Don't Check A Bag Right Now! Here's What You Can Bring In Your Carry-On (2023)

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If you’re desperate to scratch that travel itch now that Covid has finally retreated, and a majority of countries have reopened, you probably noticed that the current travel landscape is looking dramatically different from the pre-pandemic years – and we’re not talking about health regulations or reinforced personal hygiene inside the aircraft.

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All around the globe, airlines have been hit with a wave of flight delays, cancellations, and other logistical problems that are shaking the aviation industry to its core. As we have seen in a number of cases over the last couple of weeks, checking in days in advance, or even showing up has long ceased being a protective measure against disruption.

Now, travelers are being advised to travel prepared for the worst, and that includes arriving to their final destination without their bags:

Not Checking In Bags Is The Secret To A Stress-Free Vacation

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Now that airlines are delaying more flights than ever before, and the situation on the ground is not much better, with handlers making a mess out of luggage shipping, any attempt to reduce disruption is valid. That means packing just enough clothes for a trip or, in other words, carrying cabin luggage only.

By avoiding the chaotic check in counters and heading straight to security instead, with only their carry-on in hand, travelers are able to reduce their own wait times significantly, both during departure and after arrival, and eliminate the risks of being deprived of personal items when they are most needed.

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Luckily, some airlines allow you to bring a reasonable amount of items on board, without paying an extra fee. Expressly, it is possible for most non-Basic fare customers to bring a complimentary carry-on, along with a small backpack or purse, at no extra cost, though size rules still apply and they may vary – even if only slightly:

Full Service Airlines

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  • United Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Delta
  • American Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • WestJet
  • Lufthansa
  • KLM
  • British Airways
  • Air France

As a general rule among full service airlines, the carry-on bag must be 22” x 13” x 9”, or 45 linear inches including wheels and handle. An additional personal item (e.g. a laptop case, a purse or a small backpack) can also be carried, as long as it fits underneath the seat in front or, in some cases, the overhead compartment.

Having said this, select carriers may have specific rules, such as:

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United Airlines

When booking a Basic Economy fare ticket, United customers are not allowed to bring a carry-on on board, being restricted to traveling with a personal item only unless they add extra bags. The personal item must be sized 9” x 10” x 17” or less. This rule does not apply to Economy, Economy Plus, or Business Class passengers.

(Video) What NOT to Pack in Carry On Bag in 2022 (TSA Airport Security)

Air France

Air France has a much more generous bag policy. Those flying Economy may take one hand luggage and one personal item free of charge, while other Premium Economy, Business or First Class ticket holders can bring two carry-on bags, as well as a personal item. Air France’s hand bag dimensions are 21.6” x 13.7” x 9.8”.

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While all JetBlue fares include a personal item, only the Blue, Blue Plus, Blue Extra and Mint fares allow passengers to bring a carry-on bag on board. Those flying on the Blue Basic fare will need to pay $65 extra when approaching the gate with more luggage. More information can be found on the airline’s website.


WestJet permits every guest with a ‘confirmed seat’ to travel with both a carry-on and a personal item at no additional costs, though their baggage dimensions are somewhat different from other airlines: carry-on bags must be sized 21” x 9” x 15” and personal items 16” x 6” x 13”. Varying fees apply at the gate when this size limit isn’t respected.

These airlines normally include a checked in bag for free, but then again, that is not the point here. When booking flights with these airlines, travelers are advised to double check their ticket fare and baggage allowance. In any case, you will also be allowed to bring duty free purchases in the cabin, in a separate bag, regardless of fare.

Low Cost Airlines

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  • Spirit
  • Frontier
  • Swoop
  • Sunwing
  • Ryan Air
  • EastJet
  • Vueling

Low cost airlines are a bit trickier to navigate when you’re looking to bring a carry-on with you on a journey. As their main goal is to maximize profit by selling as many tickets at the lowest possible fare, checked bags and in-flight services are either limited or come at a cost. Even then, carry-on bags are either free, or can be added for a small fee:

Here are some examples:

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Each passenger flying with Sunwing is permitted one carry-on item and another personal item on board. The former cannot exceed 5 kg, or 11 lbs, and a 9” x 16” x 20” dimension must be observed, and the latter must be sized 9” x 11” x 5” or smaller. Unless included in the ticket fare additional checked bags must be purchased.

