Luggage Sizing Guide for International Travel - 2019

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

Many of us love to travel.

Some of us live for it.

Travelling broadens our horizons, it teaches us about different cultures, allows us to meet new people, it gives us the ability to discover new places and it makes the world seem smaller.

A trip has the power to change a life.

However, that is where the similarities end.

No two people travel in exactly the same way.  Just as we have different reasons for travelling, we also all have diverse ways of travelling.   We also don’t all have the knack for packing and travelling, while looking like a superstar.  Some of us needs some help.

Here it is.  A comprehensive guide to help in choosing your correct size of luggage and how to pack like a professional packer.

In 1989, the first suitcase with wheels was pushed through airport terminals.  No more carrying till your arms felt they wanted to break off – just pure whirring.  No sweat.  Bliss.

Are you in the market for new luggage?

Okay, so you’re going on a trip and you need to buy some luggage.

Nope, they aren’t all the same.

The type of luggage you buy will depend on the kind of traveller you are.

We all know about 9/11 and how all the hijackers involved managed to pass airport checkpoints and board the aeroplanes that were used in the attacks, without incident.

In the months and years after the attacks, security at airports worldwide was significantly stepped up in order to deter any future terrorist attacks.

A lot has changed with regards to airline security restrictions and luggage restrictions. Baggage is screened by x-ray machines and so are all passengers.  Passengers also pass through metal detectors before boarding a plane or after arriving at their destination, depending on the country they are flying from.

Air travel has not become cheaper during the last few years – quite the opposite.

An avid traveller needs to do everything they can to make the most of what airlines have to offer, and this includes making the most of what is included in the cost of their air ticket, without accruing extra costs.

Checked baggage

More often than not, most international airlines will allow a standard passenger to have one checked bag and have one carry-on bag on their person.  However, depending on your ticket type, you might be allowed two bags on your person, but more about that later.  The checked luggage is weighed before boarding during check-in and is stored in the cargo area of the aeroplane.  You can basically pack whatever you want in there.  You need to make the most of the size permitted.

62 linear

A maximum weight is included in the cost of an air ticket on average, looking at airlines across the globe, the average maximum weight seems to be limited to 50 pounds or 22.6 kilograms, per checked bag or suitcase.  However, this specification also has a size restriction, measured in linear or total inches.

Nothing compares to the financial pain you feel when, after hurling your huge suitcase all the way from the car, up the elevators, pulling it (or carrying it if you live under a rock and haven’t heard of ‘wheelies’ before) all the way to the check-in counter, only to have them hit you with a nice, fat extra baggage bill. - To be paid on the spot.


There goes your spending money.

Although all airlines are different, most airlines have a standard specification for the maximum size of the checked luggage, and the norm or standard across the board is 62 linear.

What does this mean?

62 linear means the total amount of inches, measured on the outside measurements of your luggage, all added up and the total of all these measurements is not to exceed, or be more than, 62 inches.  In total.  If you don’t work in inches, the total amount of your suitcase’s measurements may not exceed 158cm.

Linear simply refers to the sum total of all the cubic dimensions of your bag, or suitcase.  Like a cube, measured in inches by length + breadth + width = linear inches.

 Luggage Sizing Guide for International Travel - 2019

Now this measurement needs to be measured specifically and also has a maximum weight.  If you look at the picture above, the height of the luggage, or for reference sake, the ‘long’ dimension in the picture, plus the width of the suitcase added to the length.  This measurement must be taken from the top of the baggage – the handle’s furthest reaching point when tucked in, right down to the floor – this includes the dimensions of the wheels, which will also take up space in the cargo hold, of course.

Not only the actual size of the suitcase, or ‘packing space’, but the total amount of free space will your luggage be taking up.  So wheels, handles, straps, padding all included – should be no more than 62 inches.

Most airlines don’t physically measure your baggage with a ruler as such, but there are metal strips that are set as guidelines at the baggage weigh-in counter.  Also, the airline personnel are clued up and can spot luggage that sticks out or doesn’t conform, a mile away.   So don’t take a chance, rather stick to the specified linear measurements and you will be fine.

What to choose?

Luggage and air travel has come a long way from the 1950’s and quite frankly, I’m happy I wasn’t born yet.


Imagine having pistons – not jet engines.

Imagine hearing the engines make a hell of a racket – through your entire flight!

Imagine flying with an enormous vibration – the whole way.

Imagine turbulence – that could snap your neck!

As much free alcohol as you could drink.

Smoking was totally acceptable – really!

Did I mention that they had no Wi-Fi?

No movie screens?

You also didn’t need to show your identification documents.

Ah, the good ole’ days!

The luggage was another story, however.  You would find a porter somewhere in the airport, point to your luggage, pay him a tip and he would take your luggage where it needed to go – silently following you.

Conveyor belts, or baggage carousels, weren’t installed in airports till the late 1950’s, so retrieving your luggage was a much bigger problem than it is now.

Fabric and Design

We have come a long way from the ugly brown square boxes now fondly known as ‘vintage luggage’ and found in the back of your granny’s cupboard five years after she has passed away.  Modern luggage is simply beautiful.

It’s a competition between manufacturers and famous brand names, all the while keeping the consumer’s demands in mind.  It has become an art to design luggage and brands focus on quality, creativity and offering the savvy consumer many choices.  Luggage today is hip, it’s sexy and it’s a status symbol.  Prices range from next-to-nothing for cheap knock-offs all the way up to the price of a small car.

Do you want your luggage to be chic and feminine?

Practical and tech-savvy?

