Carry on Rules

Carry on rules - picture of suitcaseWe’ve all been there: You get to airport security and you realize you brought something that was against regulation. It’s more than annoying to have to trash that soda you just purchased at the convenience store. If you plan ahead, you can get through security and on the plane with minimal hassle.

Keep in mind, for overseas flights, you are allowed at least one checked bag, a carry-on piece of luggage, and also a personal item (such as a laptop bag, purse, etc). We have used this allowance in the past to purchase cheap, large department store bags (declared as a personal item) to bring back extra shopping goods with us. See our post: How to buy luggage for $1.

Here are the most recent airport regulations, courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration.

Carry-On Size

The maximum size carry-on bag for most airlines is 45 linear inches (height +width + depth of the bag). Here are the specific airline carry-on sizes, as of Feb, 2013. When in doubt, check with the airline before you leave.

Airline Width Height Length Total
American 14in/36cm 9in/23cm 22in/56cm 45in/115cm
United 14in/36cm 9in/23cm 22in/56cm 45in/114cm
Delta 14in/36cm 9in/23cm 22in/56cm 45in/114cm

Liquid Items

Carry-on LiquidsAny liquid item must be in a 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume). You should put all of your liquid items in 1 quart-sized, clear plastic, zip-top bag.  When going through security, you may place this bag in a screening bin. (One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. The 3.4 ounce (100ml) container size is a security measure.)

Side note: People always ask how picky airport security is about this rule, and we have to say that it just depends. Some airports are very rigorous about checking containers and have been known to throw away (someone’s) expensive hair gel because the container was slightly too big.

Checked Baggage

Checked Baggage Restrictions for Travel Overseas

Airline Total Size Weight
American Airlines 62 in/158 cm (checked) 50 lbs./23 kgs (checked)
United 62 in/158 cm (checked) 50 lbs./23 kgs (checked)
Delta 62 in/158 cm (checked) 50 lbs./23 kgs (checked)

Updates and News Items

  1. This from the weird-but-will-be-true soon: Apparently Venice, Italy has banned wheeled suitcases, which will go into effect in early 2015. They’re threatening pretty stiff fines, so we’ll see if it sticks.

Frequently-Asked Questions

Can I bring food to eat on the plane?
Yes. We often bring snacks to eat in the airport or on the plane. Things such as granola mixes and nuts are always good to keep you nourished. And airport food is expensive! We have never had a problem at security with this, even though we’ve pushed the limits by bringing cake and desserts. Kinda’s brother once brought and entire rotisserie chicken on a plane to eat on flight!TSA says this about bringing snacks on a plane:  “If your snacks are pretzels, potato chips, dried fruit or other dry goods, you can take them in your carry-on or checked bag. Snack items that are liquids or gels, like pudding, jello or yogurt, etc., falls under the 3-1-1 rules for liquids for carry-on bags. They can be transported in checked bags…You may purchase beverages and liquid or gel-based snacks after the security checkpoint and take them on the plane, as they have been previously screened….The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.
Can I bring larger portions of medication or milk formula in my carry-on?
You must declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.
Can I bring wine back from overseas?
YES! But not a lot, or you have to pay import taxes on it. According to the US Customs and Border Protection,

“Generally, one liter of alcohol per person may be entered into the U.S. duty-free by travelers who are 21 or older, although travelers coming from the U.S. Virgin Islands or other Caribbean countries are entitled to more. Additional quantities may be entered, although they will be subject to duty and Federal excise taxes, which will be assessed and collected at the port of entry.”

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