Are you planning a trip and searching for the best personal item bag? Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally (or for business or leisure) the best personal item carry-on bag will keep your travel documents, phone, laptop, photography gear, accessories, and onboard snacks and entertainment organized, secure, and close at hand. Never forget those snacks.
While you want a sturdy and dependable bag that will hold all of the above and more, you also want, and need, something that won’t be too heavy, hard to maneuver, or get turned down by TSA. If it makes you look stylish and cool, all the better.
If you’re traveling by plane, you can check large suitcases, ski or snowboard bags, golf club bags, garment bags, and wheeled luggage. So, there’s no need to worry about that. However, you’ll be navigating through long lines at check-in, TSA, and boarding, which means you’ll want something lightweight and easy to sling over a shoulder, toss on your back, or carry across your body.
The best bag to carry on a plane ranges from a tote, a crossbody bag, and a backpack to a rolling suitcase, a laptop bag, or a duffel. You could even use a toiletry bag or a camera bag as a personal item bag.
Whatever your travel style and destination, you’ll want a bag that fit your needs and preferences. The best personal carry-on bags feature things like waterproof fabric, detachable handles, padded shoulder straps, RFID-blocking pockets, a padded laptop sleeve, a tablet pocket, zippered internal pocket, exterior pockets, spacious interiors, a water bottle holder, and organizational features like slots for pens, notepads, maps, and more.
The best personal item bag for plane travel is dependable, durable, functional, versatile, and fits underneath the seat in front of you. You could also stow it in the overhead compartment with other carry-on luggage, but the purpose of a personal item bag is to have it within reach if needed. I know I like to have easy access to my phone, books, noise-canceling headphones, or those snacks we mentioned earlier.
Best Personal Item Bags for Travelers
1. TravelPro Crew Versapack Rolling Travel Tote Bag
This cute rolling tote perfectly combines rolling luggage and a personal item bag. Lightweight and sturdy, the TravelPro Crew Versapack Rolling Travel Tote Bag has handy ball-bearing wheels and an adjustable extendable handle to easily glide through the terminal, across the road, or down the sidewalk. It’s similar to the ones you’ve probably seen the pilots and flight crew rolling through the terminal, so it’s got that cool factor going for it as well.
The roomy main compartment can hold a couple of sets of clothing or magazines, books, and a neck pillow. There are hold-down straps to keep everything in place, as well as a separate laptop compartment for a 14” laptop, tablet, or other electronic devices.
The zippered front pocket offers quick access to a key fob and has zippered and slip pockets for organizing all your small items, electronics chargers, and documents. There’s also a zippered exterior side pocket for items like a water bottle or umbrella.
Don’t worry about stains and scratches with this airline personal item bag. Made of high-density ballistic fabric with a DuraGuard coating, this bag features corner armor, skid guards, and wheel housings for bump protection. A strap on the back makes it easy to attach to another suitcase for hands-free transport.
- Measurements: 8.5” x 16.5” x 15.75”
- Material: High-Density Ballistic Nylon
- Weight: 6.7 lbs.
- Waterproof fabric resists moisture, stains, and abrasions
- Rolling wheels and an extendable handle for convenience and portability
- Square shape easily stows under the seat
- Pricier than other selections
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2. Longchamp Le Pliage Tote
Simple, easy, and elegant, the Longchamp Le Pliage tote can hold everything from phones, chargers, and tablets to a light jacket, laptops, books, magazines, and an endless supply of snacks. Heck, you could probably fit a neck pillow in there.
It has a zipper opening with a snap closure and one inner pocket for small items like a wallet and earbuds. On the downside, the large interior space doesn’t have organization pockets, so you could end up digging through everything just to find that one item that slipped to the bottom of the bag. Now, organization bags, packing cubes, and mesh pouches could be an answer to this issue, so that may not be a deal breaker for you.
The attractive strap on the Longchamp Le Pliage Tote is made of rolled leather. According to some reviewers, this is much more comfortable on the shoulder than unrolled leather.
The best thing about this personal item bag is that it folds down, making it the best second carry-on bag for other uses (such as local crafts and any duty free shops you might hit up along the way). Once you get where you’re going, you can fold it into the smaller size for evenings out. Even in its larger state, this lightweight personal item tote can be used for work or as a regular tote bag while out and about.
