How Big Can Carry On Luggage Be? Know The Details Before You Overpack

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If you're like me, you're already thinking about all of the holiday outfits you're going to showcase on the 'Gram between now and New Year's Day. If you're one of the lucky people traveling for the holidays, you're probably stoked about going home (or maybe getting away), relaxing, and not looking at your email for a few days. But with all of these positive things also comes the stress of figuring out what — and how — to pack. For flyers, it often comes down to one question: How big can carry on luggage be?

Ah, the humble carry on bag. If you're strategic about it, it can be the difference between extra baggage fees and sailing through security with enough time to grab a magazine and a snack. A big part of being strategic means knowing how big (or small) it can be. If it's too big, you'll be asked to check it — which will defeat the purpose of you carefully measuring out your shampoo into those travel containers, or packing your favorite fuzzy socks in the side pocket for easy access. The size limits vary by airline, so I've outlined which ones are more generous and which ones might require some extra planning on your part.

Delta

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Carry on allowances: 1 carry on (free), 1 personal item (free)

Size limits: 22 x 14 x 9 inches for carry on

Delta allows one carry on and one personal item. The company is vague about what constitutes a "personal item," so I usually take this to mean that I can bring a small suitcase or duffel and a backpack (hey, I never said I traveled light). If you don't need as much stuff, your personal item can be a pillow, a blanket, or something else. Shout out to Delta for catering to us overpackers.

American Airlines

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Carry on allowances: 1 carry on (free), 1 personal item (free)

Size limits: 22 x 14 x 9 inches for carry on

Similar to Delta, American Airlines allows one carry on and one personal item. It's important to remember that your carry on must fit in the overhead bin, and your personal item must fit under the seat in front of you. This is all to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at bringing their own belongings on board, so try to be courteous when choosing what to bring. Consider a duffle bag instead of a hard suitcase as your carry on bag to allow for more flexibility in overhead compartments.

JetBlue

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Carry on allowances: 1 carry on (free), 1 personal item (free)

Size limits: 22 x 14 x 9 inches for carry on, 17 x 13 x 8 inches for personal item

JetBlue has the same deal as Delta and American when it comes to the allowances. The three airlines also charge $25 for your first checked bag, which isn't too bad. So if you really just can't get it all into a carry on, no biggie. JetBlue also notes that bags cannot be checked more than six hours prior to your scheduled flight (we're looking at you, dads).

Southwest

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Carry on allowances: 1 carry on (free), 1 personal item (free)

Size limits: 24 x 16 x 10 inches for carry on

Alright, I may have spoken too soon about the last three catering to over-packers. Southwest allows carry ons that are slightly bigger than the other airlines mentioned. And there's more: The airline also offers two checked bags for free. There's no catch. Two carry ons, two checked bags. All. For. Free. That's such a good deal, I might need to plan a trip just so I can take advantage of it.

United

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Carry on allowances: 1 carry on (free), 1 personal item (free)

Size limits: 22 x 14 x 9 inches for carry on, 17 x 10 x 9 inches for personal item

United appears to have the same carry on parameters as Delta, American, and JetBlue, but further investigation on its website yields some important information. If you are flying Basic Economy, which is the airline's most basic option, then you can only bring a personal item onto the plane. So if you snagged a cheap last minute flight on United, double check to make sure what your classification is. If you are flying Basic Economy and bring a carry on to the gate, you will be asked to check it for the regular fee, plus a $25 gate handling fee — and payment is by credit card only. Always read the fine print, y'all.

Being wary of carry on allowances will save you time and headaches when your travel day arrives. In addition to this information, make sure to read the full regulations on your airline's website to avoid extra fees and unnecessary delays. Happy trails!

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