You know the feeling of flying a regional jet.
Ducking your head to get in, scrunching up your knees to fit in the seat, and hoping your bag will fit into that tiny little space provided overhead for carry-on bags. Only to find out that you will have to gate check your bag and wait in that “anything but climate controlled” line on the jet bridge to retrieve it.
Well, hope no longer. We can’t make the cabin any bigger, but we can help you find the best carry-on luggage that will fit in a regional jet and allow you to travel with a one bag.
In this comprehensive guide to carry-on luggage for regional jets, we’ll give you some tips for finding a bag that will fit and make a few recommendations of the bags we like for carrying on a regional jet.
The joy of flying regions jets…
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of each bag, let’s talk about regional jets. As you know, they’re small. Some are smaller than others, like the Embraer ERJ-145 (American Airlines / American Eagle) CRJ-700 and CRJ-200 (Delta Airlines / Delta Connection). While others have a bit more room, like Bombardier’s new CRJ-900 (Delta Airlines).
Either way, the fact of the matter is that the small size makes you feel a bit confined, and being a small aircraft, the storage space is very limited.
Part of the reason for the limitation isn’t just the size of the aircraft, it has to do with the balance of the plane. Without going into all of the physics, the weight of a plane is very important for optimal flying conditions so an off-balance, heavy-for-its-size plane can be dangerous.
Before take-off, the pilots and crew members have to consider these factors, plus the plane is designed with a certain weight of the cabin in mind, which includes an estimate of how much each bag will weigh.
Packing an extra sweater or jacket isn’t going to throw off the whole plane, but understanding why a small carry-on is necessary might make the experience a bit more tolerable.
That said, the difference of a few inches can make or break what fits in your bag. If you need to fit that extra suit or pair of shoes, then a high quality, well-thought out bag, that maximizes space will help you bring everything you need.
Knowing the size of the storage space available ahead of time, and that your bag is definitely going to fit before you go, can save a lot of frustration when flying.
There is one more consideration that is important to point out before we get into our tips for choosing your bag. Apart from the space available, many airlines prohibit traditional roller bags from being stored in the cabin of a regional jet. If the bag is a standard sized roller-board, the airline will gate-check it for free. But if you weren’t expecting to check the bag or if you’re in a big hurry, an unexpected gate-check can put a damper on the trip, so we prefer bags that we are fairly certain aren’t going to get gate-checked because of shape or size.
Domestic Airline Carry-On Policies and Restrictions
Below are links to the carry-on policies of the major domestic airlines. Many state that you will have to gate-check your bag on regional aircraft, but my experience has been that as long as it fits overhead there is no issue carrying on. The reality is that most travelers bags will not fit, so that airline statement is generally accurate.
- Alaska Airlines Carry-On Policy
- Allegient Airlines Carry-On Policy
- American Airlines Carry-On Policy
- Delta Airlines Carry-On Policy
- Frontier Airlines Carry-On Policy
- Hawaiian Airlines Carry-On Policy
- JetBlue Airlines Carry-On Policy
- Spirit Airlines Carry-On Policy
- United Airlines Carry-On Policy
How to pick a regional jet carry-on bag
When evaluating a carry-on, you will need to take three factors into consideration: size, shape and features. No bag can shine in all three, but keeping in mind why each element is necessary can help you consider which is your highest priority.
The most limiting factor is size. In general, if a carry-on is going to fit into a regional jet, it should be less than 18”L x 14”W x 7”D to fit into the overhead bin. While there are a few newer regional jets that are starting to have slightly larger spaces for carry-on bags, it's a good idea to follow these size guidelines, as the majority of regional jets in circulation today will still have small overhead bins. The under-seat space is a little bit more variable depending on the plane, but if the carry on is small than 18”L x 14”W x 7”D, it will fit somewhere, for sure.
As mentioned earlier, traditional sized roller-board’s are not a good choice for regional jets because you will probably have to gate-check them. But, a roller-board isn’t your only carry-on option. Duffel bags, backpacks and small “under seat” roller bags can all be great options, depending on what you need to pack and how you want to carry it. We’ve included a few different shapes and bag sizes, so you can get an idea of what some different options might look like.
Inside Features of the Bag:
Laptop sleeves, passport covers, liquids bags, built-in dividers, garment bags, water bottle pockets… the choices are endless. Sometimes, though, the simplest, no-fuss bag is also the best. Traveling with a laptop can take up a lot of space and requires some extra care, so if you travel frequently with a laptop, a bag with a compartment for your computer might be priority, whereas if you generally just pack your clothes and toiletries, other bags might be a better choice to maximize space keep your bag light. Considering the situations you will be traveling in will help you prioritize if you really need that extra feature, or not.
So, without further ado, we’re going to walk you through our top five favorite regional-jet-sized carry-on bags. Not all small bags are created equal, and these are the ones that we’ve found stand up to the test. If you’re interested in getting yourself one, just click on the bag’s name and check it out on Amazon.
The Best Carry-On Luggage for Regional Jets
The three types of carry-on luggage that will fit into a regional jet's overhead compartment are duffel bags, travel backpacks and small roller board bags.
Here are our picks in each one of the three categories:
The Best Roller Bags for Regional Jets:
1. Travelpro Crew 11 16″ Rolling Tote Suitcase
This bag is in the style of the bags that you often see flight attendants traveling with – the Travelpro Crew 11 16” Rolling Tote Suitcase. It is super space efficient, but still capable of carrying clothing that needs to arrive in good shape. It’s also very easy to travel with because it is a roller bag but it is also tiny enough that it is the ideal bag for travelers on regional jets (check out the amazon reviews – many travelers confirm that it fits in the overhead bin of many regional jets, including CRJ-200, CRJ-700 and ERJ-145 commuter jets). The design is well thought out, including a laptop sleeve and small pouch for other important items, while leaving the maximum space for clothing.
