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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. Christine says:

    wear the heaviest clothes (jeans/sweater), stuff smaller things into shoes, stuff underwear into crevices

  2. Alice Fair says:

    I definitely roll up clothing, also polyester type fabrics help lighten the load as opposed to cotton. i try to pack lite weighing shoes and just stick to basic monochromatic colors so you can accessorize with scarfs etc.

  3. colby says:

    I always bring along plastic light sticks – they bend into a circle and have a soft glow – I hang one on the bathroom door handle at night this prevents anyone from banging into things in the dark

  4. Bee Jay says:

    Take a package of baby wipes. They are great for removing makeup, substituting
    for a wash cloth, polising shoes, and wiping soil from anything that gets dirty.
    Works every time!

  5. J Justice says:

    I use ‘onesoles’ for all evening shoes……dressy tops for formal night and more casual tops for other night..reduces my shoes by 2 or 3 pair…

  6. Barb Schuessler says:

    Pack two of everything and then take half out. :)

  7. Caverlin says:

    Bring your iPhone. Get your ticket ready from ur email. Get all the map and information screen shot just incase you don’t have any data roaming. For toiletries, get those free samples pack if you have any. It does helps a lot to save up your space. Daily disposable contact if you are wearing, so you doesn’t need to pack in your solution and save your hassle to remove your contact and wash it at night when you’re back to your hotel.

  8. Meg says:

    Like the color/pattern. As others have suggested, I always use zip top bags too.

  9. Pack only mix and match clothes and make sure that they match 1 pair of nice shoes. So then you can limit the number of shoes you need to pack. When I cruise I take 3 pairs of shoes: 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of dress shoes and 1 piar of sneakers.

  10. Karen says:

    Love all of these comments! So much truth in all of them. Remember not to bring anything that you can’t live without if lost. That goes for clothing, jewelry or any personal items. Remember to be the traveler, not the tourist. Enjoy the experience and remember that the “destination” holds only part of the entire trip. Enjoy that Philly cheese steak (for example) at the airport if delayed. Take a “walk” around for your exercise in the terminal. The unexpected surprises will only happen if you relax and open up to allow them to happen. Be the traveler!

  11. Millie says:

    Try to color coordinate clothing to mix and match.

  12. Coreen says:

    A rectangular black shawl works as a with a coat as a scarf, as an evening wrap, and as a light airplane blanket. Or if you are going to a warm weather location from a cold one, leave the heavy coat home and use the shawl over a cardigan sweater for the plane. And remind yourself that most destinations have stores, and an article of clothing makes a nice souvenir. If you are in the US and find you have purchased too many items, send some clothes home in a flat rate USPS box.

  13. Marilyn Walsh says:

    Have you ever actually looked at the stuff that people bring on a plane, all in the name of carry on…? Are they innately just stupid or do they think they are actually adhering to the rules…??
    No wonder we are getting so severely cut back by the rules…if you give them an inch they take a mile…! I cannot believe that people are really that dumb. It is not that hard to pack properly and use a decent size carry on and a checked bag.
    Just amazed,

    Marilyn Walsh

  14. Claudia says:

    use space bags, as long as you have the use of a vaccunm cleaner at the other end.

  15. bob carolan says:

    once,while packing, I looked at my clothes (particularly underwear & socks) and decided what was due to be thrown out. I packed some of that stuff. When leaving (London) I left it behind. It gave me the room I needed for my souvenirs.

  16. Brian says:

    Wear a multi-pocketed vest. I bought a nice one from Eddie Bauer. I can put an unbelievable amount of items and lighten my load. I also use a Rick Steeves bag that can either be carried like a suitcase or backpack. samantha Smith also has good tips at her websight.

  17. Tracy says:

    Never pack all of the “I may need it” things…they waste space and you probably won’t need it!

  18. MINDY MORSE says:

    Two can play Spirit’s game. Coats can be carried on without charge. I take the biggest one I can find and stuff the sleeves & pockets as tightly as possible with my heaviest clothing.

