Can I Take a Backpack and a Carry-On? Your 2022 Full Guide

Are you trying to figure out if you can take both a backpack and a carry-on for your next flight?

It seems like long gone are the days of free checked luggage with our flights. It wasn’t that long ago that it was standard practice to get one or two free checked bags when we purchased a ticket. 

However, with budget airlines and basic economy options becoming more popular among airlines, we’re having to make up the difference by paying for our luggage.

What’s the point of snagging a cheap ticket if you have to then add on expensive baggage fees? 

If you want to keep the cost of travel down and avoid these insane luggage costs, you’ve probably been trying to figure out how to pack for your whole trip with just a carry-on. 

While a carry-on can work for some, others might need a little more space depending on the length and destination of their trip. 

Of course, adding a backpack to the mix will give you some more space, but do airlines allow both a carry-on and a personal item? 

If you’re confused about the rules, check out my complete guide here! That way, you can avoid any surprise fees the airlines might try to throw at you at the airport.

Can I Take a Backpack and a Carry-On black couple walking through airport

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What Does Carry-On Luggage Mean?

If you’re a frequent traveler, it’s likely you’ve already become a carry-on-only traveler. When you bring your luggage onto the plane with you, it saves both time and money. But it also comes with some restrictions. 

Carry-on luggage typically must fall below certain size regulations to be brought onto the plane with you. 

Can I Take a Backpack and a Carry-On orange suitcase next to sunglasses and camera

Each carrier has specific dimensions that your bag cannot exceed. In addition, the bags must fit either under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. 

On top of that, you must bring your baggage through security with you. That means you have limits on what you can pack. 

Most notably, your liquids must be in less than three-ounce bottles and fit into a quart-sized ziploc bag. Bulky sports equipment is also typically restricted from carry-on bags. 

While many people consider carry-ons to be less hassle, your situation might push you towards preferring a checked bag. If you have lots of liquids, a big family, or you’re packing for a long winter trip, a carry-on might not be enough space for you.

Carry-On Luggage Vs. Personal Items

Things start to get confusing when you try to decipher the difference between carry-on luggage and personal items.

When traveling, you bring both a carry-on and personal item directly onto the plane with you, and you’re responsible for making sure it arrives at your destination. 

Can I Take a Backpack and a Carry-On with lady walking through airport

The main difference between a carry-on and a personal item, also referred to as hand luggage, is that the latter must fit underneath the seat in front of you. 

JetBlue Overhead Bin
Photo Courtesy of JetBlue

Some airlines do have dimension limitations on hand luggage, but you’ll typically have no issues as long as it fits under the seat. Carry-ons are generally too large to be stored there and must go in the overhead bin.

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Types of Carry-On Luggage for Airplanes

Manufacturers have been perfecting the design of carry-on suitcases for decades. The most common types are the small, rolling bags that are specifically marketed to fit the standard carry-on dimensions. 

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They typically need to fit into a 22 by 14 by 9-inch box, but each airline has its own specifications.

  1. Rolling Suitcase: The most common type of carry-on bags are these small rolling suitcases. They’re perfect for hassle-free travel.
  2. Duffle Bags: Depending on the size, these bags may be considered carry-on or personal luggage. They are soft-sided, cylindrical bags that you carry over your shoulder.
  3. Backpacks: Backpacks can also be considered either carry-on or personal items depending on the size. Large backpacks will be considered carry-ons but still must fit the size requirements.
  4. Garment Bags: Designed to keep clothes from wrinkling during travel, these are typically considered carry-ons due to their size.

Types of Personal Items for Airplanes

Personal items must fit below the seat in front of you. Generally, any type of bag that will fit in this space can be considered a personal item. 

Lady looking out the windows with her personal item and luggage in airport

In general, they should be less than 18 by 14 by 8-inches, but each airline is different. Most people will carry their valuables and essential documents in a handbag to keep them close and safe while traveling. 

  1. Purses: Purses are considered a personal item when traveling, so keep this in mind when packing.
  2. Briefcase: Those traveling for work often carry a briefcase to transport their work documents, but make sure to check the airline for dimensions as not all fit.
  3. Laptop Bag: Bags designed to keep laptops safe during travel can often fit other important items in them as well.
  4. Backpack: Perhaps the most common personal item, you can often fit anything that wouldn’t fit in your carry-on in your backpack, allowing you more packing space.
  5. Daypack: A daypack can also help with adding extra space to a carry-on, allowing you to bring some more clothes or personal items.
  6. Pet Carrier: If you’re bringing a furry friend, the carriers must fit underneath the seat in front of you. Most airlines consider this your personal item.

