Budget Travel Packing

9 Best Basic Economy Personal Items to Hold All Your Stuff

When you fly basic economy, your personal item is all you’ve got. Here are the best bags for basic economy that will give you the most space to work with.

So, you got a great deal on a basic economy ticket, but how are you going to fit everything you need into your personal item? Basic economy fares are great, but even for the most minimalist travelers, the luggage restriction (one item that fits under your seat; no overhead bin access allowed) can be daunting. If you’re flying basic economy, your personal item is all you’ve got, so you better make sure it can hold everything you need.

A personal item can be as large as the space under the seat in front of you and on various airlines, the length of your bag can be anywhere between 17 and 20 inches. Here are some great soft-sided bags that can help you maximize the power of your personal item on your next basic economy flight.

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Fjallraven Greenland Zip Large

One of the larger bags available from this popular brand, the Fjallraven Greenland Zip Large is a hip choice made of sturdy weather-resistant fabric. With a 15-inch padded laptop sleeve, a spacious interior, and a large front pocket, this is a great personal item to make the most of your basic economy ticket.

 Nixon Decoy Tote Bag

To maximize space, skip the day bag and go for a tote like the Nixon Decoy. This is a personal-item that’s large enough to hold everything you could need, but malleable enough to be squeezed under the seat in front of you. With multiple straps, including a padded shoulder strap, plus a 17-inch laptop sleeve, this is a personal item that means business.

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Pacsafe Stylesafe Anti-Theft Tote

If you’d like more ways to organize your basic economy personal item, the Stylesafe Anti-Theft Tote from Pacsafe is a great choice. With theft-deterring zippers, multiple exterior pockets, and a spacious interior, this is a great tote for a short but busy trip.

 Nike Brasilia XL Backpack

If you’d like a personal item that’s not too cumbersome, the Nike Brasilia XL Backpack is a solid and sporting choice. With one front pocket for organizing small objects plus a spacious main compartment to hold your clothes, it’s easy to make the most in basic economy with this personal item.

Sherpani Fen

Need a personal item with style to last you for your whole trip? The cute and functional Sherpani Fen is a deep and roomy tote bag with a long vertical shape. This convertible bag can be worn as a backpack or used as a tote bag and has plenty of pockets to keep you organized.

 Herschel Supply Co. Little America

At 20 inches long, the Little America from Herschel Supply Co. is a backpack that’s pushing the limits, but is still flexible enough to fit under the seat in front of you. Available in multiple colors and patterns, it’s easy to find one to best fit your style.

The North Face Borealis

The North Face Borealis is a backpack you can take with you from the plane to the trail, with a wide interior compartment and plenty of comfort features like back-panel padding and mesh straps. This is a great choice of personal item if you’re planning on using it throughout your trip.

Chrome Summoner Pack

If you plan on living out of your personal item for a longer period of time, the Chrome Summoner Pack is one of the most suitcase-like backpacks on the market. With front-access pocket design, you can make the most of this super-spacious personal item. 

Topo Designs Daypack

With a fun design and classic shape, the Topo Design Daypack is a solid choice for a basic economy personal item. It can hold a large laptop and has room to fit enough clothes for a short trip.

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By Jamie Ditaranto

Jamie Ditaranto is a traveler in a love triangle with writing and photography. Follow the drama on Twitter @jamieditaranto and Instagram @jamieditaranto.

Ditaranto joined SmarterTravel in 2015. She loves ecotourism, cities with history, and discovering local hangouts. Though she likes all the continents equally, she holds a special place in her heart for rainy little islands.

Her work has also appeared online at USA Today, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and other publications. You can check out her photography on her website.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "My instant camera comes in handy for giving instant gifts to new friends."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Befriending penguins in Antarctica."

Travel Motto: "You have to get the hard places out of the way first."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "On short flights, the window. For long flights, the aisle."

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