The Ultimate Guide to Carry-on Luggage
[30 of Your Carry-on Luggage
Questions Answered]

carry on luggage - word cloud

Welcome to my ultimate guide to carry-on luggage post. 

I often come across carry-on luggage related questions when researching content for our luggage blog. 

In this post, I have shortlisted and answered 30 of the frequently asked questions for you.  

I hope you find it useful. 

And if you have a question I haven’t addressed, just drop me a comment below, and I’ll check it out for you.

Carry-on luggage: a carry-on size check signage at the airport

The most common dimension of a carry-on bag allowed is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. 

But keep in mind that this includes the handles and wheels (not just the measurement of the case itself). This size restriction ensures that passengers are able to safely lift and store their bags in the overhead bin.

With that being said, remember that each airline has its own size restrictions, and size limits may vary for domestic and international flights.

So, if in doubt always check the luggage size for carry-on that is allowed on your airline’s website.

You are allowed one piece of carry-on luggage which must not be larger than 22x14x9 inches, including wheels and handles.

Ideally, your carry-on luggage should also not weigh more than 10kg so that you are able to lift it up on to the overhead cabin safely.

You may also take with you a small piece of personal item bag but it must not be larger than 16x12x6 inches so that it can fit underneath the seat in front of you.

You are allowed to bring these items on board free of charge.

However, if any of your bags is larger or weighs more, it will need to be checked into the aircraft hold, and you may have to pay additional fees.

These dimensions are the most common requirements by most airlines but it is worth double-checking the size for carry-on that is allowed on your airline’s website if in doubt.

A carry-on luggage is a suitcase or bag that you carry on the plane with you and store in the overhead bin above your seat.

It should fit within the general dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Carry-on luggage may also be referred to as ‘hand baggage’.

All airlines have their own size requirements for carry-on luggage based on the space in the overhead bins.

This may also differ between national and international flights. Airlines also allow passengers to take one item with them on the plane that fits under the seat in front of them.

This is referred to as a ‘personal item’ and is separate from your carry-on. The most common dimensions for a personal item are 16 x 12 x 6 inches.

4. Will my carry-on fit?

Your carry-on must be within the dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches in order for it to fit in the overhead compartment.

These measurements exist for a reason- anything bigger will not fit.

Avoid making the mistake of taking a carry-on that won’t squeeze into the bins, and measure your suitcase to make sure it fits these parameters.

Other than size, it is also very important to make sure your carry-on suitcase is not too heavy for you to lift. If you are unable to lift it, this can be dangerous when attempting to put it in the bins. It can also cause you unnecessary physical strain.

5. Is carry-on and cabin bag the same?

Carry-on luggage: two ladies each rolling a carry-on luggage

Carry-on luggage is also sometimes referred to as a ‘cabin bag’.

These terms both mean the same thing.

They refer to the suitcase or bag that you will stow in the overhead bin above your seat.

If this luggage does not fit in the overhead bin, then it will need to be checked. The average size requirement of carry-on luggage/cabin bags is 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

However, size requirements are different depending on the airlines you are flying.

Be sure to check with the specific details on your flight ticket to determine the size restrictions allowed for your cabin bag.

6. Can I bring two personal items on a plane?

Carry-on luggage: a blue luggage and a backpack

Most airlines only allow you to take one personal item with you onto the plane.

There is not enough room under the seat in front of you for two personal items. You can only carry two personal items if you do not have a carry-on bag with you, even though you are allowed one.

This way, one of your personal items can be stored in the overhead bin while another can go beneath the seat in front of you.

You should also check to see if you can combine personal items.

For example, if you have a backpack and a purse, your purse will sometimes fit inside the backpack.

As long as your backpack fits the personal item dimensions of 16 x 12 x 6 inches, this is completely fine.

A carry-on bag is a larger piece of luggage that must be placed in the overhead bin above your seat.

The most common size requirements of a carry-on bag are 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

Carry-on bags are usually smaller suitcases or duffle bags.

A personal item is a smaller item that you can fit under the seat in front of you. The most common size requirements of personal items are 16 x 12 x 6 inches. Personal items include purses, tote bags, fanny packs, and more.

Most airlines allow you to take one personal item and one carry-on bag for free.

