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Personal Item vs. Carry-On: What’s the Difference?

The definition of a personal item has always been unclear. We’ve all seen passengers rolling their large carry-ons and carrying equally large bags and backpacks on as their “personal item.” The general rule is that your personal item must fit under the seat in front of you, but in my experience, I’ve never seen anyone questioned about their personal item.

For years, personal items have flown mostly under the radar, but in this new bare fares world—in which airlines are offering cheaper base fares but charging for carry-ons—more and more people will be traveling with nothing but a personal item.

When you’re traveling on the cheap and trying to pack as much as possible in a very limited amount of space, knowing the rules is vital. Here’s a look at the personal item and free carry-on limitations for 10 major U.S. airlines.

(The dimensions below reflect height, length, width.)

Personal Item vs. Carry-On: What’s the Difference?

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 Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

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