- Measurements: 10.6” x 17.3” x 11” (at full size) / folds down to 5” x 7” x 2”
- Material: Nylon with a leather handle
- Weight: 9.8 oz.
- Very spacious interior
- Can be folded to make a smaller handbag
- Nylon fabric is easy to wipe away stains and dirt
- Large interior space doesn’t have organization pockets and slots
- No designated laptop compartment
See Related: Monos Luggage Review: Is it Worth it?
3. Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag
Sometimes the best carry-on purse is a messenger bag. You just can’t beat a messenger bag for hands-free hiking, biking, or navigating through airports.
This messenger bag is available in four sizes that can accommodate up to a 17” laptop. All sizes are in accordance with under-seat measurement guidelines and stand up to Timbuk2’s long history of quality, function, and style.
The interior of the Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag is spacious and has a separate sleeve for a laptop. There are two internal water bottle pockets (one mesh and one solid fabric), a small zippered pocket, and slip-in pockets for other small items. Use the front zippered and slip-in pockets (including a side entry pocket) for items you use often or want easy access to.
The cover of this travel bag stays secure with Velcro strips and flap buckles that have adjustable compression straps. There’s a grab handle on the top if you prefer not to use the cross-body option. A unique safety feature is a vista loop that can be used to attach blinking lights for after-dark use.
The cross-strap is fully adjustable, padded, and removable. However, the cross-strap is not available with the x-small messenger bag, so you may want to go ahead and look into the bigger bags if you really need/want a cross-strap.
- X-Small: 10.2” x 9.84” x 9.84”
- Small: 13.8” x 106” x 10.6”
- Medium: 14.6” x 12.2” x 12.2”
- Large: 15” x 13.8” x 13.8”
- Material: Ballistic nylon
- Weight: 1.7 lbs.
- Several color combinations
- Durable and water-resistant with an easy-clean TPU interior liner
- Spacious interior with pockets
- Cross-strap is not available with the x-small version
- It can get front-heavy since all the organization pockets are in the front
- Not a lot of padding in the laptop section of this personal bag
See Related: Best Travel Totes: Portable Bags & Carry-Ons
4. Travelon Anti-Theft Heritage Crossbody Bag
With simple good looks and a classic design, the Travelon Anti-Theft Heritage Crossbody Bag offers durability and anti-theft features for on-the-go travelers. This travel bag can be worn over the shoulder or across the body. The strap is adjustable from 13” to 25”, which makes it easy to keep close to the body to avoid theft.
The bag has a roomy main compartment with two slip-in pockets and a zipper pocket as well as a key fob with an LED light. On the exterior, there’s a zippered rear pocket and an easy-to-access front zipper pocket that can be locked.
The best thing about this bag is its anti-theft features that include RFID blocking and slash-resistant body panels.
- Measurements: 9.75” x 7.75” x 2.5”
- Material: Cotton and canvas
- Slash-resistant mesh body, bottom panel, and shoulder strap
- Locking straps
- RFID blocking
- Smaller than some bags
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5. Samsonite Pro Double Compartment Briefcase
Sleek and modern, the soft-sided Samsonite Pro Double Compartment Briefcase makes an excellent personal item bag. It’s a solid choice for business travelers or someone who needs space for books, notebooks, and electronics.
The front zippered compartment of this travel bag has a padded tablet sleeve and organizational pockets for items like phones, pens, passports, and the like. The middle section, also zippered, can hold books, magazines, files, and notebooks.
There’s also a divider for files. The back compartment has a laptop sleeve for a 15.6” laptop.
Technology features include a wireless charging pocket (power bank sold separately), RFID protection, and USB ports to stay connected. It even includes a removable cord patch for organization.
Top grab handles make this travel personal item bag easy to grab and go. An adjustable strap is a great feature for hands-free use. There’s a sleeve on the back of this traditional briefcase that can fit over most pieces of luggage handles.
- Measurements: 16.5” x 12.5” x 5”
- Material: Nylon
- Weight: 3.1 lbs.
- Lots of organization for the business traveler
- Laptop section can be adjusted for the perfect secure fit
- Doesn’t have as much room for things like clothing, water bottles, snacks, and accessories
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6. NORTH FACE Women’s Jester Laptop Backpack
One of the best personal item backpacks for travel, this stylish and functional laptop backpack is my personal favorite. I like to keep my camera gear, phone, laptop, medications, sunglasses, and a book or magazine close by and easy to get to. This best personal item backpack has a roomy interior that can hold all of that and more.
