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We’ve found a carry-on bag that does more than, er, carry. It’s a $66 bag that could pay for itself in just one flight (depending on which airline you choose) — a bag that was designed in direct response to ever-evolving airline fees and bag-size restrictions.

On most airlines, there’s an easy way to avoid baggage fees: restrict yourself to a carry-on bag only. But on ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines (one of those airlines we love to hate), you’ll have to break out your wallet no matter how efficiently you pack. The airline charges up to $45 each way for checked bags and up to $40 for carry-ons. (Even joining Spirit’s $9 Fare Club will merely reduce the fees, not waive them.) The only thing you can bring for free is a single personal item small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.

Before all you Spirit fliers start trying to jam a week’s worth of clothes into your purse, check out the luggage at CarryOn Free. Smaller than a standard carry-on bag, the CarryOn Free rolling suitcase is specifically designed to meet Spirit’s size restrictions for personal items (16″ x 14″ x 12″). Two zipper pockets help travelers stay organized and make the most of limited packing space.

carryon free

At $65.99, the bag pays for itself the first time you avoid Spirit’s carry-on fee (up to $80 roundtrip). But even better, you can win one for free. We’re giving away a tan and copper carry-on to one lucky reader who leaves a comment below. Just share your smartest packing tip in the comments by Tuesday, September 27 at 11:59 p.m. ET for a chance to win.

Editor’s Note: This giveaway has ended. Check out the winning packing tip — and get an exclusive discount to buy the CarryOn Free rolling suitcase — in Travel Tip of the Week: Why You Should Always Pack a Hat.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

572 Responses to “The Suitcase That Beats Baggage Fees”

  1. Martha Backstrom says:

    two more thoughts – toilet paper or paper towel rolls for fragile items. I agree about buying personal items on arrival. I love to shop, so early in the trip we hit the large grocery etc. stores. It is fun to see brands we know, especially in other countries although in other languages. A different view of different cultures.

  2. Eileen Rzecinski says:

    Remember the bags advertised on TV that you use a vacuum bag on? I’m going to try them on my 12 day Caribbean trip and let you know how it turned out.

  3. Dianne says:

    I always travel with samples of face cream and perfumes, put my foundation in small sample bottles – toiletries can bulk up. For jewellery, only a few versatile pieces in a small jewellery bag or in a couple gumball size plastic containers. Also If I think I may go over my checked bag’s weight (all those gifts!), I try to carry the non-liquid heavier items in my carry-on, as it has never gotten weighed once! Last time it worked like a charm! I was exactly on the dot on the max weight of my checked bag!

  4. Gloria Irwin says:

    My personal item “purse” (which can be carried on in addition to the carryon) is a laptop-size briefcase-shaped bag which EASILY holds: 1) folder with all printed reservations: airline, car rental, hotel, cruise, cruise excursions, in the order of usage; and several sheets of EXTRA BLANK PAPER for printing boarding passes at hotel business centers — as a courtesy to not having to use THEIR paper; (2) medications; dramamine; toothbrush — don’t worry about toothpaste here; (3) one set of extra underwear; (4) book, magazine, current newspaper, or Kindle; (5) deflatable neck pillow; Pashmina scarf or two for shoulders, airline blanket; Ear-planes for air-pressure equalization in your ears if you have that problem; (6) Smart Phone; (7) variety puzzle book; (8) refillable EMPTY filter-water bottle which you can fill when you get on the plane; (9) pens, emery board, small magnifying glass; (10) extra pair of reading glasses; (11) small hand towel and wet-wipes. You’ll note these items don’t not take up much space at all and the bag is EASILY placed under the seat in front of you.

  5. Beth says:

    Make sure every piece of clothing can be worn with anything else in the suitcase. Use scarves & jewelry to dress up clothing. Wear your heaviest pair of shoes & never pack a coat. Your carry on seldom gets weighed, so put heavy items in it.

  6. Jeannie Whittle says:

    Wear your heavy clothes and shoes and save your packing space for the light stuff. Don’t bring your bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc… Most hotels will have that stuff for free in your room, and you can always purchase small bottles at a local store. Don’t be afraid to wear the same outer clothes more than one day, this will also help reduce the number of items you have to try and stuff into your carry-on or checked bags.

    Well that’s my two-cents worth of advice.

    Thanks and happy traveling.

  7. Angelena says:

    I love the bag.

    I pack a pop up mesh hamper that fold flat to use for dirty clothes on trips.

  8. Candy says:

    Never put your passport in your suitcase, Amy. Susan, a sweater rolled or lying flat takes up the same space unless you go by different rules for physics. Rolling them will help with the wrinkles though. With all the restrictions on liquids, I find that 99cents stores carry a lot of smaller bottles of things, as well as travel sections of chain drugstores. That way I don’t mind leaving them or throwing them out before I leave.
    Women have more challenges than men with all the beauty products we use. Try to combine products as much as possible; i. e., face moisturizer with sunscreen, multiple color kits for eye shades, eyeliner pencil that can be used for the brows as well, make-up that can be used as an eye concealer, etc.

