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Air travel is one of the most grueling experiences someone can go through. You’re in for an aggravating day packed with delays, connecting flights, and long TSA lines (get that TSA pre-check, folks). Another factor that may make you pull your hair out is your baggage. Knowing what counts as a small personal item on a flight helps you become an expert packer, allowing you to avoid overpacking a checked bag.
Knowing Your Limits
As a rule, a personal item must fit beneath the seat in front of you. But most of us are unaware of the actual dimensions of that seat. In addition, think about how much space for your legs and feet you’ll need compared to how much you’re ready to give up for a particular item.
Every airline has different personal item size limitations. Your planning process may become tricky if you bounce around airliners. Most airlines base their size restrictions on the whole dimensions of your luggage rather than simply its weight in pounds.
Some airlines provide “linear inches” as a guide, which is the total of your bag’s length, breadth, and depth. For example, 16″ x 14″ x 10″ is 40 linear inches. Confirm the standards with the airline before you pack.
Most Common Personal Items
One personal item and one carry-on bag are free with most regular or premium economy tickets. Budget airlines may charge you for a carry-on item regardless of the rules, leaving the personal item as the free option. The most common items in this category are briefcases, diaper bags, or purses. If possible, a small bag or backpack works so long as it can fit under the seat.
A pricier airline might be more accommodating since you’re spending more on the ticket, although the restrictions likely remain the same for all economy rates. Smaller suitcases probably won’t work, so don’t bank on trying to sneak two carry-on-sized items onto the plane.
Exemptions to the Rule
If you are a nursing mother or someone who requires a medical device, don’t fret—those pieces are exempt from counting as personal items. There’s no need to cram a pump and its parts in your carry-on, nor do you need to play Tetris with your CPAP machine when you’re traveling with it. Strollers are another item you can bring without worrying about checking or going over your bag limit.
Knowing what counts as a small personal item on a flight can ease your mind while packing. Remember, each person with a flight seat gets one personal item, providing you leeway if you’re traveling as a family.