Hand luggage size and rules: what can you take?
We started traveling with hand luggage only recently: when airlines made it more expensive to check in your bags. This is one of the advantages of traveling with hand luggage besides no waiting at the check-in desk or at the baggage claim and less chance of arriving at your destination without any bags.
But there are of course other rules for checked luggage compared to hand luggage: you don’t get to take anything you want into the cabin. There aren’t only rules about what can and cannot be in your hand luggage, but you also have to make sure that your hand luggage has the right size and weight. If your hand luggage doesn’t meet the size and weight requirements, you risk to check in your bag after all, and you still have to pay. Not all airlines have the same rules for hand luggage sizes. To make it easy for you, there is a table with an overview of the specific hand luggage sizes and weights for different airlines. This makes sure you are leaving for the airport well prepared!
Hand luggage size
As mentioned before, the rules for hand luggage size can vary between different airlines. One airline allows for bigger luggage compared to other airlines, and sometimes you can take an extra personal item like a handbag, camera bag, or laptop. Here is an overview of the hand luggage sizes for different airlines.
|Airline||Hand luggage size (in cm)||Hand luggage weight (in kg)||Personal item?|
|Air Europe||55x35x25||10||Yes, max 35x30x20|
|Air France||55x35x25||12||Yes, max 40x30x15|
|American Airlines||56x36x23||Be able to put it in the overhead compartment by yourself||Yes, max 45x35x20|
|British Airways||56x45x25||23||Yes, max 40x30x15|
|Cathay Pacific||56x36x23||7||Yes, max 40x30x15|
|Delta Airlines||56x35x23||No max weight||Yes|
|Easyjet||56x45x25||No max weight||Yes, max 45x36x20 (for certain tickets)|
|Etihad Airways||50x40x25||7||Yes, max 40x30x15 – 5kg|
|Eurowings||55x40x23||8||Yes, max 40x30x10|
|Iberia||56x45x25||No max weight||Yes|
|Icelandair||55x40x20||10||Yes, max 40x30x15|
|KLM||55x35x25||12*||Yes, max 40x30x15|
|Qatar Airways||50x37x25||7||Yes but the laptop in hand luggage|
|Royal Air Maroc||Sum all sides < 115cm||10||Yes|
|Ryanair||40x25x20||No max weight||No|
|SAS||55x40x23||8||Yes, max 40x30x15|
|Swiss||55x40x23||8||Yes, max 40x30x10|
|TAP Air Portugal||55x40x20||8||Yes, max 40x30x10|
|Transavia Airlines||45x40x25||10||No, has to be put in hand luggage|
|Tui Fly (Sweden)||55x40x23||5||No|
|United||56x35x22||No max weight||Yes, max 43x25x22|
The last update of this table was in December 2021. This can of course change, so if you are in doubt, you can go to the specific hand luggage page on the airline website by clicking the links. These pages also provide additional information.
Hand luggage weight
Not only the size of the hand luggage is different between airlines but also the weight. On average, the maximum weight of your hand luggage should be between 6 and 10kg. Sometimes this weight is the combined weight of your hand luggage and your personal item, this is indicated by an * in the table. You have to assume that you can lift your hand luggage by yourself into the overhead compartment.
What can you take?
In contrast to hand luggage size and weight that differ between airlines, the policy on what you can take is much more consistent. It’s obvious you can’t take any dangerous products or items like explosives, weapons, ammunition, and sharp objects into the plane. Sharp objects also include a pocket knife, a nail file, and nail scissors. You have to put these into your checked bags. If you don’t have those, you best leave those objects at home.
Rules for liquids
The liquids you place in your hand luggage can only be 100ml. And they all have to be in a Ziploc plastic bag of a maximum of 1 liter. Per person, you can only take 1 bag of 1 liter. Toothpaste and make-up are often smaller dan 100ml, so there is not a lot of problems there. Shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, and sun cream are a little bit more difficult. Or you can buy travel-size products or you can pour them into special travel-size bottles. If you travel with checked luggage, you can put all your liquids in there. There are exceptions for baby formula and medicines, you can just take them with you.
When you buy any liquids in the Tax-free shop at the airport, they put them in plastic bags and seal them. You can open them when you arrive at your final destination.
Transferring in the US or Canada? You have to put your tax-free products into your checked bags after customs.
If you transfer to Australia, you can’t take any liquids you bought outside of Australia into your hand luggage.
Rules for powders
Only recently there are also rules for powders when you are traveling to the US. Powder-like products (sugar, flour, powdered milk, and make-up) of more than 350 ml are no longer permitted in your hand luggage. There are again exceptions for baby formula and medicines.
Rules for devices with lithium batteries
Devices with lithium batteries like laptops, cell phones, tablets, and cameras have to be in your hand luggage.
Rules for food
For short flights, it is nice to bring your own food or snacks. Is this allowed? Yes! You can take anything with you as long as it is not a liquid bigger than 100ml (this also includes (drinking) yogurt or jam). If you bought it after the hand luggage check, there is no problem of course. But watch out for foods that have a very strong smell, this is not always so nice for the other passengers.
Which hand luggage to buy?
You saw before that hand luggage sizes and weights vary between airlines. To make sure, you best buy hand luggage with the smallest sizes that are allowed. Ryanair, Wizz Air, and WOW Air only allow hand luggage with sizes of approximately 40x25x20 to 42x32x25 cm. If you travel with these airlines often, it is best to buy hand luggage in these sizes. If you never travel with them, you better get one with standard dimensions 55x40x20.
I personally prefer luggage with a hard casing but the ones with a soft casing or a backpack are often a little bit more flexible to put into the overhead compartment. Here you have some examples of beautiful and stylish hand luggage.
Some of these links are affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, Travel Eat Enjoy Repeat will earn a small commission. This will cost you nothing extra.