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Is A Backpack Considered A Personal Item?

Much consideration goes into packing your item for flights. As a traveler, you would want to save yourself the stress at security checkpoints and breeze through without incurring unnecessary expenditures.

Keeping personal items such as laptop, purse, reading items and some other items in a carry-on bag might cost you some time with a TSA agent at security checkpoints. Instead, you can keep contingencies like these in a duffel bag, laptop backpack, Anti-theft backpacks, diaper bags for kids and even a messenger bag.

Some Airlines allow you to take both carry-on items and personal items while there are others that allow only carry-on items. Also, most of the major airlines do not charge a fee for a personal item bag. Your type of carry-on or personal backpack item you take will depend on the weight of baggage and its size dimensions. There are also specifications for different bags used for air-travel.

In this article, I will clarify what you can bring as a bag for a personal item and examine the size limit specified for major airlines. Read on!

How Many Carry-On Bags are allowed on a Plane?

Carry-on is designed to fit in the overhead storage compartment in a plane. They come in size more prominent than a personal item bag. Airlines do limit this type of luggage to size dimensions not more than 22 x 14 x 9 inches, including handles and wheels. The amount of carry-on bags you are allowed to take depends on the regulatory standards set by TSA for most airlines, but most times there is no specified number. 


The number of carry-on bags also depends on your ticket fare, whether you are on an economic or a first-class flight.  In most instance, it is advisable to stack yourself free of much carry-on baggage due to the extra charges that come with carrying them. Nowadays, in a bid to ensure air flight safety, the rules on the bag size are more stringent than ever. 

Duly note that where some airlines permit one carry- on luggage and a personal item. Others can allow two personal items and a carry-on bag. Also, some permit two carry-on so far your ticket fee covers it. Duly note the type of airline you are boarding to minimize more charges on carry-on bags. For example airlines like Allegiant and Spirit charge for carry-on luggage at ridiculous rates. If that is the case, you do need to consider an airline such as Frontier.

What Is Considered A Personal Item by the Airlines?

There are two major types of bags; they are the carry-on bag and personal item. A personal item bag comes at a size smaller than a carry-on bag. For whatever bag you carry as a personal item it should have the following qualities:

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  1. A personal item bag should fit under an airplane seat.

  2. Personal item bags should come at a standard/maximum size dimension; 9 x 10 x 17 inches.

  3. A personal item bag should be small and has convenient pockets for keeping small sized items.

Variables such as purses, laptop bags are usually considered personal items and are carried in bags aside carry-on bags. We can regard backpacks as personal items. We can regard backpacks as personal items since they fall in line with a personal item. However, while checking through the personal item list for most airlines, it is observed that only Spirit Airlines specify a backpack as a personal item.

Some items are not counted with personal item limits. These items are;

  • Cover Coat or jacket

  • Umbrella

  • A Pillow or blanket

  • A catalog of Books

  • Food or drink items purchased after clearing baggage.

  • FAA-approved safety seat, stroller, and 

  • Diaper bag for lap or ticketed child

  • Assistive/medical devices for passengers such as wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, portable oxygen concentrators, and CPAP machines.

  • A foot rug (3′ x 2′ maximum) for use during prayer

  • Pet carrier

Most of the items listed do not fall in line with the maximum size dimension, but they are still allowed on the airline without extra charges.

Airline Passengers Personal Item Size

18x14x8 bag


Many airlines allow the personal item to go under their radar with little or no extra charges on them. With increasing costs of carry-on baggage fares, there will likely be more people traveling with personal item bag. In an actual sense, most airlines don’t consider personal items enough to incur extra charges on them. Airlines that do specify their normal size limit do so your bag can resonate with the revolving rule to fit under flight seat. Here are some major airlines and their item requirements.

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  1. Frontier Airlines: On Frontier, the maximum size dimensions of your item are specified to be around 18 x 14 x 8 inches which are just enough size to fit under your flight seat. With a personal item bag of this size dimensions. You can pack your laptop (laptop backpack), wristwatches, mobile phones, and other articles that require fast accessibility.

  2. Siprit Airlines: So far this is the only airline that specifies a backpack as a personal item. To improve your comfortability and to make sure your item fits under their flight seat, they specify personal items with size dimensions as large as 18 x 14 x 8 inches.

  3. Hawaiian Airlines: Nothing seems more confusing than an airline that doesn’t differentiate between a personal item bag and carry-on bag. The size dimensions for personal items on the Hawaiian airline aren’t specified. However, if you are traveling on this airline do keep the maximum size dimension of 9 x 10 x 17 inches in mind when traveling. The airline also specifies the personal item to include a purse, laptop bag, a briefcase or a messenger bag.

