Under seat carry on

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The 10 Best Underseat Carry-On Bags for Basic Economy

Flying Basic Economy is not anyone’s first choice, but the savings can sometimes be too good to pass up. While most legacy carriers include a full-size carry-on bag when traveling with a Basic Economy ticket, there’s one exception; United, along with several budget airlines, that require your carry-on bag to be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.

Carry-On Bags That Fit Underneath Your Seat

Have a look at these 10 top-rated underseat carry-on bags that fit the free “personal item” dimensions of carriers like Allegiant, Frontier, Flair Air, Porter, Spirit, Sun Country, Swoop, and United. Whether you like to roll your bag onboard, schlep it over your shoulder, or carry on your back, there’s a bag for every type of traveler.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 15” Lightweight Carry-On Rolling Under Seat Bag

Size: 17.5 x 14.5 x 8.5 inches

This bag is packed with organization including a padded laptop or tablet sleeve, removable toiletry compartment, and quick-access external pockets. The interior is large enough to carry what you need for a quick weekend away or an extended trip as a minimalist. Think of it as your office on wheels.

Amazon User Review: “Great little bag. Has many pockets and compartments. Can get quite a bit in it. Very compact and well organized bag. Light weight and fits perfectly under the seat in front of you on just about any airplane. Plus, as a flight attendant, I can tell you, you can’t beat Travelpro.”

Price: Starting at $101.97 on Amazon

Average Star Rating: 4.3

Lewis N. Clark Underseat Carry-on Backpack

Size: 18 x 11.8 x 6.5 inches

This sleek looking backpack is designed to keep you organized while fitting all of your belongings underneath an airline seat. This backpack is made with 840D ballistic nylon so it’s able to handle any travel conditions. And the RFID blocking pocket will keep your sensitive information safe. Best of all, the bag only weighs one pound so you’ll easily be able to keep the total weight under any limits that may be imposed by the airlines. There’s also a sling style backpack if you prefer.

Amazon User Review: “It is just the right size to go under the seat when traveling, small enough to be considered a personal item, but large enough to store all of my essentials.”

Price: Starting at $49.95 on Amazon

Average Star Rating: 4.6

Samsonite Wheeled Underseater

Size: 16 x 13 x 7.5 inches (large); 14 x 12.5 x 9 (small)

This bag comes in two different sizes. Both are small enough to fit underneath an airline seat even though some reviews claim the large version is technically too big. You’ll likely not have any issues with either bag and be able to fit slightly more things in the large version. With a removable hanging organizer pouch and a 3-1-1 pouch for toiletries, you’ll whisk through the security checkpoint and easily board the plane without the need to search for overhead bin space.

Amazon User Review: “The bonus with this Underseater bag is that you don’t have to fight for overhead bin space and you can be on your way quickly without wasting time at baggage claim. At check in go straight to the checkpoint.”

Price: Starting at $56.50 on Amazon

Average Star Rating: 4.3

Aerolite Carry On Hand Luggage Duffle Bag

Size: 16 x 10 x 8 inches

Designed specifically to be an approved personal item size for all major airlines, this duffel bag will always be free to carry-on. It’s also extremely lightweight and has a larger capacity than most bags on this list. What you lose in organization pockets, you’ll gain in extra packing space. And the bag still has a front pocket to stash your ID, boarding pass, and other smaller items.

Amazon User Review: “I love this Carry-On. It was not expensive, under $20.00. It is well made and sturdy. Has a handle as well as an adjustable shoulder strap. The zipper is strong. Has one nice zippered pocket on the front. No inside pocket. I got a black one and it looks classy. Light weight. The size meets all the Carry-On guidelines for airline travel. It fits right under the seat. I am very pleased with this product.”

Price: Starting at $14.99 on Amazon

Average Star Rating: 4

Olympia Deluxe Fashion Rolling Overnighter

Size: 17 x 14 x 8.25 inches

If you’re looking for a quirky design and smart organization, this fashionable bag from Olympia may be right for you. It has a spacious main compartment and a padded laptop casing. The front zipper pocket and side velcro pockets make it easy to grab any small items you want to access quickly. Choose from several different colors and styles.

Amazon User Review: “Purchased this for a trip to Iceland based on two factors, first that it was able to fit under the seat, and second because of how cute it is. It arrived quickly and well packaged and was so cute in real life. Lots of helpful pockets and a study pull handle and in line skate type wheels.”

Price: Starting at $60.55 on Amazon

Average Star Rating: 4.3

Ciao 15” Expandable Under Seat Bag

Size: 15 x 13.5 x 8 inches (expands to 22 x 13.5 x 8 in.)

This bag can work as either an under seat “personal item” bag or you can expand it to a full-size carry-on bag when flying on legacy airlines that allow the larger dimensions. It has both interior and exterior zipper compartments and a push-button retractable handle.

Amazon User Review: “I love the size of this. It fits under the seat on the airline and when I return home I have extra room for anything I buy. I just unzip it and it becomes a carry on that I can put in the overhead bin. This is a great bag and I highly recommend it.”