(Video) Checked Bag or Carry-on? 7 reasons to NOT check a bag!


Frontier, on the other hand, charges a fee for carry-on luggage, starting at $35 for those who pre-book it, and $60 at the check in counter. The maximum weight is 35 lbs and the following dimensions, or smaller, are required: 10” depth x 16” width x 24” height. A comprehensive list of Frontier baggage fees can be found here.

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Indisputably the most popular European low cost carrier, Ryanair allows carry-on bags on board sized 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm from only 6 euros (or $6.16 at the current rate). Customers are allowed to pack up to 10 kg when adding a bag. On top of that, the Priority & 2 Cabin Bags offer allows both a carry-on, a personal item, and a further 10 kg check in bag.


With EasyJet, everyone can bring one small cabin bag on board sized 45 cm x 36 cm x 20 cm weighing up to 15 kg. However, it is important that passengers are able to fit it under the seat in front. Those booked on Up Front or Extra Legroom seats can bring a second, large cabin bag that fits in the overhead compartment (56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm).

A majority of these carriers have pretty decent luggage policies in place, even at the lowest possible fare level, including small fees for additional bags and other add-ons. The most obvious exception here is Sunwing, which only allows a 11 lb carry-on when most carry-on bags already weigh between 5 lbs to 8 lbs completely empty.

Some Packing Tips For Traveling Light

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We know that downsizing is not always easy, particularly when it comes to packing for a week-long trip abroad. Whether it’s unpredictable weather or accidental spills, it’s always best to carry an extra pair of shirts for emergencies. While bringing a 23 kg bag may feel like the safer bet here, more isn’t always better.

Believe it or not, you can actually fit a lot into a carry-on, especially when following these simple, but extremely effective packing tips:

  • Rolling clothes instead of folding them
  • Picking items that can be used interchangeably for more outfit options*
  • Using space-saving vacuum storage bags
  • Putting socks, underwear, and other smaller objects inside shoes

*Planning daily outfits in advance, as opposed to deciding what to wear on the spot, also helps you pack smarter when traveling light.

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The Liquid Issue

(Video) TSA 3-1-1 LIQUID & POWDER RULE FOR CARRY ON BAG | Everything you need to know from a Travel Agent

According to TSA guidelines for carry-on luggage, liquids must be transported in travel-size containers that contain no more than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters of any substance. Furthermore, each passenger is limited to ‘one quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols‘, such as toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, other beauty products in liquid form etc.

Europe has similar restrictions, where a maximum capacity of 1 liter, in containers of up to 100 ml each per passenger has been established – though some airports in the continent have even scrapped liquid rules following the introduction of a new screening technology. Despite the good news, this is yet to be replicated in most international hubs.

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While other airports don’t catch up, the best tips for ensuring your liquids fall within the accepted limit are:

  • Opting for travel-sized liquid cosmetics, such as foundation
  • Packing bar soap and shampoo whenever possible
  • Considering what full size products can be purchased at your final destination instead

Bottom Line

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As baggage handlers are overwhelmed with an influx of air traffic, especially now that the U.S. has lifted its inbound testing rule for Americans, opening the travel ‘floodgates’, passengers are facing a veiled, but very real threat of losing their bags during an international trip. In sum, checking bags is the last thing you want to do traveling this year.

According to Paul Stewart, the managing director of shipping company My Baggage, hundreds of passengers across the UK are being separated from their baggage for hours (sometimes days), due to some airlines’ inability to manage higher passenger numbers. It goes without saying that a missed bag is no minor inconvenience.

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Many travelers carefully select outfits they plan on using while on vacation, and although that is not advisable, even carry valuable personal belongings in their hold luggage. Unfortunately, retrieving a luggage that’s been lost in the mail is no easy feat either: as Stewart claims, it may take weeks before an airlines sends the customer’s belongings via courier.

