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Tried & Tested Best Personal Item Backpack For Travel

Planning a trip and searching for the best personal item bag for plane rides overseas? I’d consider myself a professional traveler and for many years (before having kids) I was all about the hand luggage-only life. Ah, how I miss those light traveling days! Anyway after almost 10 years of traveling, if there is one thing I know about it’s choosing the best luggage.

In this blog post, I’ve reviewed 12 options for the best personal item backpack and bag accepted on all airlines. All of these personal item backpacks and bags I have reviewed will fit perfectly under the seat in front of you to comply with all airline regulations.

So let’s get started and dive into the world of personal carry on luggage to help you find the best personal item bag for your next adventure.

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Personal Item Bag for Your Travels

Quick Guide for Best Personal Item Bag

CategoryItemCheck Price
Best Personal Item Bag for PlanesETRONIK Weekender Bag for WomenCheck Price
Best Personal Carry On BagWONHOX Overnight BagCheck Price
Best Personal Item Backpack for AirlinesKnack Bags Series 1Check Price
The Biggest Personal Item Bag Options I Love7 AM Carryall BagCheck Price
Personal Carry On Luggage: The Hybrid SolutionOsprey Fairview 70 Travel PackCheck Price

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Things To Consider Before Choosing Your Personal Item Backpack

Selecting the ideal personal item bag for your adventures isn’t just about snagging something that’ll squeeze under the seat ahead of you. It’s a blend of practicality meeting personal flair, ensuring the bag’s tough enough for the road, and cleverly designed to make the most of limited space, all while playing nice with those airline rules and complying with personal item bag size.

Let’s dive into how to pick that perfect travel companion and use it to its fullest:

So the first thing you need to do is to get the lowdown on Airline Specs. Getting familiar with the airline’s personal item bag size policy is key. Each airline spells out what you can bring aboard, usually sticking to something around the 18 x 14 x 8 inches mark, give or take.

It’s a smart move to check this out before you head to the airport to dodge any surprises. And hey, if your bag’s a tad over but can squish down, you’re often still in the clear with a soft-sided option.

Picking Your Bag Consider these pointers when choosing your bag:

Space and Smarts: Opt for personal size luggage with a layout that makes sense – enough compartments to keep your stuff organized and easily reachable. A spot for your laptop, a secure place for your passport, and a nook for your essentials can smooth out your journey.

Ease of Carrying: Think about how you’ll lug this bag around. A bag that feels good on your shoulder, has cushy straps, or can hitch a ride on your suitcase handle can be a game-changer in transit.

Toughness: The road can be rough on personal item luggage, so pick a material that can take a beating. Bonus points if it’s water-resistant to keep your gear dry in a downpour.

Fashion Meets Function: No need to compromise style here. Plenty of the best personal item bags marry good looks with practicality, so find one that reflects your vibe and fits all your travel scenes, from boardrooms to beachside.

Smart Packing 101 Packing like a pro can make all the difference.

Roll, Don’t Fold: Rolling clothes saves space and keeps things wrinkle-free, especially for those softer, laid-back garments.

Embrace Packing Cubes: These little lifesavers help you organize your stuff in neat compartments, making packing and unpacking a breeze. Check out my packing cubes review here.

Choose Wisely: Aim for clothes and items that can pull double duty or mix and match well, cutting down on the bulk.

Essentials Within Reach: Keep the must-haves for your flight – think headphones, a good read, or a cozy pillow – easily accessible, either in an outer pocket or right on top.

Bag TLC Keeping your bag in tip-top shape means it’s ready to hit the road whenever you are. Some care tips include:

Clean It Up: Stick to the care instructions for your bag. Often, a simple wipe-down with a damp cloth is all it takes to keep it fresh.

Store It Right: When not in use, find a cool, dry spot for your personal item backpack. If it’s collapsible, folding it as recommended can help it keep its shape.

Wear and Tear Check: Keep an eye out for any damage – loose threads, busted zips, or tears should be fixed up quick to prolong your bag’s life.

Armed with these insights, you’re all set to pick a personal item bag that’s not just a carry-on but a trusty sidekick for your travels. The right bag doesn’t just store your stuff; it enhances your journey, making it smoother and more enjoyable.

Does Backpack Count as Carry-On?