Price: Starting at $79.98 on Amazon

Average Star Rating: 4.2

Bodyguard Backpack – 24 Feature Travel Backpack for Women

Size: 15 x 12 x 7 inches

This backpack is packed with features like a shoulder strap safety light and an interior LED flashlight so you can easily find what you are looking for. It can also be converted into a tote bag in seconds, giving you the flexibility to have the look you want at any moment. Its roomy compartment has a padded computer sleeve and numerous pouches to keep everything organized. Connect a battery pack to the supplied cable and you’ll have an external USB charging port right on the bag itself.

Amazon User Review: “This is one of the best-looking bags I’ve seen in a while. When the price and features factored in, it is the best that I have seen and used in several years. It is a versatile and extremely attractive backpack and tote bag all in one.”

Price: Starting at $99.99 on Amazon

Average Star Rating: 4.3

Rustic Town Handmade Leather Duffel Bag – Airplane Underseat Carry On

Size: 20 x 11.5 x 8.25 inches

Shh…don’t tell anyone but the actual dimensions of this bag are slightly larger than what is allowed as a free “personal item” on most airlines. However, if you don’t pack this bag full to the brim, it will squeeze down to fit in any bag sizers and will always fit underneath the seat. If you’re looking for a high quality and good-looking leather bag, this handmade duffel from Rustic Town is the perfect choice.

Amazon User Review: “The craftsmanship was outstanding. The color was a dark rustic brown. Prefect carryon size TSA approved. On one flight the attendant even allowed as a personal item to be placed under the seat. He was able to fit a five day summer trip into this bag.”

Price: Starting at $199.45 on Amazon

Average Star Rating: 4.5

BoardingBlue Eco Rolling Personal Item Underseat

Size: 16 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches

If you like to save money by flying on budget carriers such as Frontier or Spirit, this rolling underseat bag from Boarding Blue is a perfect choice. It easily fits the free “personal item” size dimensions of these airlines and also has a few outside pockets to keep your passport and boarding pass handy.

Amazon User Review: “This bag worked out great at the airport. I actually used it on a Frontier flight as my “personal item”. While filled to the brim, it fit perfectly in the sample sizing display at the gate, and fit easily under the seat once on the plane.”

Price: Starting at $44.85 on Amazon

Average Star Rating: 3.7

BAOSHA Ladies Canvas Travel Weekender Overnight Carry-On Duffel

Size: 16 x 12 x 8 inches

You’ll look your best with this stylish canvas bag. It works great as a carry-on bag for travel and can also double as a beach bag or a gym bag. Some models also come with a separate shoe compartment and the lifetime warranty means that you can trust this is a quality bag.

Amazon User Review: “We used this bag as a carry on for our Mexican vacation then we used it as a beach bag a downtown shopping bag, it’s been used hard for a week let’s put it that way. And my boyfriend and I both love the bag. No damage rips or tears. No color fading. I might actually buy more for travels! It fits so much clothes towels, gifts, you can put a lot in this bag. You won’t regret the decision.”

Price: Starting at $32.99 on Amazon

Average Star Rating: 4.4

Product images courtesy of Amazon.

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1. Lucas Wheeled Under Seat Bag

This Lucas luggage bag is perfect for those who pack a lot of separate items. It has several features for organizing your belongings, such as a zippered fold-down flap, allowing you to fit more stuff in the carry-on bag.

The Lucas Wheeled Under Seat Bag comes with a hanging toiletry case, travel neck pouch, and travel slippers. You have extra space for packing with the zippered compartment on the front of the bag.

This luggage bag also has a push-button release handle for easily changing between rolling the bag and carrying it. If you are making a short domestic flight, this bag has ample space for your belongings.

2. JanSport Driver 8 Core Series Wheeled Backpack

This wheeled backpack is a good carry-on bag for those who want to bring a laptop with them. It has a padded sleeve that can hold laptops up to 15 inches in size.

The JanSport Driver 8 Core Series Wheeled Backpack can be converted into a backpack with the tuck-away shoulder straps. In addition to the laptop padded sleeve, the bag has a second large compartment for storing your belongings.

This spacious JanSport carry-on bag also features a front stash pocket, front utility pocket with office supply organizer, and side water bottle pocket.

The back panel is padded for extra comfort while you’re carrying the bag. This under seat baggage fits under on most flights but could be a tighter fit on a few small regional jets.

3. Samsonite Wheeled Underseater

The Samsonite Wheeled Underseater is available in two sizes with a 1.5-inch difference in size. This under seat luggage bag has a removable 3-1-1 pouch, internal packaging compartments, a hanging organizer pouch, and a side water bottle pocket.

It’s easy to transport thanks to the retractable handle and in-line skate wheels. The Samsonite Wheeled Underseater meets the requirements for all major US airlines, so you shouldn’t have any trouble sliding it under your seat.

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4. Travelpro Luggage Maxlite3 Rolling Tote

Treated with water-resistant and stain-resistant coating, the Travelpro Luggage Maxlite3 Rolling Tote is convenient for fliers who either travel frequently or are visiting a rainy destination. It features ergonomic high-tensile-strength zipper pulls and an airline-grade aluminum handle.

