If you don’t know the baggage policies regarding your luggage prior to the day of check-in for your flight, you might be in for a few unwanted surprises. Information surrounding general baggage rules like bag fees, weight restrictions/size limits, excess baggage, carry-on baggage details and more can be found on each airline’s website. These rules will often vary, depending on whether you have a domestic flight or an international flight. For the sake of this article, we will be focusing on luggage limits for international travel.

Carry-On Luggage

Standard procedure on virtually every international flight is to allow passengers to bring one personal item -- such as a purse, small backpack or laptop bag -- and one small suitcase free of charge. These two pieces of luggage should be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you and/or in the overhead bins. The allowable size and weight differs from airline to airline, but in general, your carry-on bag cannot weigh more than 40 pounds or measure in excess of 45 linear inches. Check with your airline before packing your carry-on baggage to avoid unexpected checked baggage fees.


Take note of the TSA rules and guidelines for your carry-on bags to prevent your bag from being pulled for an additional examination. Make sure you don’t have any oversized liquid bottles in your carry-on bags, and be sure to follow all of the airport security’s rules upon getting in line for the security checkpoint.

Free Baggage

International flights generally allow for at least one, and sometimes two, pieces of checked luggage for each passenger.

The number of included checked bags usually depends on the city of origin and destination. For example, American Airlines allows two checked bags (50 pounds each) to passengers flying to, through or from Japan, South Korea and China, but only one bag with a maximum weight of 50 pounds to passengers whose origin or destination is Mexico, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Central and South America.

Check with your particular airline to ascertain your checked baggage allowance.

Additional Checked Bags

Many airlines allow passengers on international flights to check additional bags for a fee. For example, Delta allows passengers flying to or from South America (excluding Brazil) two free checked bags; a third checked bag costs $125 and bags four through 10 are $200 each.

Delta limits each checked bag to a maximum of 50 pounds. However, most airlines make exceptions or waive luggage restrictions for active duty military and other special groups. Confirm your total checked baggage cost with the airline before checking in, as the rules around extra bags will likely vary from airline to airline.

Oversize, Overweight and Special Luggage

If you plan to take oversize, very heavy or unusually shaped items (such as skis) on your international trip, check directly with the airline to ascertain its policy. Luggage size is an important factor to think about when preparing for your international trip.

Some airlines, such as United Airlines, maintain separate luggage weight and size dimensions for different ticket types; for example, United BusinessFirst passengers are allowed up to 70 pounds per checked bag rather than the standard 50 pounds.

United places an absolute weight limit of 100 pounds per checked bag regardless of the fee paid. The weight limit and size limits / size restrictions that each airline has for checked luggage is important to note when you are packing, so you can ensure that you aren’t exceeding these limits; nobody likes unexpected additional fees when they’re traveling, after all.

Necessary medical equipment may or may not be treated as checked luggage on international flights. If you are traveling internationally with small children, check with your airline to determine how much additional baggage you are allowed.

Note:‌ The rules for baggage weight can also vary based on whether you are first class and business class or economy class. Passengers in first and business classes often have a heavier limit when it comes to the weight of their bags.