Here’s how you can avoid a holiday headache at the airport

Preventing a holiday headache when traveling

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As the busiest time for airline travel nears, we decided to ask the question: What size carry-on bag is too big?

Each airline has different regulations when it comes to what size luggage you can take on board for free, creating a lot of confusion among travelers.

Here are some tips from Myrtle Beach International Airport spokesperson Kirk Lovell on how you can be prepared when boarding your plane.

1.) Know the baggage size requirements for your airline and how to properly measure your luggage.

“So you have to measure from the bottom of the wheels to the top of the handles,” Lovell said. “Don’t forget the wheels because that is a huge portion of the bag. If you do, you may have to take the bag home or put it in your car. If it is oversized or has too much in it, you may have to pull stuff out to get it in the weight requirement.”

Lovell said that each airline has different carry-on and personal item requirements because the overhead bin varies depending on the model of aircraft that you will be flying.

Below is a list of 12 airlines most popular in the United States and their baggage requirements. (Note: these are subject to change at the airline’s discretion. Be sure to check the airline’s website you will be flying with for the latest size chart.)

Airline: Carry-on Size Chart: Personal Item Size Chart:
Allegiant Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 7 x 15 x 16
American Airlines 22 x 14 x 9  18 x 14 x 8
Delta Air Lines 22 x 14 x 9  19 x 13 x 8
Elite Airways 22 x 14 x 9 9 x 10 x 17
Frontier Airlines 24 x 16 x 10 14 x 18 x 8
Jet Blue Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 15 x 17 x 16
Porter Airlines 24 x 16 x 9 13 x 17 x 6
Southwest Airlines 24 x 16 x 10 10 x 16 x 24
Spirit Airlines 22 x 18 x 10 18 x 14 x 8
Sun Country Airlines 24 x 16 x 11 16 x 11 x 8
United Airlines 22 x 14 x 9  9 x 10 x 17
WestJet 21 x 15 x 9 16 x 6 x 13

Delta, Allegiant, American, and United all require carry-on luggage to be 22 x 14 x 9. Frontier gives you an extra 3 inches at 24 x 16 x 10 and Spirit allows you a carry-on no more than 22 x 18 x 10 inches.

Lovell said that Travel Made Simple is a very useful website because it has the size requirements for more than 170 airlines listed.

We also asked two women who were at the airport if they knew how to measure a carry-on bag during a Facebook live video. The answer was no.

I’m at Myrtle Beach International Airport where we are talking about carry-on bags

Posted by Casey Watson WMBF on Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Along with being allowed to take a free carry-on bag, you are also allowed to take a personal item for free. But what constitutes as a personal item?

A representative from Spirit Airlines said that though each airline is different, your personal item can be anything from a small purse to a backpack or laptop case as long as it is the size required. (Sizes for select airlines are listed in the above chart.)

2.) Arrive to the airport at least two hours early, especially during the busy holiday season.

Lovell said that even though he knows MYR in-and-out, he will arrive at least two hours early because during the holiday season, you never know what could happen.

“It’s one of the most popular times of the year for air travel, and there is likely to be more traffic on the roads surrounding the airport, so it will take longer to get to the terminal," according to the TSA. "It will take longer to park a car and longer to return a rental car. The lines will be longer at airline check-in counters. And of course, the lines will be longer at the checkpoints because airplanes are fully booked and more people are looking to get away for the holiday. It’s peak travel season. Remember that you aren’t the only one who wants to fly during the holiday.”

3.) Download the app

All of the major airlines have an app. This allows you to have access to your trip information and changes that may arise. This includes weather delays or cancellations, and baggage information. You can check in ahead of arriving at the airport and make any adjustments to your seating that you may need.

Many airports also have apps that have maps showing where your terminal is allowing you to get to and from connecting flights with ease.

4.) Don’t wrap your presents ahead of time.

The TSA can, and will, unwrap your presents if they believe they could pose a threat. If this happens, you probably won’t like their re-wrapping job.

On the TSA website it says:

"It’s holiday time and you want to bring gifts with you to hand out upon your arrival. We understand. What we hope that you understand is that if your wrapped gift triggers an alarm, the gift might need to be unwrapped for TSA officers to resolve the alarm. So instead of wrapping a gift, please consider using a gift bag or a gift box so that resolving the alarm will just mean removing the item from the gift bag or gift box without needing to unwrap it. Or, consider wrapping the gift upon your arrival.

Snow globes are popular holiday gifts at this time of year. If you’re traveling with a snow globe, it needs to contain 3.4 liquid ounces or less to comply with the 3-1-1 liquids bag rule. If it is a larger snow globe, please pack it in your checked bag. If you are unsure if the snow globe contains 3.4 ounces of liquid or more, the rule of thumb is that if it is smaller than a tennis ball, it is probably 3.4 ounces or less."

Some have gone to Twitter to also remind travelers to not pre-wrap their gifts.

5.) Don’t over pack your bags or you may have to throw out some items.

“One of the biggest issues is people over packing and putting to much in their bags, there are weight requirements," Lovell said. "So often we see people with several bags laying out and the floor and people trying to shuffle things around from bag to bag or even having to go by an additional bag because they are just taking to much stuff. So people need to pack a little bit lighter and figure out what they are going to take. Maybe not take six pairs of shoes, just take two pairs of shoes. There are some great packing websites also that give you tips on packing better and smarter.”

One of those websites is Packing Essentials, which allows you to input the amount of days you will be gone, the type of trip you are making, the expected weather, etc. to help you determine what you should pack.

Their website describes the company in greater detail: allows you to generate a custom packing list for your specific needs in just a few button clicks. You’ll get an organized list of everything you need to bring for your trip (easily customizable to your individual needs), as well as a list of things you should do to prepare for your trip.”

6.) Know what items are not allowed

According to the TSA website, you are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Placing these items in the small bag and separating from your carry-on baggage facilitates the screening process. Pack items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked baggage.

TSA added that any liquid, aerosol, gel, cream or paste that alarms during initial screening will require additional screening.

7.) Traveling with food items during the holidays is okay!

TSA also says that you don’t have to put the cooking sheets up if you plan on flying! You can still spend time baking your favorite Christmas cookies, fruitcake, pie or other holiday treats. If the food item is a solid (ham, turkey, cake, pie, cookies, etc.), then you can pack it in your carry-on bag. If the food item is spreadable or pourable, then it must be 3.4 liquid ounces or less to comply with the 3-1-1 liquids bag rule to travel in your carry-on bag. If it has more than 3.4 liquid ounces, then you should pack it in a tightly sealed container in your checked bag. If you’re unsure if your food item should go in a checked bag, consider this: If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, then please pack it in your checked bag.

Do you have your own travel tips that we did not mention? Email them to

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