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The Ultimate Guide To Personal Item Carry-Ons

Man sitting on a couch working on laptop with backpack next to him

When you board most domestic flights, you can bring one piece of carry-on luggage and a personal item. What constitutes a personal item is often vaguely defined on airline websites, creating confusion among passengers. Does a purse count as a carry-on item? What about a coat or backpack? Is a carry-on considered a personal item, and if not, what’s the difference? How does the size of under-seat luggageimpact what you can bring as a personal item? .

What counts as a personal item?

A personal item is any small bag that fits beneath the seat in front of you. Possible personal items include purses, laptop bags, camera bags, totes, diaper bags, and smallbackpacks. Airlines have strict rules concerning the size of under-seat luggage: if your personal item exceeds an airline’s under-seat dimensions, it will have to be checked, which usually means paying a $25 to $35 fee.

Does a purse count as a personal item?

If you’re carrying a purse or handbag, it will be considered a personal item. For this reason, many people prefer to travel with large handbags or tote bags rather than purses to get the maximum use out of their carry-on allowance. The Maxlite 5 Women's Tote or Crew™ Executive Choice™ 3 Women’s Tote are excellent alternatives to purses if you’re traveling.

Women drinking coffee on bench with tote bag next to her

Do coats and pillows count as personal items?

Coats and pillows do not count towards your personal item allowance. In addition to your carry-on and a personal bag, you can bring a coat or jacket, a hat, reading material, a pillow, or a blanket when you board an aircraft.

What to pack in my personal bag for flying?

Once stowed in the overhead bin, your carry-on bag can’t be easily accessed during your flight. Use your personal bag to pack items you’ll want during the flight, such as tablets, books, snacks, headphones, or similar items. Once in your seat, you can take what you want for the flight out of the bag before you stow it under the seat. For more help, we recommend learning how to pack a backpack for travel.

Is a Carry-On Considered a Personal Item?

Airlines consider carry-on luggage to be any spinner suitcase, duffel bag, or backpack that can be stored in an overhead bin. While individual airlines have varying size and weight restrictions for carry-on, in general a carry-on bag must weigh less than 35 pounds and have dimensions no larger than 10” x 16” x 24”. Personal items must fit under the seat in front of you, which will not accommodate the average carry-on bag.

Under Seat Luggage Restrictions for Popular Airlines

Each airline has slightly different requirements for the size of under-seat bags or personal items based on their planes’ under-seat dimensions. Below is a list of the under-seat luggage dimensions for the major US domestic airlines, along with information on what the airlines consider to be a personal item.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska does not specify the maximum size of under-seat luggage
but the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 has an under-seat
dimension of 14 x 12 x 9 inches.

Contact Alaska Airlines with your flight details
to get flight-specific under-seat luggage dimensions.

Allegiant Air Allegiant Air under seat dimensions measure 16 x 15 x 7 inches.
American Airlines 18 x 14 x 8 inches
Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines under seat luggage dimensions depend on the airline model.
The Bombardier CRJ200 has an under-seat restriction of
18 x 16 x 10.5 inches, while the Embraer 175 has under-seat dimensions
of 17 x 16 x 7.8 inches. 

Contact Delta with your flight details to ensure your
personal item meets size restrictions.

Frontier Airlines Frontier Airlines restricts personal item size to 18 x 14 x 8 inches.
the airline provides measuring boxes in airports
to help you determine if your personal bag
meets these dimensions.
Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Airlines does not list sizes for under-seat luggage.
Contact the airline with your flight details for additional information.
JetBlue Airlines 17 x 13 x 8 inches
Southwest Airlines 18.5 x 13.5 x 8.5 inches
Spirit Airlines 18 x 14 x 8 inches
United Airlines 17 x 10 x 9 inches

At present, domestic US airlines do not charge for personal items. The rules and fees for carry-on and personal items change regularly, so you should contact airlines directly to verify what counts as a personal item and if any new fees apply. If you’re looking for bags that match the under-seat dimensions of most airlines, check out the Travelpro under-seat luggage collection.

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