Ah, the age-old question that even frequent flyers like us still ponder: Does a backpack count as a carry on? The answer is, it depends on the size of the backpack and the airline’s specific regulations.

In most cases, airlines allow passengers one piece of luggage and one carry on backpack personal item or bag. Luggage goes in the overhead compartment since it’s usually the biggest personal item bag, while your backpack or handbag should fit under the seat in front of you. Now, a backpack can be either of these, depending on its dimensions and how much you’ve packed it.

The key factor here is size. If your personal item sized backpack can fit under the seat and meets the airline’s size requirements for personal items, then you’re golden! But if it’s too large, it will have to go into the overhead bin, and that will count as your one permitted piece of personal carry on luggage.

Each airline has its own rules about the size of carry ons and personal items. Some budget airlines are particularly strict and may have smaller size allowances, so always double-check these before you head to the airport.

From my travels, I’ve found that the best personal item bag for flying is usually a medium backpack if you want it to serve as a personal item rather than luggage. It’s big enough to hold essentials like your laptop, a change of clothes, and some snacks but small enough to tuck under the seat.

Here’s a quick list of some of the most popular airlines and their personal baggage size for quick reference:

Airline Personal Item Size Guide

AirlinePersonal Item Size (in)Personal Item Size (cm)
Air Canada17 x 13 x 6 43 x 33x 16
Allegiant Airlines16 x 15 x 741 x 38 x 18
American Airlines18 x 14 x 8 45 x 35 x 20
Avianca Airlines17.5 x 14 x 845 x 34 x 20
Frotier Airlines18 x 14 x 845 x 33 x 20
JetBlue Airlines17 x 13 x 8 43 x 33 x 20
JSX (JetSuiteX)17 x 13 x 1143 x 33 x 28
Southwest Airlines18.5 x 13.5 x 8.547 x 34 x 22
Spirit Airlines18 x 14 x 845 x 35 x 20
Sun Country Airlines17 x 13 x 943 x 33 x 23
United Airlines17 x 10 x 943 x 25 x 22
WestJet16 x 13 x 641 x 33 x 15
9 x 13 x 825 x 33 x 20
21 x 15 x 1055 x 40 x 25
16 x 12 x 640 x 30 x 15
16 x 12 x 640 x 30 x 15
EASYJET22 x 17 x 1056 x 45 x 25
FLYBE18 x 14 x 845 x 36 x 20
KLM16 x 12 x 640 x 30 x 15
NORWEGIAN9 x 13 x 825 x 33 x 20
VUELING AIRLINES13 x 8 x 835 x 20 x 20

Remember, personal items need to fit under the seat in front of you. Look for a personal item-sized backpack or bag that complies with airline regulations to avoid any hassle at the gate.

Best Personal Item Bag for Planes

Trust me, you would want to maximize your travel comfort with the perfect women’s personal item backpack for flying. I’ve flown more times than I can count, and I swear by a personal bag with multiple compartments. It allows me to separate my toddler’s essentials from mine, and I can easily reach for snacks, a book, or my iPad without rummaging through a mess.

My Top Picks:

ETRONIK Weekender Bag for Women: Best personal item bag for planes

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The ETRONIK Weekender Bag for Women is the best personal item carry on for international travel. Priced at just $34, the bag comes with a crossbody and toiletry bag for extra organization. One of the reasons I consider this ETRONIK option the best personal item bag for flying internationally is the expandable bottom shoe compartment. This keeps your clothes clean and fresh and even includes two shoe bags for dirty footwear!

  • Waterproof
  • Dry and wet separation 
  • Expandable shoe compartment
  • Crossbody and toiletry bags included
  • Adjustable and detachable straps

CAREMORE Travel Bag: Best personal item bag that’s ultra-functional

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The best personal item travel bag for those shopping on a budget is the CAREMORE Travel Bag. For less than $30, you’ll get a sleek and functional piece of personal carry on luggage perfect for all your adventures. This large-capacity women’s bag comes in several chic colors and includes a bonus makeup bag. 