The handles on some wheeled luggage bags break easily, but the handle on this rolling tote is sturdy. Despite this rolling tote’s small appearance, you should be able to fit plenty of items in this bag.

Time to Pack!

No one wants to be held up at the airport because they were told their carry-on luggage was too large or not suitable for the airplane. Regardless of how excited you are to reach your destination, it can be stressful going through airport procedures.

The four under seat carry-on bags listed above are fairly safe and convenient options in under seat baggage for flights. However, you should always check the size recommendations with your airline carrier to ensure that your under seat carry-on bag will meet all requirements.

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This Underseat Suitcase Is One of Amazon’s Most ‘Wished For’ Carry-ons (Video)

When you’re looking for the perfect carry-on bag, there are seemingly endless options to consider, based on how much luggage you’re bringing and whether or not you’ll be checking a bag. You could choose a simple tote bag or backpack, as well as a piece of rolling luggage. However, if you want the convenience of a rolling suitcase with the compact size and maneuverability of a smaller bag, a rolling underseat suitcase might be exactly what you’re looking for. This type of luggage is espeically convenient for business travelers who need a compact bag for short trips that can accommodate laptops, portfolios, and other tech accessories.

Image zoom Courtesy of Amazon

The Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-on is an impressively spacious bag, yet it still fits under the seat in front of you, making all your in-flight essentials easily accessible. Plus, it’s a customer-favorite on Amazon, since it’s one of the most ‘wished for’ carry-on bags on the site.

Related: More carry-on luggage

Image zoom Courtesy of Amazon

To buy: amazon.com, $100

The bag is built like many underseat carry-ons, with a large main compartment that folds out, as well as an exterior zippered pocket. The fold-out compartment includes several mesh zippered and elastic slip pockets, which provide ample storage for all your travel essentials, from toiletries to a travel-size umbrella. The main compartment can hold larger items, including clothing and a laptop. Once it’s zipped up, you can carry the bag by its top handle or use the telescoping handle for easy rolling. A handy exterior water bottle pocket makes it even easier to walk through the airport hands-free. Plus, the suitcase comes with an extra tote bag, allowing you to add a personal item onto your carry-on.

Image zoom Courtesy of Amazon

Amazon shoppers have raved about this bag, giving it over 1,000 positive reviews. “I love this bag; it’s a good size, and fits a surprising amount. The front pockets are nicely organized and give easy access to tickets; the main section is lined around the sides with elasticized pockets. The tote slips over the telescoping handles of carry-on, making it very easy to maneuver; and the handle is adjustable for different heights,” one reviewer wrote.

Another reviewer specifically praised this bag for business travel. “I actually use this bag every day to visit my clients. It holds my laptop and files just perfectly.”

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High Sierra Endeavor Wheeled Underseat Carry-On

  • Carry On Sized – Luggage designed to fit in most airlines overhead compartments; may not conform to some airlines carry-on standards.
  • Inline skate wheels – Are constructed of polyurethane with ball bearings to minimize frictional resistance, offer durability and reduced resistance for smooth rolling.
  • Push Button Handle – Locks when fully extended so you can push or pull your case. The handle also locks when fully recessed, greatly reducing the risk of damage when not in use.
  • Retractable handle – Provides easy maneuverability when extended out from the suitcase, and stores neatly inside when not in use. Locks in place in both the fully extended and stored positions for secure traveling.
  • Bottom grip handle – Is a molded plastic grip on the bottom of a case, it is used to help in the lifting of the case in and out of vehicles.
  • Retractable SmartSleeve™ – Located in the exterior back zippered pocket, fits over most upright luggage handles for easy mobility
  • Laptop compartment – Is a built-in padded compartment designed to carry your laptop computer and help protect it from shocks while traveling.
  • Water Bottle holder – A side compartment designed to hold your water bottle.

If you’re worried your carry-on could be gate-checked on your next flight, check out these 10 top-rated underseat carry-on bags. Whether you’re a chronic over-packer or tried-and-true business traveler, there’s an underseat luggage option for every type of flyer.

Samsonite Spinner Underseater with USB PortAmazon.com

This underseat carry-on bag from Samsonite is divided up into two main compartments, one larger section for clothes and shoes and one smaller section for your electronics and other in-flight essentials. This bag also has a USB port (battery not included) so you can charge your phone on the go, as well as 360-degree spinner wheels and a 10-year warranty from Samsonite.

AmazonBasics Underseat Luggage

Amazon.com

This simple and affordable underseat carry-on bag comes in 10 color options and textures. It’s on the smaller side, weighing only six pounds. It has over 500 five-star reviews on Amazon, and travelers love it for its value for money and thoughtful design.

The Samsonite Wheeled Underseater (available in both small and large sizes) is one of the top-rated underseat carry-on bags on Amazon—and for good reason. The difference between the two sizes is approximately 1.5 inches in height, plus about $20.

Both bags have in-line skate wheels and a retractable handle, internal packing compartments, a removable 3-1-1 pouch, a hanging organizer pouch, and a side water bottle pocket. Reviews say both sizes comply with all major domestic carriers for underseat carry-on luggage requirements (and yes, that includes Spirit).

