Personal Carry-On Bags (Buying Guide 2023)

Nothing beats a well-designed backpack when it comes to comfort and versatility. As a result, a backpack is our preferred airline personal item backpack.

If you’re planning to take your backpack with you on your next trip, you may be disappointed to learn that most packs are too large or lack the features needed to function as an on-flight travel bag.

This is why we conducted the study and published the best backpacks that can be utilized as personal items when traveling. Our top choices meet various critical individual item criteria, including size, pocket location, and design features that make them easy to transport.

What is the difference between a Personal Item bag and a Carry-On Bag

Let’s start by defining the differences between a personal item and a carry-on bag.

The distinction is easy: a carry-on bag must fit in the overhead compartment, whereas a personal item may fit beneath the seat in front of you.

Personal Item and carry on backpack difference

If a bag doesn’t fit under the seat, it will be considered a carry-on. If a carry-on bag is too big to fit in the overhead compartment, you’ll have to check it as luggage and won’t be able to take it on board with you.

Carry-on bags include, among other things, carry-on luggage, weekender backpacks, and large travel baggage and duffels. Personal item bags are held by a woman carrying a handbag, briefcase, or tiny backpack.

There are many rules for what is considered a carry-on bag and a personal item that vary from airline to airline, so double-check with your carrier to ensure your luggage meets their specifications.

It’s also crucial to comprehend that under-seat sizes vary by airline, boarding class, and seat position. For example, there is no under-seat storage in the front rows behind the bulkhead on larger planes. In contrast, smaller planes tend to have lesser under-seat storage dimensions.

Is a Carry-on backpack a personal item?

Is it possible to have a personal item out of a backpack? The straightforward answer is that a bag may be an individual item.

An essential thing to know about airline personal belongings is that any bag may be used as long as it fits beneath the airline’s item restrictions.

Backpacks, diaper bags, handbags, and briefcases are all examples of this.

The secret to making a backpack stand out as a personal item is to make sure it fits the size restrictions.

Many bags may be too big to fit underneath an airline seat or considered too bulky by the airline.

The most common airlines in the United States are listed below and their stated personal item bag capacity. This chart was last updated on September 24th, 2021. Check your airline’s official website for the most up-to-date carry-on and individual item restrictions.

American Airlines restriction: 18″ x 14″ x 8″
Air Canada restriction:  17″ x 13″ x 6″
Delta restriction: No specific size
Frontier restriction:  18″ x 14″ x 8″
JetBlue restriction:  17″ x 13″ x 8″
Southwest restriction:  18.5″ x 13.5″ x 8.5″
Spirit restriction:  18″ x 14″ x 8″
United Airlines  restriction:  17″ x 10″ x 9″

How to Find the Best carry-on Backpack

To choose the carry-on backpack, you must consider the following points.

  1. Personal Carry-On Bags  size
  2. Personal Item Backpack Pocket accessibility
  3. Carry-On Bags Travel features
  4. Personal Item Backpack quality

1. Carry-on Bag SIZE

On airplanes, the size of your bags is limited. This might be a problem because you can’t bring as many things.

But we found that each bag on our list is the right size for most airlines and their personal item bag size restriction.

Personal and carry on backpack size

Different airlines have different size limits for personal items. Some are bigger, and some are smaller.

It is hard to know if a backpack will fit these airlines’ requirements, each airline has a different size limit, but the average height for most of them is 18 inches.

Bags under 20 liters are often small enough to be considered a personal item. The most popular capacity is around 18 liters.

While you can’t expect to pack for a whole two-week vacation in this capacity, it’s ideal for carrying the necessities you’ll need for a comfortable flight: travel pillows, water bottles, novels.


Good pocket placement is another essential element in a carry-on bag. When seated on the flight, your item should be easily accessible while remaining within sight.

easy pocket accessibility bag, pocket accessibility backpack

A large pocket on the top of the bag with zip-top closure is ideal.

This allows you to get small items like headphones, charging cables, and food without unzip the entire backpack.

Because you may want to grab or store your laptop without rummaging through the main compartment, laptop accessibility is also crucial. When selecting a personal item bag, backpacks with side or top laptop access are the most excellent alternatives.

It makes going through security checks at the airport considerably more accessible because you’ll have quicker access to your gadget from beneath your seat.


The backpack also features easy to travel with, including trolley sleeves for attaching the bag to rolling luggage, passport or ticket stash pockets, and lockable zippers.

TRAVEL-FRIENDLY FEATURES of personals item backpack

Find out which travel functions are essential for you and choose a backpack with as many of them as possible.

It may seem understandable, but it’s still important: choose a bag with a comfortable, ergonomic design.


When choosing a backpack for your personal items, it’s important that you give careful consideration as to where and how you plan on using the carry-on bag.

Some person carry-on bags are made specifically with travel in mind, considering things like reinforced handles and straps for extra support, options for storing more gear – such as laptop pouches – and additional pockets to hold all of your personal belongings.

You must make clear in your mind, the bag you purchase can be your travel companion on all of your trips for years to come.

Therefore, spend more money on brands that offer quality materials and smart designs and less on styles that may not last as long and may not fit in with what you’re looking for.

If you’re searching for a versatile day pack that could also be used as a backpack when hiking: look out for high-quality materials that are water-resistant.

If protecting expensive tech on your travels is important to you, then going with bags with separate fleece-lined pockets for your laptop and smaller items would be most appropriate.

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