Is A Backpack A Personal Item? | Difference Between Carry On And Personal Item

Backpack a Personal Item

Last Updated on Mar 7th, 2024 by Renu Dahiya, Leave a Comment

Have you got everything ready for your next vacation? Have you chosen your destination, snatched up your flights, found some cheap accommodation, and planned an epic itinerary? Yes? Great! Now, it’s time to pack. You must be wondering Is a backpack a personal item?’ and, ‘Is a backpack a carry on?’. All these questions may seem simple, but there is actually quite a bit to consider.

But, don’t worry, this blog tells you all about backpack as personal item or carry-on and teaches you some tips on how to pack light for comfortable flights. So, let’s dive in. 

Does A Backpack Count As A Personal Item?

If your backpack is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, it is classified as a personal item. A personal item may range from a purse or tote to a backpack, duffel bag, or briefcase. Since these items need to fit under the seat in front of you, they are generally smaller, with dimensions not exceeding 18 x 14 x 8 inches. 

Note – Plane personal item sizes may differ, so it’s advisable to review your airline’s baggage policy on its website. The answer to your question ‘Is a backpack a personal item’ depends on the airlines’ policies.

Backpack Personal Item Categories

You find backpacks available in multiple sizes such as some are short for single-day hikes and some large for multi-day hikes and extended vacations. These are categorized as carry-on items and personal items. So, to give you a straight answer to your question ‘Can a backpack be a personal item or does backpack count as carry on?’ The answer is, YES! You can use backpacks as personal items and carry-ons. 

However, backpack carry on size should align with the airline’s size and dimensions requirements. 

Definition Of Personal Item And Carry On Bag  

Carry-on Item: A carry-on is technically any item that you carry onto the airplane, but it is supposed to fit in the overhead bin. Different airlines have different rules regarding carry-on luggage. 

Personal Item: A Personal item is smaller and meant to fit underneath your seat. It usually refers to something like a purse or laptop.

Can A Backpack Be A Carry on?

Speaking of extra luggage charges, if you are confused as to whether you can take a backpack as a carry on for free – It depends. Some carriers allow you one free carry-on and personal item. But, others may charge some amount. So, to avoid future hassles or surprises, always check with your airlines before booking a flight ticket. 

Difference Between Personal Item And Carry On | Personal Item Vs Carry On Bag

  • Airlines always require personal items to be considerably smaller than carry-ons because they have to be stored underneath your seat. 
  • A backpack of up to 45 liters makes an excellent carry-on in almost all cases. But, if the backpack is small – something around the size of a traditional school backpack – the airline will allow you to use it as a free personal item. 
  • So, can a backpack be a carry on? Well, If you are planning to use a flight backpack as a carry-on, make sure to use a large backpack (or suitcase) to make it worth the cost.

So, if your question was “Can a carry on be a backpack ?” We hope you got the answer! And, if you are thinking of buying some under-seat luggage for yourself, it’s one of the best ways to travel smart! 

Restrictions Of Airplane Backpack Size for Personal Items & Carry-On

The next question arises – What is the standard personal item size and backpack carry on size limit for various airlines? Here is some information regarding the dimensions of a personal item and backpack carry on size to answer your question. Please know that the airline personal item backpack details are subject to change, please check with the airline before booking your travel. 

American Airlines 

As per the American Airlines backpack personal item rules, flyers can take one personal item and one carry-on bag for free on both domestic and international flights. If you have both personal items, they must be stowed under the seat in front of you. 

  • Personal item size and weight – 18x14x8 inches (45x35x20 cm)
  • Carry-on size and weight – 22x14x9 inches (56x36x23 cm)

Delta Airlines

Travelers can bring one personal item and one carry-on bag for free on both domestic and international flights of Delta Airlines as per their rules on backpack size for airlines. If you have both personal items, they must fit under the seat in front of you.

  • Personal item size and weight – No exact dimensions given – similar size to purse, briefcase, or small backpack.
  • Carry-on size and weight – 22x14x9 inches (56x36x23 cm)

United Airlines 

The size limits of United Airlines on personal items are smaller than most standard backpacks. Basic Economy fare only includes a free personal item, not a carry-on bag. As per the United personal item size backpack rules, if you want to add a carry-on bag to the Basic Economy ticket, the charges will start at around $30 or more.

  • Personal item size and weight – 17x10x9 inches (43x25x22 cm)
  • Carry-on size and weight – 22x14x9 inches (56x36x23 cm)

Spirit Airlines 

Flight tickets of Spirit Airlines only include a personal item, not a carry-on bag. Charges for adding a carry-on bag to your tickets start at $36. Here is the allowed size of backpack for Spirit Airlines. 

  • Personal item size and weight – 18x14x8 inches (45x35x20 cm)
  • Carry-on size and weight – 22x18x10 inches (56x46x25 cm)

Airlines’ Backpack Rules For Connecting USA-India Flight

If you’re booking connecting flights from/to India to/from USA, you must the personal backpack size rules of the below-mentioned airlines – 

JetBlue Airways

Wondering ‘Does Jetblue basic allow personal items?’ Blue Basic fares of JetBlue Airways only include a free personal item, not a carry-on bag. And, if you have a carry-on bag on Blue Basic tickets, please know that these will be checked at the gate starting at a cost of around $65. 

  • Personal item size and weight – 17x13x8 inches (43.2x33x20.32 cm)
  • Carry-on size and weight – 22x14x9 inches (55x36x23 cm)

Frontier Airlines 

According to the Frontier personal item size backpack rules, air tickets of Frontier Airlines only include a personal item, not a carry-on bag. If want to bring a carry-on bag too, the charges for the same will start at around $30.