By the time the luggage finally finds its way to the owner, it is likely vacation plans will have been ruined. When traveling, we may often plan for emergency expenses, but shopping for a whole new rack of clothes for the entire time you’ll be abroad for will not cost a negligible 100 dollars extra – it will have a debilitating impact on travel savings.

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Besides the most obvious – getting insured for lost luggage – dropping the excess weight is a simple solution for dodging these major travel woes. Now that cancellations are rampant and numerous airlines are experiencing delays or re-routing flights, downsizing bags and keeping all your belongings within reach is truly the best option moving forward.

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Can I bring a carry-on instead of a checked bag? ›

This will depend in part on where you're going, for how long and the kind of trip it is. If you have more to pack than will fit in a carry-on, you'll need to check your bags with your airline. Airlines have very specific baggage rules regarding the size and weight of both carry-on bags and checked luggage.

What toiletries can you take on a plane 2022? ›

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.

What goes in carry-on and checked bag? ›

What to pack in your checked bags vs carry on? In general, the best things to pack in your checked luggage vs carry on are the bulkier, heavier items such as your clothes, shoes, toiletries, makeup and accessories. You can't board a flight with certain items, and these should be in your checked bag.

Does Toothpaste count as a liquid? ›

Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols. Common travel items that must comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule include toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash and lotion.

How many 3 oz bottles can I take on a plane? ›

How many 3-ounce bottles can I carry on? You must be able to fit all your 3-ounce bottles into a 1-quart bag, which is 6 x 9 inches. This usually equates to nine bottles. FYI, you can use a Ziploc or any anything that's about that size, but the TSA doesn't officially approve or disapprove of any bags.

Can I bring deodorant on a plane 2022? ›

As long as you keep your liquid or aerosol deodorant in a container that is smaller than 3.4 ounces (100ml) and store it in a quart-sized, zip-top bag, you shouldn't have a problem traveling with it. There are no restrictions for packing solid deodorants in your carry-on luggage.

Is mascara considered a liquid when flying? ›

So is mascara considered a liquid? Yes, when it comes to makeup, the following items are considered liquid cosmetics: mascara. nail polish.

Do liquids have to be in a Ziploc bag 2022? ›

Liquids, gels and aerosols packed in carry-on must follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule: 3.4 ounces or less per container. 1 quart size, clear, plastic, zip top bag (all liquids must fit in bag)

What are rules for carry-on? ›

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.

Can I brush my teeth at the airport? ›

Bathing in the restroom

It's OK to brush your teeth and do a little freshening up in the bathroom, but washing your hair or taking a little sponge bath in the sink is intrusive and will make others around you feel uncomfortable.

Do face wipes count as liquid? ›

You're fine with most solid food, but be wary if it's in a sauce as this will count as a liquid. And anyone for a fun fact? Wet wipes are allowed and don't count as liquids.

Does nail polish count as a liquid? ›

Liquid cosmetics include nail polish, moisturizers, eyeliner and foundation. When deciding which liquid cosmetics to carry, the TSA's 3-1-1 liquid rule we explained above applies. Therefore, ensure your cosmetics are not more than 3.4 oz and all products must fit in a clear, plastic, resealable and quart-sized bag.

Is Chapstick a liquid TSA? ›

You are permitted to bring solid cosmetics and personal hygiene items as such lipstick, lip balm and similar solids. Please remember these items must be solid and not liquid, gel or aerosol.

What size toothpaste can you carry-on airplane? ›

Toothpaste can be brought through TSA security in your carry-on as long as it is 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less and placed in a 1-quart bag. If your toothpaste is bigger, put it in your checked luggage or purchase some upon arrival.

Can I take shampoo in a carry-on? ›

It's called the 3-1-1 liquids rule. Each item must be 3.4 ounces or less and must be able to fit inside a one-quart size clear zip-top bag. The limit is one bag per person. Typically, travelers put their toiletries in the bag such as shampoo, hair products, make-up and toothpaste.

