With so many suitcase sizes out there, it can be a daunting task to understand which is the best luggage set, lightweight luggage or best travel backpack for your needs. Do you need a large suitcase or a small suitcase? What is the optimum suitcase size and why? Do you need to purchase hard shell luggage or lightweight carry-on luggage only?
In this article, we will explain the suitcase sizes and help you understand what type of luggage you need and for what purpose. Which suitcase size is perfect for you depends on where you are travelling, for how long and which airline you are travelling with. Each trip might require a different suitcase, hence a different luggage size.
We know how much we struggled to find the best suitcase size for our long haul flights and trips across Europe. So let's dig in and find the most suitable suitcase size for you.
Table of Contents
How to measure suitcase sizes
All manufacturers measure the size of the suitcase from the ground to the top of the carry handle. So this means they don't actually give you the internal measurements of the suitcase.
It's important to remember that a hard shell luggage will usually be smaller in capacity than a soft-sided suitcase even if their volume is the same. This is because when you pack a soft shell suitcase, it can expand a little, accommodating more of your clothes.
A four-wheel spinner also has a little smaller capacity than a two-wheel suitcase, but their overall size is usually a bit bigger. That's because the size of the suitcase is measured from the ground and includes the wheels. On two-wheel suitcases, the wheels are usually recessed while the four-wheel spinners have their wheels out fully.
Small cabin suitcase
A small cabin suitcase usually measures 48 cm or 18 inches in height. The capacity is up to 40 litres.
You can use a small cabin suitcase on pretty much all airlines. This is your luggage which you are allowed to take with you on board during your flight, at no extra cost. Cabin suitcases used to be perfect to use on European budget airlines such as Wizzair and EasyJet but since 2018, only priority passengers are allowed to carry more than one bags on board.
American low-cost airlines like Southwest Airlines and jetBlue still permits small cabin bags alongside your handbag.
Please note, some budget airlines are now limiting the size of the carry-on luggage or do not allow them at all without additional payment. Always check your airline baggage policy before you travel.
Why buy this? The smallest of the suitcase sizes, the tiny cabin bag is perfect for business travellers who only need their laptop and a few essentials for the flight. A small cabin suitcase is also great for travellers who have a large checked in luggage and don't want to carry anything else but their papers, electronics and valuable items.
Why not buy? We do not recommend them on their own for long trips due to their small size and lack of space.
Large Cabin Suitcase
The large cabin suitcase usually measures 55 cm or 20 inches in height and has a capacity of up to 45 litres. Large cabin bags are perfect for short-haul flights, trips which last only a few days.
They are also ideal for budget travellers, travelling on low-cost flights, who purchased checked-in luggage or priority boarding. Most airlines accept 55 cm (20 inches) cabin suitcases. (See table below for individual airlines carry-on allowances.)
Why buy this? Large cabin suitcases are perfect for business travellers staying a few days at their destination. The large cabin suitcase with four wheels is also perfect for short-haul flights. If packed well, you can fit enough items to keep you going for 5-7 days abroad.
Why not buy? We don't have anything against large cabin suitcases. You might want to consider buying a smaller one if you travel short-haul for only 2-3 days. Holidays longer than 1 week might require a Medium Suitcase.
Extra-large Cabin Suitcase
The size of an extra-large cabin suitcase is around 56 cm or 22 inches in height with a capacity of up to 50 litres. This is more spacious than the standard large cabin suitcase adding an extra 5 litres in capacity.
However, most airlines accept suitcases which have maximum dimensions of 55 cm (20 inches), so you might find yourself in a situation where you actually have to pay to check in this type of luggage.
Why buy this? If you are a frequent flyer with a specific airline carrier who allows you to take on board a cabin bag with these dimensions. This size is also a great option to check-in for long-haul flights, alongside your carry-on luggage.
Why not buy? You might have issues with the size and weight of these suitcases. Consider the distance from the airport to your accommodation. If you have to walk a lot, maybe get a smaller suitcase or consider purchasing a spinner suitcase set.