Impenetrable to boot

Roll seamlessly next to you

Charge your phone?


Luggage in one word, should be PERFECT.

What kind of traveller are you?

Business Traveller / Professional Traveller

Budget-Savvy / Digital Nomad

Travelling Couple

Long-term travellers / Holidaymakers / Family with children


The Business Traveller Sizing Guide

If you’re a business traveller and your trip will not be long, you might consider only taking cabin luggage.  If your stay will be longer, you would need to choose practical luggage.

Why choose a suitcase instead of a backpack?


The most important factor – you want to look professional when going on a business trip.  You’re not backpacking.


Suitcases are easier to manoeuvre and you won’t feel like you’ve been to the gym after checking in.


Oh, it’s all about the wheelies.  Nothing beats rolling your suitcase past the other not-so-lucky passengers softly.  If you have lots of luggage to take, why not get yourself a rolling briefcase?


Be kind to your back.  Don’t skimp and choose a suitcase without wheels.


A suitcase can be organised better, because it’s square.  Zip it open and have a clear view of everything you’ve packed.  What could be easier?


Hard suitcases have come out tops over softer fabrics.  They look better, last longer and keep your valuables safe.


The Digital Nomad

Where to next?  Depending on where your next stop is, the digital nomad needs to stay connected to the internet.

It’s a backpack!


You don’t need to look professional – you’re a nomad and budget-savvy to boot.  Choose a sturdy backpack, because you probably don’t want to pay for extra luggage.


Backpacks are easy to sling over your shoulder. Choose one with a built in USB port.

Health and Wheels

If you’re a digital nomad with a bad back, add on some wheels.


Travel light.  As a nomad, you need to pack only the bare necessities.  Packing tubes can help you keep your stuff organised.


Backpacks aren’t normally made of hard materials.  Keep your laptop and your electronic devices with you in the carry-on luggage.


 Travelling Couple

You and your beau going away for a weekend break?  We’re jealous!  If you prefer to pack light, choose a medium suitcase.  However if one of you takes along a lot of stuff, choose a large suitcase.


Depending on how much luggage you need to pack, choose either a medium or large suitcase.  A medium suitcase you can check in with ease but in most cases, carry it on-board.


A medium suitcase will usually be sufficient to carry clothes for 2 people for 2-3 days.  The medium-sized suitcase measures 24 inches (68 cm) in height and has a capacity of about 75 litres.


Want to take along some gadgets?  Simply size up, from a medium to a large suitcase.  A large suitcase measures about 74 cm or 24 inches in height and has a capacity of about 117 litres.  You can pack the kitchen sink too!


It depends totally on you.  If you’re packing gadgets, rather go for a hard shell.  If you’re only taking clothes for a few days, fabric will do just fine.


Long-Term Travellers / Holidaymakers / Family with Children

Nothing beats the excitement of going away for a long holiday. It’s something that children remember for the rest of their lives and adults save up for during the year.  It’s simply the best family time.


If you’re lucky enough to be able to go away for a few weeks, choose between 2-piece and 2-piece luggage sets.  How many children you have makes a big difference in the selection process.


Always aim for the 4-wheel spinners when it comes to large suitcases.  They are just easier to handle and make a big difference when moving them.


For the little extras, get a backpack for everyone.  It’s included in your ticket and can go as carry-on luggage.  Pack the children’s toys, phones and valuables in there.  Keep these with you.


Hard shell or soft shell totally depends on your travel distance, your stop-overs and how long you want the luggage to last.  Choose wisely.


Carry-on luggage

As a passenger, you need to make the most of what your ticket offers you and this includes the specification of luggage on your person.

The phrase ‘’hand luggage‘’ or ‘’cabin luggage’’ (commonly referred to as ‘’carry-on’’ in the USA) refers to the type of luggage that passengers are permitted to carry along on their person in the passenger compartment of the aeroplane.

This type of luggage does not need to be stored in the cargo hold.  Passengers are permitted a limited number of smaller bags that contain valuable items they might need during the flight.

This luggage is stored in the overhead compartments of the aeroplane – above your head - and most airlines also have a standard size they prefer.  Some airlines also allow this type of luggage to be stored under your seat.

Some business passengers only take carry-on luggage when they travel, especially on short trips.  The reason for this is that business trips often have time constraints and taking too much luggage simply wastes time.  Hand luggage is then the answer.

It’s also the most economical answer, when you might have already exceeded the limit for checked baggage.

What size should your carry-on luggage be?

According to IATA, the set guidelines for hand luggage should be as mentioned below, however this is simply a general guideline and most airlines have their own specifications.

Cabin baggage should have a maximum length of 56 cm (22 inches), width of 45 cm (18 inches) and depth of 25 cm (10 inches) including all handles, side pockets, wheels etc.

The weight of the luggage will more often than not depend on the type of aeroplane being used or the booking class of your ticket.  Business Class and First class passengers are allowed to carry on one average sized hand luggage or cabin luggage bag together with another of either the same size or a smaller size – whichever is relevant.

Most carry-ons sold today measure 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches.

This is a linear of 45 inches.

To make sure your carry-on bag fits, you would need to measure all its dimensions.  Length from floor to the highest point, the width at its widest point and the depth of the total bag. If the pockets bulge after packing, measure those too.  Some luggage manufacturers advise you to not include the wheels and the handles when measuring your luggage, but I strongly advise that you measure those too.  After all, they take up space, don’t they?

Whichever type of luggage you choose, there will be a bag or suitcase to suit your needs.

Don’t stop travelling, ever.


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