Can You Bring a Carry on and a Backpack Together: A Quick Guide

Can You Bring a Carry on and a Backpack Together: A Quick Guide

Can you imagine vacationing in Bali or the Maldives without your complete swimsuit wardrobe? Or, can you phantom going on a business trip without every formal wear outfit you love?

If you’re such a person, then airline baggage restrictions must be your worst nightmare. To make a way out of this ordeal, travelers tend to ask: “Can you bring a carry-on and a backpack to the airplane, together?

Besides that, with overcrowded flights, handing your precious luggage out to airlines is becoming a matter of concern. Therefore, the best idea for those who travel light and don’t want their stuff to be handled roughly is carrying their belongings on board with them.

Let us tell you a secret; we know the mantra to help you carry maximum weight on the plane while following flight restrictions as well. So let’s dive in!

What Are the Basic Airline Baggage Restrictions: An Overview

To answer if you can bring both carry-on bags and a backpack with you onboard, you’ll need to understand the standard regulations followed by most airlines. According to the rules, airlines divide the baggage carried by their passengers in three different types.

These basic divisions are checked-in luggage, carry-on baggage, and personal items. Let’s face it, all of us break into a cold sweat when faced with the task of differentiating each of them from the other.

What’s more, if you make a mistake, you can end up paying extra luggage fees. Either that, or you will be asked to part with your precious items at the airport. Here’s a clear definition for each of these luggage types.

1. Check-In Baggage

This is perhaps the most easily classified luggage article. No one would want to lug around heavyweight items with them on their flights, even if the airline allowed it. However, to state it simply, if your bag does not fit under the seat in front of you or the overhead bin, it automatically goes into the checked-in luggage.

2. Carry-On Bags

Here’s where things get a little tricky. Carry-on bags can range from small cabin suitcases to day packs and travel rucksacks. In this case, not only the weight but the size matters a lot. Even if you carry a backpack, if it’s large and doesn’t fit the overhead bin, you won’t be able to take it along with you.

The solution is to choose the ideal backpack to take along with you according to whether you’re carrying it as a carry-on or as a personal item.

3. Personal Articles

The basic rule of thumb for personal articles is that it should fit under the seat in front of you. In this case, even if you’re carrying a backpack instead of a messenger bag or a sling bag, you can take it along with you as a personal item.

If you have a handbag that doesn’t fit under the seat, you’ll naturally have to place it in the overhead bin, which means there’s no room for another carry-on.

Now you know all the basics about the different divisions of luggage according to airline rules, you must’ve gotten a vague idea about how you can bring a carry-on and a backpack to the airplane. To get a clear idea about the point, let’s get into the details.

Can You Bring a Carry On and a Backpack to the Airplane: USA Airlines Guidelines

Are you confused about whether you can carry both your backpack and a carry-on with you on a flight? We have the answers to your question from the airlines themselves. We’ve reviewed the luggage regulations from a few leading USA airlines to help you out of your dilemma.

1. Delta

Delta is a widely acclaimed US airline that says if the bag fits under your seat, it will be counted as a personal item. Therefore, you can bring along a carry-on item with it, as well.

That said, your carry-on should adhere to the mandated size of 22 x 14 x 19 inches. If it’s not the mandated size and won’t fit under the overhead bin, you can’t take another bag with that.

2. Southwest

Southwest Airlines makes it crystal clear that anything is allowed as long as you can place it under the seat in front of you. That is if you follow the required size and weight for your bags. You can easily carry a handbag for the items you want to keep close on board, along with your cabin bag.

3. United

United Airlines reinforces the same point by saying that you can bring a carry-on and a backpack to the airplane, depending on the size of your backpack. The mandated size for carry-on bags is the same as other airlines.

Nevertheless, they have regulations for personal carry bags too. You’ll have to make sure it’s within the 9 x 10 x 17 inches threshold so that you can bring it on the plane with your carry-on.

4. JetBlue

If you’ve recently booked a JetBlue flight, you should be careful that your backpack or personal item does not exceed 17 inches in size. Or else, you won’t be able to take another smaller piece of luggage.

5. American Airlines

For American Airlines, the system is more flexible when it comes to personal backpacks. If you’re flying on their planes, you can take backpacks as large as 22 inches along with your carry-on bag.

Taking all these regulations into consideration, one thing is obvious. If you balance out the weight and size of your carry-on bag and your personal items, you can easily bring them on your airline. But, if you overpack one or both of the articles, you can end up getting in trouble with the airline management.

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How to Carry Your Backpack as a Personal Item: Top Tips

You must’ve figured out that the only way you can carry a backpack along with a carry-on is to manage the weight and size of both the articles so that they fit the regulations.

For that, you’ll have to make sure your backpack qualifies as a personal item. Otherwise, there won’t be any room for your carry-on or cabin bag. Consequently, you’ll be asked to part with one or both of them at the airport.

