4 min read

Every airline carrier has its own set of luggage restrictions and fees. However, all of them have one thing in common: you’re allowed to take one personal item free of charge. 

A personal item bag is defined as a backpack, tote, crossbody bag, or briefcase. The key is it has to be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you. So, how do you choose the right travel personal item bag, and what can you pack in it? 

Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. 

How to Choose a Personal Item Bag

Ask yourself, where are you going? What type of trip are you taking — business or pleasure? Always check with your airline before packing a personal item bag as there’s no one-size-fits-all size that’s allowed. You don’t want to get stuck having to check your bag, likely paying a fee to boot.

Business Trip

When taking a business trip, you’ll likely require your laptop and other electrical devices such as a tablet. With that in mind, a briefcase would be a suitable choice. Our Large Expandable Brief is the ultimate personal item bag for a work trip. It features three different sections: an organizer, a generously sized main compartment, and a laptop compartment to hold a 17” device — there’s also a bonus private compartment for a change of clothes. 

As if that doesn’t sound spacious enough, this model features Briggs & Riley’s CX compression-expansion technology, which adds even more packing space (2.5 inches to be exact) before compressing back down to the original size, which means you have room for your essentials. There are also four slip pockets (including one padded one for your tablet) and an elastic bloused pocket in the main compartment for specifically storing cables and charges, so they don’t get tangled up with all of your other belongings. 

If you’re looking for something on the smaller side, there’s a more traditional model such as the Contact Medium Brief. It has enough space for a 15" Apple® Macbook (or a 15.6” laptop), as well as additional storage for a tablet, files, and other business essentials. This bag also features our CordPass™ feature, which neatly organizes power brick and cables, connects the power cord to the laptop compartment, and allows you to charge it without removing it from your bag.

Pleasure Trip 

There are many more personal travel bag options to choose from when you’re taking a trip for pleasure. Backpacks are a classic option, but rest assured our models are the grown-up version of your childhood school days. Take, for example, the lightweight and stylish Rhapsody Collection Essential Backpack. Along with dedicated space for your go-to essentials, this expandable laptop backpack also has a cavernous compartment for bulkier items such as a change of clothing and a pair of shoes. Hate airport security lines? Who doesn’t? The expandable Large Fold-Over Backpack provides access to the interior via a strategically placed pocket to help save time in airport security lines. 

Versatile, durable, reusable, and stylish, a travel tote bag is a must-have essential for any traveler type. A carry-on tote, such as our Essential, is light-weight. Yet, it has enough generous packing space to fit necessities such as reading material, snacks, a cosmetic bag (if applicable), travel documents, and more. If you’re looking for a roomy carry-on tote bag that can serve multiple purposes, our Large Shopping Tote can be used for your flight, souvenir scouting, a trip to the beach, or whatever else your travel plans have in store. 

Crossbody bags are also an ideal personal item bag because they are comfortable to carry around. After all, the weight of the bag is evenly distributed on both sides of your body. This bag style also means your hands are free to carry your coffee and show your travel documents. Our Crossbody Sling bag features a versatile shoulder-or-waist strap. The tablet pocket is padded, so it will be protected from all the other goods you can stuff in this generously-sized crossbody travel bag. 

For a style that’s more like a crossbody travel purse, there’s our Rhapsody Crossbody. Sleek, simple, and with enough space to hold all of your bare essentials. As you can wear this bag in front of your body, you won’t have to worry about someone stealing your passport, wallet, or other personal items. 

What Can You Pack in a Personal Item Bag?

When packing a personal item bag, you first have to remember the items you can’t take on a plane. For starters, can you have liquids in your personal item? Well, yes and no. According to TSA regulations, you’re allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in your personal item bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. 

Things you should absolutely leave home include:

  • Sharp objects (scissors (except for nail scissors), knives, straight razors, and safety razor blades, etc.)
  • Sporting equipment
  • Self-defense items like pepper spray or brass knuckles
  • Tools of any kind
  • Flammable and explosive items 

Here’s what you can pack in a personal item bag:

  • Travel documents and passport if needed
  • Wallet and ID
  • Reading material
  • Eyewear — prescription and sun protection
  • Electronics such as a laptop, tablet, cellphone, camera, suitable chargers, etc.
  • Snacks (but keep them on the non-smelly side - nobody wants to sit next to the tuna sandwich eater)
  • Gum or mints
  • Toothbrush
  • TSA-approved toiletries (and makeup if applicable), and don’t forget the hand sanitizer, lip balm, hand cream, and deodorant (here’s how you pack ‘em!
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Fuzzy warm socks or slippers
  • Tissues
  • Hair ties
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Earplugs
  • A DIY medical kit that includes daily and necessary medications (think anti-nausea meds, pain relievers, anti-diarrhea tablets, etc.), bandaids, an Epi-Pen, antiseptic cream, Ace bandage, etc.
  • Outerwear such as a jacket, wrap, scarf, etc.
  • A travel neck pillow, eye mask, and a light blanket for added comfort
  • A  carry-on cocktail kit for elevated in-flight sipping (responsibly, of course)
  • Journal and writing utensil

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