The 14 Best Personal Item Bags of 2023

Lo & Sons' O.G. 2 is our top pick for a purse, a work bag, or even a weekender.

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Best Personal Item Bags

Travel + Leisure / Brian Kopinski

No matter what fare class of airline ticket you've purchased — including the dreaded basic economy — you're always allowed to bring a personal item with you on a flight. Personal items are typically categorized as smaller bags, like purses or laptop bags, that can fit under the seat in front of you on a plane, but each airline has its own size restrictions.

We've researched several different types of personal item bags, selecting models in a variety of styles to suit all sorts of travelers. Our top pick is the Lo & Sons O.G. 2, a spacious bag that's elegant enough to use for work, and also ideal for the gym (thanks to a separate shoe compartment) or for short weekend trips. But if you want to see a few more options before you make your purchase, check out our list of the 14 best personal item bags below.

Best Overall

Lo & Sons O.G. 2

Lo & Sons O.G. 2

Lo & Sons

Why We Love It: Its sleek design means you can easily use this as a stylish work bag, not just as a personal item.

What to Consider: Larger laptops (over 13 inches) won’t fit in the padded pocket.

This is the perfect personal item bag, filled with beneficial features. It's extraordinarily versatile — not to mention extremely lightweight — and can be used not only on planes, but also at the office, on the way to the gym, or even as a weekender. For starters, there's a padded laptop pocket that can fit 13-inch devices. (Larger ones will have to go into the main compartment.) There's also a shoe pocket for gym shoes or a pair of slippers for a flight. As for carrying, there are the standard handles, plus a pass-through sleeve for wheeled luggage, as well as a padded, detachable shoulder strap for crossbody carrying.

There are two sizes of this stylish bag, which comes in a variety of colors for the nylon exterior, the interior lining, and the hardware. Our favorite is the medium for everyday use, but if you're looking to squeeze an extra sweater into your bag for a flight, you can size up to the large to fit a little more. The medium has an impressive capacity of 25 liters, while the large gets you an extra liter. 

Price at time of publish: $378 for medium, $398 for large

Dimensions: 13.75 x 16.5 x 6.75 inches (medium), 14.25 x 16.5 x 6.75 inches (large)  | Material: Nylon | Weight: 2.6 pounds (medium), 3 pounds (large)

Best Budget

NRW Lightweight Expandable Travel Duffle Bag

NRW Lightweight Expandable Travel Duffle Bag

Amazon

Why We Love It: An expander essentially makes this option two bags in one.

What to Consider: It doesn't have many interior pockets for organization.

One feature we love in personal item bags is an expander, which creates extra space for any trip purchases. This affordable bag expands five inches — just keep in mind that at full size, it might not count as a personal item anymore. The bag is very lightweight (at just 1.32 pounds) and can fold nearly flat for easy storage when not in use.

As all travel duffels should, this bag has a pass-through sleeve for luggage. We are also impressed by its water-resistant material and separate wet and dry sections (in case you use it as a gym bag or take one last swim before a flight).

Price at time of publish: $23

Dimensions: 18 x 9 x 10 inches | Material: Oxford fabric | Weight: 1.32 pounds

Best Backpack

Tumi Alpha Bravo Navigator Backpack

Tumi Alpha Bravo Navigator Backpack

Tumi

Why We Love It: It has a designated spot for everything, and it's expandable.

What to Consider: The side pocket is a bit tight for larger water bottles.

One of the downsides to many backpacks is that they're cavernous spaces with little in the way of organization. That's not the case with this one, which is crafted from Tumi's signature ballistic nylon made from recycled materials. There are numerous individual pockets for everything you're carrying, from a padded laptop compartment to a quick-access pocket with a magnetic snap to a side pocket with a water-resistant lining (for things that might spill). It's compatible with Tumi's modular accessories that add even more storage space to the backpack like daisy chains that attach on the front straps or the hooks placed around the bag. Of course, there's also a pass-through sleeve for luggage handles. 

Price at time of publish: $495

Dimensions: 16 x 14 x 7.3 inches | Material: Nylon | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Best Tote

Dagne Dover Daily Tote

Dagne Dover Daily Tote

Dagne Dover

Why We Love It: It zips shut but also has a magnetic collar for easy access.