However, some cheaper airlines will only allow you to take a personal item for free, while the carry-on bag will cost you extra. All flights generally let you take one personal item for free.

8. Can I bring two carry-on bags?

Carry-on luggage: a lady rollling two suitcases at the airport

Most airlines only allow you to take one carry-on bag onto the plane with you.

This is because there is usually only enough room for one carry-on bag per person.

However, the airline may allow you to pay extra to take another carry-on. If there is not enough space on the plane, they will allow you to pay extra to check your second bag.

You can only take two items on the plane if one of them is small enough to be counted as your personal item.

This means one of the items needs to fit beneath the seat in front of you and fall between the average dimensions of 16 x 12 x 6 inches.

If your second piece of luggage is a backpack, you can likely count it as your personal item. Otherwise, you will need to pay more to take it with you.

9. Can I use a backpack as a personal item?

Carry-on luggage: a man wearing a backpack inside the plane

A backpack is an acceptable personal item as long as it falls within the airline’s dimension requirements for personal items.

The most common size requirement is 16 x 12 x 6 inches.

If the backpack is larger than this, it may not comfortably fit beneath the seat in front of you.

If the backpack is too big, it will be considered a carry-on bag and must be stowed within the overhead bins above your seat.

You will not be allowed to take another larger suitcase or bag with you because only one carry-on is allowed. However, you will still be able to take a smaller personal item with you.

10. Can I bring a backpack and a carry-on?

Carry-on luggage: a yellow luggage and a backpack

You can bring a backpack and a carry-on with you on a plane as long as you are allowed both a carry-on and a personal item.

Your backpack also needs to be small enough to fit the size requirements of personal items. This is usually around 16 x 12 x 6 inches.

If your backpack is larger than these dimensions, you will not be allowed to take both with you. You will either need to check your carry-on and use the backpack as a carry-on or check your backpack.

It is more likely that you will check your carry-on suitcase because there are things in your backpack you will likely want to have on the flight with you.

11. Is a 28-inch suitcase too big?

Carry-on luggage: a man and woman with a 28-inch luggage and a 21-inch luggage respectively

A 28-inch suitcase is too big to bring as a carry-on bag.

The maximum dimensions of a carry-on bag is 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

All airlines will consider this too big for taking on the flight and will force you to check it. You will also likely have difficulty bringing it through airport security.

However, a 28-inch suitcase is a great size for a checked bag. Since it will likely be heavy, it is much more convenient for you to check it instead of lugging it around with you.

12. Is a 24-inch bag a carry-on?

Carry-on luggage: a white luggage on a pink background

A 24-inch bag is considered not a carry-on for most airlines and should be checked at the counter.

The max dimensions of carry-ons stand at 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

24 inches falls just a bit larger than this. For many aircrafts, you may have difficulty fitting it into the small space in the overhead bins. It is better to be safe, and check it before finding out it won’t fit.

13. Can I take 3 bags on a plane?

Carry-on luggage: three suitcases behind an airplane in a yellow background

Most airlines do not allow passengers to take 3 bags on a plane.

The general rule of thumb is that you are allowed to take two items on a plane with you- one carry-on bag (22 x 14 x 9 inches) and one personal item (16 x 12 x 6 inches).

These first two bags are usually free of charge unless you are traveling on a budget airline.

If you wish to take a third bag with you to your next destination, you will likely have to pay additional fees and get it checked into the aircraft hold.

14. Is a laptop bag considered a cabin bag?

Carry-on luggage: a businessman taking out a black laptop bag from a conveyor

A laptop bag is considered a personal item, not a cabin bag.

This is because it most often fits beneath the seat in front of you and is not larger than 16 x 12 x 6 inches. You will be allowed to take both a carry-on bag of 22 x 14 x 9 inches, including the wheels and handle, and your laptop bag. Be sure to place the carry-on in the bin above you and your laptop bag beneath the seat in front of you.

If your laptop bag is larger than 16 x 12 x 6 inches, it will be considered a cabin bag and have to be stored in the overhead bins.

However, most laptop bags fit these dimensions, so you probably don’t have to worry.

15. Does a woman’s handbag count as hand luggage?

Carry-on luggage: a lady rolling her luggage with a handbag attached

Hand luggage refers to the items you bring on a plane with you.

A woman’s handbag is considered hand luggage because women generally bring it on the plane with them.