  • 7 multi-purpose pockets
  • Separate shoe compartment 
  • Makeup bag included
  • Waterproof
  • Trolley sleeve pocket

BAGSMART Carry On Bag: Best personal bag for travel that’s light yet durable

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Another incredible choice among the best personal item bag options is BAGSMART’s Carry On Bag, which is priced around $30. This women’s weekender isn’t just fashionable, but it’s also practical. Despite weighing less than two pounds, the Carry On is built to last and holds up well during travel. I also love the padded handles for extra comfort, which is essential for long days on a plane. 

Best Personal Carry On Bag Options

Personal carry on luggage is a must for any trip because it’s all about making your travel life easier. These compact bags let you keep your important stuff like passports, tech gadgets and valuables close. Say goodbye to the hassle of checking in luggage with my picks for the best personal item bag for international travel. 

My Top Picks:

WONHOX Overnight Bag: Best personal item travel bag that doesn’t skimp on style

best personal item bag,best personal item backpack,does backpack count as carry-on,personal item backpack

The WONHOX Overnight Bag is the best personal item for flying that still looks cute and put-together. With trolley sleeves, a waterproof wet compartment, and multiple organizational pockets, this weekender bag can do it all. The high-quality materials resistant to stains and tears also contribute to this being the best personal item bag for flights.

  • Waterproof
  • Expandable
  • Trolley sleeve 
  • Dry and wet separation
  • Multiple interior and exterior pockets

BAGSMART Travel Tote: Best personal item bag for airlines like Spirit

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If you regularly fly through discount airlines like Spirit, you know they can be very strict on travel backpack personal item size. Thankfully, BAGSMART made this Travel Tote with Spirit’s personal item bag restrictions in mind. The lightweight and compact design perfectly fits under your seat, and the bag itself is foldable, making it easy to store when not in use.

  • Compliant with Spirit and Frontier Airlines’ personal item size dimensions
  • Weighs less than one pound
  • Adjustable shoulder straps
  • Zippered exterior pocket
  • Trolley sleeve

WANDF Foldable Personal Item: Best personal bag for travel that’s easy on the wallet

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Priced at an unbeatable $10, WANDF’s Foldable Personal Item holds enough for a short weekend trip while still fitting under your plane seat. This sleek, minimalist travel bag comes in a wide array of colors, and each is made from a water and stain-resistant fabric. With multiple pockets to keep items neat and orderly, your travel experience will be a breeze with this foldable bag. 

  • Fits under airplane seat
  • Trolley sleeve
  • Durable nylon fabric
  • Zippered pockets
  • Detachable shoulder strap

Best Personal Item Backpack for Airlines

I love a good backpack, especially a personal item size backpack! When traveling solo or with the family, a backpack is versatile and hands-free. A backpack is the best personal item bag when you’re wrangling a toddler and maneuvering through airport crowds.

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Personal Item Bag for Your Travels

Why I Love Backpacks

First of all, backpacks are easy to carry since you have the option of going completely hands-free. Wearing a backpack is also a lot more comfortable than carrying a bag or rolling a suitcase. Backpacks often have pockets for laptops and other tech gadgets, which helps you keep your belongings organized on the go. As a bonus, backpacks can also double as a daypack for hiking or touring cities. 

Nordace Siena: Known for its ergonomic design

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Nordace is a popular brand to shop for a personal item backpack for flying—the Siena is a great option known for its ergonomic design. While the Nordace Siena is a splurge, it’s worth it for all the bells and whistles this personal item size backpack comes with. From the dedicated laptop compartment to the anti-theft pocket, Nordace backpacks let you travel with confidence. 

  • USB charging port
  • Cushioned shoulder straps
  • Anti-theft pocket
  • Trolley sleeve
  • Organizational commpartments

Knack Series 1 Laptop Backpack Fits up to 15 Inch

Blue backpack with a single shoulder strap and black zippers, best as a personal item for carry-on.

The Series 1 pack from Knack Bags is an excellent choice for weekend trips abroad since it offers plenty of space. This expandable laptop and travel backpack fits a laptop and multiple outfit changes but can still slide under your seat. With a sleek, stylish design that’ll help you travel in style, the Knack Bags Series 1 backpack is an investment worth every penny.

  • Water-resistant
  • Fits 15” laptop
  • Expandable
  • Water bottle pocket
  • Trolley sleeve

Nordace Henge 45L: Rugged and built for adventure

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Nordace’s Henge 45L carry on backpack is the best personal item backpack for rugged adventures. This pack is made from high-quality, rugged materials that guarantee long-lasting durability. Whether you’re a rock climber, backpacker, or cyclist, the Henge 45L is the perfect travel companion.

