So yesterday I was browsing Reddit for some travel tips, and I came across a post that asked for advice on how to measure luggage. Obviously, the guy was flying for the first time and was a bit confused. As a frequent flyer, I couldn’t even imagine such questions would be asked.
Then I thought about it – If you’re about to fly for the first time, there can be some misunderstandings and difficulties about airline restrictions and how to comply with them fully. If he’s asking this question, the chances are that he’s not the only one!
Naturally, I figured that I could turn this into an excellent post. So here we go, I’ll explain how to measure a suitcase correctly in 8 simple steps, followed by answers to some commonly asked questions. Also, I’ve included some tips down below that I’ve gathered over the years as a frequent traveler.
How to Measure Luggage Correctly
- Go to your airline company’s website and check their luggage restrictions. Find out the size and weight restrictions for checked luggage as well as carry on luggage. Now write them down.
- Before measuring, pack your bag fully because your bag tends to expand a bit when packed full of stuff. Also, if your luggage offers expandable width, expand it before measuring. (If you’re planning on using this feature)
- Now measure the full height of your suitcase. Include wheels, handles, and any other plastic parts.
- Measure the width of your suitcase. Be sure to include side handles and any plastic elements that stick out.
- Next, measure the depth of your case. If you’re about to use the expandable width, measure it with the case expanded. Also, include front pockets and any plastic elements
- Now weigh your suitcase.
- Calculate the linear inches. (width + depth + height)
- If you’re over the limit, you will have to pay the extra fee for checking your luggage. (Although sometimes airline employees close their eyes about a few inches or pounds more)
What Is the Difference Between Carry-on and Checked Baggage
When searching for those airline restrictions, you probably came across two measures. One for carry-on luggage and second for checked luggage. Usually, the carry on limit is restricted in height, width and depth (For example, 22x14x9 inches), but checked luggage in linear inches and weight (For example, 62 inches and 50 lbs). If you can’t find the restrictions on your airlines’ website, here’s a resource that contains most airline restrictions. Also, you could try calling them directly.
Okay, but what’s the difference between both?
In a few words, carry-ons are smaller and don’t require extra fees. However, checked luggage is larger and requires additional fees. Additionally, you can take your carry on with you on the plane, storing it either in the overhead compartment or under the seat. On the other hand, checked luggage will be stored in the back of the plane, and you will be able to receive it only when landed.
Furthermore, you should store most of your liquids in your checked bag, because in carry-ons you can only use 3.4oz (100ml) bottles for storing your liquids and all of them have to fit a TSA approved bag.
Read Next: The Ultimate Luggage Size Guide
Don’t Trust the Manufacturers’ Dimensions
When preparing for your flight, reading the luggage dimensions online or from a label is not enough. A lot of the luggage companies call their luggage carry-ons, when in fact they’re too large to be allowed by most airlines, resulting in extra fees. (You can trust me, I’ve seen this on dozens of luggage models!)
Simply put, some manufacturers don’t include the wheels, handles, expandable width, and other elements. There’s a simple reasoning behind this. They can state that their luggage is more spacious while having the same dimensions as some competitors, thus giving a slight edge.
Anyway, don’t trust the manufacturers and always measure your case for yourself to avoid hefty fees!
Do You Include Wheels and Handles When Measuring Luggage?
Yes, you do. Always include wheels and handles in your measurements.
Some luggage brands don’t include the wheels and handles in their product dimensions. However, at the airport, you will have to put your carry on in a box that’s the correct size. If your wheels or handles are sticking out, you won’t be able to fit the bag and will have to pay the extra fee.
Although for linear inches, your checked bag is measured with a measuring tape, thus giving a slight margin of error. Also, sometimes they don’t measure the wheels or handles for checked luggage. It’s heavily dependant on the airport staff.
By the way, some airlines tend to rarely check your carry on for restrictions. If it looks small enough, they’ll let you pass. I’ve actually managed to avoid the checking fees several times because the airline staff let me through.
