Carry-on Luggage Rules
Before we can master carry-on-only packing, we must understand the rules. As with most rules, those for carry-ons vary by airline, so I’d highly recommend verifying the specific rules and measurements for your airline before arriving at the check-in counter. It’s best practice to consult your airline’s website directly to avoid inaccurate or outdated information from third-party sites.
Carry-On Luggage Size
The commonly accepted rule for carry-on luggage size is 45 linear inches (measured as length + width + height). Sometimes you will see the dimensions specified explicitly, and again the most common is 22 x 14 x 9 inches (which works out the same as our 45 linear inches limit). It is important to note that cheaper or budget airlines are often the strictest with luggage size rules.
In addition to your carry-on luggage, most airlines also allow one personal item, like a purse or laptop bag. Your personal item must fit under the seat in front of you. Very few airlines publish size rules for personal items.
Carry-On Luggage Weight
Carry-on luggage rules for weight can vary widely between airlines. Some airlines allow carry-on bags weighing up to fifty pounds, but would you really want to carry around 50 pounds? I’d recommend aiming to be in the 15-25 pound range. This should allow you to pack everything you need, while maintaining a reasonably comfortable weight. As with sizing, some budget airlines will be stricter about weight rules.
Carry-On Toiletries Size
Toiletry size rules are consistent around the world. Our friends at Tortuga Backpacks have provided this handy way of remembering what’s allowed in your carry-on luggage:
The rule for toiletries (liquids or gels) is 3-1-1:
- 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottles or less
- 1 litre-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag
- 1 bag per passenger
In other words, your liquids and gels must be in 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottles. Those bottles must fit into a one litre plastic bag. Each passenger may only carry one of these plastic bags.
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