Travel Tips

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How to Choose an 18x 14x8 Bag (to Avoid Paying Luggage Fees)

Learn how to select the perfect 18x14x8 bag to bypass luggage fees on major airlines. Save money and pack smart with our essential guide for travelers.

Tobi Miles
September 7, 2022
How to Choose an 18x 14x8 Bag (to Avoid Paying Luggage Fees)

Many airlines have size restrictions for personal items and carry-on bags, as well as checked baggage. If you go over these limits, you likely will need to pay fees ranging from $25 to over $150. Many airlines allow an 18” x 14” x 8” bag as a personal item, so you can avoid paying luggage fees.

Many major airlines, including American Airlines, Frontier, and Spirit, allow personal items with a maximum size of 18” x 14” x 8”. Measure the item or read its label for the dimensions. Some will even indicate they are suitable as a personal item for various airlines. Choosing an item within these dimensions can help you save on costly luggage fees.

If you have an upcoming trip planned, packing what you need is a top priority. But, with so many airlines charging hefty luggage fees, getting smart about packing can save you a chunk of money.

Many airlines allow one carry-on and one personal item, but some, like Spirit, only allow a free personal item. Therefore, choosing an 18” x 14” x 8” bag wisely can help you avoid baggage fees.

How Much Can Fit In An 18 × 14 × 8 Bag?

If you’re a savvy packer, you could fit quite a bit in an 18 x 14 x 8 bag. In fact, you can find many folks who claim to pack for a five-day trip in a bag this size. If you can accomplish this, it certainly would make traveling a lot easier, lighter, and cheaper.

You could fit several lightweight shirts and a couple of pairs of pants. Also, a small toiletry bag with things like make-up, deodorant, and other essentials. (Make sure to follow the TSA’s 3-1-1 Liquids Rule.)

You would also be able to squeeze in a slim pair of shoes and other incidentals like a phone charger. Or, if you plan to also bring a carry-on on the plane, you could reserve your personal item for additional items.

Perhaps a laptop, charger, books, and additional toiletry items or shoes. The point is, you can fit more than you think in an 18 x 14 x 8 bag. So, getting a bag this size can help you maximize what you can take with you on the plane.

Related Read: How Big Can My Toiletry Bag Be To Fly? Quart-Size Bags

How Do You Measure An 18 × 14 × 8 Bag?

When measuring an 18 x 14 x 8 bag, it’s important to do so in its entirety. In other words, if it has handles, wheels, etc., you need to include these in the overall measurement. Most bags will have a label when you buy them that state the measurements.

Although these labels are typically accurate, it’s good practice to use a tape measure to confirm. Measure from end to end for the length, side to side for the width, and from top to bottom for the depth.

If the bag has a soft exterior, ensure that when you pack it, it maintains these measurements. If you overstuff the bag, you could end up with a bag larger than the maximum 18 x 14 x 8. Therefore, once you pack your bag, measure it again to ensure it’s still within the size limits for your airline.

Do Wheels Count When Measuring Baggage?

Yes, as previously mentioned, you need to include all components of your baggage when you measure it. Therefore, you need to include the wheels, handles, and anything else that adds to the overall footprint of your bag.

If the wheels or other pieces put your personal item over the 18 x 14 x 8 limit, attendants will flag it. Depending on the airline and situation, you will either need to make the personal item your carry-on or check it.

For example, if the airline only allows one carry-on and you already have one, your personal item can’t become a second carry-on. Or, in some cases, it can but will cost you an additional fee. If you do end up having to check it at the gate, the fees are often higher than checking from the beginning.

Will Airlines Check The Size Of My Personal Item And Carry-On?

Attendants at the gate will verify that your personal item and carry-on are within the designated size limits. In many cases, they can visually determine if your bag is appropriate.

If they’re uncertain by looking at it, they will have you place the bag in a specially-sized bin to ensure it will fit under the seat (for personal items). A larger bin will verify that your carry-on will fit in the overhead bin.

If the attendant deems either of your items over the size limit, you’ll have to make adjustments. Your personal item might become your carry-on, or you may need to check the bags and pay applicable fees.

