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Can I bring a purse and a backpack on a plane?

When planning what to pack for your next flight, you may be wondering if you can bring both a purse and a backpack onboard the airplane. The quick answer is yes, you are generally allowed to carry both a purse and a backpack with you into the airplane cabin as your two personal items. However, there are some caveats and regulations around the size and type of bags that are permitted, so it is wise to understand the specific policies of the airline you will be flying with. Keep reading for a detailed overview of the rules around bringing a purse and backpack on a plane.

General Guidelines for Carrying a Purse and Backpack

Most airlines allow passengers to bring on board one personal item such as a purse, briefcase, laptop bag, small backpack, etc. free of charge. In addition, you are typically permitted one larger carry-on bag that can be stowed in the overhead bin. So if your personal item is a purse or similar small bag, you can also bring a backpack as your carry-on item.

The key things to keep in mind are:

  • Both bags must fit under the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartment
  • The backpack meets the airline’s size requirements for a carry-on bag
  • Neither bag exceeds the airline’s weight limit, usually around 40 pounds total for both items

As long as your purse and backpack meet these guidelines, you should have no problem bringing them both on board. Some airlines may require your backpack to be stowed in the overhead bin for takeoff and landing.

Purse Size Limits

For your purse or small personal bag, airlines generally allow a maximum size of:

  • 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (length x width x height)

This is about the size of a small backpack or large handbag. Anything smaller than these dimensions is usually fine too. Some airlines may have more precise sizing requirements, so check your airline’s website to be sure.

Backpack Size Limits for Carry-Ons

For your backpack carry-on bag, size restrictions are a bit larger but still limited. Most airlines allow a maximum size of:

  • 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches (length x width x height)

This is roughly the size of a typical hiking backpack or large school backpack. Again, specific airlines may have slightly different size requirements, so verify the exact measurements with your airline.

Weight Restrictions

In addition to size limits, airlines also impose weight limits on carry-on bags. This usually includes your purse:

  • Total weight for both carry-on items is typically 40 pounds or less

Some airlines break this down further into a max weight for your larger carry-on bag (around 20-25 lbs) and a lighter weight for your personal item like a purse (around 15-18 lbs). Check your airline’s baggage policies for specifics.

Types of Bags Allowed

In terms of the style and type of purse and backpack permitted, airlines generally allow:

  • Backpacks with two shoulder straps (no wheeled suitcase-style backpacks)
  • Tote bags, purses, shoulder bags, messenger bags
  • Diaper bags (if an infant is traveling)
  • Briefcases and laptop bags

Exceptions are bags with hard sides or built-in wheels, including spinner luggage. These are restricted to checked baggage only.

What About Personal Items Like Purses?

For your small personal item like a purse, there are a few additional guidelines to be aware of:

  • Must be able to fit completely under the seat in front of you
  • Should not take up space in the foot area or aisle
  • Some airlines only allow certain types of bags like a shoulder bag or clutch as a personal item

Small crossbody bags, shoulder bags, and clutches are good options as they can easily slide under the seat when not being used. Larger satchel-style purses may need to be stowed for takeoff and landing.

Tips for Packing Your Purse and Backpack

To ensure smooth travels with your purse and backpack combo, keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose bags that meet your airline’s published size limits
  • Use packing cubes, folders, and organizers to fit more in your bags while keeping them neat
  • Pack heavier items like books and toiletries in your backpack
  • Put essentials like ID, medications, and valuables in your purse
  • Weigh your bags ahead of time to avoid surprises at check-in

With careful packing and adherence to the rules, you’ll be equipped for adventure with both purse and backpack in the cabin.

Summary of Purse vs Backpack Carry-On Policies

To summarize the key rules and restrictions around bringing a purse and backpack carry-on bag on a flight:

Bag Type Maximum Dimensions Weight Allowance Notes
Purse/Personal Item 9 x 10 x 17 inches Fits under seat Usually no official weight limit
Backpack/Standard Carry-On 22 x 14 x 9 inches Fits in overhead bin Typically up to 20-25 lbs
Total for Both Items N/A N/A Usually 40 lbs max total

Be sure to check your specific airline’s baggage policies for any differences from these standard allowances. With the proper sized bags packed thoughtfully, you’ll be ready to board the plane hassle-free with your purse and backpack in tow.

What if My Bags Are Over the Size or Weight Limit?