  4. JetBlue Airlines: On Jet Blue airline’s website a size dimension of 17x 13 x 8 was specified for your item to fit under the flight seat

  5. Alaska Airlines: The Alaska airline does not specify any significant size dimension for personal items. However, to stay hassle-free do ensure you take the standard recommended size of 9 x 10 x 17 inches

  6. Allegiant Airlines: Allegiant generally specifies all personal items to come with size dimension 16 x 15 x 7 inches, this size dimension is large enough to keep your traveling essentials under the flight seat in front of you.

  7. American Airline: The American airline requires you to bring a personal item not more than 18 x 14 x 8 inches size.

  8. Delta Airline: The Delta airline does not specify any major size dimension for personal items. However, to stay hassle-free do ensure you take the standard recommended size of 9 x 10 x 17 inches

  9. SouthWest Airline:  Size dimension was not specified on its official site.

  10. United Airline: United Airline comes out of the blue with size dimensions 17 x 10 x 9 inches for a personal item.

How strict are airlines with personal item size?

Some years ago, air travelers traveling on international flights for business purpose, tours, and the likes could take pieces of carry-on luggage along with personal items at no extra charge and less scrutiny. Nowadays, airline agents are no longer liberal as they were before with luggage. Details such as size dimensions and even the weight of the bag would be noted, and charges are incurred on over weighted bags. However, in my experience, there is none or less any harassment on the part of air-agents on personal item bags or backpacks. So trust you are safe with just your carry on luggage and a backpack as a personal item as long as it’s within the normal specification.

Can You Carry Your Backpack As Personal Item?

Can You Carry Your Backpack As Personal Item

Your backpack can be used as a personal item provided it is inline with the standard set for a personal item.  A small duffel backpack is suitable in the case that you do not carry your laptop or fragile materials in your item.

Many backpacks today are designed with the impression to be used as personal items in air travel. I perceive types such as the TSA friendly backpack, duffel backpack, carry-on backpack, laptop backpacks, and other likes.

With this backpacks as personal items you can store under the seat in front of you, and you don’t have to use the second spot in the overhead compartment (other passengers need the available space too).

Note: However, no matter how strict the airline is with its regulations your best bet is to always pack as light as possible. Don’t give your airline a reason to single you out as a jerk.

Best Choice of Backpack as a Personal Item


There are different types of backpacks from different brands manufactured for different purposes. However, there are specifics to using a backpack as a personal item. This means your backpack must abide by the specifications laid out for personal items. By implication, your backpack should be able to fit under a flight seat and not necessary the overhead cabin (Remember that the space isn’t for you alone). 

Also in choosing a backpack as a personal item, I strictly advise you to pick one for the right occasion and not just any backpack. Backpacks are designed for different purposes. Some backpacks were designed to keep fragile items such as laptops.

There are water-proof backpacks to protect your contents from rain. They also come with anti-theft features such as zippers that are made invisible and many others. All you need is to make sure it’s suitable and also follows airline regulations.

Note: Always update yourself on information from your airline’s official website.

Types of Personal Item Bag

  1. TSA friendly backpacks: The type of personal item backpack makes you a time- efficient traveler. The backpack comes out of blue with TSA friendly laptop compartments. With this type of compartment, your bag can be unzipped to lie flat on the scanner, so there is no point in bringing out your laptop at checkpoints.

  2. Under-seat Carry-on bags: This type of backpack allows for easy movement within the airport. While most carry-ons are stored on an overhead cabin, there is also some specially designed under-seat carry-on bag with size dimension able to fit under a flight seat. An example of this carry-on bag is the American Tourister which has size dimension 8 x 14 x 18 inches less than the maximum size for a personal item bag, it can expand and has airflow spinner wheels for smooth movement. Even though it don’t look like a personal item bag, but it has features that are likened to a personal item and can be treated as such.

  3. Anti-theft backpacks: These backpacks are built for security against theft. They look more like regular backpacks which can also prove effective for air-travel. The backpack comes with special features like hidden zipper puller, tightly buckled compression strap and cut-proof fabric.

  4. Laptop Backpacks: This is the type of backpacks that come with sleeves or a special compartment for keeping your laptop. Such a bag is usually padded and breathable. There are ranges of laptop backpack available to keep your 11”, 13”, 15” and 17-inch sized laptop.


To ensure safe and effective budget travel, most travelers, especially for the economic class category, consider taking more personal item bags than carry-on luggage. Your item can come in handy as a backpack in which you can keep your computer, pens, cords, chargers, reading books, cords, and other variables. All you need do is ensure that your baggage size abides with the regulation set by the TSA for the airline you are boarding. Also, please make an effort to ask questions or further inquire about baggage information as they do change.

The post Is A Backpack Considered A Personal Item? appeared first on UNBELIEVABLE TRIP.



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When it comes to planning the perfect vacation, getting to exciting destinations and thrilling activities, I will be the leader of the pack!

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