TSA Carry-On Restrictions You Need to Know - NerdWallet (2023)

Whether you’re purposefully packing light or supplementing your checked luggage, it’s important to keep Transportation Security Administration (TSA) carry-on luggage size in mind when packing a bag and heading to the airport.

After all, not all airlines allow full-size carry-ons for free, and most have slightly different rules on what size those bags can be. Don’t get caught unaware at the gate; hefty baggage fees and inconvenience may await.

Here’s what you need to know about airline and TSA carry-on size allowances.

Airline-specific carry-on luggage size restrictions

As a general rule, a personal item typically includes small backpacks, purses, briefcases, diaper bags, camera bags or items of a similar size that can fit underneath the seat in front of you. A carry-on bag could be anything from a large backpack to a small rolling suitcase. But it’s less shape than size that matters, so here are carry-on luggage size restrictions for each of the major domestic airlines:

Alaska Airlines

On an Alaska Airlines flight, you can bring a carry-on and a personal item for free.

  • Carry-on bags are limited to 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high including wheels and handles. All three measurements shouldn’t add up to more than 45 inches.

  • For personal items, Alaska offers examples of a purse, laptop or briefcase.

  • Alaska doesn't list weight limits, but it says that passengers should be able to lift items that go in an overhead bin.

» Learn more: Guide to Alaska Airlines baggage and other fees

American Airlines

For an American Airlines flight, passengers get one personal item and one carry-on, no matter what type of fare is bought (elite members included).

  • Carry-on bags shouldn’t be larger than 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high including handles and wheels.

  • Dimensions of personal items should not exceed 18 inches long, 14 inches wide and 8 inches high.

  • There are no weight restrictions for carry-on luggage.

» Learn more: American Airlines bag fees: How they work, how to avoid them

Delta Air Lines

Delta flyers are allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item.

  • Including wheels and handles, measurements may not exceed 22 inches long, 14 inches width and 9 inches high. The total length plus width plus height of baggage must not exceed 45 linear inches.

  • For personal items, Delta says size examples are purses, small backpacks and laptops.

  • Three places have weight limits: Singapore (7 kg, about 15.4 pounds), Beijing (10 kg, about 22 pounds) and Shanghai (10 kg, about 22 pounds).

» Learn more: Delta Air Lines baggage fees: How they work, how to avoid them

Frontier

Frontier charges for both checked luggage and carry-on bags, and the price depends on the route you fly. It also varies depending on if you buy the bags before via the web or mobile app, at the ticket desk, or the boarding gate.

  • Carry-on bags must weigh less than 35 pounds and must not exceed 10 inches deep, 16 inches wide and 24 inches high. Bags must fit in the overhead bins.

  • Checked bags must be no longer than 62 linear inches (length + width + depth) and must weigh under 40 pounds. Bags weighing more than 40 pounds will incur additional charges per bag per direction. Bags weighing 41-50 pounds will cost you $50 more and bags weighing 51-100 pounds will cost $100 more.

  • Personal items must fit under the seat in front of you and cannot exceed 8 inches deep, 18 inches wide and 14 inches high.

» Learn more: Frontier baggage fees: How they work

JetBlue

Not all JetBlue passengers are allowed the same carry-on items. Passengers who bought Basic Blue fares get one personal item (except Mosaic customers who always get a carry-on). Blue, Extra Blue, Blue Plus and Mint fares allow one carry-on and one personal item.

  • Including wheels and handles, length, width and height measurements may not exceed 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high.

  • Personal items can be no more than 17 inches long, 13 inches wide and 9 inches high or smaller to fit under the seat in front of you.

  • There are no weight limits for carry-on luggage on JetBlue.

» Learn more: Guide to JetBlue baggage, cancellation and other fees

Southwest Airlines

Southwest is known for having a generous free checked luggage allowance, but carry-on restrictions are similar to most other airlines — one personal item and one carry-on per traveler.

  • Carry-on measurements should not exceed 24 inches long, 16 inches wide and 10 inches high.

  • Personal items are limited to 18.5 inches long, 8.5 inches wide and 13.5 inches high.

  • Southwest doesn't list weight limits for carry-on items.

» Learn more: The guide to Southwest baggage and other fees

United Airlines

Most travelers flying with United can bring one carry-on and one personal item, but if you’re traveling on a basic economy fare, you’re allowed one personal item only (unless you’re a MileagePlus Premier Member, are traveling internationally or have a MileagePlus credit card, like the United℠ Business Card).

  • Including handles and wheels, the maximum dimensions for a carry-on are 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high.

  • Personal items are limited to 17 inches long, 10 inches wide and 9 inches high.

  • United doesn't publish weight limits for carry-ons.

» Learn more: What you need to know about United Airlines baggage and other fees

TSA liquid limits

Before you even make it to your departure gate, you have to clear a TSA checkpoint. This means you must adhere to the TSA fluid limit restrictions in order to make it through security.

So, just how much liquid can you take on a plane?

Carry-on liquid size rules

The TSA liquid rule — also known as the 3-1-1 rule (3 ounces, 1 bag per 1 person) — is straightforward: "You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item." Any liquids in larger containers will have to go into checked baggage (and are subject to overweight fees).

A basic clear, zip-top container qualifies as an eligible quart-size bag for passing through security.

🤓Nerdy Tip

The easiest way to manage the amount of fluids in your carry-on is to start with containers that are no larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters and your quart-sized bag.

The maximum carry-on liquid size and amount will depend on how much you can fit into your single quart-sized bag.

3-1-1 liquids rule exemptions

The answer to "How many ounces can you take on a plane?" varies in two circumstances: if you're traveling with certain liquid medicines or baby food.

Medication

TSA allows larger amounts of certain medically necessary liquids, gels and aerosols in "reasonable quantities" for your trip. The only catch? You must declare them to TSA officers at the checkpoint for inspection, alongside any accessories associated with your medication, such as freezer packs or syringes.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Labeling your medical items can help facilitate the screening process.

Baby food

Formula and breast milk are considered medically necessary liquids, and thus exempt from the carry-on liquid limit. Water and juice for babies is also allowed in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters.

These child and infant nourishment items are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. You may also bring teethers that are gel- or liquid-filled and canned/jarred/processed baby food in your carry-on baggage.

» Learn more: 7 ways to avoid paying bag fees

Duty-free liquids

The final exemption to TSA liquid limits apply to duty-free liquids purchased during inbound international flights. It's important that these bags are secure and temper evident and stored in a transparent bag.

Be sure to keep the item's original receipt handy in case a TSA officer asks to see it.

» Learn more: Can you bring food through TSA?

Additional TSA carry-on restrictions and sizes

Flammables

The only flammables allowed in a carry-on are cigars, cigarettes, disposable and Zippo lighters, and dry batteries (like AAs or AAAs).

Camping and sports equipment

You can carry-on an air mattress with a built-in pump (by following special instructions), antlers, basketballs, footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, bike chains and bike pumps. Bicycle allowances vary by airline, but baseball bats, bear spray and bear bangers are never allowed — nor is aerosol insecticide.

Other items

There are some banned items, including knives, firearms and box cutters. A full list of which can be found on TSA’s website.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Still not sure if something you plan to carry-on is restricted? Send a photo to AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger to find out.

» Learn more: What foods you can bring on a plane

Have a smooth airport experience with your carry-on

No matter which airline you fly with, first make sure you know what size carry-on you’re allowed to bring onboard and are familiar with (and prepared for) TSA’s carry-on restrictions, too. Then, you can expect a smoother and less stressful airport and airliner experience.

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