Is a backpack a personal item?

Does a Backpack Count as a Personal Item?

Understanding what you can and cannot bring on a plane is bound to get confusing with so many rules and regulations to follow at airports, especially when airlines have varying views on whether they consider a backpack to be a “personal item.”

Are bags considered personal items? Or is a backpack considered a carry-on item? Is a carry-on the same as a personal item? 

In this blog post, we will explore the different ways you can use a backpack and whether or not it counts as a personal item. Keep reading to get all the information you need before your next flight!

Is a backpack a personal item?

Nowadays, many airlines view bags as personal items you can transport for free. Although the size restrictions for personal items on airplanes vary, most airlines classify a small backpack, purse, briefcase, or laptop bag as a personal item. However, the airlines do not specify all luggage they consider personal items. 

does a backpack count as a personal item
backpack and suitcase

You should constantly adjust personal items to fit the seat in front of you. Many airlines only allow passengers to check one piece of hand luggage and one personal item. As a result, you should check and confirm this with the ticket agent before buying airline tickets.

So is a backpack a personal item? Depending on the size and the airline you are flying with, your backpack may qualify as a personal item. Another option is to use a backpack as your primary carry-on. Therefore, the size is less important if you only want to bring a backpack instead of a carry-on suitcase.

What is the ideal personal item/personal backpack size?

Depending on your airline and route, there are different policies for luggage and personal items each time you fly.

can i bring a carry on and a backpack
suitcase on a plane

what size backpack is considered a personal item? Rucksacks are frequently accepted as personal items by airlines. If they do, you can still use the bag as your carry-on if it complies with their size restrictions. Domestic hand luggage measures 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Some airlines will have a 20 x 12 x 5.75-inch restriction (51 x 31 x 15 cm). 

Check out some of the airline restrictions below for more details:

DELTA Air Lines

As per Delta’s policy, you can bring a handbag, briefcase, camera bag, or diaper bag. This means you can fly with Delta while carrying a backpack the size of a purse or baby bag.

Each Delta Air Lines passenger is allowed one piece of checked luggage and one backpack as a personal item, with hand luggage having the following dimensions: 22x14x9 inches. Personal items must fit under the seat in front of you.

UNITED Air  Lines

United Airlines classifies rucksacks smaller than 17x10x9 inches as personal items. Upgrading to economy class is essential if you bring a second bag for the overhead compartment. The maximum size for carry-on luggage in economy class and above, including handles and wheels, is 9 x14x22 inches.

Most travelers are only allowed to bring one item of personal belongings. On the other hand, the basic economy class ticket is only allowed as a personal item. For hand luggage, the size restriction is 22x14x9 inches, and for personal items, it is 17×10 x9 inches.


American Airlines classifies bags less than 18x14x8 inches as personal items on regular flights. Personal items and carry-on luggage do not include:

  • Diaper bags (one bag per child)
  • Soft-sided breast milk coolers
  • Child safety seats
  • Strollers
  • Medical or mobility equipment

Any luggage smaller than 22 x 14 x 9 in (56 x 36 x 23 cm) and needs to fit in the gate stacker is an overhead bin item.

can a personal item be a backpack


To be considered personal items by Southwest, your backpack must be smaller than 18.5×13.5×8.5 inches. The carry-on luggage dimensions must be 24x16x10 inches. No item may exceed 16 x 13.5 x 8 inches, including rucksacks, wallets, food containers, briefcases, cameras, and laptop computers.

Southwest airlines allows each passenger to bring one carry-on bag and one personal bag. The hand luggage size restriction is 24x16x10 inches, and the personal item size restriction is 16.25×13.5×8 inches.


According to JetBlue, luggage that is less than 17 x 13 x 8 in (43 x 33 x 20 cm) is classified as personal property. One personal item is allowed per traveler. Tickets for the Blue, Blue Plus, Blue Extra, and Mint carry a carry-on bag. 

Tickets purchased with Blue Basic no longer include carry-on luggage (with some exceptions). The hand luggage size restriction is 22 x 14 x 9 in (56 x 36 x 23 cm), and the personal item size restriction is 17x13x8 inches.

Related: Backpack Sizes and Volumes (The Ultimate Guide)

Preparing a backpack as a personal item when flying

backpack size for personal item

Your backpack must be smaller than 18x14x8 inches (46 x 36 x 20 cm), though each airline has its requirements. When traveling, most people keep their valuables and important documents in a purse to keep them close and secure.

Keep in mind when packing that wallets are considered personal items when traveling. Business travelers frequently use briefcases to transport important documents. Still, they will check the airline’s size requirements, as not all cases will fit.

Is a backpack a personal item? Final thoughts

Yes, a backpack is considered a personal item because it is small and carried on your back. A small rucksack is discrete and hard for border guards to notice when worn in addition to a suitcase or duffel bag.

what size backpack is considered a personal item
backpack stowed under the front seat

Finding a practical and appropriate bag for all flights can be challenging due to the wide range of airline size limits. Pick a travel bag that will fit beneath the seat in front of you and has a low profile. 

You should keep personal items out of the way during the flight. Keep them under the seat in front of you or above your bags. Pack light to avoid having to leave your items at the airport.

Related: How to Organize a Backpack for Travel (6 Useful Steps)

Can I bring a backpack and a carry-on?

A carry-on bag and a personal item, such as a backpack, laptop bag, purse, briefcase, shopping bag, etc., are allowed by airlines. The general rule is that your item must fit below the front seat and be smaller than your carry-on bag.

What size backpack will fit under a plane seat?

The maximum dimensions for any personal items that must be stowed beneath seats are 18 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches.

Is a Duffel Bag a personal item?

A duffel bag is an authorized personal item; however, it is not the most common type. For personal items, briefcases, handbags, and small backpacks are more widely used formats.

Do airlines check backpack size?

If your backpack can fit under the seat in front of you, it qualifies as a personal item. Most airlines provide examples of items that fall under the “personal item” category, like a briefcase, laptop bag, or purse. Still, they do not include “backpacks” on those lists.

Can my personal item be the same size as my carry-on?

The maximum dimensions for carry-on luggage are 22 inches long, 14 inches wide, and 9 inches high, handles included. Personal items shouldn’t have dimensions longer than 18 inches, wider than 14 inches, or taller than 8 inches. Carry-on luggage has no weight restrictions.

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