However, it is not considered to be a carry-on.

This is because it is usually small enough to fit under the seat in front of them and be considered a personal item.

Carry-on luggage refers to the larger suitcase or bag that a person places in the overhead bin above their seat.

If you are not carrying any larger items, you can place your handbag in the overhead bin to make more space for your legs.

However, flight attendants may ask you to place it under your seat if there is not enough room for someone else’s larger carry-on bag.

16. Are ladies’ purses allowed on planes?

Yes, ladies’ purses are allowed on the plane.

A purse is usually considered a personal item because it falls within the average dimensions of 16 x 12 x 6 inches.

If a purse is within these dimensions, it means it can fit under the seat in front of you. You are able to bring one personal item on the plane free of charge.

Most airlines allow passengers to take two pieces of hand luggage- one carry-on luggage and one personal item.

Ladies’ purses are usually the personal item.

This means that you are also able to take a larger suitcase or bag that fits within the dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

17. What can I carry in my purse on a plane?

Carry-on luggage: a red purse filled with ladies essentials

You can carry whatever you want in your purse on the plane as long as it does not go against the restrictions of the airlines.

Items such as your wallet, money, medication, tissues, snacks, and keys are completely fine to carry in your purse.

Other items may be restricted, including the following: liquids over 3.4 ounces, weapons, sharp objects, batteries, alcoholic beverages, electronic cigarettes, explosives, flammable materials, lighters and matches, cleaning items, drones, animal products, and cutting instruments.

You should refer to both your airline’s restriction and TSA’s complete list of restricted items to be on the safe side.

18. Can I take a razor in my carry-on?

Carry-on luggage: a radio blade on a pink background

You can take razors in your carry-on luggage as long as they adhere to the guidelines of the airline.

Disposable razors, electric razors, and replacement razors can go in your carry-on or your checked bag. These razors are fine because the blades are not removable.

Safety razors and straight razors, on the other hand, are not allowed in your carry-on luggage.

These must be placed in your checked bag, or else airport security will throw them away. If you need, you can remove the blades and take just the razor body with you. These types of razors are not allowed because the blades are removable and can be used as a weapon on the plane.

19. Can you bring meds on a plane?

Carry-on luggage: meds with container

You can bring over-the-counter medication or your personal prescriptions on the plane with you.

You cannot bring any medication you don’t have a legal prescription for.

You also cannot bring any illegal drugs.

As long as your medication is in dry form, you can bring as much as you want. If your medication is in liquid form, you need to make sure it is under 3.4 ounces.

It is highly recommended you bring your medication in your carry-on in case you need to use it. This also prevents you from potentially losing the medication you need in the event of lost luggage.

It is a good idea to read more about TSA’s rules for taking medications through airport security.

20. What is the 311 rule?

Carry-on luggage: a woman's luggage and ziplock bag being inspected at airport security

The 3-1-1 rule is a rule made by TSA regarding the amount of liquids, gels, and aerosols that a passenger may take in their carry-on luggage.

You may only take liquid in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less (100 milliliters).

Each passenger is allowed only one quart-sized bag of liquids, gels, and aerosols. Every container must fit inside this bag.

Common liquid items taken in carry-on include shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, lotion, sunscreen, mouthwash, and hand sanitizer.

If you need to take a liquid that is in a container over the amount of 3.4 ounces, it must be placed in your checked luggage.

If you purchase duty-free liquids over 3.4 ounces while at the airport, you can take these on the plane without any issues. Be sure to carry the receipt with you and do not tamper with the retailer bag. All purchases must have been made within 48 hours.

21. How much weight is allowed in the cabin?

Carry-on luggage: a man weighing a luggage

Most airlines do not have a specific restriction regarding the weight of your carry-on luggage or personal item.

While they will always weigh your checked bag, they usually don’t bother weighing your hand luggage.

However, you should make sure that you are comfortably and safely able to lift your luggage above your head into the overhead bin.

If you are not able to lift it, you should remove some items so that it weighs less.

Some budget airlines may have a weight restriction for carry-on bags.

If the airline states a specific weight maximum, be sure to adhere to this. They may or may not weigh your bag at check-in, but it is best to always be prepared.

22. Why are airlines charging for carry-on?

Carry-on luggage: a carry-on luggage signage at the airport

In the past, most airlines allowed every passenger to bring one carry-on item, while checking a bag into the airplane hold cost a fee.