  • Personal item size and weight – 18x14x8 inches (45x35x20 cm)
  • Carry-on size and weight – 24x16x10 inches (60x40x25 cm)

Allegiant Airlines

Allegiant Airlines’ tickets only include a free personal item, not a carry-on bag. And, if you want to bring a carry-on bag with you on a plane, the airline will charge you something. These charges will start at $10. 

  • Personal item size and weight – 16x15x7 inches (40.6×38.1×17.8 cm)
  • Carry-on size and weight -22x14x9 inches (56x36x23 cm)

Also, please note that both carry-on and personal item sizes are typically different for domestic and international flights. For instance, the size requirements for New York to Dallas flights will be different (small size) and for Chicago to Delhi flights will be different (big size). 

Items Not Allowed In A Personal Item & A Carry-On Bag

Here’s the list of items not allowed in personal items and carry-ons – 

  • Alcoholic beverages over 140 proof are not allowed. So, must know the rules regarding alcohol on a plane before packing your bags.
  • Many chemical and flammables
  • Any fluids that exceed 3.4 ounces
  • Sharp objects such as axes, knives, or hatchets
  • Baseball bats, brass knuckles, mace, bear spray, bows & arrows, or basically anything that could be used as a weapon.

Know more about the prohibited items under checked baggage rules, before packing your bags for your next trip.

Tips To Pack Your Airline Personal Item Backpack

Packing for flight journeys at times can be hectic and even frustrating. We always get confused between what to pack and what not to along with queries like ‘Can backpack be carry on or personal item?’. Then, there is also this overweight fee that we need to handle. But, don’t worry! Here are some tips to help you manage your personal item backpack size in one go!  

  • Use packing cubes that you can compress after they are full to maximize space even more.
  • Purchase toiletries on location and don’t bother bringing them home with you.
  • Don’t carry an outfit for each day of your trip. Plan to do laundry along the way. This is especially useful with small things that are easy to wash in hotel room sinks. 
  • Wear your bulkiest clothing and heavy hiking boots on the plane.
  • Don’t pack all your shoes. We understand that this is not always possible to stick to one pair of shoes, but you will save loads of space in your personal item bag. 
  • Pack earphones instead of headphones. Or, you can carry Bluetooth earbuds with you on a plane. Must know the rules on ‘Can you use Bluetooth on a plane?’, before packing them.


So, if you are wondering – “Do Backpacks count as a personal item? Or, is backpack a carry on? ” The answer is, backpacks can be used as personal items and carry-ons, but they must fit in the plane’s cabin and must be less than the size limitations of the particular airline. Otherwise, you will be charged an additional cost or have things abandoned at the airport while checking in.

The next important query is,  what are the ideal dimensions of a personal item size backpack? Usually, a backpack personal item should measure no more than 18x4x8 inches but this measurement can vary as per the rules of different airlines. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does a backpack count as carry on or personal item?

A: Yes, you can use a backpack as a personal item or a carry on as long as it matches the size and dimensions requirements of the airline.

Q: Is a backpack considered a personal item or a carry on? 

A: A backpack can qualify as a personal item or a carry-on item depending on the luggage size requirements of the airlines. So, an answer to this query ‘Can a personal item be a backpack?’ is if your bag is small you can use it as a personal item.

Q: Can I take a backpack as carry on or a suitcase is better?

A: Yes, suitcases are generally better than backpacks at maximizing your carry-on space. You can take advantage of every square centimeter available on rectangular suitcases. But, these bags are not fun in destinations that don’t have smooth sidewalks. So, if you don’t mind carrying a weight on your back, backpacks are more versatile as carry-ons.

Q: Can I bring a carry on and a backpack personal item on a plane?

A: Yes, you can carry both a personal item and a carry-on backpack with you on a plane. Your carry-on bag must fit in the overhead bin, and your personal item must be stored below your seat.

Q: What’s the difference between carry on and personal item?

A: There are many difference between carry on and personal item. The main difference is where they are stored during a flight. Carry-on bags go in the overhead bin since they are typically too large to fit under the seat in front of you, which is where your personal item should be stored.

Q: Does Spirit charge for backpacks? 

A: Only one personal item that fits entirely in your carry on is included within your ticket which means the size of a personal item should be small enough to fit inside a purse or small backpack. However, any other personal items outside of it would be charged for by the airline.

Q: Can you take a backpack on a plane for free?

A: You can easily carry a backpack on the plane if it aligns with the published size rules of your airline. However, if your backpack and carry on exceed the limit you will be charged an additional cost. 

Q: Can you bring a carryon and a backpack on the plane along with a personal item? 

A: Usually, most of airlines allow their passengers to carry both personal items and backpacks with them. However, you should always check the size restrictions of your airlines regarding the same to avoid future hassles. 

Q: Does Blue Basic allow personal item?

A: Blue basic personal item include things like purses, laptop bags, or pet carriers that can easily fit under the seat in front of you. 

So, now you know the answers to ‘Can I bring a carryon and a backpack?’ and ‘Is backpack a personal item?’, pack your backpack or carry-on bag smartly the next time you plan your trip.

We hope this blog solved all your queries regarding ‘is a backpack a carry-on or personal item?’. If you still have any further doubts, do ask us in the comment section below. Our team, at MyTicketsToIndia, will resolve all your queries at the soonest possible time. 


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About Renu Dahiya | View Posts

Renu Dahiya is a passionate writer who worships her profession. Her love for writing has encouraged her to pursue her career as a writer. Her friends call her a “travel worm” and always come to her to know some interesting traveling tips and destinations. Renu is a repository of knowledge about traveling who knows which place should be visited in which season. Oh yes, she is insanely in love with dancing too. Writer, traveler and dancer, a perfect combination! Without a doubt, she is a complete package.

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