What to Consider: The faux leather makes the bag heavier than nylon totes.

Totes need to be organized in order to be practical, and this one certainly makes that easy. There are pockets galore, including zipped and slip pockets, pen/lipstick loops, and a neoprene bottle holder. Most importantly, the entire tote zips shut, which ensures that nothing will fall out of your bag when you stash it under the seat in front of you

When you need to access something, the zippered top has magnetic clasps that keep it open, and the straps out of the way. This tote is made from faux leather and comes in two colors and two sizes; we opted to go for large, but you can also grab the medium if you need something more compact.

Price at time of publish:  $275 for medium, $295 for large

Dimensions: 15.75 x 12.5 x 6 inches (large), 15 x 12.25 x 5.5 inches (medium) | Material: Vegan leather | Weight: 2.78 pounds (large), 2.67 pounds (medium)

Best Duffel

Away The Everywhere Bag

Away The Everywhere Bag

Away

Why We Love It: It zips open wider than most duffels, as the top zipper continues all the way down to the base of the bag.

What to Consider: The shoulder strap is quite heavy on its own at half a pound (compared to the rest of the bag that's only 2.25 pounds).

Away hits the mark with the second iteration of its Everywhere Bag. Made from water-resistant nylon, the bag is both durable and lightweight. Inside the spacious main compartment are enough pockets to keep things organized, including a water-bottle pocket. There's also a separate padded sleeve that fits up to a 15-inch laptop.

We especially love that this bag opens extra-wide, as the zipper travels all the way down the side. A gusset on the interior prevents everything from falling out when you unzip it all the way. 

Price at time of publish: $195

Dimensions: 16.3 x 10.2 x 7.3 inches | Material: Nylon, leather | Weight: 2.75 pounds

Best Messenger

TIMBUK2 Classic Messenger Bag

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag

Amazon

Why We Love It: It's a durable bag with a customizable interior.

What to Consider: As with all one-shoulder bags, it could get heavy and hurt your shoulder.

Messenger bags are great hands-free bag choices for anyone who dislikes backpacks. They often get a bad rap for being uncomfortable, but it's usually because they're worn incorrectly; a messenger bag should fit snugly against your back and not at your hip — and that's exactly where this one sits. We love that the interior is customizable with different pocket configurations, and that its water-resistant exterior and a wipe-clean interior make it super low maintenance. Though there are a variety of sizes that could count as a personal item, we picked the small, as it's large enough to fit a 15-inch laptop but not so large that you'd hurt your shoulder if it's filled to capacity.

Price at time of publish: $89 for small

Dimensions: 13.2 x 10.8 x 5.12 inches (small) | Material: Polyester | Weight: 1.7 pounds (small)

Best Crossbody

Travelon Anti-Theft Heritage Crossbody Bag

Travelon Anti-Theft Heritage Crossbody Bag

Amazon

Why We Love It: The anti-theft features do well to protect you from the most common kinds of pickpocketing.

What to Consider: The thinner strap could hurt your shoulder if the bag is overfilled.

Unfortunately, pickpocketing is a common crime in many cities, but this crossbody bag can help protect your belongings. Both the strap and the body of the bag are slashproof, the zippers lock, and the card and passport pockets have RFID protection. You can also attach your bag to a stationary object, which is particularly helpful if you're slinging it over a chair or fixing it to a table leg at a restaurant or bar. We also love that the bag comes with a water bottle holder, as well as a number of pockets for easy organization — a crucial element in a travel bag.

Price at time of publish: $58

Dimensions: 12.5 x 4 x 12 inches | Material: Polyester | Weight: 0.9 pounds

Best Fanny Pack

Kipling Presto Up Waist Pack

Kipling Presto Up

Amazon

Why We Love It: You can wear it around your waist, as a shoulder bag, or as a crossbody. 

What to Consider: The front pockets are too small to fit most cell phones.

Fanny packs have made a comeback and are popularly worn as close-to-the-body, crossbody bags. This particular model can be worn on your waist, as a crossbody, and as a shoulder bag, too.

