We hear quite a bit about packing your carry on when it comes to air plane travel. Most of us use the term carry on pretty loosely for any type of bags we are taking with us on the plane. But airlines have a more specific definitions. In fact depending on the type of airline you are flying you might get one piece of carry on luggage as well as a personal article. But what is a personal item? We will answer this in our personal item packing.
What is the difference between Carry on Baggage and Personal Items?
Carry on luggage is a small sized suitcase that can fit in the over head compartment. Minimalist packers use this as their main piece of luggage for their trips. While exact dimensions might vary slightly the general maximum size is 21.5 x 9 x 15.5. You need to be able to lift your carry on yourself to store it unassisted in the overhead bins so as to ensure that you do not over pack.
The personal item is a purse, laptop bag or backpack that can be easily stowed beneath your seat. The maximum size for your personal item 13 x 6 x 17 however since there is a larger variance in what exactly a personal item can be (also listed by Air Canada is a cat carrier and a garment bag) stick with bags that can easily stow beneath your seat.
Note that discount airlines will only allow your personal item for free while carry on or checked luggage costs extra.
Choosing a Personal Article
The most important thing to ask yourself when choosing a personal article for air travel is will it fit beneath my seat?
Another thing to consider is if you are exclusively carrying on. If yes, then you want your personal item to appear smaller than your carry on luggage. This is to avoid having any unnecessary questions or having to check any excessively sized carry on baggage.
I tend to go with a less structured bag for my personal item which makes fitting under a seat easier.
You also need to consider what type of activities you have planned during your vacation. Is your personal item going to double as a beach bag? OR are you going to use it to go sight seeing?
Do not waste your personal item on a small clutch or cross body. While you don’t want your personal item to be too large to fit under your seat you do want to make use of all that space. A clutch or cross body bag can be easily used to store other items in your tote or backpack to keep things organized. Then once you are at your destination you can use your smaller bag for your day to day activities.
You also want to consider that your personal item needs to be big enough to carry a change of clothes in case other luggage gets lost. This is especially true if you are checking your luggage.
A tote, small weekender bag or backpack all make excellent options for your personal article. Extra points if these bags also have a luggage sleeve. If you are checking your luggage you want to make sure your personal item has long enough handles for over the shoulder or a cross body strap. Top handles can get tiresome quickly.
Personal Item Packing
- Lug Cartwheel Fitness Overnight Bag – We have this bag in black and it is super stylish. Loads of extra pockets for shoes and laundry. Even a luggage arm sleeve to make for easier carriage. Soft and structured at the same time. The fabric wipes down very easily so it can stay clean. Read my Lug Travel Bags Review.
- Bric’s Moleskine By Bric’S Roll-Top Tote Bag – This stylish travel tote has a sleeve for your laptop and is waterproof. There is a trolley sleeve as well as a removable cross body strap.
- Arxus New Type Multifunctional Fashion Travel Duffel Storage Bag – This bag looks a bit like an upscale laptop bag. The selling features for me are the convertible back pack option as well as the luggage sleeve. It is made with lightweight nylon fabric and has a laptop sleeve.
- Lug Airbus Weekender Bag – This bag is probably the largest option shown here. However so long as you do not over pack this bag it should still store beneath the seat. It has a sleeve to go over the luggage arm as well as a multitude of pockets including one for your shoes.
- Youngnis Foldable Waterproof Carry Storage Bag with Zipper – This bag is foldable so if you don’t need a bigger personal item to start you can keep it in your purse or suitcase until you need it. This option doesn’t have the padding the other bags have. This is the most inexpensive bag on this list.
- Camden Convertible Backpack – This bag is a tote, backpack or cross body. Entirely made of recycled materials.
- ‘Large Metro’ Quilted Oxford Nylon Tote – A large tote is a no brainer when it comes to a personal item. They don’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles of some of these travel bags but they do look chic.
Your personal item packing should include items like a sweater for the plane, reading material, your passports and id. Make sure you save room for a bottle of water if you plan to buy one once inside the airport. Phones, cameras and charges even your laptop need to be included as you do not want to check these items.
How do you do your personal item packing? Do you use a carry on as well or check?