Medium Size Suitcase
A medium suitcase measures 68 cm or 24 inches in height and has a capacity of up to 75 litres. This is a fantastic option to check-in on short-haul flights alongside your carry-on.
Medium Size Suitcases are also great for short multi-city stops as it's relatively lightweight and small enough to be practical to carry around with you. It usually fits comfortably into a taxi and it's not too much hassle to carry it on the subway or a bus.
Why buy this? If you want to check in your luggage, but need a small enough luggage for you to freely move around during your travels. Check out the four-wheel, spinner suitcases for additional convenience. These are easy to roll around and won't fall over while you wait.
Why not buy? We can't find any fault with this size. Consider how much stuff you need and if you think it will fit, go for it. Medium Size Suitcases are usually fit enough clothes for about a 7 days trips.
Large Size Suitcase
Out of all the suitcase sizes out there, large suitcases are perhaps the most popular for travellers wishing to check-in their luggage.
The large suitcase measures 74 cm or 27 inches in height and has a capacity of up to 117 litres. This is versatile, spacious and allows you to have a series of outfits with you.
The large size gives you the freedom to pack whatever you need for your travels which last longer than 1 week.
Why buy this? The large suitcase is ideal for long trips especially if you need to pack for more than one traveller. We recommend you to buy the large, four-wheel spinner version as they will be easier to roll around.
Why not buy? This size can be too big for some. Check the amount of stuff you want to take with you and based on the length of your stay and try and estimate. Do you really need this size?
Pro Tip: Always check the checked baggage weight allowance for your flight. These suitcases are easy to fill up, as they are so big, and might become too heavy. A good rule of thumb: Aim for no more than 20kg (44 lb) weight.
This suitcase measures 85 cm or 32 inches in height and has a capacity of up to 130 litres. This is ideal for long stays or expats moving abroad.
We usually travel with 2 extra-large suitcases for when we do long-term travel, longer than 2 weeks. We used these suitcases when we moved abroad, travelled to Japan and New Zealand. Probably one of the best investment to date.
Why buy this? Perfect if you stay long-term in one destination as you can carry all your belongings in it. This is an excellent choice for families travelling with children as well.
Why not buy? This is a very large suitcase and it can get a little inconvenient to carry around. The issue is usually not the space in the suitcase, but the weight limit imposed by most carriers.
Also remember, if you fill up this suitcase to the rim, it might be too heavy for you to carry. As always we recommend buying the four-wheel version which is much easier to roll around.
If you are travelling frequently, it might be a good idea to purchase a suitcase set. Suitcase sets are usually more budget-friendly as you get more suitcases for your money than if you buy them separately.
2 Piece Suitcase Set
2 piece suitcase sets are good for 1 or 2 people. You can use the smaller luggage for short-hauls, the larger one for a week-long holiday and both for a long-haul trip. Alternatively, pack your clothes into these suitcases for a week-long holiday for two.
3 Piece Suitcase Set
3 piece suitcase sets are a bit more common and they are really good value for money. Usually, you get a smaller carry-on, a medium-size bag and a large suitcase. Whether you go for the softshell version or the hardshell type, always aim to buy the four-wheel spinners as they are easier to carry during your travels.
Which suitcase to pick based on your style?
With so many suitcase sizes available on the market it is important to first check with your airline on their luggage policy and baggage weight allowance.
Below, we have created a useful list of traveller types and what suitcases we recommend for them.
Carry-ons for Business Travellers
If you are a business traveller going on very short trips, then a small or medium-sized cabin suitcase will suffice.
You should also consider an elegant backpack which fits your electronics, especially if you don't need to carry clothes with you.
If you have to have a set of clothes with you, check out if packing cubes can be a good fit for you. They allow you to organise your clothes and when packed well, prevent unwanted creases.
Suitcases for Digital Nomads
Make sure to put your laptop, electronics and batteries into your carry-on. It is never recommended to put valuables into checked-in luggage. Did you take out travel insurance?
As a digital nomad, you should travel light. If you move a lot, you will soon become an expert in packing and unpacking. Packing cubes can help you keep your stuff well organised and easy to access.
