Carry-on bags vs. personal items: What is the difference?

If you are not planning a trip for more than a few days, you can usually pack everything you need in your hand luggage and personal items. On longer trips, you may need to put all your clothes and other items in a bag, but that’s a topic for another conversation. If you plan your packing well, you may not need to check your bag at all.

This can potentially save you a lot of money on baggage fees as many airlines offer passengers free hand luggage. However, even airlines that don’t offer free hand luggage do offer free personal items on board. But since you literally take both of these types of bags with you on the plane, many people get confused which one is which.

So, let’s get this straightened out and find out everything there is to know about carry-on luggage and personal belongings.

What is hand luggage?

Hand luggage is exactly what they sound like: it’s the luggage you actually take on the plane with you. Many airlines talk about personal effects and hand luggage under the same policy and on the same page of their website because you actually take both types of bags with you on the plane. It’s also worth noting that some airlines charge extra for hand luggage, especially no-frills options like Spirit and Allegiant.

Carry-on baggage is the larger of the two bags that you must store in the overhead bin when you board a plane. It’s kind of the middle ground between a small personal item and a large checked-in baggage that you check in at the ticket office at the airport. For many trips, you can pack all the necessary clothing in your hand luggage and avoid checked baggage fees altogether. As long as you get the correct hand luggage.

To make it easier for you to find the right carry-on bag for almost every airline, check out the following carry-on options:

July hand luggage

July go on

Standard hand luggage on departure

Away from hand luggage

Chicago Hardside Travel Club

Travelers Club Chicago Hardside Expandable Spinner Suitcase

Travelers’ club


Made By Design Hardside Spinner Suitcase

Made By Design Hardside Carry On Spinner Suitcase

Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside hand luggage

Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Suitcase with Spinning Wheels, Dark Blue, 20

What is personal property?

While hand luggage can make up the bulk of most people’s luggage, personal items are arguably the most important bag you take on a flight. This is a smaller bag like a backpack, bag or briefcase that you actually carry around and take with you to your seat. In fact, this is the only bag you can get during the flight.

So this is where you want to store everything you need for the flight itself. Because it’s always with you, it’s also the only luggage you can guarantee won’t get lost or stolen, so it’s the perfect place to store your most important travel items. If you’re on a long flight, this is where you’ll need headphones, reading materials, a blanket, and any snacks you’ll need before landing.

Choosing the right personal item for you will be critical on your next flight.

Here are some great personal items options, no matter which bag you prefer:

Bag “Everywhere and everywhere”

Bag everywhere

Samsonite scooter with vertical wheels

Samsonite Carry-On Carry-On Underseater

Traveler’s Backpack Open Story

Traveler's Backpack Open Story

BoardingBlue bag under the seat

Bag for personal belongings under the seat

July Carry All Backpack Series 2

July Carry All Backpack Series 2

Another great thing about personal items is that every major airline in the US allows all passengers to take their personal items on a flight free of charge, while some of them charge extra for hand luggage. Everything is better when it’s free!

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