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Best Underseat Luggage: My Top Pick & 5 Runner Ups

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With airlines constantly adjusting their compact carry-on size requirements and implementing higher fees for checked luggage, travelers have been forced to adjust and pack smarter.

Many U.S. airlines are following in the footsteps of ultra-low budget carriers like WOW and Spirit, introducing free “basic economy” fares that charge extra for carry-on bags. As a result, the most budget-conscious travelers have started taking packing light a step further and have managed to travel using only lightweight under seat luggage on their ultra-budget flights.

Even if not flying on a basic fare, many people have started avoiding checking luggage together through the combination of a personal item and a carry-on bag or travel backpack. Others have gotten tired of the Hunger Games-esque Battle Royale for overhead bin space every time that ensues every time they board a plane and now prefer to just pack carry on luggage that fits under the seat.

Whether you’re looking to avoid baggage fees or you’re just trying to make it home for the holidays without playing the terrifying game of dibs that is trying to nab space in a crowded overhead compartment, I’ve picked the best underseat luggage options for light-packing, savvy travelers who are tired of taking s(@* from airlines.

One important note on the dimensions of underseat carry on luggage: every airline has their own rules about what constitutes a “personal item” and what you can bring on an economy or basic economy fare. Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to the question “how big is the space under an airplane seat” (that would be too easy, apparently) therefore the best place to start is by checking with the airline itself.

While I’ve done my best to pick only bags that fit under airplane seats, it may not necessarily pass the requirements of the most intensely strict airlines (WOW and Spirit are notoriously more strict than other airlines). Compare the specs of the bag with what your airline allows before deciding on what to buy, as every airline’s under seat size is different.

Winner: Samsonite Spinner Underseater with USB Port

Samsonite Spinner Underseater with USB

The sleekest and most ergonomic of all the luggage on the list, this is the best under seat bag for the aesthetics-focused traveler who wants to travel comfortably and stylishly. Their colors are really rich and beautiful, especially the Majolica Blue, so if design and aesthetics are important to you, I think this is one of the nicest-looking options.

Another awesome perk is that it has a USB port… however, it doesn’t come with the battery, so you will have to buy an external battery pack such as this Lumina charger to actually take advantage of that functionality.

One of my favorite things about this bag, though, is that it is actually a spinner underseat carry on with four wheels! That means this bag can actually glide ahead of you or alongside you and you’ll feel like a supercool airport ninja while you stride through the airport at it, laughing at all the folish mortals with two-wheel bags (or is that just how I felt when I finally got a four-wheel spinner?)

Another plus is that the maximum extended height on the 3-height adjustable handle is designed to be longer for taller travelers, which is sometimes missing on other small underseat carry ons. Other perks include exterior side pockets perfect for storing your important documents within an easy reach, and the front zipper also has some additional slots for credit cards and change if you don’t want to carry another bag.

Finally, this is one of the few bags on this list that has both a highly organized interior as well as a separate laptop pocket. It seemed that most lightweight underseat luggage out there offered one or the other, but not both: Samsonite definitely fixed that with this bag, which is why I’m naming it the best underseat carry on luggage choice.

One point to keep in mind is that Samsonite has a 10 year warranty period, so if anything malfunctions with this bag, you can rest assured that you’ll get your money back.

However, there are a few negatives to note. For one, while this is one of the few rolling laptop bags that fit under your seat, the laptop compartment is still rather small. Some people with a 15″ laptop have reported having trouble getting their computers to fit. If you have a Macbook Air or similar smaller laptop or tablet, you will be fine.

A big negative is that this bag won’t necessarily fit on every single airline – one reviewer noted that it didn’t pass Spirit Airlines’ new standards and they were forced to check it for $65 — yeow. It’s also one of the pricier options on this list due to its extra features (4 spinning wheels, USB port) so if you are on a tight budget this may not be your bag.

If you are buying a wheeled underseat bag to avoid baggage fees, be sure to do your research on the specific airline that you are flying and their size limits, as you may not be able to do so with this bag. Unfortunately, airlines are constantly changing their requirements, and each airline’s dimensions are different from the next, so there is no one universal best under seat bag.