A Simple Trick for Measuring Your Luggage with a Book
You’ve probably used this technique before, at least I have! When I was a child, my parents measured me every once in a while with this technique and marked the results on the wall. Anyway, this technique is great for reading the correct width, depth, and height of your suitcase!
Here’s how you do it.
- Balance your suitcase right next to a wall. If you want to measure height, place it vertically.
- Get a book and place it on top of the suitcase. Make sure that it sits at a ninety-degree angle against the wall.
- Remove your suitcase, while holding the book in place.
- Measure the distance from the floor to the bottom part of your book where it touches the wall. Voila! You’ve correctly measured your suitcase height by using a regular book. (With wheels and handles included!) Now continue the same with the case placed horizontally for measuring the width and depth.
How to Measure Luggage Linear Inches
Simply speaking, luggage linear inches is the sum of your luggage height, width, and depth.
Mostly, linear inches are used for restricting the maximum size of your checked baggage, because most of them come in vastly different proportions. Also, most of the time the limit is 62 linear inches. (I checked the four most popular airlines in America: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, according to Tripsavvy.com)
So how you go about measuring your suitcase in linear inches?
- If you have a plastic measure tape that easily wraps around your case, wrap it around the fattest part of your width and write down the measurement. This should account for width + depth.
- If you have a standard metallic measuring tape that’s hard to bend, measure your width and depth separately, by using the book technique (explained above)
- Measure your height by using the book technique (Explained above)
- Now add up the width, depth, and height and voila, here’s your luggage linear inches!
How to Measure Luggage Weight at Home
Okay, so how do you go about measuring the correct weight of your luggage?
Basically, you have two options:
How to Measure a Suitcase Using a Regular Scale
If you’re still home, you probably have a regular scale at home for measuring your body weight. The trick is really easy. First, stand on the scale and measure your weight. Next, pick up the suitcase, stand on the scale and read the weight. Next, subtract your weight, and you get a pretty accurate estimate.
If you’re rarely traveling, a regular scale is more than enough. However, if you’re often traveling and need to check the weight regularly, consider investing in a luggage scale. For example, you would want to check if you’re not overweight with your snacks and souvenirs for your return flight.
How is luggage measured using a luggage scale
This is by far the most convenient option, as the luggage scale is easy to use and is pretty small. Also, they’re not really expensive as well; they’re about 20 to 50 bucks.
If you have one or you’re about to purchase, they’re really easy to use. Just place the luggage handle inside the luggage scales strap and pick up your case with the luggage scales handle. You’ll get a correct measurement, usually with two decimal points after the first number. A huge plus is that you can do it anywhere – At the airport, at home or the hotel preparing for your return flight.
How Much Does It Cost If Your Luggage Is Overweight
Everybody hates to pay extra fees when boarding the plane. I know I do. Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to suck it up and pay the fee, because there are no other options.
But how much are the extra fees for checking your luggage you might ask?
Well, it depends. For starters, most first-class and business-class passengers get one or two free checked bags. However, most economy passengers have to pay extra. Also, it’s heavily dependant on the airline and if your flight is domestic or international.
For instance, on American Airlines the fees are as follows:
- 25$ for the first domestic checked bag;
- 35$ for the second domestic checked bag;
- 150$ for the third domestic checked bag;
- 60$ for the first international checked bag;
- 100$ for the second international checked bag;
- 200$ for the third international checked bag;
As you can see, the fee is just a few dollars if you’re flying a short distance and have only one checked bag. However, it can quickly add up if you have two or more bags and are flying internationally. (For instance, three check-in bags for international flight would cost 360$!)
I’ve chosen American airlines as an example because most airlines have very similar fees. However, you should check your airline separately by visiting their website or calling them.
I hope that I’ve covered everything about how to correctly measure your luggage. If I’ve missed something, please comment down below and I’ll answer your questions!