Your Guide to Carry On Weight Limits (and How Not to Exceed Them)

Published December 19, 2023

Written by:

Fred Perrotta
Fred Perrotta
Fred Perrotta

Fred Perrotta is the co-founder and CEO of Tortuga. His first backpacking trip to Europe inspired him to start the...

Edited by:

Headshot of Jeremy Michael Cohen
Jeremy Michael Cohen
Headshot of Jeremy Michael Cohen

Jeremy Michael Cohen is a co-founder of Tortuga. He also works as a screenwriter and director. Aside from travel and...

Woman putting a travel backpack in the overhead bin of an airplane

The Tortuga Promise

At Tortuga, our mission is to make travel easier. Our advice and recommendations are based on years of travel experience. We only recommend products that we use on our own travels.

As long as everything fits in a carry on, you’re good. Right? Not necessarily.

Everyone knows about carry on size limits. But airlines have carry on weight limits too.

You can easily overstuff a carry-on-sized bag. The weight of a laptop, book, and an extra pair of shoes adds up quickly.

Airlines’ carry on weight rules vary even more than their size rules do. Air China only allows carry on bags up to 11 lb, while British Airways and Aeroflot allow bags up to 51 lb.

The most common weight limits are 15 lb (6.8 kg), 18 lb (8 kg), and 22 lb (10kg), but you should always check with your airline before flying.

In this article, we’ll outline the carry on weight limits by airline and then give some advice on packing lighter. The goal is to bring everything you need in a travel backpack while still being able to carry it comfortably.

Putting travel backpack in a carry on luggage size cage

Carry On Luggage Size Guides

First, the basics. Your carry on luggage is the main bag that you bring onto the plane and store in the overhead bin. You may have also heard it called hand luggage or cabin luggage, especially in Europe. Most people carry a suitcase, backpack, or duffel bag as their carry on luggage. Size limits vary by airline and region so check the size guide below before flying.

Carry On Luggage Size Guide

A personal item is the secondary bag that you bring onto the plane and store under the seat in front of you. Personal items include purses, laptop bags, messenger bags, totes, or anything else that can fit comfortably in the space under the seat. The rules for personal item sizes are even more confusing than those for carry ons, so use the size guide below for reference. Note that most airlines don’t specify weight limits for personal items, so we won’t be covering those in this post.

Personal Item Size Guide

Tortuga
Carry-On-Sized Travel Backpacks
4.5

Pack for trips of one week or more without checking a bag.

Pros:
  • Thick comfortable straps
  • Easy to organize
  • Durable, waterproof fabric
  • Backed by our Worldwide Warranty
Shop at Tortuga

The Best Carry-On-Sized Backpack

The Travel Backpack by Tortuga was designed with airline carry on limits in mind. You’ll find it in two sizes: 40L to max out the US carry on limits and 30L to max out the international limits.

Whether you pack light or load it up, you’ll be able to carry an Travel Backpack comfortably. The height-adjustable shoulder straps adjust to your body for the perfect fit. The padded straps and weight-bearing hip belt take 80% of the weight off of your shoulders and onto your hips. This allows you to carry your bag with your stronger leg muscles and avoid any back, neck, or shoulder pain.

Carry On Luggage Weight Limit by Airline

Carry on weight limits vary by airline and sometimes change without warning. Be sure to check the baggage restrictions for your specific airline before you fly. This is particularly important if you fly a budget airline or book a discount ticket through a major airline.

If you’re flying a North American airline and you choose to book a low-cost, basic economy fare, pay attention to the change in baggage allowance. That’s often where they get you at the last minute and slap you with an unexpected (and high) baggage fee at the gate.

