One Easy Way to Fit a Ton of Stuff Into a Tiny Bag

How to ditch your large luggage and travel with just a tiny carry-on—really!

I’m tired of draping my coat over my expandable 25-inch suitcase in an attempt to hide it from airline employees. Yes, I am that person. My bag exists on the fringe of airline carry-on size limits. But I have a plan to change. I’m going to ditch my large luggage and travel the world with a tiny 18-inch spinner with which I can zip past even the most fastidious gate agent.[st_content_ad]

How? With space bags, also known as compression bags. I’ve used them before. But over the past few years, I had forgotten about the handy little wonders and switched back to the sit-on-the-suitcase method for successful packing.

It is time to use space bags once again as airlines continue to reduce their carry-on size limits, basically rendering my 25-inch spinner too big to bring on some planes. (You can check your airline’s size requirements with our Ultimate Guide to Airlines Fees.) I tend to pack a generous amount of clothes, but I hate checking bags almost as much as I hate sitting in front of the nine-year-old who thinks my seat is a soccer ball. Space bags are the solution to my problem.

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First, a caveat: Space bags allow you to fit an amazing quantity of clothes into a suitcase, thereby making your bag kettlebell-heavy. Watch out for airline weight limits, and buy a portable luggage scale if you want to be safe. That said, space bags are the number-one way to fit more clothes than you ever thought possible into a suitcase.

Here’s how they work: You place your clothes in the bag, then you suck the air out. Methods for air removal vary by type of space bag: Some bags require a vacuum, while others work by rolling and pushing down on the bag to release the air. The latter is best for travel, obviously.

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Once the air is removed from the bag, your clothes will be compacted into a tiny, hard lump. Sure, they may get wrinkled. So pack a travel-size Downy Wrinkle Releaser and no problemo.

I like the Eagle Creek Compression Sac Set. You remove the excess air from this bag by rolling, so you don’t need to find a vacuum. Other options are this Samsonite Luggage Kit, which includes 12 bags, and these Ziploc-brand space bags.

Have you used space bags when traveling?

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

By Caroline Costello

Caroline Costello's travel accomplishments include surviving a 2 a.m. whitewater rafting excursion in the Canadian wilderness, successfully biking from Dusseldorf to Cologne without a map, and gaining access to a covert pizza speakeasy in New Orleans.

Caroline is an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Her work has appeared on USA Today, the Boston Globe,,, ABC News, TODAY Travel, and, among other publications.

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