Discover the best carry-on personal item bag for how you travel
Looking for the best personal item bag? From backpacks to crossbody and convertible bags there are a lot of great options to use as a personal item on your flight.
In this post we break down some of the most popular personal item bags including laptop backpacks, convertible backpacks, totes and more.
Keep reading for all the details!
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This affordable backpack is my favorite personal item bag for plane travel when traveling without my laptop.
The spacious main compartment has plenty of room for everything I want to bring on a flight.
The front utility pocket is perfect for keep your smaller items organized and easy to reach.
And because it doesn’t have a lot of “extras,” the pack only weighs about 12 ounces when empty, so it’s nice and lightweight.
We’ve been using Jansport backpacks for years and love how affordable and durable they are.
They also pull double duty and work as day packs to carry all of your day trip essentials while we explore our travel destination.
If you’re looking for something little more sophisticated and/or designed to carry a laptop, you might like the Matein Travel Laptop Backpack.
Still quite affordable, this backpack has a separate laptop pocket designed to hold laptops up to 15.6 inches.
It also includes a roomy main compartment to hold everything you need to survive a long flight.
The front compartment is perfect for keeping smaller items organized.
A strap on the back of the pack allows it to fit over your extended rolling carry-on handle.
Keep your valuables close to you and away from thieves with the back anti-theft pocket.
For the ultimate in personal item carry-on luxury try the TUMI Voyageur Carson Laptop Backpack.
The TUMI Voyageur collection comprises stylish nylon travel gear for women.
This backpack includes a laptop compartment that holds a 15-inch laptop, a tablet pocket, a large main compartment, and more.
You’ll also find a trolley sleeve and a water-resistant pocket that’s perfect for keeping your water bottle separate from your other items (like electronics).
TUMI products also feature a TUMI tracer. The TUMI tracer product recovery program assists TUMI product owners retrieve lost or stolen bags.
If you’re looking for an anti-theft back pack with a slim profile to use as your travel personal item bag, take a look at the Travelon Signature Slim Backpack.
It’s still roomy enough in there to carry a tablet, plus there’s also smaller pockets inside to help you keep your stuff organized.
Since it’s a Travelon bag, it of course comes with their 5-point anti-theft system that includes features like locking zippers to help prevent pickpockets.
The RFID-blocking pockets help protect your information from electronic identity theft while the slash resistant panels protect your items from snatchers.
It’s also made from stain and water-resistant nylon so it’s easy to keep it looking great even if you travel frequently.
If you love Travelon backpacks but want a little more space than the Signature Slim Backpack (above) offers, check out the Travelon Anti-theft Classic Backpack.
Of course, since it’s Travelon, it includes all of their usual anti-theft features like slash-resistant panels and straps, RFID blocking pockets and locking zipper compartments.
The main compartment has room for a tablet plus a smaller drop pocket.
The roomy front compartment includes RFID-blocking slots and another open pocket.
Stow your water bottle in the handy exterior pocket.
Made with water and dirt-resistant fabric.
It’s two travel bags in one!
This PacSafe bag is an anti-theft backpack that becomes an anti-theft travel purse.
Anti-theft features include interlocking zippers, cut-proof steel mesh material, plus RFID blocking pockets (both front and interior) to prevent electronic identity theft.
The cut-resistant shoulder strap is wire-reinforced and is detachable so that you can lock your bag to a stationary object like a table.
As a backpack, it’s large enough to hold a 10-inch tablet plus other items you might need.
As a purse it’s the perfect size for a day or night out.
Comes with a 5-year warranty.
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Travelon also makes a convertible bag. You can wear it as a backpack or as a crossbody bag.
- Keep it as a backpack as you travel to keep your hands free.
- Style it as a crossbody bag as you explore so you can keep your items close to you.
This bag includes an RFID-blocking zippered pocket and an expandable water bottle holder/pocket.
The main compartment features a tablet sleeve plus smaller compartments and pockets to help you keep your travel essentials organized while you keep them safe.
Travelon bags are designed to help travelers prevent the five most prevalent kinds of theft that they might face as they explore the world.
For a short flight or short trip, you may not need a large personal item bag.
In those situations, I like to use just a travel purse as my personal item.
My favorite purse for travel is the Travelon Anti-theft Classic Bucket crossbody bag.
A quality anti-theft travel purse is a women’s travel essential.