American Carry On Luggage Weight Limit

AirlineCarry On Weight (lb)Carry On Weight (kg)
Aeromexico22 lb¹10 kg¹
Air CanadaNot specifiedNot specified
Alaska AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Allegiant AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Avianca Airlines22 lb10 kg
American AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Delta Air Lines15 or 22 lb²7 or 10 kg²
Frontier Airlines35 lb16 kg
Hawaiian Airlines25 lb11 kg
JetBlue AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Southwest AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Spirit AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Sun Country Airlines35 lb16 kg
United AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
WestJetNot specifiedNot specified
Minimum15 lb7 kg
Maximum35 lb16 kg
Mode (most common)22 lb10 kg

¹ “[I]ncludes one piece of carry-on baggage and one personal item weighing a maximum of 10 kg (22 lb) between them (except on domestic flights)”

² “Singapore, Singapore – Changi International Airport (SIN) carry-on should not exceed 15 lbs. (7 kg); Beijing, China – Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) requires that domestic hand carry bags should not exceed 10 kg. Individual carrier rules apply for international flights. Shanghai, China – Pudong International Airport (PVG) carry-on should not exceed 22lbs. (10 kg)”

Tortuga
Carry-On-Sized Travel Backpacks
4.5

Pack for trips of one week or more without checking a bag.

Pros:
  • Thick comfortable straps
  • Easy to organize
  • Durable, waterproof fabric
  • Backed by our Worldwide Warranty
Shop at Tortuga

European Carry On Luggage Weight Limit

AirlineCarry On Weight (lb)Carry On Weight (kg)
Aer Lingus22 lb10 kg
Aeroflot51 lb23 kg
Air France26 lb12 kg
Alitalia18 lb8 kg
British Airways51 lb23 kg
easyJetNot specifiedNot specified
Iberia22 lb10 kg
Icelandair22 lb10 kg
KLM26 lb¹12 kg¹
Lufthansa18 lb8 kg
Norwegian Air Shuttle22 lb¹10 kg¹
Ryanair22 lb10 kg
SAS Scandinavian Airlines18 lb8 kg
Swiss Air Lines18 lb8 kg
Turkish Airlines18 lb8 kg
Vueling22 lb10 kg
Minimum18 lb8 kg
Maximum51 lb23 kg
Mode (most common)18 or 22 lb8 or 10 kg

¹ The weight limit is for the combined weight of a carry on plus a personal item.

Asian Pacific Carry On Luggage Weight Limit

AirlineCarry On Weight (lb)Carry On Weight (kg)
AirAsia15 lb¹7 kg¹
Air China11 lb5 kg
Air New Zealand15 lb7 kg
ANA22 lb10 kg
Asiana Airlines22 lb10 kg
Cathay Pacific15 lb 7 kg
Cebu Pacific AirNot specifiedNot specified
China Airlines15 lb7 kg
JAL (Japan Airlines)22 lb10 kg
Jetstar15 lb7 kg
Korean Air22 lb10 kg
Malaysia Airlines15 lb7 kg
Philippine Airlines15 lb7 kg
QantasNot specifiedNot specified
Singapore Air15 lb7 kg
Thai Airways15 lb7 kg
Virgin Australia15 lb7 kg
Minimum11 lb5 kg
Maximum22 lb10 kg
Mode (most common)15 lb7 kg

¹ The weight limit is for the combined weight of a carry on plus a personal item.

Middle Eastern Carry On Luggage Weight Limit

AirlineCarry On Weight (lb)Carry On Weight (kg)
El Al Israel Airlines18 lb8 kg
Emirates15 lb7 kg
Etihad Airways15 lb7 kg
Saudia Airlines15 lb7 kg
Minimum 15 lb7 kg
Maximum18 lb8 kg
Mode (most common)15 lb7 lb

Worldwide Carry On Luggage Weight Limit

TypeCarry On Weight (lb)Carry On Weight (kg)
Minimum11 lb5 kg
Maximum51 lb23 kg
Median18 lb8 kg
Mode (most common)22 lb7 kg

How to Stay Within Carry On Luggage Weight Limits

Carry Lightweight Luggage

Don’t forget your backpack’s weight. Before you pack anything, you’re already carrying a few pounds.

Start by carrying a bag that weighs 20% or less of your airline’s weight limit. Look for travel backpacks that weigh 4.4 lb at the most. That’s 20% of the common 22 lb weight limit. Lighter is better as long as you aren’t sacrificing quality, durability, or comfort.