Best for: tall travelers, aesthetics-focused travelers, techie travelers, business travelers

Worst for: some budget airlines (Spirit) as it won’t fit their tightened restrictions on under seat bags

Specs:

Dimensions: 9 x 16.5 x 13.5 inches

Weight: 5 pounds

Check out the Samsonite Underseater with USB Port here!

Runner Up: Delsey Luggage Cruise Lite Hardside 2 Wheel Underseater

Delsey Luggage Cruise Lite Hardside 2 Wheel Underseater

If you’re looking for the best under seat carry on luggage with hardside construction, the Delsey Cruise Lite Hardside is perfect. This underseater bag has an extending handle and smooth double-spinner inline wheels, which makes it easy to transport — perfect for traveling through the airport quickly to make your connection without having to carry a heavy bag with you.

This two-wheel rolling underseat carry on bag is specifically designed to fit under an airplane seat on anything from 2 x 2 configuration regional jets to the traditional 3 x 3 jets. It comes in three colors so it has some opportunities for personalization if that kind of thing is important to you!

The great thing about this underseat bag is that despite its small size, it offers some decent organizational features, with the front pocket and the two-side 90-10 construction. The front pocket is designed to fit laptops up to 14 inches in the widest dimension, so it’s well-suited for business travelers as the hard side ensures your important electronics will stay safe during the flight.

Inside, you’ll find a lined interior with tie-down straps that keep your clothes separate from your other odds and ends in your bag, keeping them in place and preventing wrinkling. This is another feature that makes it one of the better underseat bags for business travelers.

Made of 100% polycarbonate, which is impact-resistant and scratch-resistant without adding too much weight, this bag is in it for the long haul (pun definitely intended – I can’t help myself).

A few downsides worth mentioning: it has two wheels, not four, so you will have to drag it behind you rather than having the ability to push it in front of you or to your side, like you would with a four-wheel spinner. However, that’s one of the sacrifices you usually will have to make with even the best under the seat luggage choices – I was only able to find one (the Samsonite) with four wheels.

Another feature this bag is lacking is an organizer insert in the larger component, as all it has are the elastic straps that hold your clothing in place. More pockets would be welcome, or you could supplement it with travel organizers like an electronics organizer or toiletry hanging case.

It also doesn’t have a trolley strap, so that if you were trying to travel with this in additional to another suitcase, you would have to carry both. However, if you are looking for a hardside bag that can work as your only piece of rolling underseat luggage, this is a great option.

Best for: business travelers, weekend trips

Worst for: travelers looking for lots of organization, longer trips

Specs:

Dimensions: 12.2 x 14.8 x 9.2 inches

Weight: 5.25 pounds

Check out the Delsey Luggage Cruise Lite now!

Runner Up: Samsonite Wheeled Underseater Small

Samsonite Wheeled Underseater Small

Made of a combination of polyester and nylon, this Samsonite wheeled underseater bag offers the flexibility of soft-shell luggage with the durability of a hard-side suitcase.

With superior pockets, organizers, and compartments to any other underseater out there, this is clearly the best under seat roller bag option for maximizing space and neatness. The coolest thing about this underseat bag in particular is that one of the zippered compartments can be unsnapped from the rest of the luggage. Then, it can be hung in a closet or on the back of the door, which is pretty freaking awesome news for girly girls like me who travel with a metric #(*ton of toiletries.

Some other positives are that the wheels glide easily and if you have a larger suitcase that you are bringing as well, it fits on top using the trolley sleeve, giving you a free hand. Reviewers have said this bag fits even on budget airlines like Spirit, so it’s wonderful to use as your only bag as well if you are traveling light and want to avoid baggage fees entirely.

For a bag of its size, there is a good amount of interior organization, including WetPak lined pockets for toiletries and mesh pockets for loose items. Still, packing cubes would be ideal for maximizing your packing abilities in the main internal packing compartment. Using packing cubes plus picking lightweight clothing materials means that you can fit up to a week’s worth of clothes as well as travel-sized toiletries and more in this sleek underseat bag!

