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  • Writer's pictureJulie Prusak

What Size Carry-On Should I Buy?

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

When I’m asked which carry-on to buy for international travel, my answer is always “the biggest one you can lift into the overhead compartment!” The correct answer is “check the website of the airline(s) you plan to fly.” Airline rules for carry-on luggage and personal items vary so much, so what size bag is OK to bring (or buy in the first place) when traveling the world?

For carry-ons, the generally safe size is 22x14x9 inches and 45 linear inches (L+W+H). Some airlines also add a weight limit for carry-ons and/or personal items. I recently had my carry-on and personal item both weighed and size-checked in Oslo. Thankfully, they didn’t weigh me or the coat I was carrying!

Experienced travelers expect different checked luggage allowances based on the class of the ticket (business vs economy) or airline status (loyalty literally pays in saved excess luggage fees). But airlines also have different carry-on allowances based on cabin classes, routes, and membership tiers. Most importantly, the maximum allowable size for carry-ons varies by airline. For example, Emirates restricts carry-on size to 21.7x15x7.8 inches while many other international carriers limit carry-on height to 21 inches or less. When flying with smaller, regional airlines outside the United States, carry-ons may not be allowed at all or incur an added fee. That Easy Jet ticket may not be such a bargain!

In addition to your carry-on suitcase, most airlines also allow a personal item. Personal items must fit under your seat…all the way under. These sizes are also usually restricted by airlines, but the final call on whether you get to take your overstuffed LV Neverfull or backpack on board is the gate agent. And if you are lucky enough to be seated in the exit row, all personal items must be stored in the overhead compartment for take-off and landing. Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t specify sizes and has amongst the most lenient guidelines: "a laptop bag, briefcase, purse, or backpack that can fit under the seat in front of you." Mahalo! Coats, umbrellas, and duty-free merchandise are allowed in addition. So, when in doubt, wear your layers.

For a more detailed article on just how much under-seat space is offered on every major U.S. Airline, read this article from Travel and Leisure.

Ultimately, the best luggage for you to buy is the set that suits your needs as a traveler and your budget. As with any travel gear, everyone has an opinion on which luggage brand is the best. Before you invest in new luggage, read reviews and double-check the restrictions with the airlines you prefer to fly.

Then contact me to plan your next best vacation! And, I’ll be happy to share my favorite carry-on, backpack, and personal item choices with you too.

Schedule a complimentary travel consultation here.

Contact us today to learn more about planning your trip.

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