As a side note, I use Ape Case Cubeze camera insert bags to keep my camera and accessories safe from bumps. They’re padded all around, have a drawstring to keep everything secure, and can be easily put into and taken out of most any bag.
The front compartment on this travel backpack has zippered and mesh slip-in storage areas for pens, phone chargers, wallets, and other small items. Two mesh pockets on either side can hold water bottles.
With FlexVent technology, this backpack travel bag has flexible shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel, lumbar support, and a sternum strap for support, as well as top handles for grab-and-go use. A front bungee system offers storage for jackets and easily “squishable” items.
When fully packed, it can be a bit of a challenge to fit under the seat in front, but I’ve never had a problem with it (and I firmly believe in taking it all along with me).
The best thing about this personal item bag option is that it can go straight to the trails, parks, streets, and mountaintops when you get to your destination. It just might be the only bag you’ll need.
- Measurements: 11” x 6.75” x 17.25”
- Material: 600D or 300D polyester with a water-repellent finish
- Roomy interior with padded laptop sleeve and space for clothing or books
- Zippered front mesh section for pens, cell phones, and other small items
- Could get loaded down with all the items you’re able to stuff into it
7. SwissGear Granada Rolling Case
The SwissGear Granada Rolling Case is a combination of briefcase, rolling carry on luggage, and personal item bag. We think it’s a terrific choice for business or leisure travelers who need space for travel accessories, electronics, and work-related items.
The interior of this travel bag has mesh pockets and straps to hold items like clothing, a neck pillow, or shoes in place. The front zippered section has organization pockets to hold phones, charging cords, passports, and more. The middle section has a padded compartment that can fit up to a 17” laptop.
A top-grab handle, easy-glide wheels, and an extendable handle make it a convenient carry-on case to transport through the airport, down the sidewalk, and across the pavement.
- Measurements: 9.84” x 16.54” x 13.78”
- Material: Nylon
- Weight: 8.05 lbs.
- Easy-glide wheels for smooth transport
- Lots of organizational space
- Can be heavy when loaded up with items
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8. Briggs & Riley Rhapsody Softside Underseat Carry On Cabin Spinner
Lightweight and durable, the Briggs & Riley Rhapsody Softside Underseat Carry On Cabin Spinner is a functional and elegant way to carry all your necessities.
It features a main compartment that can hold a sweatshirt, clothing, or shoes. A front zipper pocket has elastic loops for pens and slots for business cards and other small items, as well as a padded compartment for a 15” laptop. There are two gusseted internal side pockets and a side pocket for a water bottle.
Top-grain leather handles have a snap closure for comfort and ease in carrying. The interlocking handle system has an ergonomic grip handle.
The bag can stack on any Briggs & Riley luggage. Double swivel spinner wheels offer 360-degree navigation and ease in transport through airports.
Briggs & Riley will repair this carry-on baggage for free if it’s ever damaged or broken.
- Measurements: 15.5” x 8” x 14”
- Material: Micro-weave nylon
- Weight: 7.2 lbs.
- Durable and moisture-resistant fabric
- RFID protection
- Swivel spinner wheels for effortless transport
- Lifetime repair if ever damaged
- Pricier than some other options
9. High Sierra Endeavor Wheeled Underseat Carry-On
Well-known for backpacks, the High Sierra Endeavor Wheeled Underseat Carry-On is one of the best bags for air travel for those who like the convenience of wheels. If you’re on a quick trip, or a minimalist traveler, this may be all you need.
The interior is large enough to hold all your essentials, including clothing, shoes, and more. There’s also a large zippered mesh pocket for toiletries. The molded front pocket offers protection for a tablet, phone, and small items.
Behind the front pocket is a padded sleeve for a 15” laptop. A side mesh pocket can hold a water bottle or umbrella. A padded grab handle makes it easy to grab and go.
With an extendable and push-button locking handle, this bag has a luggage sleeve to attach to the handle of another piece of luggage.
- Measurements: 17” x 12” x 7.75”
- Material: 600D polyester
- Weight: 6.1 lbs.