However, there is no separate laptop compartment, which is a downside for many travelers. For me, I use a simple neoprene laptop sleeve like this one, so it is not a dealbreaker, but others may prefer a separate laptop compartment, especially if they are traveling with a lot of liquid toiletries.

Another downside is that this is probably not the best under seat luggage option for tall people, as the bag is quite small and the handle height doesn’t extend that far. However, it does have handles, which means you can easily lift it up to carry it if you don’t want to lug it behind you.

Also, some people have complained about the fabric fraying, as even the sturdiest nylon can’t compete with polycarbonate that you’ll find in hard-side luggage. It does come with the standard Samsonite 10-year warranty against defects, though, so you can rest easy knowing that your bag will last or be replaced. Additionally, a benefit of the soft-side nylon is that you have a little more flexibility in making it fit in a tight spot versus hard-side luggage. One final con is that it’s also slightly on the heavy side, weighing in at over 6 pounds, mostly due to the organizational features.

Best for: female travelers with lots of toiletries, longer trips, highly organized people

Worst for: business travelers, taller travelers

Specs:

Dimensions: 6.5 x 13 x 13 inches

Weight: 6.25 pounds

Check out the Samsonite Wheeled Underseater now!

Runner Up: Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-On with Back-Up Bag

Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-On

Another highly organized bag better for longer trips, this bag from Travelon is thoughtfully designed like you’d expect from one of the leaders in the travel accessory industry. While generally Travelon bags have a lot of security features, this one is more stripped-down in order to maximize room in the underseat bag.

The bag has a large main compartment which you can maximize using packing cubes and the elasticized pockets, as well as a front organizer compartment that’s part of the main compartment. There’s also a separate zippered front pocket. The front pockets are well-organized and a great place to put things you need quick access to like plane tickets, identification, chapstick and toiletries, etc. There’s also a handy side pocket for a water bottle, a touch that I always appreciate but is often missing from underseat luggage.

In case you need to pack a little more than expected, there is a large “back-up bag” that takes up very little room but is rather roomy when it needs to be. You can easily strap the back-up bag to the main wheeled mini suitcase to make it easier to travel through the airport with both bags.

There is also a strap on the main mini suitcase, so that you could strap that to a larger, check-in size wheeled suitcase as well, which is really handy if you plan on checking a large bag but just want an underseat bag for the plane.

Note though that on airlines which require you to only have one bag or pay baggage fees, like Spirit, this will likely not work as they would be considered two separate bags.

If you pack smartly with lightweight materials, you could use this as your primary bag for a trip of up to one week, though you’d be more comfortable using it for shorter trips. Packing cubes would definitely come in handy if you are traveling for more than a few days with this bag, enabling you to compress. Hint: get the smaller packing cubes so you can better Tetris-cram them into your luggage.

One great thing about the design is that the sloped top makes the main compartment very accessible when placed under the seat, so you can get out what you need without too much trouble.

However, there is no separate laptop compartment, and the handlebars inside the bag are not padded, meaning that it could potentially scrape against a tablet or laptop if not contained in a protective neoprene sleeve like this one. This is one major con for me that keeps me from being able to name it as the best under seat rolling carry on.

Also, the add-on bag seems like a nice idea, but since the whole point of the underseat bag is to minimize what you pack and avoid baggage fees, it just feels unnecessary. Additionally, I’m not a huge fan of the quilted look, but others may enjoy it.

Best for: traveling with another large suitcase, highly organized travelers, use with packing cubes

Worst for: business travel

Specs:

Dimensions: 12 x 8.5 x 14 inches

Weight: 5.2 pounds

Check out the Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-On now!

Runner Up: 5Cities Carry On Hand Luggage Flight Duffel Bags

5Cities Underseat Duffel

So far, all the bags on this list have been wheeled suitcases, but perhaps you want something a little different, such as a duffel bag that you can carry through the airport. While not the most ergonomic option for long term travel, if you just want a simple bag that was specifically designed to fit personal item restrictions on American budget airlines like Spirit and Frontier, this may be a great choice.

