Does a Purse Count as a Carry-On?

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

The personal item rule and other space-saving hacks

Does a Purse Count as a Carry-On?

Until February 2017, many airlines would let you bring one personal item such as a purse or laptop case in addition to a free carry-on bag. With changes to airline carry-on rules, your purse won't be counted as a carry-on, but it may be the only item you can take along for free. Depending on the airline you fly and the type of seat you purchase, your options for carrying on additional items may be limited.

Why the change?

Frontier Airlines, one of several airlines that made the move to end free carry-ons, cites savings for the company on its website: "Bags weigh a lot. Heavier planes cost more to fly." The site also mentions that fewer carry-on bags means less time required for boarding, allowing the company to spend more time flying its planes and making money.

So does a purse count as a carry-on?

Whether your purse counts as a carry-on depends upon which airline you're flying with. If you're flying in a budget or economy seat on American, United, Wow or Frontier, chances are that you'll get to bring only one personal item with you. If you carry a purse, that will be all you can take on board with you, other than the clothes you're wearing and small items like an umbrella.

Purse carry-on restrictions

Keep the 3-1-1 rule in mind when packing your purse for the trip. Make sure hand sanitizer, liquid makeup, toothpaste and any other non-solid items you carry in your purse are in 3.4-ounce or smaller containers and inside a clear plastic zip-top bag. Check your purse pockets for pocket knives, strike-anywhere matches, ammo, pointed scissors and any other items on the Transportation Security Administration's list of prohibited items. If you're not sure about an item, use TSA's online "Can I bring my ... through the security checkpoint?" tool to search out the answer.

Tips for purse travel

When trying to travel with just your purse, be sure to check with your airline for the largest size you're allowed to bring. American Airlines limits personal items to 18 by 14 by 8 inches, meaning that an oversized shoulder satchel won't fit the requirement.

Maximize room in your 3-1-1 bag by substituting dry versions of personal care items. Solid stick deodorants, sunscreen and bug repellents can replace liquids and gels, and you can find bar soaps for everything from washing your hair to washing your laundry.

About the Author

Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.