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Is a Duffle Bag a Personal Item?

Most small duffle bags are considered personal items. However, whether your duffle bag fits the criteria for a personal item depends on your bag and your airline. Choosing the right duffle bag as your personal item will make your flying experience hassle-free.

Frequent travelers know that using personal items and carry-on luggage can reduce wait time and worry about checked baggage. Duffle bags are easy to pack and travel with, so you might be wondering whether these bags count in the “personal item” category.

It turns out that not all duffle bags are personal items, but many are. If you can imagine placing your bag under a seat, it’s likely an eligible personal item. Whether your duffle bag counts as a personal item depends on a number of things:

  • The size of your duffle bag
  • The airline you are flying with
  • How full your duffle bag is

What Is a Personal Item?

The TSA and FAA have no regulations on personal items, so it’s up to each airline to create a personal item policy. Here are the rules for personal items from some popular airlines:

“Your personal item must be stored under the seat in front of you, fitting within 18.5 x 8.5 x 13.5 inch dimensions.”

Southwest Airlines

“Your personal item… must fit under the seat in front of you. Dimensions should not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm).”

American Airlines

“For Travel April 4, 2017 ; Beyond: 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 2 0cm) maximum personal item dimensions.”

Spirit Airlines

What’s the Difference Between a Personal Item and a Carry-On?

Most airlines allow you to carry two pieces of luggage on board: one piece of carry-on luggage and a personal item. The main difference is that personal items must be stored under the seat in front of you, while carry-on luggage goes into the compartment above your head.

Why Is a Duffle Bag a Good Personal Item Choice?

Any soft bag like a duffle bag or cloth backpack makes an excellent personal item. It’s easy to fit a small duffle bag under an airline seat. Duffle bags have more storage space than other common personal items, like purses or briefcases. Duffle bags don’t have too many compartments, which makes it easy to send them through airline security.

How to Choose the Right Duffle Bag for Travel

You are probably looking for the right balance of affordability, quality, and ease of packing when choosing a duffle bag for travel. Learn about the best carry-on duffle bags for travelers. Choose durable materials, like canvas, and make sure you know the dimensions of your bag. If your other luggage has a handle, look for a travel duffle with a trolley sleeve that slides over your suitcase handle.

How to Measure Your Duffle Bag

One of the benefits of traveling with a duffle bag is that duffle bags are soft and squishy. This allows duffle bags to squeeze into smaller spaces. Measure your bag after you’ve packed and use a measuring tape at the widest points of height, width, and depth. You can do a “test run” and fill your duffle all the way to see its maximum size.

You May Also Like: Are Garment Bags Allowed as a Carry-On?

What to Bring in Your Personal Item Bag

Because duffle bags are soft, you should avoid packing large pointy objects in them. Pack clothing, toiletries, and snacks or entertainment for your plane ride in your personal item duffle. To get the most out of your duffle bag, look for vacuum storage bags or packing cubes. These tools help you pack more into your duffle.

Exceptions to Personal Items Policy

If you are a parent, the good news is that many airlines will allow you to travel with a diaper bag that does not meet the smaller size requirements for personal items! If you are planning to use your duffle as a diaper bag for your infant, ask your airline to see if this exception applies to you.

Duffle Bag Travel Accessories

You may want to secure your items in your duffle bag with a TSA-compliant travel lock. If you plan to bring back souvenirs, a packable folding tote bag lets you return with more luggage than you left with. Finally, a clear toiletry bag is an airport essential that will fit in your small duffle bag.

Final Thoughts

Most small duffle bags are personal items, but it’s always a good idea to check your airline’s requirements first. Choosing the right travel duffle is key to a smooth flying experience. Pack strategically and measure your bag before you leave to make sure your duffle bag counts as a personal item. With the right luggage and travel accessories, your trip will be a breeze!

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Hayden Wall

Hayden is the founder of Travel Gear Discounts and tries to vacation as much as possible. He loves finding the latest travel accessories that will make getting out easier and planning the perfect weekend getaway.