The Savvy Traveler

I was watching the news the other day and one of the stories they showed was about how some of the larger airline companies were changing the size requirements of your carry-on luggage. And it came as no surprise that the changes were against the passenger and the limitations ones carry-on should be. So this got me to start looking into this since I’ll be flying down to Texas this November for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. And after doing some digging on the internet I came up with a few surprises, especially when you find out that all carriers are not alike. Oh no, everyone is different when it comes to the dimensions of your carry on suitcase.

Now I’m not a big fan of traveling by air, unless there are time and distance constraints that dictate that I do. And never have I flown with anything more than my binoculars and camera, so flying to Texas with all my birding gear started to worry me. The most important thing about this whole trip was the fact that I’m not allowing any of my optics to be stowed away in checked baggage. It has to be with me at all times. If my luggage is lost I’ll still be able to go birding and worry about clean underwear and socks when I get a few free hours to run to the store.

The second important thing to think about is the size of the suitcase you’re using to carry all your gear in. And with most airlines allowing different dimension suitcases on board in the overhead compartment I needed to find out what my carrier will allow, which turns out to be United Airlines brand new size requirements at 22′ x 14′ x 9′.

And the third most important thing I need to worry about is will all my stuff fit into my 19′ x 13′ x 9′ dedicated birdwatching suitcase. And this upcoming vacation to Michigan has now given me the opportunity to try it out and see. So into my suitcase has gone my:

  • Spotting Scope
  • Binoculars with case
  • Camera with case
  • 1 field guide
  • Voice recorder
  • 1 box filled with power cords, data cables, SD card reader
  • Tripod head with handle
  • Garmin GPS with power cable and suction cup

The tripod will not be going into my carry-on, but in my checked luggage. I’ve been reading that tripods pose a gray area for the TSA Agents. Some let you through while other won’t. So to avoid any confusion it’s going into my checked luggage.


Now when it come to the suitcase dimensions for carry-on luggage I had to do some Internet searching to find out what the big carriers allow on their jets/airplanes. The dimensions listed below are height, width, depth.

  • Air Canada      21.5 x 15 x 9
  • Air France       21.5 x 13.5 x 9.5
  • Alaska Airlines    24 x 17 x 10
  • American Airlines  22 x 14 x 9
  • Delta Airlines   22 x 14 x 9
  • Emirates      22 x 17.7 x 7.9
  • Frontier Airlines    24 x 15.5 x 10
  • Japan Airlines     22 x 16 x 10
  • JetBlue Airways    26 x 18 x 12
  • Lufthansa     21.5 x 15.5 x 9
  • British Airways    22 x 18 x 10
  • Quantas    22 x 14 x 9
  • Southwest Airlines   24 x 16 x 10
  • United Airlines   22 x 14 x 0
  • U.S. Airways    22 x 14 x 9
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways   22 x 14 x 9

So as you can see there seems to be differences in what carriers allow and don’t. So do your homework before setting off if you happen to be flying and taking more birding gear than you usually do.

2 responses to “The Savvy Traveler

  1. My carry on bag looks a lot like yours, except I do add just one change of underwear. Also I’ve loaded two birding aps on the iPhone and leave the guide book home.

  2. Stephen I don’t own a smart phone yet, however my tablet has a few apps that I’ll use. So until I buy a smart phone a paper field guide will always come along.

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