  19. We travel a lot and would love to have a light weight suitcase such as you have.
    I should be good at packing as I get to do it a lot. We put my husband’s Tux on top of the underwear that we fill the crevices with, then my formal on top of that. The other things like slacks, shirts and tops go on top. We never have wrinkled clothes. We also use zip top bags in case something would leak like the cologne, toothpaste and any other liquids.

  20. Chris says:

    Reversible clothing! I have a reversible dress that has a coordinating sweater that is great for travel. There are also reversible vests, zip off pants and even jackets that turn into vests by zipping off the sleeves.

  21. T. Rifkin says:

    Take your oldest, rattiest underwear. They are lighter. Wear one and throw it away to leave room for goodies you buy on vacation.

  22. LouAnn says:

    My last trip I was determined to put a weeks worth of stuff in a carry-on. I succeeded by wearing the heavy stuff and packing just a couple of items b/c I knew I would be doing laundry there like I always do. If they start charging for my carry-on’s, you’ll see me doing alot of layering!

  23. Jennifer says:

    I pack for a whole week in a small bag with mix and match clothes. Always wear your jeans and heaviest shoes on the trip. Just plan what you want to wear each day ahead of time and adjust for temperature changes by layering your clothes.

  24. Lisa Roberts says:

    I wear my bulky items and fill my pockets of my coat. I carry a medium size tote bag with a large tote bag rolled and tied inside along with my personal items. The large one is used on the way back with the smaller one inside to carry anything extra I’m bringing back. My clothes are always mix and match and can go from casual to dressier. I use space bags that don’t require a vacumn. You roll them to remove the excess air. I put my socks, underclothes and roll up flats inside my boots and fold the tops down so they will fit in the bottom of my bag. Presto, I’m set for an 8-10 day trip!

  25. Dorothy says:

    I always bring an empty nylon bag (which weighs practically nothing) for souvenirs or other purchases. Makes a handy carry-on tote for the trip home.

  26. Nita says:

    Pack pants that can be wore more than one time. only pack what you really need. Ask yourself if you can buy things when you get to where you are going and then buy small bottles of shampoo and etc leave behind when you leave. Wear as much as you can such as jackets heavy shoes etc. Stop by a post office and mail home a package of your buys so that you will not have to carry hem on the plane. Mail dirty clothes back home along with all the treasures you have picked up. Will be home watting for you when you get home.

  27. Joleigh says:

    You can get that bag for $45 here : http://www.ebags.com/product/lucas/wheeled-under-the-seat-bag/211182?productid=10128614

    And personally, I just won’t fly the airlines that charge you for a freakin carry-on. One reason I love Southwest…

  28. Louise says:

    Use zip lock bags. They really compress. Pack early and take half of everything out.

  29. Stan says:

    With checked baggage weight limitations, I try to carry heavy items( electric shaver,tennis shoes,clock, camera, etc.)) in clothing pockets of jacket and/or vest (pockets zipped closed)putting jacket in overhead bin when seated, placing bulky items in checked or carryon bag. I also carry a traveler’s scale to weigh the checked (if any) bag to be within 50 lb. weight limit.

  30. If you are traveling as a couple remember to put some clothes for both of you in the carry on in case your bags get lost.

  31. Nancy Copeland says:

    Use this small bag for your must haves and at your destination buy some clothes and what not and if the suitcase gets too full just mail some things home! Never carry what you could mail!

  32. Winfred says:

    I pack older under garments that I throw out as the trip progresses. That way I create more space for mementos.

  33. Shirley Kroot says:

    Travel with suitcases as empty as possible and buy when you get to your destination.

  34. Wendy says:

    Start a few weeks before actually leaving ~ that way, you can lay out everything & realize you have too much! Also, pack toiletries or small clothing items in shoes to save space

  35. Susan says:

    I roll everything together. You can roll 3 outfits in the amount of space that 1 sweater folded takes up. And I don’t own any clothes that need to be ironed, so wrinkles are not an issue.

  36. Mary says:

    Don’t forget the travel mug, duct tape, bungee cord and real scissors. They have saved the day several times.

  37. Evelyn says:

    Put small things inside shoes, so that they wont break or get lost.

