Understanding Carry On Luggage Regulations

By Staff WriterLast Updated Jun 24, 2020 6:50:21 PM ET
Travelers in line to board a plane
CC0/Free-Photos/Pixabay

Air travel can be intimidating, especially if you aren't an experienced flyer. There are so many things to consider, from security screenings to how to get through the airport. Some of the most important decisions should take place as you're packing. It's important to understand carry on luggage regulations before you get to the airport. Here are the most important things you need to know when you start packing your carry on bag for your next flight:

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Put the Essentials in Your Carry On Bag.

No matter what else you put in your carry on bag, you'll want to make sure that you have certain essential items in your bag for easy access. Keep your travel documents in your carry on bag. You'll need to have your passport and boarding passes close at hand. If you're not carrying a wallet, make sure any other identification you want to carry (such as your driver's license) is in your carry on as well. Keep your money in your carry on, as well as any items of monetary value, like jewelry. Take your electronics and any other entertainment items in your carry on as well, and you'll want to make sure you have medications handy too.

Make Sure Your Bag Is the Right Size.

You don't want to pack just any old carry on bag to take with you to the airport. It's important to remember that the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has size restrictions for carry on bags. Current federal regulations say that carry on bags should not exceed 22 inches (56 centimeters) long by 18 inches (45 centimeters) wide by 10 inches (25 centimeters) deep. These dimensions are a good rule of thumb, but you should be aware that airlines have their own requirements which may be different, though not too far from the federal size limits. Visit your airline's website, or call them for more specific information.

Know How to Store Liquids in Your Carry On Bag.

One of the most important factors to consider is storing liquids in your carry on bag. Federal regulations regarding liquids in carry on bags are rather specific. You can only have liquid in 3.4 ounce (100 milliliter) or smaller containers that can fit inside of a quart size resealable bag. Anything larger needs to go in your checked baggage. There are exceptions for medications and baby bottles, and you can contact your airline for specific details for those items. If you forget to put larger liquids in your checked bag or try to sneak on something larger than regulation, the TSA agents will confiscate it.

Should You Check A Bag or Carry Everything On?

The debate of whether to try to pack everything in your carry on bag or check a suitcase really comes down to personal preference. But there are several factors that you can consider in making a decision. If you can fit all your items in a carry on bag that fits size requirements, it may be worth trying, especially if your airline charges for checked bags and you want to save money. If you're carrying large quantities of liquid or if you have a lot of clothes and other items to take with you, then you should probably opt for a checked bag. Weigh out all these options to determine the best one for you.

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Is an Expensive Carry On Bag Worth the Expense?

You may find yourself tempted to purchase an expensive, fancy carry on bag. If you spend much time around airports, you'll see travelers with stylish carry on bags, and some airlines actually market bag that fit the requirements for their aircraft. But do you really have to? This is another personal preference issue. Unless you're planning on traveling frequently or just want to be fashionable, a less expensive bag will do just fine, as long as it meets both the size requirements and your needs. Don't give in to the pressure to buy something expensive unless you absolutely want to have it.