Planning your next big adventure? Whether you’re leaving for a few days or for more than a week, it’s a great idea to plan what type of luggage you are bringing.

The bags you bring onto the plane with you are called carry-ons. They’re usually smaller and fit in the overhead bin. While they might be cheaper to bring, you can’t bring certain items, like large liquids, on board.

Checked bags are luggage that go in the plane’s cargo hold. They’re larger and heavier but have fewer TSA restrictions. The main downside is that they cost more.

Depending on how much you want to bring or pay, one type of luggage might be better than the other.

How do I know if I need a carry-on or checked luggage?

To help, Kayak shares some useful questions to ask yourself.

How long am I willing to queue for?

Waiting in line is part of the flying experience, but the type of luggage you bring affects how long you wait.

If you have checked bags, you must wait in line at the check-in counter before going through security and boarding, which can be quick or slow. For safety, you have to arrive earlier. When you reach your destination, you’ll then have to wait for your bag to come out on the baggage carousel, which can take a while depending on the airport.

With a carry-on bag, you avoid these waiting times because you bring everything onto the plane with you. For quicker and more convenient travel, a carry-on bag is better than checked luggage.

Do I prefer to travel light?

When you check in your bags, you don’t have to worry about carrying them through the airport or onto the plane. This is especially helpful if you have a connecting flight. Plus, you don’t have to compete for space in the overhead bins.

If you choose to carry on your luggage, you’ll have to carry it around the airport, which can be tiring, especially when you need to use the restroom. That’s why many people prefer roll-aboard cases. Carrying on your luggage helps you travel lighter for your entire trip, not just during the flight. While checking in heavy bags at the airport is convenient, it doesn’t make your journey to and from the airport any easier.

How much do I trust airlines with my checked bag?

When you check your bag, you’re putting it in the hands of the airline. We’ve all seen videos of baggage handlers mishandling checked luggage and heard stories of bags getting delayed or lost.

While most of the time your bag will arrive safely, accidents can happen. If you check your bag, make sure it’s secure, doesn’t have valuable items, and consider getting insurance. AirTags may also be a good idea so you can track it if it gets delayed or lost.

Do I need things I can’t take in my carry-on?

Carry-on luggage has more rules than checked bags, beyond just size and weight limits. If you have liquids larger than 3.4 ounces or items banned by the TSA, checking your bags gives you more flexibility.

Also, think about your trip plans. If you’re going on a shopping spree, you’ll need space to bring back your purchases. Checking a big bag that’s not full allows you to bring back more without extra fees. Just plan ahead for it.

How much am I willing to pay for my luggage?

When flying within the U.S., you usually won’t have to pay extra for bringing carry-on bags. However, if you’re flying internationally, especially with budget airlines in Europe or Asia, there may be additional fees for carry-on luggage.

Most airlines now charge for checked bags, except for Southwest Airlines in the U.S., which allows you to check in two bags for free with an economy ticket. The cost of checked bags varies depending on factors like your ticket type, airline miles and memberships.

What are the costs of carry-ons vs. checked bags?

Here are nine popular airlines from America. Rates are subject to change.

Alaska Airlines

  • Up to 50 pounds and maximum dimension of 62 inches, first bag: $35.
  • Up to 50 pounds and maximum dimension of 62 inches, second bag: $45.
  • Up to 50 pounds and maximum dimension of 62 inches, third and additional bags: $150 each.
  • Bags up to 100 pounds: Add $100.
  • Bags with maximum dimension of 115 inches: Add $150.
  • Strollers, car seats and mobility aids are exempt from fees.
  • Sports equipment does not need to follow weight or size requirements, but should be packed correctly.
  • Baggage fee waivers available: Alaska Airlines credit card holders, Elite level Mileage Plan members and U.S. military.
  • Number of bags may be limited due to weight or number of passengers during peak travel periods.
  • Carry-on is free.

Allegiant Air

  • One personal item (backpack or purse, for example), 8 inches x 14 inches x 18 inches: Free.
  • Carry-on, 10 inches x 16 inches x 22 inches: $10 to $75, see baggage fees calculator.
  • Checked bag, 80 inches x 80 inches x 80 inches, 50 pounds: Up to four per passenger, see baggage fees calculator.
  • Overweight or oversized bags: Add $50 to $75.
  • Strollers, car seats and mobility aids are exempt from fees.

American Airlines

  • Carry-ons: Limit one per customer, free.
  • Traveling within/between the U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, first 50-pound checked bag: $35 if paying online, $40 if not.
  • Traveling within/between the U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, second 50-pound checked bag: $45.
  • Traveling to/from Canada, Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Guyana, first 50-pounds checked bag: $35.
  • Traveling to/from Canada, Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Guyana, second 50-pound checked bag: $45.
  • Number of checked bags and cost of overweight bags depends on class.
  • Strollers, car seats and mobility aids are exempt from fees.


  • One carry-on and personal item: Free.
  • Under 50 pounds and 62 inches, first checked bag: $30.
  • Under 50 pounds and 62 inches, second checked bag: $40.
  • Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members and select Delta SkyMiles American Express Card Members can check their first standard checked bag for free.
  • Military baggage, on military orders: First five free.
  • Military baggage, for personal travel: Two or three free depending on class.
  • Number of checked bags allowed depends on route and class. See Delta’s calculator.
  • For special items, such as children’s items, medical supplies or sporting girl, click on this link.


  • Personal item (backpack, purse or briefcase): Free.
  • Carry-on, less than 35 pounds: See Frontier’s bag price checker.
  • Checked bag, after March 1, less than 40 pounds: See Frontier’s bag price checker.
  • Oversized or overweight checked bags: $50 to $100 per bag, per direction.


  • One carry-on and personal item: Free.
  • Mosaic members, transatlantic flights, if combining Blue Basic fare and Even More Space seat, active U.S. military and unaccompanied minors can have more personal items.
  • Checked bags, 50 pounds and 80 inches: Two allowed. Fees depend on class.
  • Over 50 pounds or 80 inches, checked bags: $150 per bag.
  • Assistive devices will not count toward carry-on or checked bag limit but are restricted by weight and carry-on size. If above weight and carry-on size, it will be checked.


  • Up to 50 pounds and 62 inches, checked bags: Up to two, free (includes skis and golf bags).
  • Additional bags: $125 each.
  • Oversized bags: $125 each.
  • Overweight bags: Under 70 pounds, $100, under 100 pounds, $125.

Spirit Airlines

  • One personal item (backpack or purse): Free.
  • Up to 40 pounds and 62 inches, checked bag: Depends on your flight.
  • Checked bag, 41 to 50 pounds, : Add $79.
  • Checked bag, 51 to 100 pounds: Add $125.
  • Checked bag, 63 to 80 linear inches: Add $150.
  • Items over 80 linear inches, checked bag: Add $150.
  • Depending on the sporting equipment, fees differ. See the full list for prices.
  • Discounts on baggage fees are available depending on your membership.

United Airlines

  • One carry-on and personal item: Free.
  • Prices on checked baggage vary depending on size and weight of baggage, flight, class and membership. See the baggage fee calculator to view your costs.