- Smooth-rolling in-line skate wheels
- Padded grab handle on top and on the underside for convenience
- Could get heavy with all the items you’re able to pack
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10. TravelPro Maxlite 5 Softside Lightweight Carry-On Travel Tote
If you’re looking for a tote as a personal item, the TravelPro Maxlite 5 Softside Lightweight Carry-on Travel Tote is a solid choice for a double-duty lightweight personal item bag.
Stylish, compact, and easy to carry, it has a top carry handle and a detachable padded strap for over-the-shoulder ease. The roomy interior can hold shoes, a neck pillow, or a change of clothes. It has a mesh zippered pouch and a zippered side pocket for things like earbuds, passports, and other documents.
It’s constructed of stain-resistant and water-repellent fabric with durable long-lasting zippers. There’s a quick-access front flap to secure small items. It has a rear strap that can be used to attach to other carry-on luggage.
- Measurements: 11” x 8” x 8”
- Material: Polyester
- Weight: 1.61 lbs.
- Small, lightweight, and compact
- Water and stain-resistant fabric
- Interior could be too small if you pack a lot of items
11. Vera Bradley Women’s Performance Twill Large Travel Duffel Bag
For style and good looks, this Vera Bradley twill duffel bag fits the bill. It’s durable, lightweight, and made from Vera Bradley’s signature quilted water-repellent fabric.
This personal item bag has a zip-top closure and a super spacious interior with three elastic mesh interior pockets for toiletries, jewelry, cosmetics, in-flight necessities, and more. Other bag features include slip-in pockets on either end, a front zip pocket, and a slip outer pocket for small items like wallets, passports, and valuables.
There’s a 15-inch strap and a 53-inch removable and adjustable strap for over-the-shoulder and hands-free carrying. The personal carry-on bag is available in several colors and patterns.
- Measurements: 12” x 22” x 12”
- Material: Polyester
- Weight: 1.36 lbs.
- Water-repellent fabric
- Storage pockets for organization and easy access
- Can get weighted down by overpacking
- Not as “rugged” as some
See Related: Types of Travel Bags for the Jetsetter
12. BAGSMART 17.3 Inch Laptop Bag Briefcase
An elegant quilted pattern and gold accents give a distinctive and business-like approach to the BAGSMART 17.3 Inch Laptop Bag Briefcase. Use for commuting, business trips, and leisure vacations where you want access to your stuff in an elegant bag.
Keep all your tech and personal items handy with three main sections. The front storage section can hold books, headphones, and up to a 12.9” iPad. The laptop section can hold a 17” laptop.
A hidden zip pocket inside is the perfect place to store jewelry or other valuables while traveling. There are two easy-access pockets on the front, with zippers, as well as a front slip-in pocket for documents, maps, and such.
Padded handles and a padded, ergonomic, and detachable shoulder strap provide comfort and hands-free carrying, making this the best personal bag for comfort and convenience.
- Measurements: 17” x 4.5” x 12.5”
- Material: Water-resistant polyester
- Weight: 1.72 lbs.
- Lots of storage and organization
- Elegant enough for business or leisure travel
- Luggage strap to slide over other luggage
- Only available in two colors
13. Waterfly Sling Bag Crossbody Backpack
Waterfly has thought of it all with this personal item backpack. While compact in size, it packs a lot of use and functionality into its small frame. This lightweight bag can be used as a sling bag, a crossbody bag, a shoulder bag, or a chest bag.
Made of water-repellent coated nylon, the main compartment can fit several small items and an iPad up to 9.7”. An adjustable padded shoulder strap has a hidden pocket for credit cards, cash, keys, and other valuables as well as a hook for sunglasses. It easily switches for left or right shoulder use, making it a terrific contender for the best personal item backpack.
Tech-savvy travelers will enjoy the addition of earphone holes in the front pocket of this personal carry on bag. There’s also a mesh side pocket for a water bottle. A convenient zippered mesh pocket at the bottom can hold wet items like an umbrella, light jacket, or swimsuit (you’ve gotta take advantage of that last-minute pool time).
This personal item backpack has a breathable mesh pad on the back for comfort while hiking and bicycling and easily fits underneath the airplane seat in front.
- Measurements: 4.7” x 10.6” x 16.5”
- Material: Nylon
- Weight: 15 oz.
