Answering Readers’ Questions: What counts as a personal bag when flying?

I recently got an interesting question from a reader:

I’m going on my first business trip next month. I know I am going to carry-on, and my the first bag is a rollerboard. My question is, what exactly counts as that second, “personal” bag? A laptop bag? A shoulder bag? Or does it have to be purse-sized? Thanks for your help!

Great question, and fun for me because I can talk about bags all day!  The American Airlines baggage information page defines the personal item as:

Personal item – includes: small backpack purse, briefcase, laptop bag OR a similar item such as book bag or tote that does not exceed 36 inches( length+width+height) and must fit under the seat.

So the answer to your question is: the personal bag is anything that can fit under the seat in front of you. It can be a purse, laptop bag, backpack, tote,  or a smaller suitcase.  I have traveled with everything from a backpack to a tiny purse to an Eagle Creek packing cube holding my giant tablecloth that I use for events. As long as it fits under that seat, it counts.

My advice at this point is to figure out which type of bag will serve you best during your trip, make sure it fits the above dimensions, and get it!

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