Related Read: How Strict Is JetBlue with Personal Item Size?

What Are The Size And Weight Limits Of Baggage At Popular Airlines?

Many airlines won’t impose specific weight limits on carry-on or personal items. Furthermore, many popular airlines set their personal item limit at 18 x 14 x 8, but not all of them.

For example, Southwest’s personal item rule states it must fit in the 16.25” x 13.5” x 8” space under the seat. But, if your item is slightly larger, but you can still get it under the seat, you could still bring it onboard.

Therefore, before you start packing, it’s worth checking with your airlines to confirm their size and weight limits for baggage. Most airlines do have weight limits on checked baggage. Carry-on limits are usually slightly larger than the allowed personal item size.

But also pay attention to your fare, as certain airlines offer discounted tickets if you opt not to bring a carry-on. Here is a rundown of the baggage size limits for some of the most popular airlines.

Baggage Size And Weight Limits At Popular Airlines

Related Read: Can You Bring A Water Bottle On A Plane?

What Do Airlines Charge For Baggage Fees?

Various airlines charge different rates for bags. Most airlines will allow you one carry-on and personal item free of charge unless they surpass the limits. Many airlines charge fees for checked bags, ranging from $30 to over $200, depending on the circumstances.

Therefore, another crucial thing to learn before you start packing is the potential baggage fees you might face. Here’s a snapshot of baggage fees for popular airlines.

Note that it’s always advised to check directly with the airline website for specific fees. You can get exact prices for your trip since your destination and fight will affect pricing.

Average Baggage Fees: Frontier, Spirit, JetBlue

Average Baggage Fees: Southwest, Delta, United Airlines, American Airlines

It Pays To Pay Ahead On Baggage Fees

Keep in mind that many airlines with baggage fees will charge more at the airport. Therefore, it can often save you money if you purchase bags (pay the fees) ahead of time. Or, look into various packages that airlines might offer that include your checked bags and additional perks.

For example, Frontier offers the WORKSsm bundle and the PERKSsm bundle.  Both of these packages include one carry-on bag and one checked bag at a specially ticketed rate.

These rates often provide an opportunity to save you money as opposed to purchasing your ticket and bags separately. You can think of it as bundling your home and auto insurance or your internet and cell phone plans.

Additionally, if you wait to get to the gate to see if a bag will fit and it’s over the limit, you’ll pay more. So this is another reason to make sure you have the appropriate size bag for a personal item or carry-on.

If they tell you at the gate you need to check it; you’ll pay more. Also, you might risk not being able to bring it at all if you already have checked baggage.

Related Read: How Many Fluid Ounces Can You Carry On A Plane?

What Airlines Don't Charge Carry-On Baggage Fees?

Most airlines allow passengers one free carry-on bag. Some exceptions, like Spirit Airlines, charge for carry-ons in an effort to keep their fares low.

Others won’t allow carry-ons if you purchase specific discounted fares. Attempting to bring a carry-on when you have one of these fares will lead to excess fees. (For example, JetBlue’s Blue Basic fare.)

Depending on the airline, you would have to check the bag and pay the applicable checked bag fees. In addition, you would also likely pay a fee for having to make the switch at the gate.

How Do I Avoid Baggage Fees?

Packing light in the appropriate-sized carry-on or personal item is the best way to avoid baggage fees. You can also save on bag fees through certain airlines’ membership and rewards programs or with points.

Travel is already expensive enough, so here are tips to avoid paying those pesky baggage fees.

  • Plan carefully what pack. Many airlines allow you to bring on one carry-on and one personal item free of charge. Can you get what you need into these items? If you need to pack more, can you at least make it with only one checked bag?
  • Look into various airlines’ rewards and frequent traveler programs. Many of these programs offer perks that include free checked bags. These extras differ from airline to airline, so make sure to check each one individually.
  • Check the weather before you travel to avoid packing unnecessary items.
  • Wear heavier items like boots and coats since these typically take up more space in luggage.
  • If you do need to pay fees, pay them ahead of time before you get to the airport. In most all cases, you’ll pay more if you wait until you arrive at the airport check-in, and even more at the gate.
  • Look into how much it would cost to ship some of your items to your destination. With the cost of some baggage fees, shipping could actually be cheaper in some situations.

