How to Measure a Suitcase for Airline Travel

by Holly McGurgan

Airlines in the United States and throughout the world enforce strict policies regarding luggage size. Luggage can't exceed specific requirements for size or weight, or you will be required to pay an additional fee. Some airlines use a sliding scale to determine fees for overweight or oversize luggage. Those bags that are extremely large or heavy might be assessed a higher fee than bags that are just slightly more than the limit. You can avoid paying these extra charges by taking the time to learn how to measure a suitcase for airline travel.

Measuring a Suitcase:

How to Measure a Suitcase for Airline Travel

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  1. Use a tape measure.

    Use a tape measure to determine the dimensions of each piece of luggage. Measure the length, width and height of your suitcase and write down the numbers. You will want to use inches, not feet, for your measurements. Airlines use total inches to determine maximum allowable luggage size.

  2. Measure everything.

    Include protruding handles and wheels in your measurements. If your suitcase has an expandable outer pocket, try measuring it when the pocket is empty and filled. While the suitcase may fall within the size limits when the expandable pocket is not in use, it might be too large when the pocket is filled.

  3. Compare.

    Compare the total size of your luggage to the maximum size allowed by your airline. If your number is higher than the airline's number, you will be charged an extra fee. You can find your airline's baggage policy by calling the airline or checking the airline's Website.

  4. Weigh it.

    Weigh your bag after you pack it to determine if it is too heavy. If you have a small bathroom scale, you can get a general idea of the weight of your suitcase by stepping on the scale without the suitcase and noting your weight. Step back on the scale while you are holding the suitcase and note this number. Subtract the difference between the numbers for an approximate weight of your bag.

  5. Don't forget your carry-on.

    Check airline requirements for carry-on luggage and make sure that your bag meets the requirements.