Can I take makeup on a plane? ›

Any liquid toiletries or makeup will have to abide by the TSA liquid rule. This means that each makeup container must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller, and all containers must fit inside a one quart (one liter) clear zip top bag.

Can I bring hairspray on a plane? ›

TSA has determined that liquids, aerosols and gels, in limited quantities, are safe to bring aboard aircraft. So it is important to remember that all liquid, aerosol and gel items must be stored in containers 3.4 ounce or smaller.

Can you bring nail clippers on a plane? ›

Nail clippers, nail-trimming scissors and cuticle cutters are totally fine in your carry-on bag. But if the blades are over 6 cm in length, they will need to be packed inside your checked luggage (this same rule applies to small tools such as calipers and drill bits).

Can I bring face wipes in my carry-on? ›

Sanitizing Wipes: Wet wipes, in any quantity, can be carried on. This includes baby wipes! Disinfectant sprays: You are allowed to have sprays in your carry-on bag as long as they do not exceed 3.4 oz. Pack larger sizes in your checked luggage.

How do you pack makeup for travel? ›

13 Essential Tips for Traveling with Makeup (+ my packing list!)
  1. #1 – Be Minimal in Your Carry-On Bag.
  2. #2 – Use Small Containers.
  3. #3 – Skip Compact Powders.
  4. #4 – Don't Fall Prey to “Travel-Size” Makeup.
  5. #5 – Use a Leak-Proof Makeup Bag.
  6. #6 – Bring Easy-to-Apply Products.
  7. #7 – Consider Your Trip.
  8. #8 – Use Multi-Purpose Products.
2 Aug 2021

Does mascara have to go in clear bag at airport? ›

In order to meet requirements, your liquids must all fit into one, transparent, resealable plastic bag that measures around 20cm by 20cm – the kind you use for sandwiches or food storage. You're only allowed to carry one bag per person, so keep this in mind when packing.

Can I use regular Ziploc bags instead of freezer bags? ›

All bags made by Ziploc are freezer safe.

Do you still have to take your shoes off at the airport 2022? ›

Shoes. Unfortunately, TSA still asks its passengers to remove their shoes when going through the screening machine.

Do medications need to be labeled when flying? ›

All passenger items must undergo security screening. It is recommended that medication be clearly labeled to facilitate the screening process. You may bring medically necessary liquids, medications and creams in excess of 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in your carry-on bag.

Can I go straight to security if I have no baggage that needs to be checked and if I have my boarding pass? ›

If you have checked in and have a printed or mobile boarding pass and are not checking in any hold luggage you can go straight to security and through to the departure lounge.

Are carry-on bags Xrayed? ›

The TSA uses x-ray machines to screen carry-on items and checked luggage. TSA x-ray equipment must meet the FDA requirements (see below) to limit passenger and worker exposure to radiation.

What happens if you don't check-in online for a flight? ›

If you don't check in, you won't receive a boarding pass that allows you to board the plane, and your seat might be given up to a standby passenger. The check-in process also confirms your traveler details like your passport information and frequent flyer number.

Can you go straight to security with hand luggage? ›

Depending on your destination your check in time may vary. Are you travelling with hand luggage only? If you are, you may be able to check in online for free and print off your boarding pass, so all you need to do when you arrive at the airport is go straight through security.

Do pills show up on airport scanners? ›

Can airport scanners see pills? Even if the pills are contained in plastic, non metallic or metallic bottles, the answer is yes. The airport scanners have no problems finding the pills that you are travelling with, liquid form or not.

Can TSA see my tampon? ›

Can you see a tampon during an airport body scan? This is a frequently asked question on Google, and if it's something you're worried about, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Airport body scanners can't see inside the body and therefore can't detect a tampon on a TSA female body scan image.

Do you have to use a Ziploc bag for TSA? ›

You don't need to go out and purchase a separate, expensive toiletry bag if you don't want to. Even a quart-sized plastic bag is okay – like a Ziploc bag, for instance. It just has to be a 1-quart bag.


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