The duffel bag has a trolley strap on the back, so that you can conveniently slide it down the handles of your larger suitcase if you are traveling with multiple pieces of luggage. This is a great perk if you have a main carry-on size spinner suitcase and want to also have an underseat bag without needing to use two hands to lug both around.

The bag has a dual zip design and mini padlock so you can lock it together for extra security if needed. You can adjust the strap so that it is either a. shoulder strap like a traditional duffel or you can use the top tug handles, or place it on another piece of luggage so that you don’t have to carry it at all.

It’s very lightweight so if weight is an issue this bag will come to your rescue at only 1 pound. It meets the strictest size requirements so if you are traveling on an underseat luggage only ultra-low cost ticket, this bag should be sufficient, so long as you don’t pack it completely bursting full.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this is the cheapest option!

It has some fun colors and patterns as well if you are looking for a little bit of personality and flash to your luggage and don’t want just another boring old black suitcase.

One big flaw in the bag is that it is not at all organized or protected: it is literally just one big open space, no padding or protection for your belongings. As a result, it’s not a good bag if you are traveling with anything that could be damaged easily, like a laptop or camera.

It’s best for clothes (add packing cubes to make up for the lack of organizational features) if you are really trying to maximize your clothing options. But other than that, it has pretty minimal features, especially when compared to other underseat bags on the list.

Reviewers have had trouble with the straps breaking and zippers coming undone, so the cheapness definitely can work against you. If you are looking for a long-term bag, this isn’t it. However, if you not a frequent traveler and are just looking for a cheap one-time solution to a problem, this should likely be the best underseat carry on bag for you.

Best for: people who want a no-nonsense bag that will meet all airline requirements, ultra budget travelers, minimal use

Worst for: people who need organizational features, people traveling with electronics, frequent travelers

Specs:

Dimensions: 15 x 7.8 x 21 inches

Weight: 1 pound

Check the 5Cities Underseat Duffel now!

Runner Up: Rustic Town Leather Travel Duffel Bag

Rustic Town Underseat Duffel

If the idea of a duffel bag is appealing but you want something better constructed, more beautiful and more durable than the 5Cities duffel above, this may be the best underseat bag for you.

Made of genuine buffalo hide leather, it’s not a cheap option, but that’s because this bag is designed to last through the demands of air travel. The best part of leather is that it takes a beating quite well, getting softer and suppler with each use and gaining a beautiful wear over time, whereas other materials such as nylon end up looking ratty and worn over time.

The leather is handcrafted from buffalo hide by Indian artisans in accordance with Fair Trade practices. Buffalo hide produces a high quality thick leather then gets softer over time yet is much cheaper than other full-grain leather products. The bag also has break-resistant YKK zippers and a thick cloth lining to protect your clothes and valuables.

Whereas most duffel bags lack on the organizational front, this one has packing efficiency at the forefront of thinking, with 2 exterior zipping pockets, 1 interior zipper pocket, 4 card slots, 2 pen loops, and a mobile pocket. There is no dedicated laptop pocket, but it should fit a laptop of up to 15″.

A few negative things to consider: the bag isn’t the most ergonomic, so if you get shoulder pain from having weight distributed unevenly, this is not a good fit for you. If that’s a concern, you will be better off with one of the wheeled underseat bags mentioned above.

It has some organizational features like zippered pockets and card holders, but you would probably want to supplement it with packing cubes or other travel organizers if using this as your main bag over a long period of time.

Finally, many people avoid leather for environmental or ethical purposes. While this bag is made from buffalo hide from animals who are used for food and is therefore made with sustainable and traditional leather-making practices in mind, I understand that many people find leather to be a no-go.

Best for: Aesthetically-minded travelers, frequent travelers, male and female travelers with a timeless sense of style, people who want to support Fair Trade practices

Worst for: Vegans and people who avoid leather, budget travelers, people with back or shoulder issues who need a rolling bag that fits under an airplane seat

Specs:

Dimensions: 20” x 11.5” x 8.25”

Weight: 3 pounds

Check out the Rustic Town Underseat Duffel here!


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