Luggage for Professional Travellers & Travel Bloggers
Depending on the length of your trip it is recommended to purchase a medium or large checked bag and take a smaller carry-on with you for your papers and electronics.
Remember, never put valuables into checked-in luggage and always have insurance for your gear before travelling.
For short trips, we always take a small spinner suitcase and our Thule bag with us. The spinner can usually fit into the overhead lockers alongside the electronics bag. However, if we can only carry one bag on board, we simply check-in the spinner. No worries.
If you are a budget traveller who doesn't want to pay for checked-in luggage, a large cabin suitcase will be perfect for you. Make sure you check with the airline before you travel to ensure your suitcase size fits the allowed carry-on sizes.
Remember, that nowadays some airlines ask you to check in your luggage if you didn't purchase priority boarding.
It's always a good idea to keep a small handbag or a carry-on backpack with you which fits under the seat so you can quickly remove valuables from your larger luggage.
City Break & Couple Travellers
If you are going away for a quick city break or doing a multi-city hop for a few days (we are jealous) a medium suitcase should be enough. You can check it in or (in most cases) carry it on board.
A medium suitcase will usually fit clothes and accessories for two people for 2-4 days.
Need more space for gadgets and clothes? Pick a size larger suitcase and relax. We recommend you always go for the four-wheel version as it is much easier to roll around and you don't have to lift it up.
Pro Tip: See if packing cubes can be a good fit for you. They are great to organiser your clothes, inexpensive and will make your life much easier.
Travelling for 1-2 weeks normally requires one medium-sized suitcase per person (unless you are going to the beach or to a very hot destination - which case we are jealous!!!).
If this is your first time purchasing suitcases, consider buying a suitcase set so you get better value for your money.
For your convenience, check-in all your luggage and keep just a small bag with you for your papers and valuables. This small bag should fit under your chair.
Long-term Travels & Couples
The medium or large suitcase is for long-term travellers or couples who want to minimise the checked-in costs. When you travel with someone, both of you have a carry-on bag to take on board and a checked bag each so you have a lot of space to play with.
It's always better to travel light but we understand that you need a lot of stuff when you travel long term. Remember to always check the size and weight allowances with your airline before you travel.
The extra-large suitcases are perfect for long-term travellers who spend a lot of time in one destination or for expats moving countries. Airlines normally allow you to purchase additional checked bags if needed.
Families Travelling with children
We recommend the medium or large suitcase sizes for families with children. Purchase the four-wheel version so you can carry your suitcases around much easier.
Consider investing in a suitcase set so you get better value for your money.
Don't forget to plan ahead. Make sure to pack everything you need onboard into a separate carry-on. Are you travelling long-haul? Consider taking food, water, medicine, toys for the kids, personal hygiene items with you.
Check with the airline to ensure, your carry-on fits the allowed size and weight requirements.
It is a good idea to organise an airport shuttle to and from your hotel. This way, you will have to worry less about your luggage and enjoy more of your stay. Did you take out travel insurance?
Pin this now
Compare Carry-on Suitcase Sizes in cm, inches, litre and oz
Ever wondered how much stuff you can actually fit in one of these carry-ons?
In this handy table, we have collected the measurements and volume of each airline-approved carry-on suitcase. Use the "Size Type" Column to find the airline list below.
|Size Type||Suitcase sizes (cm)||Suitcase sizes (inches)||Capacity (litre)||Suitcase sizes (us oz)|
|Size A||55 X 35 X 25 cm||21.6 X 13.8 X 9.8 inches||48 l||1627 oz|
|Size B||55 x 40 x 20 cm||21.6 X 15.7 X 7.9 inches||44 l||1488 oz|
|Size C||55 x 40 x 23 cm||21.6 X 15.7 X 9 inches||50.5 l||1711 oz|
|Size D||56 x 36 x 23 cm||22 X 14 X 9 inches||46.3 l||1568 oz|
|Size E||56 x 45 x 25 cm||22 X 17.7 X 10 inches||63 l||2130 oz|
|Size F||Various other sizes||-||-||-|
Carry-on Suitcase Sizes for Various Airlines
Airline companies around the world have different requirements in terms of size and weight of your carry on luggage.
