With the past few years, as airlines have started charging for checked (and sometimes even overhead carry on) bags, underseat luggage has become increasingly important. With the right underseat luggage for your family, you’ll be able to have your essentials right in front of you on a flight, and you’ll be able to save money. Here’s our guide to underseat luggage for your next flight – for better convenience and cost savings.
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Save Money on Your Next Flight With These Underseat Luggage Tips
What is underseat luggage?
Per FAA regulations, you’ll be able to bring two items on the plane with you – a carry on bag and a personal item that can fit under the seat in front of you. Almost every seat on the plane has that underseat space, except for bulkhead seats (where you’ll have to put your personal item in the overhead bins for takeoff and landing).
The space under the seat in front of you isn’t very big, but there are lots of different underseat luggage options that will fit in that area. Depending upon your preferences and your needs, you’ll be able to choose the best option for you.
The airlines do call these bags “personal items”, and they are typically referenced as purses, backpacks, diaper bags, or computer bags. However, there are some additional bag types that fit in that space.
Is underseat luggage free to bring on?
While some airlines, including Frontier and Spirit, do charge for carry-ons, these personal items are still free. I once saw a whole family at the airport avoid baggage fees by traveling with backpacks, and was so impressed (and intrigued).
You will want to make sure that your underseat bag fits in with the size requirements of the airline you are flying. This article can give you more information about personal item size restrictions, but you should always check directly with your airline if you aren’t sure. You’ll want to make sure you have the correct information so that you don’t arrive at the airport with a bag that is too big.
What should I look for when choosing underseat luggage?
It’s important to think about how you’ll use your bag both in air and while on vacation. Rolling underseat bags are more useful for travel, but probably won’t be used at your destination. However, something like a backpack or diaper bag will be useful both during your flight and before, during, and after your trip.
If you are bringing along a laptop, you’ll probably want a bag that can at least accommodate that in a padded laptop compartment. I like having a bag with a sleeve on the back that I can slip over my roller bag. Or, I’ll use a backpack where I can put it on my back while rolling my other bag.
I typically like to have an underseat carry on bag with a top closure. Popular purses like the Louis Vuitton Neverfull are a great size for travel, but your items may fall out without a bag closure on the top. This is also important when going through security – an open bag may result in items falling out on the floor or the conveyor belt.
I typically bring a water bottle with me on vacation and on the plane, so it’s nice to have a bag with a slot for a bottle. I also prefer to have zipper compartments to add some of my smaller items (like my AirPods).
Wheeled underseat bags can be very convenient, especially if you don’t want to carry your bag. If you are also bringing along a regular wheeled carry on, make sure the smaller one has a sleeve so you can attach it to the top of the carry on.
What should I put in my underseat carry on luggage?
I like having my airplane essentials, like my Kindle, headphones, and tablet easily accessible for me to quickly grab I never really want to have to go into the overheads during my flight. Because of that, I try to be strategic when packing my underseat bags for quick access to my essentials.
You may consider putting the following in that bag, keeping in mind that sometimes travelers are required to check their carry-ons and won’t have access to them. I once had an airline lose my carry on that I was forced to check. My expensive retainers were in that bag, and luckily it was returned to me two days later.
- Valuables that you want to keep by you
- Medications and medical devices, including eyeglasses, retainers, EpiPens
- Fragile items like laptops
- Items you’ll want in flight, including books, headphones, tablets, etc.
- Water bottle and snacks
- Do Diapering essentials and a change of clothes if you are traveling with young kids
- Wallet and keys
- Chargers, including portable chargers.
How Big Can An Underseat Bag Be?
It can vary, but in general, expect to have room for a bag that’s around 18x14x8. This site has a great guide with current regulations.
What is the best underseat luggage to purchase?
Away Travel Longitude and Latitude Totes
These stylish, simple leather tote bags can be great for travel and at your destination. I have the Latitude Tote and find that it fits a lot of essentials.
It’s a simple tote, so it just has a removable, zippered pouch on the interior. There’s also a removable strap in the back that can be used to slide it on top of the handle of a wheeled bag.
The Latitude and Longitude bags don’t have laptop compartments. Instead of a zip closure, it has a magnet. It’s not perfect, but it is better than a completely open top.
You can $20 off your purchase here.
Away Travel Everywhere Bag
This is more of a duffle style bag – so you won’t necessarily use it at your destination. But, it’s available in both leather and nylon, at two different price points.
The Everywhere Bag features a laptop sleeve, a zip pocket, and several other pockets. There’s also a zip pouch on the bottom that can fit an umbrella. Like the other totes, it has a sleeve that slides over the handle of a wheeled bag.
You can $20 off your purchase here.
Lo & Sons O.G. 2
Lo & Sons offers several different carry on bag styles that fit as underseat luggage including the O.G. 2. I have the original version, the O.G., and it’s a great combination of functionality and style.
The O.G. has lots of pockets, including a separate section at the bottom for shoes, a front zipper pocket, and a laptop sleeve. It’s also a great gym bag, especially with the shoe pouch. It comes with shoulder straps and a crossbody strap, as well as a sleeve on the back for sliding on the handles of your wheeled bag.
Rolling Carry-On Luggage
If you don’t want to have to carry your underseat luggage, a rolling carry on bag may be useful. I have the TPRC Smart Under-Seat Carry-On Luggage from Amazon, and it’s a great option for a roller bag.
This bag includes a USB port for charging. You’ll have to supply your own portable charging bank and cord, but it’s easy to charge right through the bag.
There are also multiple zipped pockets through the bag, and you’ll be able to fit enough for at least an overnight in the bag. It also has a strap on the back that you can use to attach it to your larger carry on bag.
You can buy it here.
What is your favorite underseat luggage?
More Packing Tips Resources: Looking for more packing tips and recommendations? Here are all of our posts including packing lists, product recommendations, and ideas for specific trips.