  9. barbara regina walters says:

    i load up my carry on with heavy items like extra shoes, electrical adaptors, clothes streamer, heavy clothing.

  10. Sharon says:

    I found using the E-bag cubes totally simplied not only my packing (combined like clothing articles in each bag), but was great to reduce wrinkles in clothing and could just be placed in a drawer to use as needed. The various sizes accommodated everything I wanted to take on my trip – from clothing and shoes to cosmetics.

  11. Ellie says:

    Sounds great! Now if we could find clothes that dry instantly in humid climates we would be all set to got. Baggage fees are getting totally ridiculous…we love southweat airlines no fee for 2 policy. If they can do it and still be profitable, the other carriers can too. Think we will look for 2 of these bags as going overseas is not possible on Southwest and we were recently very dismayed that they wanted to charge us for second bag from Amsterdam to USA. We had been gone a month and thought it was 2 bags free transAtlantic. We know better now.

  12. Myrna says:

    I roll up my underpanties and squeeze several into a ziplock bag. Same with socks. I sometimes put complete outfits together with accessories, etc. into a large baggie. I squeeze the air out before sealing. Really works well on a tour where I am in a different location every night. I just pull out one baggie from the suitcase before going to bed, hang up the clothes to release wrinkles, and in the morning I’m all set. I always take extra ziplocks in various sizes with me. They come in handy for lots of things. As for wearing my heaviest shoes/boots on the plane, I carry them with me in a foldable handle bag and wear flip flops for easy on and off through the xray checkpoint. Before I board, I but on the heavy shoes, fold the bag up and slip it and the flip flops into a side pocket of the carry on.

  13. Kary Ross says:

    Gotta have this because I am trying once again to carry on and have a need for this size! Pick ME!

  14. Ger says:

    I’ve certainly pared down our packing over the past few years, but have not yet managed to pack for a trip in just a carry-on. I’d love one of those bags because I’m tired of having to fight for space in the overhead compartment with regular sized carry-ons. With this bag it looks like you could pack a bunch of stuff in it, yet stow it under the seat in front of you with extra room left over for your feet!

  15. Carol says:

    Try a Scottevest jacket – has 20+ pockets. Not much you can’t fit in – even holds a tablet or e reader. Sleeves zip off for comfort. Wearing it and zip off pants means you’ll be comfortable on your flight, even without a blanket. Also, you’ll have everything you need on your person and don’t have to keep getting up to get stuff out of your carryon. You just take it off as you walk through security. So convenient.

  16. I always check ahead of time to see if my resort has a washer and dryer. I pack half of the clothes our family needs and do laundry halfway through the trip while we are all taking a dip in the pool. Don’t forget to pack quarters and those trial size packets of laundry detergent found in the travel section of your local Walmart or Target. Packing half the clothes we actually need saves us a ton of money on airline baggage fees and it simplifies our packing.

  17. Victoria says:

    My carry-on is a rolling BACKPACK. On some smaller regional planes, they do not allow carry-on luggage (even if you claim it can fit under the seat!). However, backpacks are allowed. You just have to be sure to wear or carry it, as opposed to rolling it, as you get on the plane. With the wheels, it’s just like any rolling carry-on.

  18. Marion Bevis says:

    send emails to your kindle with information that you will need on your trip.

  19. Celeste says:

    Pack empty gallon or larger size ziplock bags to hold dirty laundry. You can use the bags for cushioning fragile items that you buy on your trip.

    • Liane Brown says:

      I will always pack my clean clothes into gallon and quart size baggies and re-use them on the return trip for dirty laundry. These baggies compact the load and keep the clothes wrinkle-free.

  20. Martha Meier says:

    Great ideas – an added suggestion for women who love perfume – I tear out the paper perfume samples from the fashion magazines and trim them to just the width of the folded scent sample; they last forever, take up/add minimal space and weight. This carry-on bag looks awesome….

  21. Cecile Driskill says:

    Just got back from a trip. Am always looking for a perfect carryon bag. Still haven’t found it. Maybe this one is it!

  22. Kathleen Luiten says:

    To keep everything you pack smelling fresh add a fabric softener sheet to each suitcase. While travelling put dirty laundry into gallon size zip lock bags. An easy way to wash small items – like socks, bras and underwear – is to put a few together in a big zip lock bag, add some water and liquid soap, zip it closed (pushing some air out) and then shake it and knead it a bit. Let the clothes soak a few minutes, rinse and hang to dry. I hate to waste vacation time at a laundromat so I take knit and silk tops that I can wash by hand too. When packing I use dry cleaning bags or zip lock bags to separate outfits and reduce wrinkling. And I have the lightest suitcases I could find, but this one looks better than what I have now.

