stitching in areas that are likely to get stressed, like seams and handles, is also a good sign of a durable bag.

If you’re concerned about your bag getting damaged or dirty during your travels, you might want to consider wrapping it in plastic. Some airports offer this service, and there are also professional services like Secure Wrap Baggage Protection that specialize in it.

And, if you want brands that make durable travel duffel bags made from durable materials, Patagonia, North Face, Peak Design and YETI are some of the best options I would recommend.  

Check that your bag aligns with your airline’s restrictions

Before you head to the airport, make sure to weigh your duffel bag to ensure it meets your airline’s size and weight limits for checked baggage.

Typically, the bag should not be larger than 62 linear inches in total dimensions and should weigh between 50 to 70 lbs for international flights. Checking the weight in advance will help you avoid any extra fees for overweight luggage. 

Tighten and secure all the loose straps/handles on your duffel.

Secure any loose straps or handles on your duffel bag before checking it in. This minimizes the risk of them getting snagged or torn during handling. If the straps are removable, consider storing them inside the bag.

This advice is also backed by frequent traveler Jon Green, who suggests disconnecting shoulder straps and fastening grab handles together to avoid any issues during baggage handling. 

Use a TSA-approved lock and label your bag

To keep your belongings safe during travel, lock your duffel bag’s main compartment with a TSA-approved lock. This ensures that TSA agents can easily access your bag for inspection without damaging it. Also, reinforce any zipper pulls and clips with duct tape to prevent them from coming undone.

Additional tips:

  • Tie the bag’s handles together to prevent snagging during transit.
  • Always attach a luggage tag with your flight and contact information. It’s also wise to place a copy of this information inside the bag in case the external tag is lost or damaged.

Keep valuables and fragile items out of checked duffel

For the safety and security of your belongings, it’s best to keep valuables items in your one carry-on bag rather than your checked duffel bag. All your belongings like laptops, jewelry, and medications should always be with you to minimize the risk of loss or theft.

Also, avoid putting anything breakable in your checked bag. Baggage handlers are often in a hurry and won’t handle your items delicately, increasing the risk of damage. Airlines generally won’t take responsibility for broken objects in checked baggage.

Bart Crunk, a contributor on Quora, echoes this advice, noting that travel duffel bags offer little protection for fragile items due to their unstructured nature. So, if you can’t bear the thought of losing an item, it’s best to keep it with you in personal items or carry-on luggage. 

Avoid packing prohibited items in checked luggage

Another piece of advice I would give is that you have to be aware of prohibited items that are not allowed for safety reasons.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a specific list of prohibited items, such as flammable materials, explosives, and illegal drugs. Since all checked bags undergo TSA screening, failing to comply with these rules could lead to issues at the airport. 

The case for & against using duffel bags as checked luggage

In this section, I’ll be talking about the pros and cons of traveling with a duffle bag as a checked bag.

Pros of checked duffel bags

  1. Durability: Many duffel bags are made from robust materials like ballistic nylon, which can withstand rough handling better than some hard-shell cases.
  2. Ease of access: The wide-mouth opening of most duffel bags allows for quick and easy access to your belongings.
  3. Flexibility: Duffel bags are generally more flexible than hard-shell suitcases, making it easier to fit into tight spaces.
  4. Multi-purpose: Duffel bags are versatile and good for many things, not just flying. You can use them for work trips, outdoor adventures, or even gym visits
  5. Casual style: If you’re going for a laid-back, casual vibe, a duffel bag fits the bill perfectly.
  6. Easy storage: Duffel bags can be folded and stored easily when not in use, saving you space at home.

Drawbacks of using a duffel bag as checked luggage:

  1. Limited Protection: Duffel bags don’t offer as much protection for fragile items as hard-shell suitcases do. This concern is echoed by travelers on platforms like Trip Advisor and Reddit, who have experienced damage to items inside their duffel bags.
  2. Organization: Duffel bags usually have fewer compartments and pockets, which can make the organization more challenging.
  3. Security concerns: While you can add external locks, duffel bags are generally easier to tamper with compared to hard-shell suitcases with built-in locks.
  4. Lack of wheels: Most duffel bags lack wheels, making them less convenient to move around airports or other transit points, especially when they are heavy.


What size duffel bag can you use for checked luggage?

For checked luggage, you can use a duffel bag that has a maximum weight of around 50 pounds (23 kilograms) and total dimensions (length + width + height) not exceeding 62 linear inches.

Can I use a duffel bag instead of a suitcase on a plane?

You can opt for a travel duffel bag instead of a suitcase when traveling by plane. Many airlines allow duffel bags to be used as carry-on bag that goes in the overhead bin or checked baggage, as long as they adhere to the airline regulations on size and weight limit, as well as approved items.

What is the disadvantage of a duffle?

One downside of checked duffel bags is that they might not keep things as organized as suitcases do. Since duffel bags usually have ample storage space with very few separate pockets or multiple compartments, it can be harder to find things quickly.

Also, they might not protect fragile stuff as well as a hard suitcase would. And while some duffel bags typically have shoulder straps, they’re not as 5easy to roll around like suitcases with wheels, especially in busy places.

Do airlines charge for duffle bags?

Yes, airlines often charge for travel duffels, but it depends on the airline’s policies and the type of ticket you have. Many airlines consider duffel bags as regular checked luggage or carry-on bag, subject to the same fees that apply to suitcases or other bags. 

Can I use a duffel bag as carry-on luggage?

Yes, you can use a duffel bag as carry-on luggage, and even as a personal item. Just make sure your carry-on duffel fits within the size restrictions set by the airline for overhead bins or under-seat storage. 

How can I avoid extra fees when using a duffel bag as checked luggage?

To avoid extra fees, ensure your duffel bag adheres to the airline’s weight and size restrictions. Pack efficiently and consider using a luggage scale to confirm the weight before heading to the airport.

How do I secure my duffel bag?

To secure your duffel bag, consider using locks or straps to deter tampering. Additionally, placing fragile or valuable items within the center of your bag adds an extra layer of protection. 

Can I lock my duffel bag if it’s going to be checked?

Yes, you can lock your duffel bag. Opt for TSA-approved locks that can be easily opened by security personnel who might need to inspect their contents.

How to pack a duffle dag for travel

So, does a duffel bag count as checked luggage?

Can You Use a Duffel Bag As Checked Luggage?

In conclusion, the answer is clear: You can definitely use a duffel bag as checked luggage for your travels. While suitcases might be the go-to choice, airlines generally allow duffel bags as long as they meet size and weight limits. Just remember to research airline policies, pack efficiently, and choose a duffel bag that can withstand the demands of checked luggage.  

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