Aerolite Carry-on Underseat Wheeled Trolley Luggage Bag

Amazon.com

If you’re looking for a compact and lightweight bag that fits under your seat, look no further than Aerolite’s Carry-on Underseat bags. These bags are stylish and have multiple outer zipper compartments for essential travel items, plus a strap to hook over a larger suitcase. Both styles meet the underseat carry-on luggage requirements on American, Delta, Southwest, United, and Frontier.

Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-on Bag

Amazon.com

Travelon also makes a 15-inch underseat carry-on bag that fits a decent amount in the main compartment and has a retractable handle. It comes with an extra carry-on tote if you’re an over-packer or plan on doing some shopping on your trip. Read the full SmarterTravel review of this underseat carry-on bag here.

Travelpro Luggage Maxlite5 Rolling Tote

Zappos.com

The Travelpro Maxlite5 Rolling Tote is the perfect investment if you’re looking for a long-term and durable carry-on bag that fits under your seat. It comes with Travelpro’s lifetime warranty and has a water and stain-resistant coating. Reviews note how much fits inside despite the bag’s small size. It has zippered internal pockets, an expander, and an external front zip pocket.

Amazon.com

This Olympia Rolling Overnighter is perfect for business travelers who are looking for a carry-on bag that fits under the seat. It is extremely durable and can handle items like folders, binders, and laptops. It has a separate padded laptop compartment and a roomy main compartment, as well as a front zipper pocket and two side Velcro pockets. Available in five colors, it has an option for every kind of traveler.

Lucas Wheeled Under the Seat Cabin Bag

Amazon.com

This top-rated bag on Amazon is great for travelers who are super organized packers. The Lucas Wheeled Under the Seat Cabin Bag has a large main compartment that has a zippered fold-down flap for organizing items. The bag also comes with a hanging toiletry case, travel slippers, and a travel neck pouch. It’s on the larger side, so if you’re an over-packer, this is a great piece of underseat carry-on luggage.

Some reviews say the bag doesn’t always fit under an aisle seat, so be wary when selecting your seat on some airlines. Read the SmarterTravel review on the Lucas Wheeled Under the Seat Cabin Bag here.

Delsey Quilted Rolling Underseat Tote

Amazon.com

The Delsey Quilted Rolling Underseat Tote has a roomy main compartment coupled with lots of interior and exterior pockets for organization. It’s also a stylish, rolling carry-on bag that fits under your seat and has two shoulder straps as well as a sleeve on the back so it can attach to a larger suitcase.

Amazon.com

The High Sierra Endeavor underseat carry-on bag has superior organization features as well as extras like an expandable zippered side shoe pocket, a fully padded laptop compartment, and a mesh beverage pocket. The in-line wheels don’t take up precious space either, so this underseat bag is larger than most.

What to Pack in Your Underseat Carry-On Bag

Women’s Fun Winter Outfit to Easily Pack in Your Carry-On

More from SmarterTravel:

  • The Essential Carry-on Bag Packing List
  • 10 Ultralight Rolling Carry-On Bags Under 5 Lbs.
  • 14 Travel Totes That Do the Most

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Best Underseat Luggage: My Top Pick & 5 Runner Ups

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more details.

With airlines constantly adjusting their compact carry-on size requirements and implementing higher fees for checked luggage, travelers have been forced to adjust and pack smarter.

Many U.S. airlines are following in the footsteps of ultra-low budget carriers like WOW and Spirit, introducing free “basic economy” fares that charge extra for carry-on bags. As a result, the most budget-conscious travelers have started taking packing light a step further and have managed to travel using only lightweight under seat luggage on their ultra-budget flights.

Even if not flying on a basic fare, many people have started avoiding checking luggage together through the combination of a personal item and a carry-on bag or travel backpack. Others have gotten tired of the Hunger Games-esque Battle Royale for overhead bin space every time that ensues every time they board a plane and now prefer to just pack carry on luggage that fits under the seat.

Whether you’re looking to avoid baggage fees or you’re just trying to make it home for the holidays without playing the terrifying game of dibs that is trying to nab space in a crowded overhead compartment, I’ve picked the best underseat luggage options for light-packing, savvy travelers who are tired of taking s(@* from airlines.

One important note on the dimensions of underseat carry on luggage: every airline has their own rules about what constitutes a “personal item” and what you can bring on an economy or basic economy fare. Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to the question “how big is the space under an airplane seat” (that would be too easy, apparently) therefore the best place to start is by checking with the airline itself.

While I’ve done my best to pick only bags that fit under airplane seats, it may not necessarily pass the requirements of the most intensely strict airlines (WOW and Spirit are notoriously more strict than other airlines). Compare the specs of the bag with what your airline allows before deciding on what to buy, as every airline’s under seat size is different.

Winner: Samsonite Spinner Underseater with USB Port

Samsonite Spinner Underseater with USB

The sleekest and most ergonomic of all the luggage on the list, this is the best under seat bag for the aesthetics-focused traveler who wants to travel comfortably and stylishly. Their colors are really rich and beautiful, especially the Majolica Blue, so if design and aesthetics are important to you, I think this is one of the nicest-looking options.