  23. Janice O. says:

    Shoes take up a lot of space, so I limit myself to 2, including the ones I wear on the plane: 1 for walking and 1 for dressing up to go out.

  24. Paula says:

    Always pack any liquid stuff such as shampoo and conditioner in zip lock bags so they don’t get all over your clothes from the pressure in the airplane. Also I pack any perscription meds in my carry on just in case my luggage gets lost.

  25. Debbie B. says:

    Need this bag! Plan to just use one bag this next trip!

  26. Shelly Davis says:

    I roll my clothes and take the Downy spray. Works great!

  27. Nancy says:

    Always pack 1/2 what you think you need. I also pack a small amount of laundry detergent for longer trips and utilize the bathtub as my wash machine. On a recent 17 day trip to China I washed out out clothes and then used the bath towels to absorb the excess water. I utilized out closet with the doors left open to hang and dry our clothes. I also roll the clothes as I pack, in doing so you can get a lot more in a smaller area. If I must pack shoes I always fill them with the rolled socks and toiletries. I have gotten so good at rolling and filling every available space that we can now travel on most trips even for 10 days with nothing more than a carry on. I HATE paying to put my luggage on a plane. I refuse to do so!

  28. Gigi K says:

    Don’t have electronic gear? Check with your public library to see if they stock any “Playaway” – the all-in-one audio books. This is an easy-to-use 3″ x 2 1/2″ player packed with an entire audiobook. There are a wide range of titles available.

  29. Britt says:

    My shoes usually take up a lot of room — so I try to stuff things inside of them (usually my Flip video camera and point and shoot camera). Old pill bottles are also good for jewelry or small items that may get lost in luggage.

  30. Valerie says:

    My packing tip is to take less clothes and just wash them in the sink when you get there so that you can wear something more than once.

  31. Patricia Nadreau says:

    We usually drive to cruise ports for vacations but we recently flew to Las Vegas with friends. I have heard so much about lost luggage that I packed my husbands carry-on with all of our underwear and some extra shoes. I used a super large handbag for my carry-on and used it for my jewelry, makeup, a pair of flip-flops, crossword puzzle books, snacks for on the plane and a smaller purse for use when I got there. Earlier this year we had flown on a charter to Wendover NV and I was totally unprepared for what was allowed and what wasn’t. I was more prepared this time.

  32. Y. Samuel says:

    With the airline fees being charged now, we all have to be creative in finding ways to pack right. I have found that we sometimes pack more than we need. Effort must be made to truly pack what you need and to remember that you can always buy a new shirt or pants :-)

  33. heather says:

    Hi…we are hardly ever at home…too busy making up for the gap year(s) our generation never had and before all the savings devalue completely. Yes I do all the earlier tips, mix & match clothes, save the little sample bottles from hotels and refill with my favourite potions; use the airline toothpastes from earlier flights etc! We went to the Galapagos recently with just 3 small carry on size cases between the 2 of us..it was successful..we are practising for a 5 month trip next year. My KEEN trainer/sandals were a godsend..so versatile & for wet landings too! I have bought climate control Tshirts (vests really) for hubby which wash and dry overnight).I have a small selection of ‘pandora’ type beads which are very versatile. Try to plan colours wisely and make things fulfil 2 roles.Yes do wear the heaviest shoes &carry ‘coats’.
    Things I HAVEN’T got around are IF I ONLY had a carry on…NO tweezers, so just what DO we girls do? Shaving foam and hairspray is another issue…. I would cherish that case and give it a thorough workout next year; promise.
    PS we set off Jan 16…will it be drawn by then?

  34. Bea Dahlen says:

    If I’m short on space and not on weight I pack Travel Knit clothing. It can be rolled tightly without getting wrinkled and will wash and drip dry quickly. They are a bit heavier than other fabrics but since you can bring fewer articles they can save both space and weight.

  35. heather says:

    If you need to take a beach/bath towel …which is bulky and heavy I have just found a brilliant solution….a micro-fibre bath sheet 150cm x 75cm…huge!
    Its so light and dries so quickly …and is easy to wash and dry by hand even.
    Hubby missed the feel of towelling but adapted happily.

    I take a small bar of soap for hand laundry (smalls each night at least) and get hubby to hold the other end of the towel when we wring the washing dry (he doesn’t even have to take his eyes off the telly)! See, our grandparents knew a thing or two!

    I take a dozen plastic pegs & couple of plastic hangers too…the expanding waistband type is brill as it opens out the waistbands to help quicker drying.

  36. Cari says:

    I want to know where to buy one of these little carry-ons.
    I use zip-lock bags for storing items and making packing lighter and easier to find if you have a dark hotel room.
    I wear a lot of black when I travel, goes with everything and you can wear a couple of times without the dirt showing. my clothing is easy-wash and light weight also,so you can wash every other day.