Instead of only having one large compartment, it has the welcome addition of two exterior zip pockets. The only downside is that neither is large enough to fit most cell phones (though they're perfect for smaller items like room keys, credit cards, and lip balm). Another reason we appreciate Kipling bags is that they're made of extremely lightweight nylon, though the texture isn't particularly sleek, so they're better for more casual use.

Price at time of publish: $64

Dimensions: 11 x 6.5 x 1.25 inches | Material: Nylon | Weight: 0.53 pounds

Best Briefcase

Samsonite Pro Double Compartment Briefcase

Samsonite Pro Double Compartment Briefcase

Amazon

Why We Love It: There’s seemingly a pocket for everything, including one for wireless charging.

What to Consider: It can get very heavy very quickly when filled to capacity.

Briefcases might typically be used by business travelers, but they're hard to beat when it comes to organization. There's truly designated space for everything: a laptop sleeve, a tablet pocket, a wireless charging pocket, a detachable cord pouch for your chargers, an RFID pocket, and a section for papers and files. However, because there is so much space for your gadgets and files, the bag can get a bit heavy when it's fully loaded, which makes carrying it via its two handles or the shoulder strap a little difficult. However, there is a pass-through sleeve to toss it on top of your luggage, which would be our preferred carrying style when traveling through an airport.

Price at time of publish: $210

Dimensions: 16.5 x 12.5 x 5 inches | Material: Nylon | Weight: 2.62 pounds

Best Expandable

Longchamp Le Pliage Expandable Tote

LONGCHAMP Le Pliage Expandable Tote

Nordstrom

Why We Love It: It comes in a variety of colors to match any style.

What to Consider: The main compartment is cavernous, so organization can be difficult.

Longchamp has been a go-to for school and work bags for decades, but they also make for handy travel bags. We're particularly fond of the Le Pliage for its expander — use the bag in its smaller configuration for daily use, and expand it when you need to fit bulkier travel gear, like a neck pillow or an extra sweater. The bag is made of a lightweight nylon that comes in a myriad of colors, so it's easy to pick one that suits your style, whether a bold hue or a neutral one. As it easily folds up, it's also helpful if you purchase one too many souvenirs on the trip. 

Price at time of publish: $265

Dimensions: 12 x 16 x 7 inches | Material: Water-resistant nylon | Weight: 0.8 pounds

Best With Wheels

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Rolling Underseat Compact Carry-on Bag

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Rolling Underseat Compact Carry-on Bag

Amazon

Why We Love It: It opens in a unique way that allows for super-easy access to your items inside.

What to Consider: Some airlines might not consider this a personal item, especially on smaller planes.

While most wheeled bags would be considered carry-ons, this bag is specifically designed to fit underneath most plane seats, which technically makes it a personal item on many airlines. (Consult your airline's specific policies to be sure.) The wheels on this spacious bag make getting around the airport a breeze, saving your shoulders and back from aches and pains. We love that it opens fully for easy access to everything inside — the main compartment is large enough to fit folded clothes, plus toiletries and your laptop. Best of all, it has a pass-through sleeve so you can stack it atop a larger wheeled suitcase.

Price at time of publish: $150

Dimensions: 17.5 x 14.5 x 8.5 inches | Material: Polyester | Weight: 5.5 pounds

Best Packable

Paravel Fold-Up Backpack

paravel-fold-up-backpack

Bloomingdale's

Why We Love It: The bag is monogrammable and made from recycled plastic bottles.

What to Consider: It doesn't have as many pockets as full travel backpacks.

It's always a good idea to bring a packable bag with you on your travels — you never know when you’ll need extra carrying capacity! This fold-up backpack conveniently zips up into a tiny pouch, making it easy to toss into another personal item or carry-on. It's also made of Paravel's water-resistant Negative Nylon (which comes 100 percent from upcycled plastic bottles).

This backpack comes in six colors but you can further customize your pick with monogramming. The only thing we wish is that it had a few more pockets, particularly one for carrying water bottles. However, we do love its pass-through sleeve for slipping it atop a rolling bag.