Another awesome perk is that it has a USB port… however, it doesn’t come with the battery, so you will have to buy an external battery pack such as this Lumina charger to actually take advantage of that functionality.

One of my favorite things about this bag, though, is that it is actually a spinner underseat carry on with four wheels! That means this bag can actually glide ahead of you or alongside you and you’ll feel like a supercool airport ninja while you stride through the airport at it, laughing at all the folish mortals with two-wheel bags (or is that just how I felt when I finally got a four-wheel spinner?)

Another plus is that the maximum extended height on the 3-height adjustable handle is designed to be longer for taller travelers, which is sometimes missing on other small underseat carry ons. Other perks include exterior side pockets perfect for storing your important documents within an easy reach, and the front zipper also has some additional slots for credit cards and change if you don’t want to carry another bag.

Finally, this is one of the few bags on this list that has both a highly organized interior as well as a separate laptop pocket. It seemed that most lightweight underseat luggage out there offered one or the other, but not both: Samsonite definitely fixed that with this bag, which is why I’m naming it the best underseat carry on luggage choice.

One point to keep in mind is that Samsonite has a 10 year warranty period, so if anything malfunctions with this bag, you can rest assured that you’ll get your money back.

However, there are a few negatives to note. For one, while this is one of the few rolling laptop bags that fit under your seat, the laptop compartment is still rather small. Some people with a 15″ laptop have reported having trouble getting their computers to fit. If you have a Macbook Air or similar smaller laptop or tablet, you will be fine.

A big negative is that this bag won’t necessarily fit on every single airline – one reviewer noted that it didn’t pass Spirit Airlines’ new standards and they were forced to check it for $65 — yeow. It’s also one of the pricier options on this list due to its extra features (4 spinning wheels, USB port) so if you are on a tight budget this may not be your bag.

If you are buying a wheeled underseat bag to avoid baggage fees, be sure to do your research on the specific airline that you are flying and their size limits, as you may not be able to do so with this bag. Unfortunately, airlines are constantly changing their requirements, and each airline’s dimensions are different from the next, so there is no one universal best under seat bag.

Best for: tall travelers, aesthetics-focused travelers, techie travelers, business travelers

Worst for: some budget airlines (Spirit) as it won’t fit their tightened restrictions on under seat bags

Specs:

Dimensions: 9 x 16.5 x 13.5 inches

Weight: 5 pounds

Check out the Samsonite Underseater with USB Port here!

Runner Up: Delsey Luggage Cruise Lite Hardside 2 Wheel Underseater

Delsey Luggage Cruise Lite Hardside 2 Wheel Underseater

If you’re looking for the best under seat carry on luggage with hardside construction, the Delsey Cruise Lite Hardside is perfect. This underseater bag has an extending handle and smooth double-spinner inline wheels, which makes it easy to transport — perfect for traveling through the airport quickly to make your connection without having to carry a heavy bag with you.

This two-wheel rolling underseat carry on bag is specifically designed to fit under an airplane seat on anything from 2 x 2 configuration regional jets to the traditional 3 x 3 jets. It comes in three colors so it has some opportunities for personalization if that kind of thing is important to you!

The great thing about this underseat bag is that despite its small size, it offers some decent organizational features, with the front pocket and the two-side 90-10 construction. The front pocket is designed to fit laptops up to 14 inches in the widest dimension, so it’s well-suited for business travelers as the hard side ensures your important electronics will stay safe during the flight.

Inside, you’ll find a lined interior with tie-down straps that keep your clothes separate from your other odds and ends in your bag, keeping them in place and preventing wrinkling. This is another feature that makes it one of the better underseat bags for business travelers.

Made of 100% polycarbonate, which is impact-resistant and scratch-resistant without adding too much weight, this bag is in it for the long haul (pun definitely intended – I can’t help myself).

A few downsides worth mentioning: it has two wheels, not four, so you will have to drag it behind you rather than having the ability to push it in front of you or to your side, like you would with a four-wheel spinner. However, that’s one of the sacrifices you usually will have to make with even the best under the seat luggage choices – I was only able to find one (the Samsonite) with four wheels.

Another feature this bag is lacking is an organizer insert in the larger component, as all it has are the elastic straps that hold your clothing in place. More pockets would be welcome, or you could supplement it with travel organizers like an electronics organizer or toiletry hanging case.

It also doesn’t have a trolley strap, so that if you were trying to travel with this in additional to another suitcase, you would have to carry both. However, if you are looking for a hardside bag that can work as your only piece of rolling underseat luggage, this is a great option.

Best for: business travelers, weekend trips

Worst for: travelers looking for lots of organization, longer trips

Specs:

Dimensions: 12.2 x 14.8 x 9.2 inches

Weight: 5.25 pounds

Check out the Delsey Luggage Cruise Lite now!

Runner Up: Samsonite Wheeled Underseater Small

Samsonite Wheeled Underseater Small

Made of a combination of polyester and nylon, this Samsonite wheeled underseater bag offers the flexibility of soft-shell luggage with the durability of a hard-side suitcase.