  • Organizational pockets
  • 17” laptop compartment
  • Water bottle pocket
  • Detachable pocketed hip belt
  • RFID-blocking pocket

The Biggest Personal Item Bag You Can Get Away With

Ah, the eternal struggle—wanting to pack your entire life into a bag and still have it fit under the seat in front of you. Who hasn’t been there, right? Well, good news, there are bags designed to give you the maximum space allowable for a personal item. Here’s my take on what to look for and which brands really stand out in this niche.

What to Look For:

To ensure you’re getting the biggest personal item bag possible, check for features like expandable compartments. These can be closed for a more compact backpack or zipped open to provide some extra storage space. This is especially important if you like to shop for souvenirs! 

You should also consider bags that have a modular design so you can customize your item organization. Finally, I recommend shopping for a carry on made from a durable but lightweight material. This ensures your bag can hold up against wear and tear as you travel.

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Personal Item Bag for Your Travels

The Biggest Personal Item Bag Options I Love 

Briggs & Riley Extra Large Tote: The space maximizer 

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When it comes to the best personal item bag for international travel, the Extra Large Tote from Briggs & Riley is hard to beat. This spacious, expandable tote features travel essentials like a padded laptop sleeve and trolley sleeve. 

  • Can fit up to 13” laptop
  • Expandable
  • Adjustable handles
  • RFID-blocking pockets
  • Durable nylon fabric

7 AM Carryall Bag: Lightweight

Green quilted tote bag on a white background, considered one of the best personal item bags.

Not only is 7 AM’s travel bag fashionable, but it’s also lightweight and durable. There are plenty of interior and exterior pockets to keep your personal items tidy—no more rummaging through your bag in the security line! The adjustable, padded straps provide plenty of comfort for international flights, not to mention the waterproof construction. 

  • Zippered pockets
  • Waterproof
  • Stylish
  • Durable
  • Lightweight

Antler Chelsea Overnight Bag – Stylish/classic design

One of the best personal carry on bag options is the Chelsea Overnight Bag from Antler. Designed for quick overnight trips, the Chelsea Bag fits up to a 13” laptop and everything you need for a weekend getaway. This bag is made from durable nylon that’s also water-resistant, making it ideal for international travel.

  • Stylish design
  • Durable nylon fabric
  • Water-resistant
  • Fits laptop up to 13”
  • Trolley sleeve

Personal Carry On Luggage: The Hybrid Solution

If you’re like me and can’t decide between a traditional carry on and a personal item, why not get the best of both worlds? Hybrid bags with detachable sections can act as your personal item while flying and then transform into a full-sized carry on upon landing.

Must-Try Hybrids:

Osprey Fairview 70 Travel Pack: Detachable daypack feature

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Osprey’s Fairview 70 Travel Pack is the best personal item bag for airlines that also doubles as a piece of personal carry on luggage. Osprey is well-known for its practical, minimalist designs, and the Fairview Pack is no exception. You can also adjust this Travel Pack to perfectly fit your body, ensuring comfort while you travel.

  • Removable daypack
  • Lockable compartments
  • Padded handles
  • Adjustable fit
  • Lightweight

Cabin Max Evos Hybrid Trolley Backpack: Converts into a rolling suitcase

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The ultimate hybrid solution for international travel is the Cabin Max Evos Hybrid Trolley Backpack. This expandable carry on doubles as a backpack and roling suitcase thanks to the built-in trolley handle. Cabin Max designed this Hybrid Backpack with functionality in mind since it features various padded and organizational pockets. 

  • Internal laptop pocket
  • Hybrid design
  • Lightweight
  • Smooth-rolling wheels
  • Compliant with most airline carry-on size regulations

Gomatic Travel Pack: Offers a laptop compartment perfect for digital nomads

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If you’re a digital nomad planning to take your work on the go, Gomatic’s Travel Pack is an excellent pick. The Gomatic Pack is expandable and constructed with durable, water-resistant materials. This Travel Pack offers many tech organization features to keep your cords and accessories easily within reach. Another cool thing about the Gomatic backpack is the magnetic side pockets for extra storage.