In the tables below, we have collected most major airlines and grouped them by their maximum allowed carry on size. For each airline, we added the allowed carry-on weight in kilogram and pounds.
Size A - 55 x 35 x 25cm (21.6 x 13.8 x 9.8 inches)
Airlines listed below allow carry-ons no larger than 55 x 35 x 25cm or 21.6 x 13.8 x 9.8 inches on board.
|Airline||Weight (kg)||Weight (pounds)|
Size B - 55 x 40 x 20cm (21.6 x 15.7 x 7.9 inches)
Airlines listed below allow carry-ons no larger than 55 x 40 x 20cm or 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.9 inches on board.
|Airline||Weight (kg)||Weight (pounds)|
|Air Caraïbes (Air Caraibes)||12||26.46|
|TAP Air Portugal||8||17.64|
|TUI Fly Deutschland||6||13.23|
Size C - 55 x 40 x 23cm (21.6 x 15.7 x 9 inches)
Airlines listed below allow carry-ons no larger than 55 x 40 x 23cm or 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 inches on board.
|Airline||Weight (kg)||Weight (pounds)|
|Bmi (British Midland Airways)||12||26.46|
|LOT Polish Airlines||8||17.64|
|Norwegian Air Shuttle||10||22.05|
|Swiss International Air Lines||8||17.64|
Size D - 56 x 36 x 23cm (22 x 14 x 9 inches)
Airlines listed below allow carry-ons no larger than 56 x 36 x 23cm or 22 x 14 x 9 inches on board.
|Airline||Weight (kg)||Weight (pounds)|
|American Airlines (US Airways)||No limit|
|South African Airways||8||17.64|
Size E - 56 x 45 x 25cm (22 x 17.7 x 10 inches)
Airlines listed below allow carry-ons no larger than 56 x 45 x 25cm or 22 x 17.7 x 10 inches on board.
|Airline||Weight (kg)||Weight (pounds)|
|Easyjet||No Limit||No Limit|
|El Al (Israel Airlines)||8||17.64|
Size F - Various other sizes
Each airline listed below has a different carry-ons policy. If you can't find your airline, please let us know in the comments section below and we will try and help.
|Airline||Size (cm)||Size (inches)||Weight (kg)||Weight (pounds)|
|Aer Lingus||55 x 40 x 24cm||21.6 x 15.7 x 9.5 inches||10||22.05|
|Air New Zealand||118cm||46.5 inches||7||15.43|
|Air Transat||51 x 40 x 23cm||20 x 15.7 x 9 inches||10||22.05|
|All Nippon Airways||55 x 40 x 25cm||21.6 x 15.7 x 9.8 inches||10||22.05|
|Cebu Pacific||56 x 35 x 23cm||22 x 13.7 x 9 inches||7||15.43|
|Czech Airlines||55 x 45 x 25cm||21.6 x 17.7 x 9.8 inches||8||17.64|
|Delta Airlines||56 x 35 x 23cm||22 x 13.7 x 9 inches||Check with airline||Check with airline|
|Emirates||55 x 38 x 20cm||21.6 x 15 x 7.8 inches||7||15.43|
|Etihad Airways||50 x 40 x 21cm||19.7 x 15.7 x 8.3 inches||7||15.43|
|Flybe||55 x 35 x 20cm||21.6 x 13.7 x 7.8 inches||10||22.05|
|Israir Airlines||50 x 40 x 20cm||19.7 x 15.7 x 7.8 inches||8||17.64|
|Japan Airlines||55 x 40 x 25cm||21.6 x 15.7 x 9.8 inches||10||22.05|
|LATAM Airlines (LAN Airlines)||45 x 35 x 20cm||17.7 x 13.7 x 7.8 inches||8||17.64|
|Malaysia Airlines||55 x 36 x 25cm||21.6 x 14 x 9.8 inches||7||15.43|
|Monarch||56 x 40 x 25cm||22 x 15.7 x 9.8 inches||10||22.05|
|Philippine Airlines||115cm||45 inches||7||15.43|
|Qatar Airways||50 x 37 x 25cm||19.7 x 14.6 x 9.8 inches||7||15.43|
|Ryanair (Priority only)||35 x 20 x 20cm||13.7 x 7.8 x 7.8 inches||Check with airline||Check with airline|
|Singapore Airlines||115cm||45 inches||7||15.43|
|Transavia||55 x 40 x 25cm||21.6 x 15.7 x 9.8 inches||10||22.05|
|Tunis Airmax||115cm||45 inches||8||17.64|
|United Airlines||56 x 35 x 22cm||22 x 13.7 x 8.6 inches||Check with airline||Check with airline|
|Wizz Air||42 x 32 x 25cm||16.5 x 12.6 x 9.8 inches||Check with airline||Check with airline|
Compare Checked-in Suitcase Sizes
Most airlines allow a checked-in suitcase to weight between 20kg (44 pounds) to 25kg (55 pounds) but the checked-in baggage allowance varies so much that it is almost impossible to collect them all.