With superior pockets, organizers, and compartments to any other underseater out there, this is clearly the best under seat roller bag option for maximizing space and neatness. The coolest thing about this underseat bag in particular is that one of the zippered compartments can be unsnapped from the rest of the luggage. Then, it can be hung in a closet or on the back of the door, which is pretty freaking awesome news for girly girls like me who travel with a metric #(*ton of toiletries.

Some other positives are that the wheels glide easily and if you have a larger suitcase that you are bringing as well, it fits on top using the trolley sleeve, giving you a free hand. Reviewers have said this bag fits even on budget airlines like Spirit, so it’s wonderful to use as your only bag as well if you are traveling light and want to avoid baggage fees entirely.

For a bag of its size, there is a good amount of interior organization, including WetPak lined pockets for toiletries and mesh pockets for loose items. Still, packing cubes would be ideal for maximizing your packing abilities in the main internal packing compartment. Using packing cubes plus picking lightweight clothing materials means that you can fit up to a week’s worth of clothes as well as travel-sized toiletries and more in this sleek underseat bag!

However, there is no separate laptop compartment, which is a downside for many travelers. For me, I use a simple neoprene laptop sleeve like this one, so it is not a dealbreaker, but others may prefer a separate laptop compartment, especially if they are traveling with a lot of liquid toiletries.

Another downside is that this is probably not the best under seat luggage option for tall people, as the bag is quite small and the handle height doesn’t extend that far. However, it does have handles, which means you can easily lift it up to carry it if you don’t want to lug it behind you.

Also, some people have complained about the fabric fraying, as even the sturdiest nylon can’t compete with polycarbonate that you’ll find in hard-side luggage. It does come with the standard Samsonite 10-year warranty against defects, though, so you can rest easy knowing that your bag will last or be replaced. Additionally, a benefit of the soft-side nylon is that you have a little more flexibility in making it fit in a tight spot versus hard-side luggage. One final con is that it’s also slightly on the heavy side, weighing in at over 6 pounds, mostly due to the organizational features.

Best for: female travelers with lots of toiletries, longer trips, highly organized people

Worst for: business travelers, taller travelers

Specs:

Dimensions: 6.5 x 13 x 13 inches

Weight: 6.25 pounds

Check out the Samsonite Wheeled Underseater now!

Runner Up: Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-On with Back-Up Bag

Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-On

Another highly organized bag better for longer trips, this bag from Travelon is thoughtfully designed like you’d expect from one of the leaders in the travel accessory industry. While generally Travelon bags have a lot of security features, this one is more stripped-down in order to maximize room in the underseat bag.

The bag has a large main compartment which you can maximize using packing cubes and the elasticized pockets, as well as a front organizer compartment that’s part of the main compartment. There’s also a separate zippered front pocket. The front pockets are well-organized and a great place to put things you need quick access to like plane tickets, identification, chapstick and toiletries, etc. There’s also a handy side pocket for a water bottle, a touch that I always appreciate but is often missing from underseat luggage.

In case you need to pack a little more than expected, there is a large “back-up bag” that takes up very little room but is rather roomy when it needs to be. You can easily strap the back-up bag to the main wheeled mini suitcase to make it easier to travel through the airport with both bags.

There is also a strap on the main mini suitcase, so that you could strap that to a larger, check-in size wheeled suitcase as well, which is really handy if you plan on checking a large bag but just want an underseat bag for the plane.

Note though that on airlines which require you to only have one bag or pay baggage fees, like Spirit, this will likely not work as they would be considered two separate bags.

If you pack smartly with lightweight materials, you could use this as your primary bag for a trip of up to one week, though you’d be more comfortable using it for shorter trips. Packing cubes would definitely come in handy if you are traveling for more than a few days with this bag, enabling you to compress. Hint: get the smaller packing cubes so you can better Tetris-cram them into your luggage.

One great thing about the design is that the sloped top makes the main compartment very accessible when placed under the seat, so you can get out what you need without too much trouble.

However, there is no separate laptop compartment, and the handlebars inside the bag are not padded, meaning that it could potentially scrape against a tablet or laptop if not contained in a protective neoprene sleeve like this one. This is one major con for me that keeps me from being able to name it as the best under seat rolling carry on.

Also, the add-on bag seems like a nice idea, but since the whole point of the underseat bag is to minimize what you pack and avoid baggage fees, it just feels unnecessary. Additionally, I’m not a huge fan of the quilted look, but others may enjoy it.

Best for: traveling with another large suitcase, highly organized travelers, use with packing cubes

Worst for: business travel

Specs:

Dimensions: 12 x 8.5 x 14 inches

Weight: 5.2 pounds

Check out the Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-On now!

Runner Up: 5Cities Carry On Hand Luggage Flight Duffel Bags

5Cities Underseat Duffel

So far, all the bags on this list have been wheeled suitcases, but perhaps you want something a little different, such as a duffel bag that you can carry through the airport. While not the most ergonomic option for long term travel, if you just want a simple bag that was specifically designed to fit personal item restrictions on American budget airlines like Spirit and Frontier, this may be a great choice.

