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Rick Steves Carry-on size question

I'm flying IcelandAir and only taking a carry on and a "personal item". The measurements for the the carry on cannot exceed 21.6" x. 15.7" x 7.8". Looking at Rick Steves Carry on Backpack and the Classic Travel Backpack, it lists sizes as 21"x14"9" but also talks about it being expandable by another 2". So does that mean it EXPANDS to 9" (thus really 7"when not expanded) or Expands to 11" (and really 9" not expanded)? I'm only allowed 22lbs, so his lightweight carryon looks very good to me! Any other suggestions?

Posted by
156 posts

I have never flown IcelandAir, but from what I’ve read here, the RS carryon bags (wheeled and non) seem to pass muster on a lot of European carriers. My experience was with Norwegian, and I was careful to follow the rules, though I made my Veloce backpack/shoulder bag “squishable” enough to fit in their sizers. That and the RS rolling bag made it both ways (LAX-CDG and back) with no hassle.

Posted by
41 posts

The convertible carry on backpack, when expanded, is 11". The nice things are the external compression straps. You can usually cinch them down enough to thin out your bag to the required depth. I love my bag, it has served me well on several trips

Posted by
205 posts

We flew IcelandAir last year and yes they do measure it and weigh. We used the Appenzell backpack for a carry on and checked a half packed carryon size roller. They did check and I even saw a person in first class get her oversize carryon measured at the gate and then had to check it. It was just a little big, I am sure the normal 22x14x9 but that is not IcelandAir size. Each airline definitely is a different bag packing decision. 22 pounds was easy compared to the 13 pounds allowed by Condor.

Posted by
7898 posts

I love it when a crabby gate agent asks me to put my bag in "the rack" to make an example of me.
I ask how large the bag can be and all I get is "put it in the rack." Then they tell me they're going to charge my credit card $50 because the bag must be checked--because my 21" bag is 22" with the wheels. Otherwise it fits in "the rack."
When I argue that I came over to Europe on the same plane, and my bag fit fine then in the overhead rack, they say "but it's taller than the line on the rack. I have to check it.
What's worse is when I get on the plane without my carryon bag, there's another 100+ people with larger bags than me trying to get them to fit in the overhead racks.
Sometimes I lose the argument with the gate agent, and sometimes they get tired of messing with me and let my 1": too long bag go through.

Posted by
1259 posts

I’ve noticed here—and on other discussion forums where this topic comes up—that every airline’s sizing enforcement policy is different. And every gate attendant has a different way of interpreting that policy and whether or not to actively enforce it on you. If your bag does not fit the sizer, you are going to be forced to pay to check it. But you might not ever be told to put it in the sizer. I don’t think there is a reliable way to push the odds of that not happening in your favor.

Posted by
14150 posts

Kegpot.....the two bags you mention are soft sided carry ons. They are not rigid bags. How thick they are depends on how you pack them. If you don't pack them to the extreme, and use the cinch straps you should be able to meet the Icelandair carry on size limits.

When empty, the bag is fairly flat. The dimensions of 21 x 14 are the same full or empty. It's that 9" that is "adjustable".

I have flown Icelandair a few times and the only place I've seen them check bags is at JFK. Never in Iceland. Nor in London.

Posted by
7845 posts

My friend got the classic travel backpack and then hated it all through Europe. Really wished for a roller bag.

Posted by
92 posts

I have a nearly identical bag I use as carry on. What I can tell you after over 25 plus years of travel in Europe and the US is that you should always be prepared to check your bag. I always carefully measure and weigh my bag to make sure it will fit the strictest Airlines size requirements listed on my itinerary, but have on occasion been told that all overhead bin space is full. I make sure whatever I absolutely need is in a bag that will fit under the seat in front of me....just in case. Have a great trip!

Posted by
2644 posts

We have been using a pair of RS convertibles since 2010, 1-2 Euro trips per year, and occasional domestic. And we go 2 weeks on these. Have never had an issue, have only once or twice had to put them in the sizer. They are soft and no wheels, always will fit. The closest we have ever come to having to check one is when a gate agent in Europe told my wife hers is too big. Why? She is 5'1", so it looks too big on her back. And each time I turned around and pointed out that it is the identical pack to mine that was not questioned on my back, and told them we were going ahead and they could watch how it fit in the rack without an issue.
We were weighed and sized by Icelandair this May, but we chalked that up to it being in Newark, no one batted an eye at us coming home from Keflavik.

Posted by
7 posts

You all are a wealth of knowledge !! Thanks. Looks like I'm going to keep looking for something that definitely fits in their regulations sizewise. I've got about 2 months to get this nailed down! thanks again.........Kris

Posted by
7 posts

I just ordered the convertible carry on. I am concerned I made a mistake in not ordering the roller carry on. I am a small build woman 5'2". I don't want to regret my choice. How difficult is it to use it as a backpack?

Posted by
2170 posts

A person's size, or even age, matter less than strength and fitness when it comes to using a backpack.

Can you carry a fully loaded bag on your back for the amounts of time you will need to do that? Only you know the answer to that.