- Water-resistant and easy-to-clean fabric
- Storage pocket on the strap
- Can be worn on the left or right shoulder
- May be too small for travelers who need a lot of storage
See Related: How to Pack For a Camping Trip [Step-by-Step Checklist]
14. BJLFS Weekender Duffel Bag
The BJLFS Weekender Duffel Bag has a detachable strap that can be used as a handbag, a cross-body, or a single-shoulder carry method. The spacious interior of this personal carry-on bag holds books, magazines, or a change of clothes.
Other features of this airplane personal item bag include a side pocket, a waterproof pocket for wet items, and a zippered U-shaped compartment for exterior access to shoes or laundry. This duffel bag is available in several colors for the stylish aesthetic you might be going for.
- Measurements: 10.63” x 21.65” x 7.09”
- Material: Nylon
- Weight: 1.3 lbs.
- Waterproof fabric
- Large capacity interior
- Luggage trolley strap
- Can get overpacked and become heavy (use packing cubes for better organization)
15. TARION Camera Backpack
The best carry on personal item bag comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, all you need is a camera bag.
The TARION Camera Backpack comes with eight padded dividers to offer lots of configurations for a camera, lenses, and other equipment. You could also fill it up with clothing and other items if necessary. It’s a great option if you only want to carry one bag.
This camera backpack has a 15” laptop section in the back. It comes with a zippered mesh pocket for valuables and accessories like SD cards and batteries. A side pocket can hold a water bottle.
Bottom straps allow a tripod to be attached (though it may be best to stow it in a checked bag or carry-on so that this bag can fit under the seat).
There’s a grab handle as well as ventilated backpack straps that are padded and adjustable. The padded mesh back panel provides comfort and breathability while hiking or trekking through the airport terminal.
- Measurements: 17” x 6” x 11.8”
- Material: High-strength tear-resistant nylon
- Weight: 1.87 lbs.
- Comes with a waterproof rain cover
- Lots of room for camera gear, clothing, or a combination of items
- Laptop sleeve on the back could become uncomfortable (it is padded)
See Related: Minimalist Travel Accessories for Traveling Light
16. Away Everywhere Bag
Away delivers quality, convenience, and style in their collection of luggage, backpacks, carry on bags, and carry-on suitcases. If you already have Away luggage, the Away Everywhere Bag has a trolley sleeve (an exterior slot that slides over the extendable handles of another piece of luggage) that conveniently attaches to any piece, including the Away Carry-On.
Features of this carry-on purse include a full wraparound zipper for easy access and visibility to travel essentials, a spacious interior, a detachable padded shoulder strap, and top handles.
Inside, it has a padded 15” laptop pocket, a mesh bottle pocket, a zippered pocket, and organizational slip-in slots for earbuds, pens, phones, and notebooks. You’ll find multiple pockets around the outside for things like boarding passes, passports, and other must-get-to-quickly items.
- Measurements: 16.3” x 10.2” x 7.3”
- Material: Nylon and leather
- Weight: 2.75 lbs.
- Water-resistant fabric
- Detachable key clip
- Roomy interior
- Trolley sleeve may not be compatible for attaching to other brands of luggage
What features make the best personal items bags?
Features to look for in a carry-on personal item bag include organizational pockets, zippered sections, and padded pockets for laptops and electronics. You might want a little extra space for after the duty free shopping sprees as well. A mesh pocket for a water bottle is another great feature to have while navigating through airports, waiting in terminals, and enduring long flights.
What is considered a personal item bag?
Airlines differ when it comes to personal item bags. Purses, laptop bags, and briefcases are generally accepted. A personal item backpack, crossbody bags, roller luggage, and tote bags can also apply.
The general rule is that it must fit underneath the seat in front. A size of 18″ x 14″ x 8″ is a good approximation for bag size. That’s about the biggest personal items bag size you’ll want to take on board.
What items can’t be taken in a carry-on bag?
There are a wide array of times that can’t be carried onto a plane, whether they’re in personal item luggage, stowed in a carry-on or on your body. Those items include gel candles, liquids (in quantities of more than 3.4 ounces), sharp objects, large quantities of alcohol (more than 3.4 ounces), guns and ammunition, and tools (such as wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers) that are longer than 7 inches.
Sports gear like bats, skis, snowboards, and golf clubs and self-defense items like mace or pepper spray cannot be taken in a carry-on bag or personal items bag. You’ll also want to leave the chemicals, flammables, and explosive items at home.
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