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Our Four Favorite Personal Carry On Bags

We’ve heard from many readers who are headed out on spring break or a quick sun-filled vacation and are looking for a new personal carry-on bag.

And this makes me EXCITED because I LOVE packing.

That sounds weird, I’m sure, but there is something about the process of organizing and packing things neatly that brings me joy.

It’s like doing a puzzle.

A personal carry-on bag plays a big role in being able to pack as much as you need without checking a bag.

I refuse to check a bag these days because nothing will ruin your hard-earned vacation more than lost luggage.

So today, we’re sharing four of my favorite personal carry-on bags, starting at only $30, and offering some tips to help you pack.

These all offer something different and are all sized to fit neatly under the seat in front of you on an airplane.

Why You Need a Personal Carry-On Bag

If you don’t want to check a bag when flying, you need to optimize everything you’re allowed to bring on your flight: your carry-on suitcase, which goes overhead, and your one (1) personal item, or your carry-on bag, which has to slide under the seat in front of you.

Most people do not take advantage of what you can use as a personal item.

A personal carry-on bag cannot exceed 18 inches long, 14 inches wide, and 8 inches high.

And there is no weight limit.

What are you supposed to do with your handbag? 

If you’re on vacation, you can leave it at home.

I’ll pack my Lo & Sons Pearl Crossbody because it goes with everything and packs nicely.

At the airport, I keep my phone, wallet, and other small essentials in a Lululemon Everywhere Bag and wear it until it’s time to board, then throw it in my bag (below).

What can you keep in your personal carry-on bag?

I prioritize the items I’ll need on the flight, such as my laptop, Kindle, and travel toiletries. I’ll also keep my travel jewelry case in there.

But you can and should use it for overflow or bulky items, like shoes or a curling iron. And I always packing any clothing in these compression packing cubes.

Our Four Favorite Personal Carry On Bags

(1) Kat Myhr Weekender, $30 | (2) Dagne Dover, $215 | (3) Catalina Deluxe Tote, $168 | (4)  The Everywhere Bag, $195

Regarding your personal carry-on bag, you don’t need anything fancy.

Focus, instead, on quality, durability, and space.

If you are a frequent traveler, spend more on something like this because you know it will take a beating.

However, our picks range from $30 – $200, so there are options for all budgets.

My last tip is to buy something other than a rigid, hard-case bag. You don’t get as much room and can’t manipulate them.

Instead, look for a soft bag to stuff under your seat with no issue.

Amazon

For $30, this Kat Myhr Weekender is an incredible find.

You have tons of storage and organization, like a pocket for your laptop and a separate compartment at the bottom to hold shoes and other bulky items.

It slides over the handlebars of your roller bag, and it is made of a coated canvas so you can wipe away stains and scuffs.

It is available in cream (below) and black, which is not my favorite because of the contrasting gold zippers.

1

Kat Myhr

Amazon

$30.99

Dagne Dover

I scooped this Dagne Dover bag up a few years ago at Nordstrom, and not only have I used it, but it’s a go-to when my girls have sleepovers and overnight trips.

It’s an excellent little personal carry-on that, while it looks small, fits a surprising amount of things, like a laptop, kindle, and personal care items; I’ve even shuffled a packing cube and hairdryer.

I like the fact that it’s lightweight and soft.

It sits on your roller bag and has a crossbody strap when packed.

Available in several colors, pay attention to the size options. If you want to use this as a personal carry-on bag, you want the large. 

2

Landon Carry All

Dagne Dover

$215.00

Lo & Sons

Sometimes, I feel like I recommend the same thing over and over, but when it comes to Lo & Sons, you really don’t need anything else.

And if I had to pick my favorite on our list, this is it.

Their bags wear like iron.

I love that they are reasonably priced and focus on utility, but they are still super chic.

Pre-COVID, I flew around the country like crazy, and my Lo & Sons bags never let me down.

For a personal carry-on bag, you specifically want their Catalina Deluxe Tote.

It fits the size requirements and has everything you need.

It has the bottom pocket we love for shoes, but if you don’t need it, you can unzip the panel that divides the bottom compartment from the main compartment and get even more room—genius.

Go with the Recycled Poly instead of the canvas for extra durability, in a range of primary colors, on sale for $168.00

3

Catalina Deluxe Tote

Lo & Sons

$168.00

The Everywhere Bag

Finally, The Everywhere Bag by Away is another excellent choice.

I have Away Luggage and am delighted with its quality and functionality.

Their Everywhere Bag is excellent for a few reasons.

First, it’s gender-neutral, so my husband can use this as quickly as I can.

This would make a lovely Father’s Day or birthday gift for any man in your life.

Second, I love how it opens up.

It falls to the side, allowing for a large opening and making it nice and roomy.

You can fit a 15″ laptop and a small water bottle inside.

Available in black and navy (above) for $195.

4

The Everywhere Bag

Away

$195.00

When I Use a Backpack

Travel backpacks are wonderful options to stay handsfree.