This led to passengers cramming all their items into a carry-on and storing them in the overhead bins of the plane.

Having a large number of carry-on items makes boarding and deplaning take a lot longer. By reducing the number of carry-on bags, the plane can spend less time at the gate.

By charging for carry-on items, airlines have decreased the motivation to pack a carry-on.

Now, more people will be more likely to pay for a checked bag because it is easier and they can pack more.

23. Do you have to pay for carry-on bags now?

Carry-on luggage: a collection of suitcases with a backpack on top

Many airlines still allow passengers to bring one carry-on bag aboard the aircraft free of charge, as long as it fits within the dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

They also allow one free personal item that fits within the dimensions of 16 x 12 x 6 inches.

However, if you are flying on a budget airline or purchased an economy flight ticket, you may have to pay extra for a carry-on bag.

This can cost anywhere from $30-$50 dollars, depending on the airline and the flight.

24. Which bags are not allowed on a flight?

Carry-on luggage: a man placing his personal item under the seat in front of him

The maximum dimensions of a carry-on bag is 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

Anything bigger than this is not allowed on the flight because it will not fit in the small space in the overhead bins.

For personal items, your bag cannot be greater than the dimensions 16 x 12 x 6 inches. It needs to be small enough to comfortably fit under the seat in front of you.

25. What happens if my personal item is one inch too big?

Carry-on luggage: a woman with a carry-on luggage and a backpack on an airplane

If your personal item is one inch too big, you might be forced to check your bag and pay a small fee.

This can be very inconvenient, especially since your personal item carries a lot of the things you want to have on the plane with you.

Avoid this happening by always taking a personal item between the dimensions of 16 x 12 x 6 inches.

It is also possible that the airline will not bother checking the exact measurements of the personal item. As long as it fits under the seat, they may not care. However, this is always a risk.

26. Can you bring a pillow on the plane?

Carry-on luggage: a woman sleeping with a neck pillow around her inside a plane

You are allowed to take a pillow on the plane.

Airport security does not have any issues with passengers taking pillows on their flights. A pillow is considered an item of comfort and is not included in the carry-on and personal item allowance.

However, you should be mindful of the size of the pillow.

It should not be too big to squeeze under the seat in front of you if need be. Also, keep in mind that many airlines with long-haul flights will provide passengers with a small pillow.

Travel neck pillows are often worn around the neck or tied onto a carry-on or personal item. These are fine to take as well.

27. Can you bring a blanket on the plane?

Carry-on luggage: a woman sleeping with a blanket around her inside a plane

Blankets are perfectly acceptable to bring on the plane with you.

Like pillows, these are considered items of comfort. Most airlines agree that blankets count as a personal item. You can either squeeze the blanket into your carry-on or personal item.

If there is no room in either your carry-on or personal item, you also have the option of wearing your blanket. As long as it is thin enough to pass as a shawl or cape, airport security will not question it. They will, however, make you take it off as you go through security.

Keep in mind that many airlines provide passengers with blankets, especially for long-haul flights.

28. Are shoes allowed in hand luggage?

Carry-on luggage: a luggage filled with clothes and shoes beside it

Shoes are allowed in hand luggage. You can store them in your carry-on suitcase or keep them in your personal item.

As long as your shoes fit within the dimensions and the weight limit of these items, they are fine to bring on board the aircraft.

Even shoes with pointy toes and high heels are fine to bring on board.

TSA does not feel that these are any risk to airport security. However, shoes with blades such as ice skates are not allowed in one’s hand luggage and must be checked.

29. Do you have to take food out of your bag at airport security?

Carry-on luggage: food inside the airplane

Food is allowed through airport security and does not need to be taken out of your bag for screening unless the TSA agents say otherwise.

You can leave whatever snacks you packed in your carry-on or personal item and let it go through x-ray screening.

Sometimes, TSA may ask you to remove your food, or they will have an agent hand-check your bag to make sure everything is acceptable.

It is best to always keep your food in an enclosed ziplock bag to prevent spills while it is handled by security. 

30. Can you have lip gloss in your purse on a plane?

Carry-on luggage: a phone and make-up kits and cosmetic bag on a pink background

Lip gloss is fine to take in your purse on a plane.