This rule will exclude most wheeled suitcases and wheeled backpacks. The plastic wheels and handles use up too much of your weight allowance.

Wheeled, hybrid backpacks are lighter than suitcases but still weigh 4.5-8.5 lb (2-4 kg).

You would be wasting 20-40% of your carry on weight allowance just on your bag. Good luck packing it for more than a day or two without tipping the scales.

Get a Luggage Scale

Buy a scale so that you aren’t playing luggage roulette. Show up to the airport knowing exactly how much your luggage weighs. Don’t wait for the ticketing agent to tell you it’s overweight and has to be checked.

With a luggage scale, you can weigh your bag as you’re packing so you know if you need to make any changes.

I use a $20 Balanzza digital luggage scale so that I can accurately weigh our backpack samples during product development. But any cheap luggage scale on Amazon should work well enough for most travelers.

Buying the scale is cheaper than checking a bag once. It will more than pay for itself every time you fly.

That’s a great return on investment.

Wear Your Heaviest Clothes

If it’s heavy, wear it. Don’t pack it.

Wear your heaviest clothes onto the plane, even if you aren’t cold. Wear your coat then stash it in the overhead bin. If you pack your coat, it counts against your weight allowance. If you wear your coat, it doesn’t.

The same rule applies to shoes. Wear the heaviest pair of shoes that you’re bringing.

Wear your boots; pack your sandals.

Depending on where you’re traveling from and to, you might look silly all bundled up on the plane. Don’t worry. Most people dress for their flight like they’re going to a sleepover. No one will notice what you’re wearing.

Leave It Behind

You’ll find that some absolute must-haves are easier to buy when you land than to carry with you. Toiletries, for example. You can find all the basics that you need at your destination.

You don’t need to pack extra socks and underwear on longer trips. Find a local laundromat or wash-and-fold, or use a sink or bath tub. Washing clothes is cheaper than checking luggage.

I had a week’s worth of clothes laundered for me in notoriously expensive Hong Kong. The price: $3.87. Or you could spend $25 to check a bag and lug around more clothes. Your call.

Swap Out Heavy Items for Lighter Ones

Reducing weight doesn’t always have to mean subtracting gear. You can also substitute lighter alternatives.

Take a second look at your packing list.

What can you swap out for a lighter-weight alternative?

Swap out a book for a Kindle.

Swap out your laptop for a tablet. Or a smartphone. Or nothing.

You should already be wearing your heaviest shoes, like boots or sneakers. If you’re packing a second pair, bring the lightest ones you have.

Distribute Weight in Your Personal Item

Your personal item should be a purse, messenger bag, laptop bag, or small daypack. Think “bag” or “pack,” not “luggage.”

Most airlines don’t publish weight limits for personal items. So load it up.

Pack your personal item to your advantage. Pack your heavy electronics or books in your personal item to keep the weight of your carry on down. Use your main bag for your lighter clothes and toiletries.

The ticketing and gate agents probably won’t weigh your personal item. So take advantage of it for your particularly heavy items.

Tortuga
Carry-On-Sized Travel Backpacks
4.5

Pack for trips of one week or more without checking a bag.

Pros:
  • Thick comfortable straps
  • Easy to organize
  • Durable, waterproof fabric
  • Backed by our Worldwide Warranty
Shop at Tortuga

6 Tips to Avoid Exceeding Carry-on Luggage Weight Limits

To help you navigate the tricky world of carry-on luggage weight limits, we’ve gathered six expert tips from travel professionals. From opting for light luggage and under-seat storage to using compression bags for clothes, our Travel Agents and CEOs share their best advice for traveling light, whether you’re a solo female traveler, part of a couple, traveling with family, or on a business trip.

  • Opt for Light Luggage and Under-Seat Storage
  • Invest in a Multi-Pocketed Travel Jacket
  • Avoid Over- or Under-Packing
  • Choose Lightweight Luggage with Useful Features
  • Wear Heavier Items and Pack Compact Shoes
  • Use Compression Bags for Clothes

Opt for Light Luggage and Under-Seat Storage

As an older female traveler, I always have to avoid heavy luggage. I never know when I’ll have to drag my bags across cobblestone streets in Ireland, bridges in Venice, or grass in the Caribbean.

