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International Carry-on Regulations Versus US Domestic Carry-on Restrictions

When it comes to carry-on luggage guidelines, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires the same things of international and domestic travelers. The 3-1-1 rule dictates that travelers can only carry on toiletries in bottles that hold three ounces or less. Bottles must all be packed into one quart-sized zip-top bag, and each passenger is permitted only one bag, with a few exceptions. After being implemented during the wake of a liquid explosive bomb plot in the United Kingdom, the 3-1-1 regulation is now widely accepted by many international airport security systems.

International travelers returning to the United States should check with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to determine whether they are restricted from carrying on snack items like fruits, vegetables and canned or dried meats. Every fruit or vegetable must be declared to a CBP officer, regardless of how safe or pest-free it may look.Bakery items, chocolate and cured cheeses are generally allowed, but may be examined by CBP officials.

Customs carry-on guidelines for food can change frequently, so CBP officials occasionally call on agricultural experts to determine whether a food product should be admitted into the country.

Standard size limits for carry on luggage is different for travel outside of the U.S. The universally accepted carry on size for domestic flights is 22" x 14" x 9". That being said anyone who has frequented short haul commuter flights will tell you that this size bag often will not fit into the overhead compartment and thus ends up being checked at the gate anyway. We have not heard at this time that anyone has been charged for a checked bag as a result of this but then things are changing daily in the airline industry. At this point you probably cannot trust what used to be standard practice and should make a point to check out your airline's web site in advance to find out the latest regulations.

Outside of the U.S. the standard carry on size is smaller. (This relates to flights originating outside the U.S. and with a destination outside the U.S. Flights originating in the U.S. with foreign destinations and flights originating outside the U.S. with a U.S. destination generally use the U.S. standard for carry on size.) Here the rule of thumb is about 20", not the 22" above. But as with any rule exceptions abound and it is a good idea to visit the site of all of the carriers you plan to use while abroad to get a consensus. If you travel outside the U.S. on a regular basis or are looking to purchase a bag for someone who does, you might want to consider replacing the standard domestic sized carry on bag in your set with an international carry on sized bag. In terms of what the two bags will actually hold the difference is not that great and it may add some flexibility in your travels.