  37. Lucy says:

    I stick to one colour theme, usually black and white, and everything mix and match. Also, roll your clothes. Will keep them pressed and takes up less room. Bring extra baggies for your wet items when re-packing i.e. soaps, shampoos, etc. Bring a facecloth; useful when not provided in hotels, and in a pinch for bird-bath, quick clean-ups. Use a small 6×6 or so, mesh laundry bag; one for panties, and one for ‘used’ panties/bras/socks. You won’t lose them in the suitcase. Forget the jewelry. Just wear what can go with anything, a ring, necklace and earings. Won’t have to worry about loosing it.

  38. pam says:

    I use the plastic bags that blankets/sheets come in, to pack in, as well as the ziplocks. This keeps everything tight, organized and not susceptible to “bugs” and the other hazards of traveling. It is easy for unpacking as everything is compartmentalized and can be moved to a drawer intact. (Also helps the TSA!) I wear the heavier shoes on the plane, carry my coat and have a large, handled bag that keeps those items I might need both on the plane and in an emergency, such as prescriptions, itinerary, set of underwear, snacks, reading material, etc. This suitcase looks like the perfect solution to the different size requirements of all the airlines. Thank you for sharing with us, and I hope you draw my name!

  39. Emma Picard says:

    I always take my activities and itinerary into consideration when packing clothes. I choose 2-3 colors that will be the “theme” of my vacation and mix and match them into seperate outfits. I then make a list of what I will be doing each day and assign an outfit to that day so I won’t forget what I had planned on wearing. This way, I get the most out of my outfits by wearing each piece of clothing at least twice and I never pack anything I don’t need.

  40. Pam Krohn says:

    One problem I have in packing is, the formal nights on the ship for two weeks. Dress clothes and shoes take up alot of room along with accessories. Had to pay exorbitant fees to Delta for two extra bags.

  41. Barb Gully says:

    We are from Australia, so I suppose I am out of the running for the case… :( We cruise a few times a year, and the change of clothes required for Formals etc, makes packing a nightmare, even out of Ozz. That case looks awesome, and would be a God send.
    I have been using the Travel bags that roll out the air and reduce the space required….this has helped, and also decanting larger items of suncreams,make up etc to smaller allowable sizes to take on the plane… this all helps reduce the weight of the checked baggage. Forgotten a few times, and packed nail files and tweezers in my carry on, OOPs ! a NO NO…lost them to the customs officers.

    Good luck to the winner.

  42. Nina says:

    Make sure when packing you that shirt and fold in half and roll as tight as you can from bottom to top and you will fit so much more. Do the same with the your jeans and shorts. You can even do this with your dress wear it will stay unwrinkled. All toiletries need to be under five ounces and put them in a zip compartment on the outside so you can remove them easily to place in bin to go through conveyor belt. I went away for five days and like to look nice and was able to get two pair of shoes and all the clothing I needed for beachwear and night time in this size suitcase along with a straightner for my hair no problem!

  43. Pat W says:

    I use the small clear cellophane bags from Orville Reidenbaker microwave popcorn boxes for snacks, candy & other small items. Fasten with staples, paper clips or rubber band. Works great for me & TSA.

    Would love to win a carry-on bag designed to fit under the seat. Many planes have entertainment eqpt under seats, further reducing leg room.

  44. Kim W says:

    I could have used this past weekend. After a fantastic Convention in Atlanta, I returned home but, my luggage didn’t. Finally late Wednesday my suitcase was delivered. It was very stressful however it could have been worse. My luggage could have never made it back. Packing with only a carry on would be a dream!

  45. Ruth W says:

    I was looking for a perfect carry on bag that you don’t have to carry and here it is! Space saver bags are great- they help keep your clothes dry in case something spills or your luggage gets left out in the rain.

  46. sheila nichols says:

    Packing tips:
    1) carry meds in event your main luggage is lost
    2) Carry media and chargers to provide communication
    3) Carry necessary cosmetics and personal needs
    4) Roll up an outfit /plus personal garments ..in event main luggage is lost
    5) place ID on outside of baggage and inside.

    This can all happen in this 16 x 14 x 12 baggage / plus it will fit ON THE PLANE and not be out of your site.

  47. Lindsey says:

    Pack in outfits! Instead of packing all of your favorite items and hoping that something will go together, pick out outfits before hand and pack only what you will need. Also items like jeans and jackets can be worn more than once.

  48. Sherry Hanson says:

    Is there a soft-side piece available w/o wheels, etc.?

  49. Debbie says:

    I pack dryer sheets for the nice smell and then use them during the trip for laundry. Go yo the dollar store and buy the small containers for your liquids and if checking your luggage I spray the out side of it for bedbugs- home depot sells spray!! This bag looks awsome!

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