The only downside we could come up with for this bag is that when you fill up both compartments, it can be downright impossible to close, so you might have to sacrifice a bit of clothes space to fit your laptop.
Where to buy the Travelpro Crew 11 Rolling Tote Suitcase:
2. Briggs & Riley Baseline Rolling Cabin Bag
The Biggs & Riley Baseline Rolling Cabin Bag is a simple, reliable choice that will last many trips. The bag is small enough to comfortably come along as a carry on in a regional jet, but at the same time is also big enough to fit a medium-sized laptop and a few items of clothing. It's perfect for overnight trips.
The laptop sleeve is simple and sleek, divided from the rest of the bag for easy access during security checks, and the main compartment is firm and large.
It is constructed with ballistic nylon fabric, self-repairing YKK zippers and features an aircraft grade aluminum telescoping handle system and smooth rolling wheels for easy mobility.
Where to buy the Briggs & Riley Baseline Rolling Cabin Bag:
3. TravelPro MaxLite 4 21″ Expandable Spinner
The TravelPro Maxlite 4 Expandable Spinner is a great carry-on for those 3-4 day trips. I use it all the time when flying Delta CRJ-700 and CRJ-900 Regional Jets. While everyone else is tagging and dropping their bags off outside the plane, I tell the gate agent there is no need for a tag, I know this easily fits in the overhead storage bin. The only caveat is if you pack to the point that you have to use the Expandable zippers. Once it is expanded, it won't easily fit into a CRJ-700 Overhead bin.
I love the Spinner wheels too! The 360-degree Spinners roll effortlessly in any direction you want which makes cruising through the airport a breeze.
The MaxLite series comes in multiple sizes. If you want the one that fits bests in regional jets, make sure to buy the 21 inch model.
Also, note that TravelPro has replaced the MaxLite 4 with the MaxLite 5. They are basically the same thing, the MaxLite 5 is just the latest model (21″ version).
Where to buy the Travelpro MaxLite 4 Expandable Suitcase:
Check out this video to learn a little more….
The Best Travel Duffel Bags for Regional Jets:
4. Hook & Albert Garment Weekender Bag
This bag is a business traveler’s dream. The Hook & Albert Garment Weekender Bag designed to function both as a garment bag and as a weekender bag, meaning that one section of the bag has a fairly typical garment bag design, with space to pack a suit, and even slide in your dress shoes, and then when you fold the garment bag back in, you’re left with a small space to pack any other items that you need. It’s ideal for traveling with dress clothes, without needing to have a separate garment bag.
The flexibility of this bag in terms of what you can use it for is by far the best part, but it isn’t without its flaws. The bag comes in of both a 100% leather and a leather / twill combination. It is well constructed, but the convenience comes at a price – the many compartments produce a bag with a lot of fabric, which can make it a bit heavy for some users. It also isn’t the easiest bag to unpack; in order to reach the garment section, you must essentially unzip and disassemble the bag, removing any items in the weekender section.
Where to buy the Hook & Albert Garment Weekender Bag:
5. Filson Rolling Duffle – Small
Minimalism meets utility in the Filson Rolling Duffel. The bag is super easy to transport, because it is actually a roller bag disguised as a duffel. You can choose to lug it around by the upper straps when you need to, and then convert it to a roller when possible to lighten the load. The bag is quite large, allowing for more than enough space for multiple outfits and a laptop and whatever else you might need. It’s also made of twill and leather, lined with cotton, so it will hold up through your travels.
Despite the ease of the simplicity of this bag, some might find that a duffel lacks organization – with no garment section and no laptop pouch, some people might be frustrated with their things just floating around inside the bag. If that’s you, consider adding some packing cubes or an organizing pouch to make this bag work for you.
The only potential problem with this bag is that it is on the large side, and in some cases, it might be just a little too big for some regional jets. If you’re okay with the possibility of a gate-check, if it means you’ll have way more room, then this is the bag for you. That said, as long as you don't pack it all the way, it should squeeze right into the bin, just like any duffel bag will.
Where to buy the Filson Rolling Duffel Bag:
The Best Business Travel Backpacks for Regional Jets:
6. eBags Professional Weekender Carry-On Backpack
The keyword for eBags Professional Weekender Carry-on Backpack is design. It has every feature that a business traveler could ever dream of combined into one backpack. From a passport sleeve to a TSA friendly laptop sleeve (meaning it’s super easy to access because of a special zipper that opens right to the laptop sleeve, making security a breeze), and two sectioned off clothing pockets (sized perfectly for packing cubes), this bag really has it all. It even has a specific place for a charging brick. The bag is also convertible to a briefcase or cross-body bag, making it very flexible for carrying.
Some might say that this bag actually has too many features, which wastes space. Of course, it really depends on what you need the bag for, but if you aren’t traveling with lots of gadgets to zip into your backpack, this might not be the best bag for you. There have also been a few complaints that the backpack straps aren’t particularly comfortable, especially for a bag that can get quite heavy.
Where to buy the eBags Professional Weekender Backpack:
We hope we’ve been able to guide you a bit in your search for the perfect carry-on bag for regional jets. The next time you fly, even if your legs are cramped and you’re ducking down to navigate the plane, at least you can feel assured that your new carry-on bag will fit.