Of course, you don’t want that, so follow these simple guidelines to get your backpack through the scrutinizing eyes of airline officials easily.

1. Pack Light

This is the ultimate solution for all your luggage problems. If you want to take a backpack along with your carry-on, it should be slim and light.

The best option is to use a sleek laptop bag because it can be used to store some of your essential items too. Remember, the bulkier your backpack looks, the more likely it is to catch the attention of the cabin crew.

2. Consider the Size

You should take care not to overpack your bag with large things. The secret is when you board onto a plain, weight doesn’t matter anymore as it did at the check-in counter. Here, if your bag fits the space at hand, you’re good to go.

Large, irregular backpacks can attract attention and cause a nuisance to other travelers as well. In this case, the airline can ask you to leave one bag behind. Thus, make sure you keep your bag small and manageable.

3. Keep It Discreet

Ever came across a fellow traveler struggling between a handbag and a backpack while lugging along a cabin bag through the aisle? These are people who attract attention and get themselves into trouble. To smoothly carry multiple bags on board, you need to be highly discreet about the whole thing.

Carry your extra bag in a way that it doesn’t become evident to the staff. Similarly, keep your cabin bag at the size limit so that you’re not seen struggling with the space in the overhead bin. This usually creates mayhem, especially if you’re taking up the assigned space for a fellow traveler.

As long as your extra backpack doesn’t cause trouble around the plane, the staff isn’t likely to stop you from bringing it along.

All of these simple steps will come in handy if you’re planning to carry your backpack as a personal item with an additional cabin suitcase. That said, if you’re carrying your backpack as a carry-on with a small handbag or sling bag for your important items, you’ll need to choose a backpack accordingly.

How to Choose the Ideal Carry-On Backpack: Factors to Consider

Usually, when a flight is completely packed, passengers with rolling cabin bags are asked to check their luggage on the gate because the overhead bins fill up quickly. Also, they’re not enough to accommodate lots of carry-on luggage, so the unlucky ones with the bulkiest bags have to comply with the cabin crew’s demands.

On the contrary, if you carry a backpack, you’re less likely to be asked to surrender your luggage to the check-in counter. Meaning, if you’re carrying fragile items or just don’t want the airlines to handle your personal stuff, a backpack is the best choice.

Anyway, to make sure you can carry an additional personal item, you need to choose a perfect backpack. Hence, here are the important factors to consider.

1. Size

The most crucial aspect to consider when buying a backpack as a carry-on is the size. We mentioned the required dimensions for different airlines so that you can get some ideas, but if you’re not entirely sure, you can check your airline’s website. You can also read the details on your ticket to make sure your bag is compliant with the regulations.

Additionally, you have to decide whether you want to buy a small or maximum-sized backpack. You see, if you’re a person who tends to stuff their bags to the brim, buying a maximum-sized bag is not recommended for you. That’s because your bag will become bulkier than usual when filled up completely, and won’t fit in the overhead bin.

On the other hand, if you’re planning to shop till you drop at your destination, you should get a large backpack to help you fit all the additional things inside.

2. Weight

When traveling with an airline, weight doesn’t matter much. As long as your bag fits the regulation, you can carry it along with you on the plane. What you should keep in mind is your capacity.

Most flights allow up to seven to eight kilograms as carry-on luggage. Nonetheless, it’s not humanly possible for a person to carry such a heavy backpack, especially if it’s a connecting flight. In this case, you should select a backpack that helps you manage the weight.

Professional backpack guides will tell you that ergonomic backpacks are the best option. You can also go for wheeled backpacks to help you ease the load on your back.

3. Accessibility

The ideal backpack to take with you as a carry-on is the one that enhances your overall traveling experience. Many brands offer backpacks with the individual, organized compartments. This helps you present the contents of your bag easily during customs and checkpoints, without messing up your things.

You can even find bags that fit the carrier perfectly. This not only eases the burden but helps you maneuver easily through the crowd at large, busy airports. Make sure to look for such features when buying a carry-on backpack.

Also, backpacks with lots of pockets make your essential objects such as earphones, smartphones, boarding passes, and identity cards, accessible along the way.


Summing it all up, the answer to the question, “Can you bring a carry on and a backpack to the airplane?” is fairly easy. All you need to do is manage the weight on your carry-on to make room for your backpack. Your backpack should also be light and small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.

Apart from that, if you want to carry a backpack with you onboard, you have to select the backpack properly, considering all the anomalies involved. Also, you’ll need to pack it in a way that facilitates bringing small, personal items with you on board.

The regulations do vary with different airlines, but the basic dimensions and weight regulations are almost the same. If you want to keep your precious luggage with you on the plane, the trick is to pack light. Lastly, keep your luggage sleek and small enough to fit anywhere on the plane.