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Lunch Bags

San Pedro, CA
Level Contributor
140 posts
3 reviews
Lunch Bags

I asked this question about 4 years ago and thought I'd ask it again to see what current "conditions" are. Has anyone had problems, or known anyone who did, boarding with a small, soft-sided, collapsible, lunch sack/cooler? Ours are maybe 9" long, 6" wide and 6" tall with shoulder straps. Just wondered if they'd try to count a lunch tote as a third item. We have taken these lunch sacks with us many times, but this February leaving Kauai for Honolulu we were told by the gate agent that we needed to stuff the sacks into our luggage because the flight attendants wouldn't let us on with three items. I muttered to my husband to just keep walking and we'd deal with the sacks at the door to the plane if someone called us on it, and they didn't. We are about to head off to Chicago on American this weekend, lunch sacks in hand. Because I'm a worrywort and we are pretty good about travelling light, there will no doubt be room to spare in our luggage if need be.

Thank you,

Yorktown, Virginia
Level Contributor
6,183 posts
15 reviews
8 helpful votes
1. Re: Lunch Bags

I would think it would count as a 3rd carry-on item, since a woman's purse counts as one. I've never seen anything that exempts a lunch tote from being counted as one item.

Honestly, I think it would depend on the airline & the staff working that day, when it comes down to it. But don't get too upset if you get caught & you can't take the 3rd item on the plane!

Garden Bay, Canada
Destination Expert
for Air Travel, Business Travel
Level Contributor
10,696 posts
106 reviews
155 helpful votes
2. Re: Lunch Bags

Yes, it is a third item. The pre-TSA line guards (airport employees/contractprs), will see it and point at it shouting "three! three!"

Level Contributor
136 posts
3. Re: Lunch Bags

Both my husband and I carry a very thin insulated lunch bag (no bulky pockets or design) but we carry it within our carry-on bag. I actually carry mine within my purse which is usually larger for traveling. It makes the bag a bit heavier initially but by the time we get to our destination we have eaten our lunch and the lunch bag is just collapsed folding completely flat. We then use it while we are on holidays, one time it was a makeshift ice bucket. I personally would never attempt to take on 3 items, I would be uncomfortable with the stares from the self appointed carry on police, lol, plus I generally always follow the rules then there are no worries.

Destination Expert
for Milwaukee
Level Contributor
12,675 posts
63 reviews
106 helpful votes
4. Re: Lunch Bags

Let me see if I have this straight, you have a carry on bag, a purse and a lunch bag and you want to know how many items you are carrying on? Let me get out my calculator. Yep, that's three.

I guess what you are really asking is even though you know you are violating the airline's policy can you get away with it? No one here can answer that for you.

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
Level Contributor
35,708 posts
7 reviews
16 helpful votes
5. Re: Lunch Bags

Yes it's a third item, so the airlines can call you on it. So be prepared to have to stuff it in your carry on.

That said, given that you're flying on one of the legacy US carriers, who usually let people on with a kitchen sink as the carry on and a trombone as the personal item, I'd rate the chances of you actually being called up at about 0.0001%!!!

South Pole
Level Contributor
15,381 posts
35 reviews
177 helpful votes
6. Re: Lunch Bags

it seems usa legacy airlines dont care how much and what size the carryon is until the OH bins are full and then they just gate check it unless it fits under the seat in front of you. and even that space may be taken up by the pax sitting next to you if u r among the last to board.

i agree with usbt but would have added a few more noughts after the decimal point.

Edited: 1:49 am, April 04, 2012
Yorkshire Dales
Level Contributor
5,856 posts
38 reviews
59 helpful votes
7. Re: Lunch Bags

My flight bag is a soft, padded freezer bag that is the optimum size for carry on size on most airlines.......Very useful for picnics when on holiday.

It's quite smart , for a cooler bag.

Anyway, what does it matter? It does solve the problem of packing it in yet another piece of baggage. :O)

Edited: 4:04 am, April 04, 2012
8. Re: Lunch Bags

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Level Contributor
9,126 posts
1 review
2 helpful votes
9. Re: Lunch Bags

Why wouldn't it count as a third carry-on? Is there some exemption in the rules that I didn't notice? If you have so much room in your other carry-ons, why not just put it in one of those?

San Pedro, CA
Level Contributor
140 posts
3 reviews
10. Re: Lunch Bags

Just to clarify, we have traveled more than a dozen times with our "third item" lunch totes. Once someone in the security line asked "is that food?" and when we say "yes" they wave us through and just recently the gate agent told us we'd have problems at the door of the plane, and we didn't. Just wanted to see what others' current experiences were. When I asked this question several years ago responders pointed out that both American, and I think Delta, clearly spelled out you could have separate food with you (I have not looked at the airline websites). My point of departure then was people going through security with big bags from Subway or McDonalds, so why would my 9"x6"collapsible tote be an issue. And yes, I've seen TSA make a woman with a smaller than usual wheeled tote, a very small makeup tote and a teeny, tiny clutch purse stuff her clutch in her suitcase ahead of me while I'm standing there with the bigger size roll aboard and a huge purse (no lunch that time) ready to take up much more space than she would.