The vacation countdown is almost over, and it’s time to get packing. Before you print that boarding pass and set your out-of-office message, though, it’s important to conduct a bit of research to avoid any hiccups at the gate — especially with your cargo. Though many travel rules vary depending on what region of the world you’re heading to or from, carry-on luggage size limits remain a consistent, steadfast metric for the vast majority of airlines.
Sure, you might occasionally be able to sneak onboard with a bag that’s a bit oversized or overweight, but it’s always smarter to plan ahead. To ensure you get from point A to point B smoothly, choosing the best carry-on luggage to fit the fine print will make for less travel stress. Skip the Googling and follow this guide to know what size suitcase to bring on your next trip — no TSA bargaining, pleading, or, worst of all, last-minute checking required.
To get started, let’s begin with these frequently asked questions.
What size is carry-on luggage?
Though you might find an inch or two of a difference with various airlines, the standard domestic carry-on luggage size is 22” x 14” x 9”, which includes the handle and the wheels. This size limit ensures your bag — and ideally everyone else’s — will be able to be stored safely in the overhead bin for your flight. By far, the biggest benefit of traveling with carry-on luggage is being able to transport your belongings yourself without entrusting them to the airline and hoping they’ll arrive at your destination on time and in one, undamaged piece.
What is the weight limit for carry-on luggage?
For many major domestic airlines — think: Delta, Southwest, JetBlue — there are no weight restrictions for carry-on bags. You’ll just have to be able to lift it above your head into the storage bin. And in most cases, even if airlines do list a specific pound or kilogram limit on their websites, they likely won’t weigh your carry-on bags. As long as your pack doesn’t appear to be overstuffed, you’re probably OK. Weight is much more important for small commuter planes, mostly due to safety regulations.
What is a personal item?
In addition to your carry-on suitcase, many airlines also allow a personal item. This can be a laptop bag, a purse, a briefcase, a beach bag — whatever you like, as long as it is generally small. Personal item restrictions vary by airline, and some choose not to include any specifics at all. In those cases, the general rule of thumb is an item smaller in dimension and weight than your carry-on bag. For families flying with a stroller or diaper bag or those traveling with uncommon additions like a wedding dress or an instrument can rest assured that most carriers will let you bring these along with your carry-on luggage and your personal item, but we recommend you contact the airline in advance to confirm this.
What is the best carry-on luggage?
As with any travel gear, everyone has a different opinion on the best luggage brands, but the best buy for you is ultimately the one that suits your needs as a traveler. If you’re constantly on the road, invest in a durable bag that can keep up. If you take one or two vacations a year, you can go with something more affordable. These days, you don’t have to stick to legacy brands to get a quality suitcase. Many up-and-comers offer some really solid options whether you prefer softside or hardside luggage, two-wheel rollaboards or four-wheel spinners. Before you buy, take note of the dimensions in comparison with the airlines you prefer to fly to be sure you’re shopping on the safe side.
What is allowed in a carry-on bag?
What you put in your carry-on bag is regulated, as well. In addition to the same rules that apply to checked bags, which prohibit firearms, lithium batteries, and other potentially hazardous items, you must be mindful of liquids when packing your carry-on luggage. Regardless of your destination, you cannot bring containers of liquid, paste, aerosol, gel, or cream larger than 3.4 ounces through security. Make sure to check the specific rules of your carrier, too, so you won’t be forced to throw anything away at the gate.
Carry-on luggage size chart
Travel retailer eBags compiled this super-helpful list of carry-on luggage regulations for the most popular airlines. On their site, each airline’s specific requirements are shoppable.