The allowance will depend on the airline, the length of your flight (short or long-haul), sometimes the policy of the airport where you depart from, etc.
Always check with the airline before you travel and allow yourself enough time to pack your bags before you leave.
In the below table, we have collected the different sizes, capacity and recommended travel time for each checked suitcase size.
|Suitcase Size (height)||Capacity (litre)||Recommended Travel Time|
|20'' Small Suitcase||38 l||1-4 days|
|24'' Medium Suitcase||60 l||4-7 days|
|28'' Large Suitcase||90 l||7-9 days|
|30'' Extra Large Suitcase||120 l||9-14 days|
The below image shows the sizes of different suitcases.
What is the largest suitcase you can check-in on a plane?
The weight limit for the largest suitcase you can check-in is 30kg (66 pounds) per checked bag.
Size restrictions may also apply: the largest suitcase dimensions you can check on a plane is 81 x 59 x 34 cm (31 x 23 x 14 inches).
Remember, depending on your ticket class, you might have additional allowances, like extra bags, extra-large bags, etc. Please make sure to check with your airline before you travel.
How much does extra baggage cost?
If you are taking extra carry-on luggage with you on board or check an extra suitcase on the plane, you might be required to pay an 'excess baggage fee'.
The excess baggage charge can significantly vary between airlines. Excess carry on fees are normally lower than excess checked-in luggage. Also, keep an eye on potential extra fees. For example, if your extra luggage is also oversized (it's larger than the permitted checked-in luggage size) you might need to pay additional charges on top of the excess baggage fee.
Tips & Trick we learnt during our travels
Suitcases are normally very inconvenient to carry around. Always purchase the four-wheel version of larger suitcases. These are easier to roll and you don't have to lift them up.
Keep an eye on the quality. If the suitcase is bad quality, you risk the wheels to be broken by the time you arrive at your destination. Check the reviews and try to go for the suitcase with the most indented wheels.
Less is more
We found that it's sometimes better to carry one large suitcase with us instead of two or three smaller ones. However, always make sure not to overfill your suitcase and check it's weight before you travel.
Carry your valuables with you at all times
Unfortunately, it can happen that things disappear from your checked baggage. We recommend that you never put valuables into your checked baggage. Keep a small bag with you and put all your papers, electronics and valuables in there.
Hardshell vs soft case
We found that during long-haul we prefer a good, sturdy suitcase with hardshell. It will protect your items in the suitcase and won't tear or damage during handling.
Soft cases are lighter normally and easier to carry when you go for a short trip. Wrap fragile items with clothes so they survive the trip.
Travelling with batteries & drones
Most airlines and airports require you to carry the batteries with you on board in your carry-on. The batteries will be checked during security.
Some airports (we are looking at you Budapest Airport) might not allow you to carry drones on board in your carry-on. You will have to take any batteries out of the drone and place them in your carry-on separately.
Always check the regulations before you leave for both your origin and destination countries. If you transfer to a new flight, make sure to check the policy of the transfer airport & country too.
Did we forget anything?
We always try to improve the information here. If you notice any mistakes or outdated information please let us know in the comment section below.
Do you have any tips? Share it in the comments below and we will add it to the article.