Travel Etiquette: Where Does the Small Carry-on Go?

People email me questions about it. I see Google searches on it. And of course, I see it all the time while traveling. Evidently, there is a lot of confusion about where small carry-ons, or personal items, go. Let me clear it up for you.

There are only two scenarios:

1) You have only one bag, your personal item. In this case, it is perfectly appropriate to put your small carry-on in the overhead bins. If you want to have it closer at hand, put it under the seat in front of you.

2) You have two bags, a suitcase of some sort and a personal item. If you have two bags, put your larger one in the overhead bins (preferably as close to your seat as possible, with wheels facing the correct way) and your smaller one under the seat in front of you. Please do not put both of your bags in the overhead bins, as it takes up space that passengers getting on later will need. The only time this is appropriate is if you are in the bulkhead seats.

One place the personal item never goes is under your seat, or behind your legs. This may be more comfortable for you, but it means the person behind you loses out on space for their small bag or legs. Please be considerate!And the best way to know where all of your luggage goes is to listen to the flight attendants as you are boarding. They will tell you everything you need to know, especially if you don’t fly often.


  1. can we also emphasize that if you have a smaller carry-on (regular size backpack or tote bag), put that on the smaller AB side rather than the larger DEF side? that annoys me to no end that people take up the larger side that can accommodate bigger luggage with a small purse or bag.

  2. I personally feel that if someone has only one small item, it should go under the seat in front; that leaves more bin space for larger bags that can only be accomodated there. Helps more people get their luggage on board and helps the plane leave on time. In my mind, it’s just common courtesy.

    However, from what I read on flyertalk, the world of frequent flyers is pretty well split down the middle on this issue.

  3. Been flying from craddle and never knew one aisle had smaller baggage compartment than the other aisle. But I think d cabincrew should b blamed ‘cos some bags should not be allowed in plane and its so very impossible to have my seat on A aisle and move up to the next aisle ‘cos I have a larger hand luggage. What then will happen when the plane finally lands?

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