The duffel bag has a trolley strap on the back, so that you can conveniently slide it down the handles of your larger suitcase if you are traveling with multiple pieces of luggage. This is a great perk if you have a main carry-on size spinner suitcase and want to also have an underseat bag without needing to use two hands to lug both around.

The bag has a dual zip design and mini padlock so you can lock it together for extra security if needed. You can adjust the strap so that it is either a. shoulder strap like a traditional duffel or you can use the top tug handles, or place it on another piece of luggage so that you don’t have to carry it at all.

It’s very lightweight so if weight is an issue this bag will come to your rescue at only 1 pound. It meets the strictest size requirements so if you are traveling on an underseat luggage only ultra-low cost ticket, this bag should be sufficient, so long as you don’t pack it completely bursting full.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this is the cheapest option!

It has some fun colors and patterns as well if you are looking for a little bit of personality and flash to your luggage and don’t want just another boring old black suitcase.

One big flaw in the bag is that it is not at all organized or protected: it is literally just one big open space, no padding or protection for your belongings. As a result, it’s not a good bag if you are traveling with anything that could be damaged easily, like a laptop or camera.

It’s best for clothes (add packing cubes to make up for the lack of organizational features) if you are really trying to maximize your clothing options. But other than that, it has pretty minimal features, especially when compared to other underseat bags on the list.

Reviewers have had trouble with the straps breaking and zippers coming undone, so the cheapness definitely can work against you. If you are looking for a long-term bag, this isn’t it. However, if you not a frequent traveler and are just looking for a cheap one-time solution to a problem, this should likely be the best underseat carry on bag for you.

Best for: people who want a no-nonsense bag that will meet all airline requirements, ultra budget travelers, minimal use

Worst for: people who need organizational features, people traveling with electronics, frequent travelers

Specs:

Dimensions: 15 x 7.8 x 21 inches

Weight: 1 pound

Check the 5Cities Underseat Duffel now!

Runner Up: Rustic Town Leather Travel Duffel Bag

Rustic Town Underseat Duffel

If the idea of a duffel bag is appealing but you want something better constructed, more beautiful and more durable than the 5Cities duffel above, this may be the best underseat bag for you.

Made of genuine buffalo hide leather, it’s not a cheap option, but that’s because this bag is designed to last through the demands of air travel. The best part of leather is that it takes a beating quite well, getting softer and suppler with each use and gaining a beautiful wear over time, whereas other materials such as nylon end up looking ratty and worn over time.

The leather is handcrafted from buffalo hide by Indian artisans in accordance with Fair Trade practices. Buffalo hide produces a high quality thick leather then gets softer over time yet is much cheaper than other full-grain leather products. The bag also has break-resistant YKK zippers and a thick cloth lining to protect your clothes and valuables.

Whereas most duffel bags lack on the organizational front, this one has packing efficiency at the forefront of thinking, with 2 exterior zipping pockets, 1 interior zipper pocket, 4 card slots, 2 pen loops, and a mobile pocket. There is no dedicated laptop pocket, but it should fit a laptop of up to 15″.

A few negative things to consider: the bag isn’t the most ergonomic, so if you get shoulder pain from having weight distributed unevenly, this is not a good fit for you. If that’s a concern, you will be better off with one of the wheeled underseat bags mentioned above.

It has some organizational features like zippered pockets and card holders, but you would probably want to supplement it with packing cubes or other travel organizers if using this as your main bag over a long period of time.

Finally, many people avoid leather for environmental or ethical purposes. While this bag is made from buffalo hide from animals who are used for food and is therefore made with sustainable and traditional leather-making practices in mind, I understand that many people find leather to be a no-go.

Best for: Aesthetically-minded travelers, frequent travelers, male and female travelers with a timeless sense of style, people who want to support Fair Trade practices

Worst for: Vegans and people who avoid leather, budget travelers, people with back or shoulder issues who need a rolling bag that fits under an airplane seat

Specs:

Dimensions: 20” x 11.5” x 8.25”

Weight: 3 pounds

Check out the Rustic Town Underseat Duffel here!

Spirit Airlines is the airline that seems to invite everyone to hate it, partly because of doublespeak press releases that accompany every customer-unfriendly move. Here’s the one they put up at the beginning of the decade when first announcing new bag fees.

“In order to continue reducing fares even further and offering customers the option of paying only for the services they want and use rather than subsidizing the choices of others, the low fare industry innovator is also progressing to the next phase of unbundling with the introduction of a charge to carry on a bag and be boarded first onto the airplane.”

Interpretation: “We will now charge every single passenger who brings any kind of luggage a hefty fee. You will pay us this on top of the price of your ticket whether you check a bag or carry it on.”

They even call it “Bare Fare.” They’re proud of the fact you get nothing for your ticket except a cramped luck-of-the-draw seat. You will pay dearly for anything beyond that, from a drink of water to a seat assignment. And yes, Spirit Airlines makes it extremely difficult to fly somewhere and spend the night without adding on more charges each way for baggage fees. That’s part of the reason Consumer Reports ranked them as the worst airline in America and why they show up at the bottom of the heap in most traveler surveys too when it comes to fees, cabin comfort, and customer satisfaction.

