With these products, I will waive additional baggage fees on my next trip

In 2023, my friend and I took the chance to book a round-trip flight from JFK to London for just $300. That’s half the cost of a typical $600 ticket. When we saw the discounted price of $300, we instinctively booked a week-long trip and then immediately bought a ticket on a RyanAir flight to Portugal for $40. But with every cheap flight comes a ticket with a lot of restrictions: Mine only included one “personal item.” Even a carry-on bag costs an additional $55 each way. Would you like to bring a suitcase? This costs an additional $80 each way.

A black backpack lies on a bed. A black backpack lies on a bed.

Here is my bag, fully packed and ready for a week-long trip abroad.

Charlotte Maracina/CNET

I realized that if I want to save myself such additional fees, I need to store all of my belongings in one personal item, a bag that fits under the seat in front of me and does not exceed the dimensions of 18 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches . For reference, think of a school backpack or an oversized handbag.

Yes, that’s all the space I had to pack for a week-long trip.

While packing for the trip, I tried different types of backpacks, each of which could be considered a personal item. After several trials and errors, I finally perfected the formula of packing all of my items into one personal item for a week-long trip. Since taking my first trip with only personal items in February, I’ve used this backpack for several other trips on budget airlines, saving me hundreds of dollars in baggage fees.

The only airline that gave me a hard time was Frontier. But every other airline, including Spirit and budget European airlines like RyanAir, allowed my bag to pass as a personal item. My advice: buy this bag, don’t fly Frontier.

The pocket

First, let’s start with the basics: the bag. You can choose from a variety of bags – mini rolling bags, wallets, travel bags or backpacks. I prefer using backpacks as they are the easiest type of bag to carry around multiple cities and hostels. Here are the two best bags I recommend for your upcoming trip.

I would like to note that the Lululemon bag is of course expensive, but I have used the bag for six different flights so it is well worth the money. The idea that I would have to pay extra for even a carry-on bag is outrageous, and I was willing to find long-term ways around all of that.


This was the bag I used. The bag held three packing cubes and a pair of heels. The bag features two exterior zippered pockets that can serve as additional storage space for smaller toiletries or small items you may need. I used it to store my travel size shampoo and conditioner along with my makeup.

My favorite aspect, however, is the padded exterior pocket that fits a 16-inch laptop. One of my biggest challenges in finding the perfect bag was finding a bag that would fit not only my clothes but also my laptop. Since I will be working remotely on my trip, bringing my work laptop with me is non-negotiable. Although this bag may not fit smoothly under the seat in front of me (I’ll probably have to push it a bit), it is large enough to fit all of my belongings and more and still counts as a personal item!

Need more space? I got this too Lululemon belt bag to store my more important items like my passport, AirPods, ID and sunglasses. (Let’s face it, it’s a belt bag; calling it a “belt bag” is purely marketing.) Since the belt bag is small enough to strap to my body, most airlines usually never give me a problem with it. If the airline strictly adheres to the one personal item per person policy, the bag can easily be placed in my backpack and removed on the plane.

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OK, this bag came in a close second. If you don’t have packing cubes but still need a way to organize your clothes, let me introduce you to the Beis Hanging Backpack. This, my friends, is no ordinary backpack; When you open it you will find a compressible shelving system. It also has four internal pockets as well as an external laptop pocket and zip pockets.

The hanging backpack is a unique backpack and by far my favorite travel backpack from Beis. Ultimately, the deciding factor between the Lululemon bag and this one was the size of the laptop bag. I will definitely use this backpack for future weekend trips.

Packing cubes

I’ve been against packing dice for a long time. Why? I have no idea, mostly out of laziness. The thought of having to pack everything back into tiny cubes seemed like a waste of time. After traveling more, I now see the error of my ways. Packing cubes really make your life easier when you’re short on space. Below are the packing cubes I used to stay organized while packing for my trip.


The Topo panniers were handy for my clothes and larger items, but this zippered pouch set from Compakt easily fits toiletries and smaller items. If you have a bag that doesn’t have a lot of zippered pockets or extra storage space, then this bag set comes into play. The waterproof three-piece set keeps things tidy and saves you the hassle of rummaging through your bag for smaller items. (There’s nothing more annoying than having to dig everything out of your bag to find a phone charger.)


When I first got the Topo Pack Bags I thought, “There’s no way everything will fit in there.”Once again I was proven wrong. Seven tank tops and a long-sleeved shirt fit into one of the 5-liter stuff sacks. Three jeans and a pair of leather pants fit into the 10-liter stuff sack. I used a second 5 liter bag for my underwear and smaller clothing items.

Packable clothing

The difficulty of packing really depends on where you are traveling. Are you planning a beach vacation? Packing a personal item will be a breeze. All you really need are swimsuits and tank tops. Are you packing for a trip where you’ll be lucky if the weather gets above freezing? Therein lies the problem.

Strategic packing is the secret formula to making sure everything fits in a backpack. This means bringing clothes that can easily be layered and wearing about four different layers of clothing on the plane. I always make sure to pack jackets that are designed to be packable so they don’t take up an excessive amount of space in my bag. Here are just a few essential items I packed for my trip.


Over the last few years my collection of these tank tops has grown rapidly. I now own about eight of them, all in different colors. The seamless tank tops with a plunging neckline can be dressed up or down and are easy to layer, making them a travel essential. The tank tops can be easily rolled up and packed into any bag. Whether you want to relax or go out, these tank tops are great for any occasion.

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