Avoiding Overweight Baggage Fees

In addition to the standard luggage fees, airlines also impose extra fees for overweight bags. Clever packing and carefully weighing your own bags before travel can help you save money.

If you’re going to pay for a bag, at least avoid the overweight fees. Stow heavier items in your carry-on since carry-ons typically have fewer to no weight restrictions. Usually, you just need to be able to lift it over your head to store it in the baggage compartment.

As previously mentioned, wear heavier clothing and shoes to keep them out of your luggage. Also, keep in mind that some items don’t count as a personal item or carry-on, and you can bring them in the cabin.

How Do I Maximize My Baggage Allowance?

Pack as much as you can into your carry-on and personal item and know what else you can bring onboard. Items that don’t count toward your carry-on and personal item include:

  • Umbrellas
  • Canes
  • Diaper Bag (if traveling with a lap infant)
  • Pet Carrier (for some airlines -- others count it as your personal item or carry-on)
  • Assistive Devices
  • Duty-Free Items
  • Food in Disposable Packaging
  • Car Seat
  • Coats, Jackets, and Other Wearable Items

Observe special rules and limits to what you can bring into the cabin -- for example, the TSA’s 3-1-1 Rule. This way, you won’t have to end up checking any of your carry-on items.

Wear layers onto the plane. You can wear a shirt and two sweaters, for example, and maybe have your coat over your arm. You can always take a sweater or two off once you’re in the air.

As you can see, with a little careful planning and cleverness, you can maximize your baggage allowance. Look at it as a fun travel challenge.

How To Pack An 18 x 14 x 8 Bag

Stay organized and use travel bags and pouches within your 18 x 14 x 8 bag to pack only the essentials. Place your laptop in its sleeve in the bag, and put chargers and cords in a separate pouch.

Tightly roll clothing, wearing your heaviest or bulkiest items on your person. Place smaller clothing items like socks and underwear in their own pouch, jewelry in another, etc. In another travel pouch, put basic toiletries and make-up to protect your other items from leaks and stains.

If packing a pair of shoes, put socks or underwear inside of your shoes. Consider buying travel-sized items like deodorant or shampoo once you arrive at your destination. If you’re not picky about these items, most hotels provide basic essentials like toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, etc.

If you plan to read on the plane, carry your book. These are all excellent ways to make the most out of your 18 x 14 x 8 bag.

Still Need To Pack A Carry-On Plus Your Personal Item?

Since many airlines also allow a carry-on, you can employ these same tips to pack your carry-on as well. This way, you can get the most out of this piece of luggage and avoid paying for checked baggage. As you saw earlier in the tables, checked baggage can add up really fast and add tons more to your “affordable” fare.

But, if flying on Spirit, packing well in your 18 x 14 x 8 is essential. It’s a big win since it’s the only bag you can bring on for free. Likewise, with fares like Blue Basic on JetBlue that doesn’t allow a carry-on.

But, you still have some options. If you’re traveling with family or friends, consider chipping in for one carry-on. Everyone can put a few items into one bag that they share, splitting the carry-on fee.

Wrapping Up How To Choose An 18 x 14 x 8 Bag

When choosing an 18” x 14” x 8” bag for travel, ensure that your airline considers this size a personal item. Otherwise, you’ll need to potentially make it your carry-on. Determining the size of the item is easy since many bags place the dimensions on the tag.

You can also use a tape measure to take your own measurements, remembering to include all handles, wheels, etc. If you choose a soft-sided bag, it will be more forgiving, but ensure you measure it once you pack it. Overstuffing a soft bag can make it expand past the maximum size limits.

If you can stick within the size limits, you can save big time on baggage fees. Clever packing and thoughtful planning can help you fit more into your personal item and carry-on. Therefore, you don’t need to pay for checked bags.

Some tricks are wearing heavier clothing items, shipping certain items to your destination, and simply not overpacking. You can also carry certain items on the plane in addition to your personal item and carry-on, including an umbrella, car seat, diaper bag, or coat.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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