The Best Personal Item Backpacks for Today’s Travelers

If you are a frequent traveler, you may have seen passengers rolling their massive luggage, another large bag and what is referred to as their “personal item” onto the plane. Airlines today allow passengers to take two pieces of luggage on their flights, which they do not have to check-in. 

Exactly what is a personal item and how big can it be? Generally, the rule is that your personal item must fit under the seat in front of you. Today, there is a wide variety of bags available in the market. 

Can a duffel bag be a personal item? Certainly. As long as the purse, backpack, or duffel bag fits under the seat in front of you, it can be considered a personal item and one of the most popular types of personal item is the backpack because they leave your hands free.

What is a personal item?

The majority of airlines allow passengers one carry-on bag and one personal item. A personal item is usually another bag that is smaller than the allowed size for what is considered carry-on items. A few examples of personal items are backpacks, laptop bags, and purses. Aside from personal items, passengers may also be allowed to bring other items such as jackets and diaper bags.

What size can your personal item be on a plane?

How big can a personal item be? Personal items must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. A lot of airlines specify the maximum size to be 10 x 10 x 16 inches. If you are uncertain whether your personal item meets the size limits, it is best to check with the airline. 

Is a backpack considered a personal item or a carry-on? 

Can you use a backpack as a personal item? Yes, a backpack can be considered a personal item if it doesn’t exceed the size limits of 10 x 10 x 16 inches and can fit under the seat in front of you. If it goes over the allowed size limits, it will be considered a carry-on. 

United Airlines personal item size – 17 x 10 x 9 inches

Spirit personal item size – 18 x 14 x 8 inches

Delta personal item size – No specific size but should be approximately the size of a purse, diaper bag or laptop bag

American Airlines personal item size – 18 x 14 x 8 inches

Frontier personal item size – 18 x 14 x 8 inches

Wow Airlines personal item size – 17 x 13 x 20 inches

Difference between a carry-on and personal item

What is the difference between a carry-on and a personal item? Carry-on luggage is larger than a personal item and they must fit in the overhead storage compartment. There are also some airlines which require for carry-on items to be a certain weight. There are specific size restrictions for carry-on luggage and they can vary from one airline to another.

Most airlines limit carry-on luggage size to be no more than 22 x 14 x 9 inches, including the wheels and handles. For the convenience of passengers, most airlines have a display outside boarding gates which easily allow passengers to verify if their luggage is within the size limits. 

What can I have in my personal bag on a plane?

Can I put clothes in my personal bag? You can pack electronic devices, clothes, and other items which are small in size and will be able to fit perfectly under the seat compartment. However, it is advised to always check your host airline’s website so that you do not end up taking restricted items or have items confiscated. 

How to pack in only a personal item-sized bag?

Personal bags are smaller compared to carry-ons and to save as much space as possible, rolling your clothes is a very good idea. Placing your clothes in a reusable shopping bag or a drawstring bag helps keep things organized. 

Prevent your clothes and other items from getting dirty by placing sandals and flip flops in reusable bags. Some things that won’t fit in even the best personal item backpack so if you are traveling somewhere that has a cold climate, it is better to wear or carry items. Of course, for long plane rides, it is always a good idea to bring some snacks. 

What to look for when choosing a personal item bag?

First and foremost, the best personal item bag has to be within size limits and should be able to accomplish quite a few things. Your bag selection is dependent on the duration, as well as the type of the trip while keeping in mind the deliberate events. 

Here are some things to consider when choosing the best personal item bag:


The primary concern when choosing a personal item bag is the size. The size limit varies from one airline to another but in general, the maximum personal item dimensions are commonly not more than 8 inches tall, not more than 15 inches wide and not more than 9 inches deep. The size should be perfect enough to provide you space to put essential and smaller items such as purses and small electronics. 

It is a must to keep in mind that personal bags will accommodate all last minute things you need to pack. Always check the maximum size allowed by the airline for a comfortable and worry-free trip.


Aside from the size, it is also important to think about the bag’s shape. It is best to choose soft-sided and malleable materials. Soft-sided bags are easier to shove and fit under the seat in front of you. Some seats just seem to have strange configurations and these things take away legroom.

Always opt for something that can be easily squished whenever necessary. 

Materials and security features

It is essential to consider the material used for the bag. One of the best materials is water repellent nylon because it is durable and will be able to withstand rough use. Another great thing about nylon is that it is very easy to clean.

Always look for bags with well-functioning and strong zippers. Safety locks and added security features are always welcome because they help prevent theft.

Number of pockets

Lastly, you should check the number of pockets and consoles, because they will help you organize your things and keep them ready at all times. More pockets mean having more space and pockets will allow you to reach your things easily without even looking. You won’t have to spend time rummaging through your stuff and in a plane where there is limited space, this is always a good thing. 

Best Personal Item Bags

A personal item bag is necessary because if you bring a carry-on bag that only goes in the overhead compartment, it will be a challenge to get to your things during the flight. You have to stand up in the aisle, lift a heavy bag over your head and risk things falling if there is turbulence. 

