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Checked Luggage: The Complete Guide

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There are many trips where you canā€™t get what you need into a carry-on bag. But sometimes, it's easier to bring a bigger bag. When you check a bag, you can pack luxuries that won't fit in your carry-on and bring items that aren't allowed through TSA.

So, what is checked luggage? How does it differ from a personal item? What are the checked baggage fees, and what are the rules around the maximum size and maximum weight of checked suitcases? Letā€™s explore.

How Much Does it Cost to Check a Bag?

The budget-savvy traveler may use a carry-on only ā€“ it just costs too much to check a bag, right? It actually depends. Your first checked bag can set you back as much as $75 or more unless you know how to get that fee waived.

Domestic vs International ā€“ Depending on the airline and class you fly in, overseas travel usually includes one or two free checked bags.

Airline Member Perks ā€“ If you are a frequent flier with elite status, a member of the airlineā€™s rewards program, or carry the airlineā€™s credit card, you may be rewarded with one free checked bag per flight.

First-Class or Economy ā€“ Most airlines offer a free checked bag to their first-class and business-class passengers. Those flying in economy or basic economy usually pay for checked baggage.

Heavy Bags ā€“ Whether or not you paid check bag fees, if your checked luggage weighs more than the weight limit (usually 50 lbs), you can be charged hefty overweight bag fees.

Each airline varies, but fees usually land around $100 for bags weighing 1-20 lbs over the limit and $200 for bags 21-50 lbs over. If your bag exceeds 101 pounds, don't be surprised if the airline won't check it or charges you $300 or more.

What Counts as Checked Luggage?

Airlines refer to three types of bags: your personal item, your carry-on, and your checked luggage. Size is more important than the type of luggage in determining whether you can carry on or it needs to be checked. But you may wonder, "Can I check a box as luggage"? The short answer: yes, you can!

When using a cardboard box as checked luggage, be sure that it's durable enough to withstand the trip and ā€“ perhaps more importantly ā€“ the box doesn't exceed weight or size limits established by your chosen airline. For most travelers, using a box to transport items is not convenient nor practical. There are so many styles of luggage that may be better for your needs. Check outĀ our luggage guide to find the right luggage for your needs.

Checked Luggage Sizes and Restrictions

Each airline publishes its own baggage size and weight limits. Size limits for checked luggage focus on overall dimensions. For most airlines, the largest luggage size for check-in is 62 linear inches. This means the total length + width + depth must equal 62 inches or less.

RELATED: OurĀ luggage size guide takes the guesswork out of measuring your bags before you get on the plane.

Some airlines have different size restrictions, but that 62-inch rule is pretty standard. The below chart represents the published size and weight limits for individual airlines.

US DOMESTIC AIRLINES

AIRLINE SIZE IN INCHES WEIGHT/LBS
Allegiant Air

80 Linear Inches

50 Pounds

Alaska Airlines

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

American Airlines

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Delta Airlines

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Frontier Airlines

62 Linear Inches 40 Pounds

HawaiianĀ Ā Airlines

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

JetBlue Airways

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Southwest Airlines

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

SpiritĀ Airlines

62 Linear Inches 40 Pounds

Sun Country Airlines

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

United Airlines

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES

AIRLINE SIZE IN INCHES WEIGHT/LBS
AeroMexico

62 Linear Inches

55 Pounds

Air Canada

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Air France

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Air New Zealand

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Alitalia

62 Linear Inches 40 Pounds

All Nippon Airways

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

El Al Airlines

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Iceland Air

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Japan Airlines

80 Linear Inches 40 Pounds

KLM

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Korean Air

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Lufthansa

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

NorwegianĀ Air

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

PhilippineĀ Air

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

QantasĀ Airways

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

Saudi Arabian Airways

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

ScandinavianĀ Airlines

62 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

SingaporeĀ Airlines

62 Linear Inches 55 Pounds

ThaiĀ Airways

62 Linear Inches 44 Pounds

Virgin Atlantic

80 Linear Inches 50 Pounds

These are the restrictions for economy fare classes. Many airlines allow larger or heavier bags for their first-class and business-class passengers.

Carry-On Luggage Weight Restrictions

Checked luggage has weight and size restrictions, but what about your carry-on or personal item? Before heading to the airport, check out how weĀ put carry-on luggage to the test.

Airlines limit the size of carry-on luggage to fit into the overhead bins, but most do not have restrictions on weight. Just remember, you need to be able to lift it to store it in the bin above your seat.

To get the most in your carry-on or checked bag without being weighed down, choose lightweight luggage. Travelpro has a broad selection of luggage that is lightweight but ultra-durable. OurĀ Maxlite 5 series is among the lightest and most durable luggage you can buy.

What to Pack in Your Checked Luggage

If you travel light, you might be able to get by with just a carry-on. However, there are times when you want to check a bag to bring items that might not be allowed in your carry-on.

What is allowed in checked baggage differs considerably from what is allowed in carry-on luggage.

Most sporting equipment, anything sharp, and items that could be used as a weapon must be in your checked baggage. Your carry-on, however, can be used for most things that you might need quick access to, including toiletries under 3.4 oz., medication, and a change of clothes. Take a look at our article onĀ what not to bring in your carry-on for a list of items that are and are not allowed.

Checking your luggage helps free up space in your carry-on, making your trip a lot more pleasant. Know the guidelines so you don't get hit with an additional charge when checking in for your next adventure.

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