In the past, when I traveled for work, I used this style from Tumi, and I have friends who like the Rowledge from Lo & Sons. I find backpacks are better for when you are either checking a larger bag or are not bringing much.

Both of these options fit the same amount of things you would carry in a tote, they won’t fit additional bulky items like packing cubes or extra layers.

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

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Tonia

Tuesday 26th of March 2024

I have difficulty carrying a heavy tote yet I would love to just have a personal item, no carry on. Any recommendations for a wheeled back pack or tote that can be used as a personal item? Thanks- love your blog’

Michelle

Sunday 30th of April 2023

Looking at that dagne bag- it says you want large for carry on but website says the XL is also carry on- curious why it says you want the large- is it that XL wouldn’t fit under seat? Thanks!

Paula Duckett

Wednesday 5th of April 2023

Oops!! Auto correct !!! … I meant UNDERSEAT WHEELED BAG not underwear bag!!!

Paula Duckett

Wednesday 5th of April 2023

I love all your recommendations! One thing I would suggest regarding travel is a wheeled carry on . Often the airport walk is very long and those great tote/ personal item bags can be heavy. I don’t really like back packs. The underwear bags can hold a lot! Then use a light weight large tote that can “ride “ on top . Lifesaver

Kelly

Thursday 30th of March 2023

In answer to Julia’s question, I use an LL Bean Deluxe Kids backpack. There is a TON of space in these and they’re waterproof too. I bought the black so I don’t have to worry about it getting dirty under the seat and got a monogram on the front to dress it up. I’m one of those people who wants all my creature comforts when I travel (my own hairdryer, straightener, curling iron, and travel steamer, along with all my toiletries and quart size bag). All of this fits in there and I often can get my Nike sneakers for exercise in there to boot. The bag itself weighs almost nothing and the nylon is very strong. Hope that helps.

Kit Cole

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Bought the Lo and Sons Catalina bag in navy "camo" and so so glad I did. It has a "pocket" that slides over the handle of your roller bag - KEY. No more bags coming apart and then tumbling to the ground. And, it fits under the seat in front of you. AND I use it for my school bag when I'm not traveling. NOT CHEAP but worth every darned penny!

Julia

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Would love some recommendations for serviceable but somewhat attractive travel backpacks. I find a backpack more versatile for travel beyond getting from point a to b. When I travel I’m doing day trips, day walks, etc. Also unfortunately my back is problematic so heavy shoulder bags like this plus a heavy carry on case (I have not mastered light traveling (help!!)) are not a great combo. If I share the weight on my back, it’s so much easier. Thanks

Sue Shrum

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Great information, this is exactly my strategy! I went to Spain last fall for almost 3 weeks with only my carry on hard side Samsonite bag in the overhead and my Longchamp bag under the seat. I’ve had the Longchamp bag for probably 10 years, still looks great and I’ve used it many, many times for domestic and international trips. The photo shows it expanded, but when it’s zipped up, fits under the seat like a dream. And if you need a larger bag once you get to your destination, voila! Sometimes I’ve even packed a foldable tote bag and then used that for my personal item and checked the Longchamp bag, open to its large size, to go home (in cases where I can’t resist the urge to shop, lol!). I think Longchamp bags are very chic.

https://www.longchamp.com/us/en/products/travel-bag-expandable-L1911919001.html

Cheryl

Thursday 30th of March 2023

I purchased the LO and Sons Catalina last year and LOVE it! It is a workhorse for travel and holds a ton. For many years I have used the Lo and Sons backpack for travel. It was a great bag also, but this one has become my new favorite. A great recommendation and one I am sure many will love.

Susan

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Absolutely great advice. I travel extensively and love the Bric's bags. I have a nice crossbody from them that I lay flat in my suitcase (Eagle Creek for me) and pull out at my destination. I use a nice weekender bag similar to what you recommend. They are super lightweight with leather tabs on the zippers so they look nice. The only other advice I give to friends about no carry on is: You can have laundry done anywhere. It beats checking a bag! Thanks for all your advice. I learn a lot from your posts and love your upbeat positive attitude.

Megan Kristel

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Love this, and having your laundry done on longer trips is really the way to go. The first time I did that was on a 2 week trip to Europe, we we're flying on small planes several times and need to carry on, and I'll never go back. Game changer.

Sharon

Thursday 30th of March 2023

You must have hacked my computer because this is exactly what I have been researching for weeks. Thx for these recommendations. It's a hard decision. I would love to hear a discussion on hard sided vs soft sided carry on luggage. I'm still on the fence.

Megan Kristel

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Thanks! I'm so glad it's helpful! I have hard sided luggage and I prefer it for the durability. The Away luggage I own is incredibly well made. The down side is that, because it's ridged, you don't have as much wiggle room. But I use packaging cubes and really don't have an issue. I do make sure my personal item is soft so I get a little more room out of that - if that helps :)