Price at time of publish: $65

Dimensions: 13 x 16 x 9 inches | Material: Nylon | Weight: 0.63 pounds

Best Convertible

Solo Austin Hybrid Tote Backpack

Solo Austin Hybrid Tote Backpack

Solo

Why We Love It: It's not only a great travel bag, but a great work bag, too.

What to Consider: It doesn’t fit laptops over 13 inches.

This sleek convertible bag can be used as a tote via a top-carry handle, a shoulder bag via the main strap, or a backpack through a conversion of the main strap into two straps. Its convertible nature makes traveling a breeze, since you can carry it in whatever manner works best for you at the moment. It has a sleek fashion-forward style that makes it ideal for use as a work bag, not just a travel piece. While the bag is branded as a three-in-one bag, there's also a fourth method of carrying: atop a rolling suitcase via the pass-through sleeve. However, do note that it doesn’t fit laptops larger than 13 inches.

Price at time of publish: $65

Dimensions: 14 x 14 x 5 inches | Material: Polyester | Weight: 1 pound

Most Spacious

Briggs & Riley Traveler Backpack

Briggs & Riley Traveler Backpack

Amazon

Why We Love It: It comes with an unconditional lifetime warranty.

What to Consider: Because it's so large, it might not fit under all airplane seats.

With 28 liters of space, this backpack has an enormous capacity for a bag that can still be considered a personal item on many airlines. Despite all that space, the bag is extremely comfortable to carry, thanks to ergonomic straps. Our favorite feature is that the backpack opens 180-degrees like a suitcase, so there's no need to dig to find the items you need. There are designated spaces for laptops (up to 15 inches) and tablets (up to 13 inches), plus a side pocket that can fit a water bottle, and plenty more zipped pockets for smaller items, including a hidden security pocket in the back panel.

Price at time of publish: $329

Dimensions: 18 x 12 x 8.8 Inches | Material: Nylon | Weight: 3.3 pounds

Tips for Buying a Personal Item Bag

Check your airline’s size requirements

Every airline has its own policy when it comes to personal item bags. Generally speaking, a personal item must be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you. Of course, the underseat space varies per aircraft and sometimes even per specific seat. Some airlines do list specific dimensions for personal item bags, while others are fairly vague about size restrictions. Always double-check your airline's policy before you fly, lest you end up having to check your personal item.

Here are links to the personal item restrictions for U.S.-based airlines:

Consider the style that suits your needs

Do you want a more streamlined bag that works well in a business setting as well as an airport one? Are you looking for a bag that can double as a purse for nights out? Think about the look you’d get the most value from, and run with that style.

Decide what carrying style works best

Bags can be fairly uncomfortable to carry over long distances — especially when you're running between terminals on a short connection. Figure out what style of carrying works best for you. If you're always traveling with a rolling carry-on, you'll probably do well with a bag that can sit on top of that suitcase, such as a tote, a duffel, or a backpack with a pass-through sleeve. But if you're always carrying a large backpack as your carry-on, you might want a different style of personal item, like a fanny pack or a crossbody. If you don't want to be burdened by carrying a personal item, you can opt for a small wheeled bag instead.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What qualifies as a personal item?

    In general, a personal item is a small bag that fits under the seat in front of you, like a purse, briefcase, or small backpack. But each airline has its own rules as to what qualifies as a personal item, and its staff can enforce those rules as they see fit. It's always best to check your airline's rules when it comes to the size of your personal item bag.

  • How do I clean my personal item bag?

    Cleaning methods vary per bag, and, more specifically, by material. Synthetic materials can usually be cleaned with warm, soapy water, but you should always read the manufacturer's instructions before attempting to clean a bag.

  • What can I pack in my personal item bag?

    Anything that can be packed in your carry-on bag can also be packed in your personal item bag, from laptops to toiletries (that follow the 3-1-1 rule) to medication. Because personal items usually have to be stored under the seat in front of you, we suggest putting anything you want to access during your flight in that bag (such as books, tablets, or water bottles).

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Stefanie Waldek is a freelance travel writer with nearly a decade of experience. For this article, she considered dozens of personal item bags, evaluated their features, and read multiple customer reviews. She narrowed down the selection to include a variety of styles and price points for all types of travelers.

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