What Size Bag To Buy For Carry-On Only Travel

Man Using Overhead Bin

If you’re planning a switch to one-bag travel or carry-on only, you’ll need to consider the size and weight of the bag(s) you’ll be using. Too big and you may be forced to check your bag at the gate. Too small and it won’t be able to hold all of your belongings. While weight isn’t much of an issue with airlines in North America, international airlines do have weight restrictions for carry-on bags. Just keep that in mind when you’re looking at a cute hardcase wheelie bag that weighs 6 lbs.

Couple With Wheelie Bags

Carry-On Allowances

To give you an idea of what most airlines are allowing in terms of carry on luggage, we’ve included some charts below. All length measurements are given in inches. Airlines often update their rules, so please use the links to view their current policies if you are going to be flying with one of these specific airlines.

North America

Airline What Can You Carry On? Personal Item Overhead Item Weight
American Airlines 1 personal & 1 overhead 18 x 14 x 8 22 x 14 x 9 Not listed
Delta Air Lines 1 personal & 1 overhead Hand/Laptop bag 22 x 14 x 9 No maximum
Southwest Airlines 1 personal & 1 overhead 18.5 x 13.5 x 8.5 24 x 16 x 10 Not listed
United Airlines Depends on your ticket 17 x 10 x 9 22 x 14 x 9 Not listed
Air Canada 1 personal & 1 overhead 17 x 13 x 6 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 Not listed
Alaska Airlines 1 personal & 1 overhead Hand/Laptop bag 22 x 14 x 9 Not listed
JetBlue Airways 1 personal & 1 overhead 17 x 13 x 8 22 x 14 x 9 Not listed
Spirit Airlines Depends on your ticket 18 x 14 x 8 22 x 18 x 10 Not listed
WestJet 1 personal & 1 overhead 16 x 13 x 6 21 x 15 x 9 Not listed
Aeroméxico 1 personal & 1 overhead 21.5 x 15.7 x 10 21.5 x 15.7 x 10 22 lbs total

For domestic travel, these numbers should give you a good idea of the type of bag you will want to buy. If you are planning on stowing your bag overhead, a maximum bag size of 22″ x 14″ x 8″ would be ideal. If you’re hoping to always keep your bag under the seat in front of you, things gets a little trickier. A softer bag that has a little give, like a backpack under 18″ x 14″ x 8″ would be a good choice.

Waiting In Airport

Overseas

Airline What Can You Carry On? Personal Item Overhead Item Weight
Ryanair Depends on your ticket 16 x 10 x 8 22 x 16 x 8 22 lbs total
China Southern Airlines Depends on your ticket Hand/Laptop bag 22 x 18 x 10 11 lbs each
China Eastern Airlines Depends on your ticket Hand/Laptop bag 22 x 18 x 10 11 lbs each
easyJet Depends on your ticket 18 x 14 x 8 22 x 18 x 10 No maximum
Turkish Airlines Depends on your ticket Hand/Laptop bag 22 x 16 x 9 Not listed
Lufthansa Depends on your ticket 16 x 12 x 4 22 x 16 x 9 17.6 lbs each
Emirates Depends on your ticket 18 x 14 x 8 22 x 15 x 8 15 lbs total
British Airways 1 personal & 1 overhead 16 x 12 x 6 22 x 18 x 10 51 lbs each
Eqyptair 1 personal & 1 overhead Hand/Laptop bag 22 x 14 x 9 17.6 lbs each
Air France Depends on your ticket 16 x 12 x 6 22 x 14 x 10 Depends on cabin

For international travel, the overhead allowances are all pretty similar. A hard bag at 22″ x 14″ x 8″ should work on almost any flight. A softer bag, like a duffel, could probably work at around 22″ x 16″ x 10″. As you can see from the chart, the personal item is a little more subjective. We recommend a soft bag no larger than 16″ x 10″ x 8″.

Personal Item Bag

Our Plan

While planning our first one-bag travel adventure, we used these averages to make informed choices. Keeping our bags under the seat in front of us is preferable. However, we purchased packs based on their durability, reviews, comfort, and capacity. Size was definitely not our biggest priority. Before purchasing, we did ensure they would at least be accepted as an overhead item, but we’re holding out hope that we can always squish them under the seats. Ultimately, the bags we selected are 19″ x 12.5″ x 7.5″ and 21.5″ x 13.5″ x 8.5″ respectively. Since we’re only taking one bag each, it really doesn’t matter whether the airline considers it an overhead or personal item. We’ll keep you updated on how that works out for us.

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