  • TSA compliant
  • Expands by 50%
  • 16” laptop sleeve
  • Tech organization features
  • Water-resistant

Traveler’s FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About Personal Items on Flights

Is a backpack a personal item? Wondering does a backpack count as a personal item? Well the answer is YES. A backpack is an excellent choice for a personal item, as long as it fits under the seat in front of you. Remember to check your airline’s specific size guidelines to ensure it complies with what they outline constitutes a personal bag for flight.

What Counts as a Personal Item on a Plane? A personal item can be a small backpack, purse, briefcase, or laptop bag that fits under the seat in front of you. The main requirement is adhering to the airline’s size restrictions for personal items.

Is a Duffle Bag a personal item? Yes, duffle bags can be used as personal items if they meet the airline’s size requirements. They’re a flexible option for travelers who need a bag that can adjust to fit under the seat yet is spacious enough for essentials.

Personal Item vs Carry On Bag: What’s the Difference? A personal item is smaller than a carry-on and must fit under the seat in front of you, while a carry-on is larger and stored in the overhead bin. Most airlines allow you to bring both, with the personal item intended for essential in-flight access.

How Do I Choose the Best Bag for Traveling Europe? When traveling in Europe, opt for a bag that’s durable, comfortable to carry, and fits the carry-on policies of multiple airlines. A versatile backpack or a small wheeled suitcase with organized compartments is ideal.

Can I Use a Camera Bag as a Personal Item? Yes, a camera bag can qualify as a personal item, provided it fits under the seat. It’s a smart choice for photographers wanting to keep their gear safe and accessible.

What About a Small Suitcase as a Personal Item? A small suitcase can serve as a personal item as long as it complies with the airline’s size restrictions. This option is perfect for travelers preferring a more structured bag.

Is There a Weight Limit for Personal Items? While most airlines focus on the size rather than the weight, some do have weight restrictions for personal items. It’s important to verify with your airline before packing.

Can I Bring Food in My Personal Item? Yes, you can bring food in your personal item, but remember that liquid restrictions apply. Packaged snacks and sandwiches are usually fine, but check the TSA guidelines for specifics.

Travel Guide Planning

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m traveling?

I strongly recommend using Bookaway. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

Conclusion: Finding the Best Personal Item for Flying

Choosing the right personal item bag or backpack isn’t just about style or brand—it’s about picking a bag that aligns with your travel needs and lifestyle. Whether you’re into scuba diving, sailing, or simply exploring new places, the right personal item can make your travels a breeze.

Pin for later

best personal item bag,best personal item backpack,does backpack count as carry-on,personal item backpack

Diana - MVMT Blog

Sunday 18th of June 2017

This looks like the perfect day pack! I love the variety of colors it comes in. It looks quite sturdy too - perfect for hikes and other outdoor adventures.

Claire Summers

Monday 3rd of July 2017

It's great! My only fault with it is it doesn't have a water bottle holder :(


Friday 16th of June 2017

Backpacks from cabin zero are so amazing. :) They are must have travel buddy and perfect for all types of travelers.. I hope I could get one myself and be able to bring them in my travel and adventures.

Annie B

Thursday 15th of June 2017

I actually began to ditch handbags for backpacks! They are so practical and I love the look of this one. I would probably need the bigger one for all my cameras! It looks sturdy and could cope with traveling lots.

Claire Summers

Monday 3rd of July 2017

I have a handbag I love but it hardly gets used these days. I'm much more of a backpack girl! I like having all my things with me and my handbag hardly fits anything in...looks pretty though!


Thursday 15th of June 2017

Cabin Zero bag looks perfect for hikers and travellers. I love yellow colors. I am going to like it on facebook to avail 25 years warranty

Claire Summers

Thursday 15th of June 2017

The warrantee, bright colours and the tracking tag are huge bonuses!

Ali May

Wednesday 14th of June 2017

This really does sound like a great day pack. I love that it's sturdy, has padded straps and is machine washable. I think I would also choose a bright colour like the one you have! So washing would be important. My day pack is almost on it's last journey (as I too use it as a mobile office, with laptop etc)... so this cabin zero pack seems like a great replacement.

Claire Summers

Thursday 15th of June 2017

I'm so pleased with it :-)