Spirit Airlines Carry-on Size

There’s only a knee’s worth of room between seats on Spirit flights, but if you can fit what you have under the seat in front of you (short people rejoice!), then you can still bring the bag on without a fee. It has to be a tiny bag that fits under the seat though, which they define in very strict terms. Here’s the official Spirit Airlines personal item size:

That drawing is a good illustration of how small those dimensions actually are for a Spirit Airlines personal item. A messenger bag for a 15-inch laptop is about all that will squeeze into that space. The under-seat bags sold by Delsey and others will easily fit, but most are technically too large by an inch or two if the gate agent wants to get snippy with you.

Spirit Airlines Bag Fees

If you’re actually going to go somewhere for business or pleasure instead of just turning around and coming back, you may actually need luggage. If so, you’ll need to consult a complicated fee chart to figure out the Spirit checked bag price. You have to actually do a flight search on their website to get the prices—that’s how much they don’t want you to see them.

Let’s ignore the $9 fare club that you have to pay $60 to join: only a true masochist (and someone who is bad at math) would regularly fly on Spirit enough to get loyalty club benefits that require an extra charge. For a regular passenger, you’ll pay anywhere from $30 for the first bag booked in advance on a short-haul flight (see the chart here) to $47 for a carry-on for a long-haul flight.

Ironically, it can cost you more to bring a bag that no Spirit employee touches than one they check for you—a sure irritant for people trying to save time on arrival or just not lose their luggage. The airline also shaves 10 pounds off the maximum compared to what you get for free (with two bags) on Southwest or what you pay for on the legacy airlines—the maximum luggage weight allowance on Spirit is just 40 pounds.

After that you pay overweight charges that almost double the price. Pretty soon that advertised $69 one-way flight turns into $169.

If you learn at the gate you need to check your bag, don’t expect any sympathy: it’s a stinging $65 charge at that point, even if it’s a carry-on! The way the Spirit Air baggage policy works, your one-way bag fee could cost more than the actual suitcase did when you bought it.

How to Fly on Spirit with No Baggage Fees

It’s going to take some work to get around Spirit’s baggage fees, but it can be done if you’re determined to actually get one of those advertised teaser fares that are just the base price.

1) Don’t pack a bag at all.

This might get you screened on the way in and out by the TSA, and will add a few extra hours when leaving Colombia, but it could be done. You’ve got no change of clothes and just a toothbrush in your pocket. But hey, you can always buy a new outfit locally for less than all those Spirit baggage fees.

2) Pack one change of clothes in a tiny bag with your laptop.

If you pack well, a small laptop/netbook, a change of clothes, and something to read should fit under the seat and comply with the Spirit Airlines personal item size. You might even be able to fit in some flip-flops or flats. I would suggest good travel apparel from the likes of ExOfficio so you can sink wash one set at night and it’ll be dry by morning. (Here’s a more detailed take on that brand from me.)

Companies like Osprey, North Face, and Sea to Summit make duffle bags that fit in a tiny pouch, so you can carry something larger after uncompressing your clothes. In theory you could even use something like Space Bags to cram in more by sucking out all the air.

3) Layers, layers, layers.

So far there’s no extra charge for being a large human—too hard to “unbundle” that—so expand your width with lots of extra clothing. You can strip some of those layers off after take-off.

4) Wear your belongings.

There’s a company called ScotteVest that makes vests with 26 pockets to hold all your gear and gadgets. Then there are those photography vests the French are so fond of wearing that hold all kinds of stuff in multiple pockets. Some ExOfficio Storm Logic jackets have six or eight pockets, as do Clothing Arts’ Pickpocket Proof Pants. (See the travel gear brands that haven’t let me down.)

5) Ship your belongings.

On a long domestic flight, you would likely come out ahead by shipping your belongings in a Priority Mail flat rate box or by UPS.

6) Fly on Southwest instead.

I’ve met some nice, well-meaning people from Spirit Air and the company flies to some underserved routes in places like Colombia and Nicaragua. Sooner or later though we’re like frogs in a heating-up pot that’s about to boil. Jump!

I get that they’re trying to be like RyanAir, whose CEO admits the airline is just “a flying bus,” but few buses make you pay for baggage and often they come with a movie, a snack, a drink, and Wi-Fi. So can “We’re worse than a bus” be a successful strategy?

I’m not convinced. Legacy airlines have earned a bundle of pure profit from passenger baggage fees, but Southwest keeps thrashing these airlines in every market where it competes, with lower fares and no fees for bags. They win hands down in customer satisfaction surveys. RyanAir and EasyJet succeed because their fares are clearly half the price or less of competitors, especially across Europe when purchased in advance’, where in Spirit’s case that’s only sometimes obvious (with a calculator in hand).

What do you think? Are you willing to fly on Spirit if it’s cheaper? Or will it need to be almost free before you go on their planes?

Related post: Flying on Allegiant Air without baggage fees.

Tags:airlines, baggage fees, carry-on bag, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Air, Travel gear, travel packing