Lip gloss tubes are usually very small, about 0.3 ounces. The maximum liquid container allowed on a plane is 3.4 ounces. This makes it way under the liquid amount limit.

Make sure to keep any liquids in a quart-sized bag and be sure to follow TSA’s 3-1-1 rule.

10 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Carry-on Luggage (30 of Your Carry-on Luggage Questions Answered)”

  1. Hi Femi,
    I don’t travel that often on planes, so this ultimate guide for carry-on luggage is perfect for me. I know since 911 and the planes hitting the twin towers, thing are a lot different from the old days.
    I would not even have a clue as to what size my luggage should be, I would be at the mercy of the manufacturer without you convenient list. An you gave some good suggestions on how to handle food and liquids. Thank you and keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Hi Chas,

      We appreciate your feedback on our suggestions on how to handle food and liquids and will continue to work hard to bring the best information to our readers.
      Thanks again for taking the time to write a review and we hope you’ll find our guides helpful in the future should you need them.

      Cheers,
      Femi.

      Reply
  2. I am glad you are able to clarify this as sometimes people are not aware what to bing and what not to bring. Sometimes it depends on airlines as they may have different rules.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment, Angee!

      We’re glad to have been of help and we hope that you’ll find our guide useful for your future air travels.
      While we’ve tried to make it as comprehensive as possible, airlines do have their own rules and regulations so it’s always best to check with them before traveling.

      As always, please do reach out to us should you have any additional questions or concerns.
      Cheers,
      Femi.

      Reply
  3. Hi Femi – This is a fantastic guide for airline luggage and exactly something I’ve been looking for. I recently did some international travel and while there are some luggage rules that all airlines seem to follow, there are many more that have their own individual rules too. That makes it a bit more frustrating when switching between airlines on a long flight. I have one domestic flight coming up in a couple months so this will be a good reference article for when I go on that trip. Thank you for providing your expertise on this topic!

    Reply
  4. Hi Femi,

    What a good blog post! It shares the things people should know about carry-on luggage. I have been asked so many times that my carry-on luggage and personal item don’t meet the requirement, so this post does provide me some value. I used to have one carry-on luggage and one backpack with me on flights, and that’s probably why some ground staff needed me to tug my backpack into my luggage. 🙂

    Thanks a lot for this post, which reminds me that summer is coming, and I cannot wait to travel again!

    Matt

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment, Matt!
      We’re glad you found our Ultimate Guide to Carry-on Luggage helpful. It’s definitely a handy resource for anyone looking to travel light and avoid those pesky baggage fees.

      We hope you have a great summer full of travels and adventures!
      Femi.

      Reply
  5. Hey Femi. Thanks a lot for explaining some of the terms. These “bags” issues are something that has cost me a couple of $$ already and also some nerves. I am not sure how in your part of the world, but in Europe there are so-called “low cost” airlines. With their introduction, the prices of the ticket decreased, but on the other hand, they allowed just a cabin bag. That would be ok, only if they would not change those rules so often. That way I have the feeling they are doing it on purpose, to sell customers something (what looks cheaper) but to only find out, their purchase is not suitable and at the airport, there is this extra charge. (That happened with me and Ryanair last year while traveling from the Canaries back to the Netherlands). So tell me places one thing. Is there something as a standard measure for carry-ons? Is your part of the world any better than Ryanair and Easy Jets here in Europe? By the way, I love your graphics. Cheers

    Reply
    • Hi Julius,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Regarding your question, the most common dimension of a carry-on bag required by US carriers is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. However, there are some exceptions as you will see in my carry on luggage rules post.

      And yes requirements do change sometimes – for example, the ongoing merger of Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines is likely to result in a harmonisation of their carry on requirement later on this year. So, it is always good to double-check those requirements on the airline’s website before you travel, especially if you are not a frequent flyer.

      Kind regards
      Femi

      Reply
  6. Thank you for writing such an in-depth guide to carry-on luggage. I am one who has to worry about this because I always pack way too much. The rules sure have changed over the years.
    Your article is great as it will keep me from bringing a bag that’s too big. Good to know that I can bring my heels in my carry-on.
    Of course, I will be checking a bag in too. You can never have too much struff when traveling…that is until you try to get it on a plane. LOL!

    Reply

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