General Carry-On Guidelines for the Top Airlines in the USA

Carry-on rules are constantly changing as airlines are starting to offer a more extensive range of fare options. So it’s always good to check the baggage policy for your specific fare before purchasing a ticket. 

Large airplane prepping for flight

Many airlines also provide exceptions for those traveling with kids or medical mobility devices, so check the fine print to see what extra bags you may be entitled to.

Delta Air Lines Carry-On Guidelines:

  • Every passenger on Delta Air Lines is allowed one carry-on and one personal item.
  • Carry On: 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches
  • Personal Item: Must fit beneath the seat in front of you

Southwest Airlines Carry-On Guidelines: 

  • Southwest allows one personal bag and one carry-on for each traveler. 
  • Carry On: 24 inches x 16 inches x 10 inches
  • Personal Item: 16.25 inches x 13.5 inches x 8 inches

United Airlines Carry-On Guidelines:

  • Most travelers can bring one carry-on and one personal item. However, basic economy tickets are only allowed as a personal item. 
  • Carry On: 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches
  • Personal Item: 17 inches x 10 inches x 9 inches
United Airlines at the Airport

Alaska Airlines Carry-On Guidelines:

  • All flyers are allowed one carry-on and one personal item on Alaska Airlines flights.
  • Carry On: 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches
  • Personal Item:  Must fit beneath the seat in front of you

American Airlines Carry-On Guidelines:

  • All customers are allowed one personal item and one carry-on bag. 
  • Carry On: 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches
  • Personal Item: 18 inches x 14 inches x 8 inches

JetBlue Airways Carry-On Guidelines:

  • JetBlue’s policy has recently changed. All passengers are allowed one personal item. Blue, Blue Plus, Blue Extra, and Mint fares also include a carry-on bag. Blue Basic fares no longer include a carry-on bag (with some exceptions).
  • Carry On: 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches
  • Personal Item: 17 inches x 13 inches x 8 inches
JetBlue Airplane in the sky

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5 Easy Tips for Packing Light for Your Carry-On Luggage

One of the first skills that frequent flyers learn is the art of packing light. Just because carry-on size regulations are rather small doesn’t mean that you can’t still pack everything you need! 

Can I Take a Backpack and a Carry-On with luggage on a beautiful beach

Of course, this will depend a lot on the length and destination of your trip, but a carry-on is more than sufficient for most of our travel needs. Check out these tips to stay within your limits!

1. Packing Cubes

These little gadgets are designed to compress your clothes and help save space! They can take bulky items and squish them down into smaller pieces so you can fit more clothes.

Veken 6 Set Packing Cubes, Travel Luggage Organizers with Laundry Bag & Shoe Bag (Teal)

2. Make a List

Don’t just throw in clothes willy-nilly. Make a list of the essentials, and make sure that you can mix and match your outfits.

Black lady walking through airport

Picking one color palette helps make sure you can wear all of the pieces together.

3. Wear the Heavy Items

Heavy shoes, bulky jeans, or oversized jackets can be worn on the plane to save space in your carry-on.

4. Only Bring the Essentials

Consider what you can go without on this trip. For example, heavy items like blow dryers and cowboy boots might not be necessary for a one-week hiking trip. 

5. Share With Your Partner

If you’re traveling with someone, you can split personal hygiene products like shampoo or toothpaste so that you don’t each have to bring one.

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Use travel-sized bottles or consider purchasing when you arrive at your destination.

Can I Take a Backpack and a Carry-On?

The good news is that you can bring both a carry-on and a backpack with you onto the plane, as long as the backpack is small enough to be considered a personal item. If the backpack fits under the seat in front of you, you’re good to go! 

NikkyJ at San Sebastián St Augustine Florida

By bringing a backpack and carry-on, you increase your packing space. So even if you’re trying to avoid checking your luggage, you should have plenty of room to bring everything you need. 

Can I Take a Backpack and a Carry-On

By following my tips for packing light and utilizing all the space you have available – a carry-on and a personal item – you will be flying in style in no time!

Happy Florida Travels!

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