Travel like a pro: 5 tips to tame your carry-on bag

Before you leave for the airport, please measure your bag to make sure that the body of the bag itself, along with the wheels and handles, are 22" x 14" x 9" or less. All 3 measurements – length + height + width - may not add up to more than 45 inches. If you have a soft-sided or expandable suitcase, you may want to measure your suitcase again once you’ve packed it, to make sure it still fits within the limit.

Packing for that next trip? Streamline your day of travel with these five tips for wrangling your carry-on.

1. Would it be easier to check the bag? What if it was free?

Before purging every 4-ounce tube from your bag, ask yourself this: “Do I really need a carry on, can I check it?” There are three strong reasons why checking your bag might make more sense when you fly Alaska Airlines.

  • Your first checked bag is always free with your Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card, for you and up to six other people in the same reservation.
  • Alaska pioneered the 20-minute baggage service guarantee way back in 2010. That means we guarantee we’ll have your luggage back in your hands within 20 minutes of your flight’s arrival at the gate – or we’ll pay up, to the tune of 2,500 Mileage Plan miles or a voucher for $25 off a future flight. (You can also streamline your airport arrival by printing your own luggage tags.)
  • Lighten your load and relax! When you check a bag, you don’t have to lug it through the airport or worry about whether there will be space in the overhead bin by the time you board.
2. Make sure your bag meets carry-on size limits.

Make sure you’re familiar with our carry-on size limits—what you’re able to fit through a security checkpoint is not necessarily what you’ll be able to fit into an overhead bin.

In June 2018, Alaska’s maximum allowed carry-on dimensions will be slightly smaller to better align with our codeshare partners and other major U.S. carriers, so you can more easily transfer among airlines without running into a snag with your bag.

Be wary of expandable pockets on the front of your suitcase, which can increase the dimensions of your carry-on to the point that it no longer fits into an overhead bin. Minimize use of expandable pockets, and when in doubt, test your bag in the sizer device at the ticket counter or gate before you board.

Before you buy a bag, measure it yourself—include the handle and wheels. Consumer Reports says not all bags are as small as manufacturers claim.

3. Wheels down and facing out – unless it’s a Space Bin.

Most overhead bins will have a sticker with instructions telling you “wheels out.” That’s the easiest, most-efficient way to load your bag in most bins, preventing wheels from getting stuck on the lip of the bin. If you find yourself on a flight with Alaska’s roomier “Boeing Space Bins” you’ll be instructed to do just the opposite. (Don’t worry – our flight attendants will let you know if you’re on a Space Bins flight, and show you how to position your luggage!) In this case, point the wheels toward the back of the bin and then flip your bag up on its side. You’ll want the heaviest part of the bag to be farthest from the aisle, and belongings tend to settle downward as luggage is wheeled through the airport.

4. Are you sure you can lift that? If not, check it.

Minimalist packing can be a challenge for even the savviest of fliers, and even a carry-on-sized suitcase can quickly become too heavy. For safety reasons, flight attendants are not allowed to assist customers in lifting bags, so make sure you’re not packing a suitcase that is heavier than you can safely lift.

Consider lowering your carbon footprint by leaving behind a pair of shoes or bulkier items. If each guest just packed 5 lbs lighter, it would decrease our CO2 emissions by 11,800 metric tons each year. That’s the equivalent of taking 2,543 cars off the road for one year.

5. If you’re buying a battery-powered “smart bag,” know the limits.

While rich with features like GPS tracking, electronic locks and the ability to charge other electronic devices, Alaska Airlines only allows “smart bags” with batteries/power banks that can be removed without the use of a tool (e.g. push button, connected to the bag via USB or similar connection, or removed with a “key”).

Any luggage with charging devices or use a lithium battery powered electric motor must meet these requirements:

  • Carry-on: The battery/power bank may remain attached to the bag.
  • Checked/gate-checked bag: The battery/power bank must be removed prior to acceptance. Once removed, the lithium battery/power bank needs to be protected from short circuit (such as placing in a plastic bag to prevent contact with anything metal).
  • Bags with non-removable lithium batteries, power banks, or batteries that require a tool to be removed (e.g. screwdriver) will not be accepted as checked or carry-on baggage.

While these restrictions may pose a challenge to some of our guests, there have been no incidents to date with smart bags on airplanes and we want to keep it that way.

And don’t forget – your first checked bag is always free with your Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card.


  1. Will the 3 oz liquid rule ever be removed? I will never be able to do a carry on with this limit of 3 oz liquids and one quart bag. 🙁

    1. Sorry this is a hassle for you, Victoria. These safety rules are set by the TSA, a federal gov’t agency.

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