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Your Guide for Personal Items & Carry-On Luggage Sizes

Updated: Jan 9

Packing efficiently for air travel involves understanding specific airline luggage size restrictions. Knowing the precise size requirements for your under-seat personal bag and overhead bin carry-on luggage can be the difference between a seamless boarding process and unexpected fees. Below we will define a personal item and carry-on baggage, learn about different types of each, and share the size and weight restrictions of both for the Top 10 Airlines in 2023 as per The Points Guy.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. Meaning that, at zero cost to you, Dale, Let's Travel! LLC may receive a small commission if you finalize a purchase through the below links. Thank you for supporting the blog!

What is a Personal Item?


A personal item, also called an underseat bag, is a smaller bag or item meant to be stowed in the underseat compartment in front of you during your flight. It includes items such as a laptop bag, small handbag, tote bags, and small backpacks. Most airlines have specific size restrictions for personal items, usually around 18 x 14 x 8 inches, but it can vary between airlines.

Personal items laid out like a laptop, mouse, book, sunglasses, pens, headphones, cables, and more

Passengers can use their personal items to carry essential or valuable items, such as laptops/tablets, travel documents, medications, a water bottle, or other similar items needed during the flight. It is a convenient way to keep these necessities close at hand during the journey. Understanding the guidelines for personal item dimensions is crucial for a smoother boarding, flight, and deboarding process.

Examples of Personal Items:




Is a Personal Item free?


Yes, all domestic flights allow a free personal item, and most international airlines also permit them to fly for free! Just be mindful that there are size limits; they must fit under the seat.

The Biggest Plus of a Personal Item


Having easy access to your essentials is a significant advantage, especially if you are seated in the window or middle seat and cannot easily reach your carry-on in the overhead bin.

The Biggest Minus of a Personal Item


You lose legroom. 😞

What is a Carry-On Item?


A carry-on item refers to a piece of luggage or bag allowed in the airplane cabin, meant for storage in the overhead compartment space. A carry-on luggage is typically smaller and more manageable than checked baggage. These can be duffle bags or, if you want a larger carry-on, you can get a roller suitcase that is within the size limits of a carry-on baggage.

Blue hard shell spinner wheel suitcase in a carry-on size

Carry ons are meant to contain items you might need during the flight or immediately upon arrival, such as personal essentials, valuables, electronics, a change of clothes, or important documents. Understanding the dimensions and weight limitations for carry-on items is important to ensure compliance with airline policies and to avoid extra fees or the need to check the bag at the gate if it exceeds the allowed size or weight.

Examples of Carry-On Items:



- Weekender Bag - perfect for short trips and overnight stays

Is a Carry-On Item free?


Yes and no. Not all airlines offer free carry-on bags. Some airlines charge you for bringing one on board. Different airlines charge different prices for carry ons, so check out your airline's official website for more details.

The Biggest Plus of a Carry-On Item


If you are successfully able to bring your carry-on with you inside the plane, you do not have to worry about dealing with baggage claims. With that, you can quickly get in and out of the airport - this is perfect for a work trip when you have to get to your next meeting as soon as possible!

The Biggest Minus of a Carry-On Item


Baggage Claim in an International Airport

If asked to check your carry-on due to a full overhead compartment, you will need to wait for your luggage at baggage claim upon arrival, risking potential damage or loss. Avoid placing your laptop or essential documents in your carry-on; opt for your personal bag instead. However, being in an early boarding group can help you bypass this scenario entirely.

What if I have Assistive Devices?


Passengers are permitted to bring their assistive devices onto the airplane and store them in the overhead compartment, under the seat, or in a designated stowage area, given compliance with FAA or foreign safety regulations. If the device cannot be stowed as carry-on baggage in the passenger cabin, it can be stowed as cargo at no additional charge, ensuring accommodation for these devices without imposing extra fees on passengers.

Are there other things that do not count towards my personal or carry-on items?



Yes! Most airlines typically permit additional items that do not tally into your personal item count, such as duty-free purchases, post-security food and drink, as well as jackets, coats, or umbrellas. Exemptions also extend to other essentials like breast milk, coolers for breast milk, hats, blankets, pillows, and reading materials, allowing passengers to carry these alongside their designated personal and carry-on items without impacting their allowance.

So, what is the maximum size to consider for each airline?


Here is a rundown of the specified sizes for personal items and carry-on items for the top 10 airlines in 2023 by The Points Guy:


1. Delta Airlines

- Personal item: Not explicitly stated on their website; however, the general dimensions for personal items are 18 x 14 x 8 inches
- Carry-on: 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

2. United Airlines

- Personal item: 17 x 10 x 9 inches
- Carry-on: 22 x 14 x 9 inches

3. Alaska Airlines

- Personal item: Not explicitly stated on their website; however, the general dimensions for personal items are 18 x 14 x 8 inches
- Carry-on: 22 x 14 x 9 inches

4. American Airlines

- Personal item: 18 x 14 x 8 inches
- Carry-on: 22 x 14 x 9 inches

5. Southwest Airlines

- Personal item: Not explicitly stated on their website; however, the general dimensions for personal items are 18 x 14 x 8 inches
- Carry-on: 24 x 16 x 10 inches


6. Hawaiian Airlines

- Personal item: Not explicitly stated on their website; however, the general dimensions for personal items are 18 x 14 x 8 inches
- Carry-on: 22 x 14 x 9 inches
           - Weight Limit: 25 Pounds

7. JetBlue Airways

- Personal item: 17 x 13 x 8 inches
- Carry-on: 22 x 14 x 9 inches

8. Spirit Airlines

- Personal item: 18 x 14 x 8 inches
- Carry-on: 22 x 18 x 10 inches

9. Allegiant Air

- Personal item: 18 x 14 x 8 inches
- Carry-on: 22 x 16 x 10 inches

10. Frontier Airlines

- Personal item: 18 x 14 x 8 inches
- Carry-on: 24 x 16 x 10 inches
           - Weight Limit: 35 Pounds

Most airlines do not have a weight restriction for personal or carry-on items unless otherwise stated above. Always double-check the exact measurements for your airline before your trip, as the airlines reserve the right to change their policies.

Enjoy your Flight!


An airplane flying through the air

Whether it is a quick trip for fun or work, knowing the right size for your under seat baggage and carry-on items is necessary for hassle-free travel. Plus, it is an added bonus to avoid any unexpected fees along the way. Happy travels!

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