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I Am Ditching Extra Baggage Fees on My Next Trip With These Products

Going on a trip but don't want to pay extra for a suitcase? Here is what I'm using to pack everything into a single personal item, not even a carry-on.

In early January, my friend and I hopped on the chance to fly roundtrip from JFK to London for only $300. That's right, $300 compared with the usual $600 ticket. 

When we saw the discounted price of $300, we instinctively booked a weeklong trip then immediately bought a $40 RyanAir flight to Portugal. But with every flight low in price comes a ticket high in restrictions: My ticket only includes one "personal item." Even a carry-on costs $55 extra each way. Want to bring a suitcase? That will run me an extra $80 each way. 

A black backpack sitting on a bed.

Here is my bag, fully packed and ready to go for a weeklong trip overseas.

Charlotte Maracina/CNET

I leave for London soon and have realized that if I want to save myself those extra fees, I'm going to need to fit all of my stuff into a personal item, a bag that can fit under the seat in front of me and doesn't exceed the dimensions of 18 x 14 x 8 inches. For reference, think of a high school backpack or an oversized purse. 

Yep, that's all the space I have to pack in for a weeklong trip. 

Over the past couple of days I've been experimenting with different ways to pack all my clothes, shoes and toiletries in just a backpack. Now, I'm happy to report, I finally managed to pack for the week in my backpack. This triumph involved multiple rounds of trial and error. So if you're looking to save money and find ways of packing light, here's how I've packed for a weeklong trip in just a bag. 

The bag

First, let's start with the basics: the bag. There are a variety of bags for you to choose from -- mini roller bags, purses, duffle bags or backpacks. I tried several different backpacks because I knew they'd be the easiest type of bag to carry around multiple cities and hostels. Here are the top two bags that I recommend for your upcoming trip.

I want to note that the Lululemon bag is obviously pricey, but I plan to use it again and again to save money on plane tickets, especially as airlines keep adding on ridiculous fees. The idea that I would have to pay extra for even a carry-on bag is outrageous, and I'm willing to find long-term ways to work around all this.


This was the bag I ended up choosing. Inside the bag I was able to fit three packing cubes and a pair of heels. The bag has two zippered exterior pockets that can act as extra storage for smaller toiletries or tchotchkes you may need; I used them to hold my travel size shampoo and conditioner along with my makeup. 

My favorite aspect of the bag, however, is the exterior padded pocket, which can fit a 16-inch laptop. One of my biggest challenges while finding the perfect bag was finding a bag that could not only fit my clothes but also my laptop. Being that I'll be working remotely on my trip, bringing my work laptop is kind of non-negotiable. While this bag may not fit smoothly under the seat in front of me (I'll most likely have to shove it a bit) it's big enough to fit all my belongings and more while still counting as a personal item! 

Need more space? I also got the Lululemon Belt Bag to hold my more important items such as my passport, AirPods, ID and sunglasses. (Let's be honest, it's a fanny pack; calling it a belt bag is all marketing.) Being that the belt bag is small enough to be strapped on my person most airlines never normally give me a problem with it. If the airline does strictly adhere to the "one personal item per person" policy, the bag can easily be shoved into my backpack then taken out once on the plane. 


OK, this bag was a super close runner up. If you don't have any packing cubes but still need a way to organize your clothes then let me introduce you to the Beis Hanging Backpack. This, my friends, is not any normal backpack; open it up and you'll find a compressible shelving system. It also has four interior pockets, as well as an exterior laptop pocket and zippered pockets.

The Hanging Backpack is a unique backpack and it's by far my favorite travel backpack made by Beis. In the end, the deciding factor between the Lululemon bag and this one came down to the size of the laptop pocket. I'll definitely be using this backpack for future weekend trips.  

Packing cubes

For the longest time I've been against packing cubes. Why? I have no idea, mainly out of laziness. The thought of having to repack everything into tiny little cubes seemed like such a waste of time to me. After packing for this trip, I now see the error of my ways. Packing cubes really do make your life easier when you have a limited space. Below are the packing cubes I used to help me stay organized while packing for my trip.


When I first got the Topo Pack Bags I thought, "There's no way this will fit everything.Once again, I was proven wrong. In one of the 5-liter packing bags I fit seven tank tops along with a long-sleeve shirt. In the 10-liter packing bag I was able to fit three pairs of jeans and one pair of leather pants. I used a second 5-liter bag to fit my intimates and smaller items of clothes. 


The Topo packing bags were useful for my clothing and larger items, but this zippered pouch set from Compakt easily fits toiletries and smaller items. If you happen to have a bag that doesn't have a lot of zipper pockets or extra storage space then that's where this pouch set comes into play. The waterproof three-piece set will help keep you organized and eliminate any extra hassle of digging through your bag to find smaller items. (There's nothing more annoying than having to take everything out of your bag to find a phone charger.) 

Packable clothing

The difficulty of packing really depends on where you're going. Headed on a beach vacation? Packing in a personal item will be a breeze, all you really need is bathing suits and tank tops. Packing for a trip where you'll be lucky if the weather gets above freezing? That's where the trouble lies. 

Although I'm headed to countries where the temperature should only be a modest 40 degrees fahrenheit, I still needed to be strategic while packing. This means bringing clothes that can be easily layered and wearing about four different layers of clothing on the plane. While packing, I made sure to pack jackets that were designed to be packable so they didn't take up an exorbitant amount of space in my bag. Here are just a few essential clothing items I packed for my trip.


They say the best things come in small packages and this hoodie proves that to be true. It keeps you warm while also keeping your luggage light. I love the simple design and how easily it can be layered with other clothing. If you're traveling to a colder destination and are in need of a warm, lightweight jacket then you need the Global Puffer hoodie. 


Over the past couple of years my collection of these tank tops has quickly grown. I now own about eight of them, all in different colors. The seamless plunge tank tops can be dressed up or dressed down and easily layered which is why they're essential for travel. The tank tops can be easily rolled up and packed into any size bag. Whether you plan on kicking back or going out, these tank tops are great for every occasion.