The term “cabin luggage” usually applies to luggage or hand baggage brought into the cabin of an airplane, train, bus, or other travel vehicle. Cabin luggage is often restricted in size. Most of the time, it must either fit beneath a passenger’s seat or fit comfortably in an overhead storage area, if available. Carriers typically place limitations on the size and contents of the hand luggage that can be brought aboard.
Most of the time, there are two main types of luggage when traveling: stowed luggage, which is checked or otherwise left in the care of the airline or travel operator, and cabin luggage, which passengers carry with them. Cabin luggage most often includes hand luggage like purses and briefcases, laptop computers and their bags, and small overnight bags. Larger suitcases are usually required to be stowed in baggage hold areas, outside of the main cabin. This both frees up space in the cabin and prevents the hold-ups and hazards posed by larger, unwieldy bags in what are usually very cramped cabin spaces.
Cabin luggage is usually synonymous with carry-on luggage. Particularly in the airline sector, carry-on luggage is severely restricted. Bags must be of a certain dimension before gate agents will permit them to be brought on board, and passengers are usually limited to one — at most two — pieces. Additional pieces, awkwardly shaped pieces, or pieces that will not comfortably fit in the overhead compartment are usually required to be checked.
Each carrier's individual luggage restrictions must be kept in mind when buying cabin luggage. Airlines have been known to measure bags before allowing them onto the plane, which means that size really does matter. Some luggage sets come with designated carry-on pieces, and any luggage retailers will sell pieces labeled as "carry-on ready." Still, it is always up to the customer to make sure that what the luggage store calls carry-on sized and what the airline calls carry-on sized are the same.
Savvy travelers are often able to pack everything they need for their journey within the small luggage allotments provided. This usually requires a minimalist approach to packing and an eye for squeezing a lot of clothes and shoes into tight spaces. An advantage of packing everything into carry-on bags is that, once the plane or train arrives, all a passenger need do is grab his bags and disembark: no waiting at luggage carousels or dealing with lost luggage lines. Cabin luggage is usually always free to bring, as well. Most carriers charge a per-piece fee for checked baggage.