Passengers are also not allowed to stand up during takeoff and when landing or whenever there is turbulence. It makes much more sense to have a smaller bag where you can fit a few items and easily grab them from the compartment under the seat in front of you. You will have access to your things anytime and without the hassle. 

Here are a few best personal item backpacks which you can buy for the next flight.

Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350 15-Liter Anti-Theft Backpack

Pacsafe is a brand that is renowned for producing bags that have safety as the primary concern. There are different types of risks when traveling, one of the most common is theft. The Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350 is made with 100% nylon fabric with polyester lining. The bag’s main section is made with a protective sleeve where you can easily keep a 13-inch laptop or nay tablet of the same size. It features an RFID blocking pocket that prevents hackers from stealing confidential information. 

There are also two exterior pockets where you can keep water bottles and another exterior pocket that is perfect for tickets, headsets, mobile phones, and other small personal items.

Mancro Travel Computer Bag

This multipurpose bag can also be used for the office or school. Made of fully water-resistant polyester fabric, it features padded shoulder straps and is reinforced by durable metal accessories at the bottom. 

It boasts of three main pouches, three side pouches, and nine small interior pouches. It comes with a built-in charging cable so you can easily charge your phone even when you are on the go, with the help of your power bank, of course. Lastly, it comes with a theft-proof combination lock and strong metal zipper that help prevent theft.

Samsonite Encompass Convertible Backpack

Advertised as more than just a personal item backpack but a traveler’s dream backpack, the Samsonite Encompass can be used as a backpack, shoulder bag, cross-body bag or handheld. It comes with a front side-access zipper that organizes your passport, phone, and other materials. The main compartment has numerous slip pockets for your batteries and tablets. The interior cushioned pocket can easily fit a 13-inch laptop too. 

Veegul Doctor-Style Backpack

This stylish doctor bag has a capacity of 20 liters and is the perfect size. It has a stylish design and is made of 95% durable cotton and 5% pure leather. At only 1.5 pounds, it is very lightweight. The bag can be carried using the shoulder strap or the top handle. 

It boasts of a main compartment, as well as two front zipper pockets and two open side pockets. The main section is big enough to hold all your items while the front zipper pockets have room enough for headsets, tickets, mobiles, and passport. 

HEX Terra Sneaker Backpack

This backpack can hold a pair of shoes and a laptop that is up to 17 inches. It boasts of two front device-ready pockets fir your that can easily fit an iPad and other gadgets, a vented sneaker compartment, a main storage compartment that can hold clothes and other items, and an organizer for pens, cards, and keys.

The exterior is made of coated polyester for water resistance and the sneaker compartment is made of air mesh back panel. 

Tentree Mobius Modular 4-in-1 Backpack

This eco-friendly backpack can be shrunk or expanded whenever needed. It is 16 liters at its smallest but can expand up to 35 liters. It is small enough to be used as a personal item but can also be a carry-on if needed. It is made from fabric that is a product of recycled materials, and the foam comes from excess algae. 

It has a clamshell opening at the back which gives you easy access to your items. It boasts of a laptop sleeve that can accommodate laptops up to 15 inches, a hidden pocket, a space for a water bottle on the side, and a front compartment that has many organizational pockets. 

Hynes Eagle Lightweight 18L Travel Bag

This bag comes in a myriad of colors and is one of the more economical options in the market today. Although it lacks a few features which other bags offer, it will suffice for those who don’t need bags with a lot of security features. It also comes with one big front utility zipper pocket, and two sides open pockets. 

The only downside to this backpack is that it doesn’t come with a laptop compartment so there is a need to bring a sleeve. 

SwissGear Travel Gear 1900 Scansmart

The SwissGear Travel Gear 1900 is made with weather-resistant and durable polyester that can withstand frequent use and harsh conditions. Made with the unique Scansmart lay-flat technology, it can easily protect laptops up to 17 inches in size. 

Aside from the laptop and iPad compartment, there are also separate organizational pockets for notebooks, keys, and other writing items; a large, front u-zip pocket so you can easily access essentials and two side compartments for you to store water bottles, an umbrella or a quick change of clothes. The bag also features a padded back panel and ventilation technology for added comfort and support.

Setout Laptop Daypack

Specially designed for airplane use, the Setout Laptop Daypack makes for a versatile secondary bag that slides easily under the seat. Made of durable water repellent coating, it can easily fit a laptop, a tablet, a charger, a change of clothes, toiletries, and a few other accessories. 

It can be used as a backpack and can be paired with a rolling suitcase. The foam-padded shoulder straps ensure comfort and the exterior pocket can expand to fit a water bottle.

Jansport Super Break Backpack

Made of 100% polyester and coated with durable 600 denier fabric, the Jansport Superbreak backpack is water repellent. Ultralight and is available in several colors, it is the classic Jansport bag. It features one main large compartment for laptops and other items and a front utility pocket with an organizer for smaller items. However, there is no separate pocket for laptops so it is a good idea to put the laptop in a sleeve. 

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