Dodge baggage fees and still pack plenty with these travel bags and tips

Despite the fact that airlines are losing fewer bags year after year, for many travelers it’s the fees – not the wait at baggage claim – that leave them complaining the most. The savvy flier, of course, will tell you to carry-on your bag and avoid paying the extra charge.

But that presents a new set of problems. You’re restricted to just one bag, and it must be small enough to fit in an overhead compartment. Some low-cost airlines, like Frontier and Spirit, even charge for use of overhead space.

Of course, there are workarounds. “Typically, the airlines are allowing a laptop, purse, or an item that can fit under your seats without a fee,” said Tom Spagnola, a senior VP at travel website, CheapOair. So, it’s not just about packing light but packing smart, especially if you’re bringing a lot of tech onboard.

Do what we do: If you’re bringing two bags, your larger carry-on luggage should hold only items that you don’t plan to access during the flight. Common sense dictates: Don’t stash your iPad in the overhead compartment, and then throw a hissy fit when the flight attendant is blocking your way during beverage service. Should you need to check the bag in case overheads are full, you won’t be missing those items. Looking for a carry-on? Check out the Away, from two former Warby Parker execs, which has a compression system to keep things flat.

Keep your tech at arm’s reach – headphones, tablets, chargers, etc. – in a small backpack in the under-seat space. But even this needs planning: We’ve stashed things in a backpack, only to find it difficult to search through it due to the space constraints of seating area. The key is to stay organize, and the best-designed products will offer more room than you expect. There are even under-seat bags that have enough room for a weekend trip. Here’s some new carry-on gear that will help you maximize the limited space at your feet.

Standard Pacific Goods The Field Rucksack (TBD)


From Portland-based Standard Pacific Goods, the Field Rucksack blends the best of outdoors gear with urban convenience. That means a stylish bag that’s well constructed, and tons of space. Besides a laptop, there are compartments for a water bottle, shoes, jacket, sweatshirt, phone, and accessories; provided you don’t overstuff it, it should fit neatly in the space in front of you. There are smart touches like a fleece-lined interior to prevent scratching glass screens. A thermal pocket keeps food hot or cold, and the clamshell design makes it easy to pack. There’s even a protective cover for rainy days. The Field Rucksack has a suggested retail price of $200, but you can get it for $125 during the final days of its Kickstarter campaign.

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Standard Pacific Goods

Global Travel Clothing The Joey ($130)


If you’ve used up all your carry-on space, or you dislike hauling luggage onboard, The Joey is a waterproof, lightweight jacket that not only keeps you warm, but has internal pockets for a tablet, phone, water bottle, wallet, passport, and any small items like keys and mints. Even when fully loaded, the jacket is designed to keep a minimal profile. We like the detachable hood for inclement weather, and it doesn’t look bad either. You can get it during its Kickstarter campaign for $130.

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Global Travel Clothing

Travelon 18″ wheeled underseat bag ($110)


Believe it or not, but this wheeled suitcase will fit within the small confines in front of you. Yes, you’ll sacrifice some leg room, but there’s enough room for clothes and shoes for a weekend excursion – experienced packers could probably fit even more. This carry-on is perfect for flying airlines that charge for using overhead compartments. A front pouch lets you easily access an iPad or travel documents. The Travelon 18 ($110) has received rave reviews from users, but there are similar bags from other companies.

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Scottevest SeV System 8.0 ($215)


The Joey is nice, but when it comes to clothes for geeks, nobody has been doing it longer or better than Scottevest. But the new System 8.0 ($315) is great for travelers too. Consisting of a shell and fleece, there are a total 43 pockets to store almost anything you can think of. As clothing, both items have zip-off sleeves when you need some quick cooling – perfect for those fliers who can’t decide if they’re too cold or hot. Worn together, System 8.0 keeps you warm in cold weather (down to 32-degrees Fahrenheit), and the shell is water resistant and blocks wind. The shoulder area uses fabrics that help distribute add-on weight, so you don’t topple over while in line for boarding.

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Booq Daypack ($65)


Sometimes nothing beats a simple laptop bag. The new Daypack from Booq, however, can hold up to 26 liters (or almost 7 gallons) of clothes, while a laptop compartment and other pockets give you quick access to things you’ll need to pull out during a flight. There’s nothing particularly fancy, but we like the understated design – easy to carry, and easy to stow. Looking for more suggestions? We have 25 others to recommend.

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