If your carry-on bags exceed the airline’s published size or weight restrictions, you will need to check one or both bags at the gate. Overweight bags will require you to pay an excess baggage fee, which varies by airline but is typically around $100 for a bag between 50-70 lbs when not prepaid online.

Oversized bags will also need to be checked and you may have to pay an oversize baggage fee if your bag exceeds the airline’s dimensions for checked luggage. This is usually around $200 per oversize bag.

To avoid surprises and unwanted fees, measure and weigh your bags ahead of time and adjust your packing if needed to get within the size and weight limits. Some airlines offer a discount if you prepay for checked bags online when booking your flight.

What Items Are Prohibited in Carry-Ons?

The TSA places restrictions on certain items that cannot be carried onto the plane in your purse, backpack, or any carry-on luggage. Prohibited items include:

  • Sharp objects – knives, box cutters, scissors with blades over 4 inches
  • Sporting goods – baseball bats, golf clubs, pool cues
  • Self defense items – pepper spray, mace
  • Tools – crowbars, drills and saws
  • Flammable materials – fuel, paints, lighter fluid
  • Disabling chemicals – bleach, drain cleaner

Forbidden electronics include devices with lithium batteries over a certain size. Large portable power banks and e-cigarette devices cannot be carried on.

Of course, all firearms are prohibited as well. Double check the TSA website for other items that are not permitted onboard aircraft in carry-on luggage.

What Liquids am I Allowed to Bring?

The TSA limits the amount of liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes permitted in carry-on bags. Containers must adhere to the 3-1-1 liquids rule:

  • Containers must be 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less
  • Liquids must be in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, resealable bag
  • 1 bag per passenger

Examples of permitted liquids include shampoo, sunscreen, perfume, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer. Each container cannot exceed 3.4 oz and all must fit in the same plastic bag. You are allowed multiple bottles within the 1 bag limit.

Exemptions to Liquids Rules

The TSA makes a few exceptions to the liquids policy:

  • Medically necessary liquids like insulin and baby formula
  • Up to 4 oz of liquid or gel baby food per container
  • Up to 5 oz of hand sanitizer per container

Duty free liquids sealed at the point of purchase may also be permitted in excess of 3.4 oz if carried onboard to the US immediately after purchase.

What Items Should I Put in My Purse vs Backpack?

To stay organized and efficient through airport security, follow these tips on what to pack where:

  • Purse: Wallet, phone, keys, medications, tissues, lip balm, hand sanitizer
  • Backpack: Snacks, hat, scarf, light jacket, neck pillow, headphones, chargers, books, blanket
  • Liquids Bag: Mini shampoo, lotion, face wash, makeup, toothbrush and paste
  • Backpack Outer Pockets: Boarding pass, ID/passport, magazines, security items

Put any liquids, gels, or aerosols inside your quart-sized plastic bag. Keep electronics and valuables in your purse for easy access through security.

What If I Want to Carry a Third Bag?

Most airlines only allow the standard two carry-on items – one main bag plus a small personal item like a purse or backpack. If you attempt to board with three carry-on bags, you will likely have to check one for a fee.

However, some airlines, especially low-cost carriers like Spirit or Frontier, charge for carry-ons. You may have to pay an extra fee at check-in to bring on a backpack in addition to your free small personal item.

Check your airline’s specific baggage fees before your flight to avoid an unexpected charge. Rules and costs for additional carry-on bags vary widely between airlines.

What’s the Best Way to Pack My Purse and Backpack?

Efficient packing is key to maximizing your carry-on allowance. Follow these tips:

  • Use packing cubes, pouches and folders to separate items
  • Put heavy items like books and toiletries in your backpack first
  • Only bring essential electronics – tablet, phone, battery pack, headphones
  • Roll clothes tightly and place in the bottom of the backpack
  • Wear bulky outerwear and shoes to save space
  • Fill any extra gaps in your bags with socks and underwear

In your purse, use interior organizers to separate items into sections so things are easy to find. Limit yourself to only the travel documents, medications and small personal items that you really need onboard.


Bringing both a purse and a backpack carry-on is perfectly permissible within the airline size and weight restrictions. Carefully check your airline’s specific policies and pack intelligently to avoid issues. With a properly packed purse and backpack, you’ll have everything you need close at hand for a smooth, stress-free flight experience.