Updated on November 16th, 2023

Travelling is a joy but it can be full of challenges. One of the first challenges you will encounter is getting the right luggage. If you are travelling by air you want a carry-which is allowed on board but is large enough to hold your stuff. Finding this balance is as hard as it gets. Play it safe and get the smallest carry-on available and you won’t even fit in two day worth of clothing. Get the largest available carry-on and you will end up being enforced to check it in. So what luggage can I take on board?

Checking in a carry-on can have two major down sides. The first one is that you want to hop off the plane and go straight to your cab or rental and don’t want to wait for you luggage at baggage claim. The second reason is that you have an expensive suitcase or a suitcase with valuables that you don’t want to leave unattended.


Being rejected is painful. When you least expect it, it’s even more painful. Rejection of your carry-on can even happen just before boarding. Getting your luggage being rejected as a carry-on can have several reasons.

1. Your carry-on is too large

When you go to the check-in desk the flight attendant will check the luggage you are carrying and if it’s too large, and doesn’t comply with the airliners regulation, they can request you to check it in. The maximum allowed dimensions vary per airliner. Check out this tool to get a quick overview of airliners that accept your luggage.

Some airliners, mainly budget airliners, make you fit your carry on in a container. If it doesn’t fit you have to pay fee to be allowed to take it on board.

If it doesn’t fit in, you must check-it in
The Rimowa Cabin fits in the United container

Rimowa American Airlines
Rimowa Essential Cabin S – American Airlines maximum dimensions for American Airlines (2023)

2. Overhead compartments are full

When you are flying short distance on relatively small air crafts it can occur, especially when you board last, that the overhead compartments are full. In some cases the flight attendant will request you the leave the luggage with them so it can be checked in.

Gate agents can enforce you to leave your carry-on at the gate

3. Preventing hold ups

Sometimes halfway through boarding, or even before boarding, a gate agent will announce that all carry-ons must be checked before board. When you board last, chances are high you will have to leave your carry-on with the gate agent. The reason for this is to prevent any hold ups on the aircrafts so the flight won’t be delayed.

The reason for this is to prevent any hold ups on the aircrafts so the flight won’t be delayed.

What luggage can I take on board?

Getting you carry-on accepted on board can be achieved. Following these steps will give you the highest chance of getting your carry-on on board.

  1. Know who you are travelling with. Each airliner has its own regulations concerning maximum allowed carry-on dimensions. So it’s good to know what these regulations are. If you regularly fly with 2 or 3 airliners look up the regulations and take these into account when purchasing a carry-on. With the Carry-on Luggage Size Calculation Tool you can easily look up what the maximum allowed dimensions are.
  2. Understand how the airliner operates. Even though each airliner has its own maximum allowed dimensions doesn’t always mean they actually check it. Some airliners are very strict (Ryanair, Jetairways, Aer Lingus etc) and make you fit your suitcase in a container. These are mainly the budget airliners who enforce this upon their customers. Other airliners like Delta or American Airlines only do a visual check on your carry on. They don’t go and actually measure your suitcase. So if the depth or width is one or two inches off, they will let you board with it. As long as it looks like a carry-on it’s treated like a carry-on.
  3. Travel like a frequent flyer. Prevent to board last. If you can board first, meaning you fly first class, business, comfort or have an upgrade, you have lesser chance to get hassled by a gate agent.

Fitting in

When it’s time to board I used to stay put and wait until one of the last people to board. Everybody has an assigned seat and boarding early doesn’t make you arrive any sooner than the last person to board. When you only have small backpack this fine but if you have a carry-on suitcase you might find yourself struggling to find an overhead compartment with space for your suitcase. So even if you are able to get your carry-on on board make sure you board early and find some space for your luggage.

What luggage can I take on board
Rimowa Classic Cabin in overhead compartment of small aircraft
Rimowa Overhead Compartment
2 Rimowa Cabin S on a domestic flight to Greece