I always check the empty weight of my luggage first. There is no need to take a heavy checked bag; go for light cloth luggage if possible. I have an under-the-seat, rolling carry-on. This is where I put my heavy items (shoes, books, travel documents, etc.), besides my prescriptions, a change of clothes, a tablet, etc.

Marybeth Josey, Travel Agent, Haynie Travel

Invest in a Multi-Pocketed Travel Jacket

In my experience in the private jet charter sector, weight limits are less of a concern, but I understand the challenge it poses on commercial flights. A creative way to avoid hitting carry-on luggage weight limits is to “wear” some of your luggage. 

Consider investing in a travel jacket with multiple pockets designed to hold items like gadgets, travel documents, and even small clothing items. Before checking in, transfer some weight from your carry-on to these pockets. You can always redistribute the items back into your luggage after passing the weight check. 

This strategy can be particularly beneficial for business travelers who may need to carry additional tech or documents.

Fahd Khan, Director of Marketing and Technology, JetLevel Charter Flights

Avoid Over- or Under-Packing

While it may tempt you to leave space for trinkets, additional room means that items can move, fold, or break. Fill empty spaces with laundry bags (and fill them later with souvenirs from your trip). 

It’s important not to over-pack either (especially if you’re only bringing a carry-on) because that’s a surefire way of creating wrinkle marks and can make it extra difficult to repack when returning home—or heading to another location.

Axel Hernborg, Founder and CEO, Tripplo

Choose Lightweight Luggage with Useful Features

I’m never mistaken for a weight-lifter, except when I have both my kids in my arms together. I do travel for business, pleasure, and as a family with young children. Not only do I try to avoid those pricey luggage weight limit fees, but I also know I need to have the flexibility to hold a child or balance a vital cup of coffee. 

My tip is to always begin with very lightweight luggage. Why go for a super-reinforced bag or luggage piece when you are literally carrying it on the plane yourself? No handlers will be tossing it around. Many of my bags have features including wheels for carry freedom. Others have strong straps for crossbody carrying, providing security and hands-free flexibility. I often think of this important travel tip when I’m shopping for gifts for friends. Their gift may feel light, even flimsy at first, then they thank me every time they load it up.

Ashley Kenny, Co-Founder, Heirloom Video Books

Wear Heavier Items and Pack Compact Shoes

One helpful tip to avoid exceeding carry-on luggage weight limits is to pack strategically. If your bag is getting too heavy, consider wearing your heavier clothing items during your travel. This way, the weight is distributed on your body instead of your suitcase, helping you stay within the limit. 

Also, choose compact and sturdy shoes to save space in your luggage. This approach ensures that your bag remains under the weight restriction, making your journey smoother and more convenient.

Mo Pristas, Charterguru, Charterguru

Use Compression Bags for Clothes

When traveling, one creative way to avoid hitting carry-on luggage weight limits is to use compression bags. Compression bags are specially designed sacks that are airtight and help reduce the size of clothes by eliminating excess air within. 

This can significantly lessen the amount of space taken up in your bag, effectively reducing the overall weight, allowing you to fit more items. The effectiveness of a compression bag varies, however, so it’s important to choose one that is strong enough for your needs in order to reap its full benefits.

Tasia Duske, CEO, Museum Hack

Conclusion

Check your airline’s carry on weight limits before you fly. Most likely, you’ll be able to carry 15-22 lb. Choose a travel backpack that weighs 20% or less of that limit so that you’ll have 80% of the limit for your stuff. When you start packing, remember to wear your heaviest stuff or put it in your personal item. Then swap out or leave behind anything else heavy.

Fred Perrotta

Fred Perrotta

Co-Founder, Tortuga

Fred Perrotta is the co-founder and CEO of Tortuga. His first backpacking trip to Europe inspired him to start the company. For over a decade, he’s traveled the world from his home base in the Bay Area while working remotely. When he’s on the road, Fred enjoys both walking and eating as much as possible.

Read more from Fred