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Carry on luggage rules

This article is the first in a three-part series on packing carry-on-only. Part Two: 7 Secrets to Packing Light and Part Three: The Definitive Carry On Packing List will be published over the next two weeks.

The first step to mastering carry-on-only packing is to know the rules.

Carry on luggage allowances differ by airline. Check your airline’s rules before flying. Just Google “[airline] carry on luggage” or “[airline] hand luggage.”

Always use the measurements from your airline’s website. Those measurements will be the most accurate.

Be wary of third-party sites that aggregate information for multiple airlines as their measurements may be inaccurate or outdated.

Carry On Luggage Size

The most commonly allowed size for carry on luggage is 45 linear inches (length + width + height).

Some airlines allow larger bags, but forty-five inches is a reliable baseline to use.

Airlines that give measurements by dimension typically allow bags up to 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Some airlines allow bags that are larger in one or more dimensions, but this configuration will meet the guidelines for most major airlines. We used these measurements to maximize packing space in the Tortuga Travel Backpack while still keeping it carry-on-eligible on most airlines.

Budget airlines like Ryanair are the most common exceptions to these norms. Cheaper airlines are often more strict with luggage size rules.

Check your favorite airlines’ rules before buying new luggage.

In addition to your carry on luggage, most airlines also allow one personal item, like a purse or laptop bag. Your personal item must fit under the seat in front of you.

Very few airlines publish size rules for personal items. United’s new baggage policy allows items up to 17 x 10 x 9 inches. If your airline doesn’t have specific size limits, use United’s rules as a guide to determine if your personal item will fit under the seat.

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How to Hand Wash Clothes When You Travel

Eastern Europe. July 2009.

The weather was hot, and we were covering a lot of ground on foot every day. Before reaching Hvar, we were spending these long, hot days in cities. We were sweaty and gross. Typical backpackers.

Unlike some of our brethren, we tried to maintain some dignity and actually clean our clothes.

Every night our hostel room’s sink was plugged up and filled with soapy water so that we could clean our socks, underwear, and t-shirts.

It wasn’t pretty, but it did keep us clean and save us from trying to navigate any Hungarian laundromats.

By selectively hand washing clothes, you can pack light and avoid re-wearing dirty clothes.

If you’re traveling for a week or more, doing laundry is the easiest way to pack significantly less.

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Bring Everything You Need Without Checking a Bag

Tortuga Travel Backpack
Suitcases aren't designed for world travel. Neither are the enormous, cylindrical backpacks a lot of travelers use.

You don’t have to compromise any more. Now there’s a solution made for travelers, by travelers: The Tortuga Travel Backpack.

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The best travel podcasts to listen to on your next flight

Long, international flights can be brutal. I’ve endured 15 hour flights to Dubai, Sydney, and (as of last night) Hong Kong.

Even for an avid movie, music, and book fan like me, that’s a lot of time to fill.

I’ve never found using a laptop to be very practical or productive. Plus, most international flights still don’t have WiFi.

My recipe for passing the time is a combination of sleeping, eating, reading, listening to music, watching movies that I wouldn’t watch under any other conditions, and listening to podcasts.

Podcasts are like a cross between radio and blogs. Most podcasts are episodic shows that you can subscribe to via iTunes.

A few months ago, I started to look for travel podcasts. The options were disappointing. The iTunes Store’s search results were dominated by Rick Steves and filler from AOL.

The few other shows I found centered each episode on a different destination. I didn’t subscribe to them because most episodes were be totally irrelevant to me. Right content, wrong time.

Then I dug deeper. And I found the good stuff. Now I’m sharing it with you.

Let’s start with the best travel podcasts, then I’ll recommend other, non-travel shows for your listening pleasure.

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The International Travel Goods Show '14 Logo

Last Tuesday, I was up at 4 a.m. to catch an early flight to Phoenix.

Why was I up at such an ungodly hour? What could possibly be so important? 

To go to the International Travel Goods Show.

Once a year, the Travel Goods Association hosts a trade show for the travel industry.

The event brings together brands, retailers, manufacturers, press, and more to showcase the latest in travel gear. The show is a great time for brands to “book business” with retailers and to generate interest from the press. Shake hands. Make deals.

This year was my first time attending the event. We didn’t have a booth; I was there to see what the show was like, meet other people in the industry, and decide if we should exhibit next year.

Keep reading to find out more about the show, who was there, and if you should attend.

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Carry On Only Pledge badge

To celebrate our 100th post, we’re taking a stand for light travel and against checked luggage. Will you join us?

Between bad experiences, a desire for simplicity, and rising airline baggage fees, I started traveling carry-on-only years ago. Creating Tortuga Backpacks was a natural result of Jeremy’s and my travel styles.

Checked luggage is extra weight, extra headache, and extra money. Checked bags can cost $50 or more per roundtrip flight.

This fee doesn’t guarantee you anything. Your luggage is still subject to being damaged, stolen, misrouted, or lost.

Luggage is a burden. A physical and a mental burden. This extra weight is another excuse for why people don’t travel or don’t fully enjoy their travels.

We’re not the only ones who advocate traveling carry-on-only. Check out OneBag, Pack Lite, or 1Bag1World for similar viewpoints. Travel writer Rolf Potts even took this a step further with the No Baggage Challenge, where he carried everything he needed in his pockets.

Traveling light is a lifestyle. We strongly advocate this lifestyle and want to share it with other travelers.

To help spread the word, we’ve created the Carry-On-Only Pledge. The five tenents of the pledge are below.

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