  38. Shane says:

    I wear a layered oufit for travel days which can be worn with a few other items which I pack in a rolling duffle.

  39. Terri Middleton says:

    Definitely shop for clothes that are “travel Friendly”. I know that Chico’s has them for women and have even seen them at Sam’s Club. Keep to a few colors to avoid needing more that a few pair of shoes.

  40. janet says:

    pack your bag then remember to take it!!!!! if forgotten the airport shops and your nerest supermarkey at your destination will get you out of trouble for at least a day or two ,deoderant, briefs, toothbrush and paste and a change of clothes.But always make sure to put your medication in your handbag or pocket not in your bag as they are harder to replace especially if you travel on weekends or public holidays.

  41. Josie Levine says:

    A back scratcher, a plastic drain stopper, scotch tape, post-it notes, a travel diary, zip lock bags a plastic bottle opener, a chip clip & a kitchen timer to act as my snooze alarm.
    Whom are you going to ask to get that “itch” if you travel alone? What happens if you use the tub, but the tub drain stopper is damaged or missing & you’ve already stripped? Use the scotch tape & post-its to leave reminders for yourself or notes to the housekeeping staff. A diary for the memories–both good & bad, & zip lock baggies for everything from a wet bathing suit, to make-up, to food, to jewelry & everything else in between.

    I carry itinerary tags w/ contact info both at home & where I am traveling to , hotel & flight data & insert a copy inside the suitcase as well. Have had luggage locks break in transit, so carrying an extra one or two locks has saved my running around at the last minute.

  42. Marty says:

    I always put things that might leak in zip lock bags and make sure that anything that is really important to me is in my carry on or purse. I stuff shoes with socks and lay clothing across the suitcase and then fold over what’s \hanging out\ in order to avoid wrinkles.

  43. Connie says:

    Haven’t traveled much since all these new regs so I would really love to win one of these for my flight to cruise in the winter.

  44. Carolyn R says:

    I pack everything I need for a precruise stay except for liquids in my carryon and everything I only need for the cruise in my larger checked bag.

  45. Amy says:

    Roll clothes to prevent wrinkles instead of folding. and don’t forget your passport in your checked baggage!

  46. Linda says:

    We live near a regional airport. The planes that leave here are small and have limited overhead space. Regular carryons must be checked at the plane and are placed in the cargo space. This requires you to wait for you bag when you arrive. We have missed a connecting flight because of this delay added on to a weather related delay in landing. This type of bag would eliminate that problem.

  47. rod says:

    Buy some 12″ X 12″ .004″ thick zip-top plastic bags. You can put almost any item of clothing in these bags, squeeze the air out, and seal the top. You can fit a lot more in a small suitcase using these.

  48. Janelle says:

    I never thought to put heavy stuff in pockets. Serves the airlines right for their pain in the ass fees. Also, Southwest doesn’t charge baggage fees but…have you noticed a large across the board fare increase? They aren’t fooling me.

  49. Ruth says:

    I pack all my makeup and things in a zip top bag. No wasted space like when you use a makeup bag.

  50. Martha Backstrom says:

    A few ideas: my favorites – the metal shower curtain holders for hanging things anywhere – with bungee cord or elastic hair bands I use the covered ones -don’t stretch out. They are great for batching things, color coding etc. Small duct tape, Ace type bandage for sprains or tying things together. I have one set of items for overnight/weekend and one for longer trips. If two or more traveling, one multi-charger so charging all at once. Other shared items – curling iron, one bag of sharps in checked luggage: scissors, nail file, tweezers, can opener, pocket knife, etc. Throw away underwear when checking out – our houskeeper kept retreiving it. Check out all sizes of zip lock bags – many options. Box of kleenix – as you use the kleenix, you’ll have a semi-sturdy box for fun things. Or mail boxes from FedEx or PO. Use tape over bottle tops – can anyone explain how bottle tops unscrew themselve in bag, purse etc.??? Keep in ziplock! Remember paper copies of prescriptions or send yourself an email with all that info. Liked the idea of glow-stick, I have used a glow in the dark flashlight. A couple of plastic spoons, forks etc. I like “Sporks.” Thanks, this was fun!

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