It’s remarkably roomy for the size and includes the same anti-theft features as their larger bags and backpacks: slash resistant body panels and strap, locking zipper closures, RFID-blocking pockets, lockdown strap.
Don’t miss my complete review of the Travelon classic bucket crossbody bag for more details and personal photos of the purse.
If you’re looking for a slim and chic tote to use as a personal item that also brings some important anti-theft features, check out the Addison Tote.
The bag comes with long shoulder straps, a removable crossbody strap, an interior zippered divider pocket, and large front and rear zippered pockets.
The main compartment has a wide opening, fits a tablet easily and provides interior pocket organization some might find especially helpful for business travel.
Even though it looks stylish enough to use every day it still offers Travelon anti-theft features like slash-proof body panels and straps, RFID blocking pockets, lockdown strap, and locking compartments.
If you’re looking for a solid bag that moves with you from airplane personal bag to laptop commuter bag then you should take a look at the TUMI Alpha Bravo Albany Laptop Slim Commuter Briefcase.
This bag features a 14-inch laptop compartment PLUS a tablet compartment, multiple zippered pockets to keep you organized, and a trolley sleeve to easily fit it over the handle of your rolling carry-on.
Inside the bag you’ll find the tablet pocket, three open pockets, one zippered pocket, two card pockets and a pen loop.
Like other TUMI products, this bag features the TUMI tracer. The TUMI tracer helps reunite TUMI owners with their lost or stolen bags.
Personal item bag FAQs
What makes the best personal item?
There are a few things that I recommend you look for in a personal item bag:
- Small enough to be within your airline’s personal item regulations and fit easily under the seat in front of you.
- Durable enough to withstand being shoved under dozens (if not hundreds) of airplane seats.
- Zippered compartments to keep contents from spilling out. Avoid open bucket-style totes.
- Organizational features like zippered pockets inside and out, phone pockets, etc.
- A backpack or crossbody bag will keep your hands free to deal with your wheeled carry-on. Can’t decide? Try one of the convertible backpacks listed above.
How small does my personal item need to be?
The short answer is that you need to check the carry-on policies of the airline you’re flying with.
They’ll tell you exactly what you can and cannot take on your flight, what size bags you are allowed, if there are any weight restrictions, and what additional items you can bring (like umbrellas, baby items, etc.)
For example, United Airlines carry-on baggage policies state that their maximum personal item size is 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches.
We’ve been able to take on board bags that are a little larger than the specified dimensions as long as they were somewhat underfilled and fit easily under the seat in front of us.
Your mileage may vary.
Make sure you check your itinerary carefully, because you might be flying with more than one airline, especially if taking an international trip.
What is the difference between a personal item and a carry-on?
Broadly speaking, anything you take into the airplane cabin with you is a carry-on; however, your airline may allow passengers to bring a smaller bag on the plane with them in addition to their larger carry-on bag.
One important exception might be if you are flying with a basic economy fare that may allow ONLY a personal item and no access to overhead bin space for another, larger bag.
This smaller item is often referred to as a “personal item” since it is typically a purse, briefcase, laptop bag, small tote or something similar.
A personal item is ideal for carrying things you want to keep with you at your seat.
Personal items are generally stored under the seat in front of you, which requires that they be a smaller size than your typical carry-on.
The size of bag that is allowable as a personal item will vary from airline to airline.
It is essential that you check the carry-on policies for every carrier on your itinerary so that you don’t run into any issues.
Please note that airlines often allow passengers to bring on extras (in addition to a carry-on and/or personal item) like jackets, reading material, items purchased in the airport, etc.
Do I need a personal item if I’m also using a larger carry-on bag?
It depends entirely on how you like to travel.
Some people use a single larger carry-on bag and stow it in the overhead bin after removing anything they want with them during their flight (such as their phone, a book, a tablet, etc.).
The benefit of doing that is there is more room for your feet.
Those who travel carry-on only and don’t check a suitcase will likely want to maximize all allowable baggage and bring both a rolling carry-on as well as a personal item.
Final thoughts on carry-on personal item bags
There really are a lot of great options for personal item bags.
From laptop backpacks to totes and briefcases, you’re sure to find something that’s the perfect fit for your needs and budget.
And don’t forget to check with your airline so that you don’t purchase something that’s larger than what they allow.
More articles to help you get ready for your flight
- What to take on your flight in your carry-on
- Tips for surviving long-haul flights
- Products to help you sleep on flights
- The best products for long flights
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