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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. AmyG says:

    Being a light sleeper, I ALWAYS bring along my sound machine! I have one that makes “white” noise which doesn’t have the sometimes annoying looping. This has ensured a great nights rest as well as allowed me to nap in the day time after a long flight.

    • Patricia says:

      For the long hall I always allow time during stopover for a massage at the airport. All airports I’ve been to have this facility and it sure makes you feel good, ready for the next leg.

  2. branon says:

    Think through your trip and pack interchangeable outfits. Rather than a mix of this and that, pick a pair of pants and then a couple of shirts to go with it that fit in with your travel itinerary and expected weather. In other words, if you’re going to a tropical destination for 3 days, you don’t need cold weather clothes and you probably don’t need more than one or two outfits for each day. Also try to pack shirts that will match more than one pair of pants/shorts and make sure that all of your pants and shirts will match something else you’ve packed. Planning your wardrobe in advance will also save you time – instead of standing in front of 20 different items trying to figure out what to wear, you’ll already be out enjoying your vacation!

  3. Roger says:

    We pack light when when going on a 7 day trip. lightweight roll up everything, don’t pack it if it wrinkles. One pair of shoes besides the ones you are wearing. Make sure they match with your 2 pair of slacks. Take a few shirts if you are able to wash take fewer. You can always leave your clothes and stuff there for someone else, or throw them away. Don’t take expensive stuff You don’t even have to bring all that stuff back.

  4. Kim says:

    I like using packing cubes. You can squeeze a lot more into them than you would think and it’s nice to be able to go into your bag for something and not have everything come flying out at you!

  5. Juanita says:

    Use plastic bags to pack clothes and squeeze the air out of them. Take one set of underwear and wash! wash! wash!.Use a good pair of shoes for dress and walking.

  6. Lori says:

    After hearing horror stories of lost luggage, my husband and I each pack half of our clothes in each of our suitcases.

  7. Thomas says:

    In Ausralia most airlines have a 7 kg carry on allowance for domestic flights and this bag probably weighs over 4 kg.
    Useless in Austalia!

  8. Martha says:

    I take only two pairs of shoes–one for dress and one for walking. I wear the walking shoes and pack the dress shoes. I stuff socks in my packed shoes to save space. Also, I put the shoes in subway sandwich bags, which keeps my clothes from getting dirty.

  9. Marcia says:

    This bag will be great when I pay for a premium seat for more leg room, only to be boarded last with no room left in the overhead! Perfect!!

  10. Jillian Freeman says:

    I put what I think I might take on the bed, then put half away again. I take older clothes and items that I can throw away so I can bring back new or souvenirs. On the plane I wear runners and and heavy clothes, and roll everything else in the case. Zip lock bags are great for putting bathrom items in because they are lightweight and see through. Hotel shampoos/conditioners are good to wash your undies/clothes. I don’t use a handbag but a lightweight travel backpack, carries camera, wallet, travel docs, water, sweater if I need.

  11. Clare says:

    I have sandals with interchangeable velcro straps that make unlimited alternative for shoes-dressy/casual-voila-only need one pair of shoes….

  12. Linda Enos says:

    On my latest trip, I rolled everything, took inventory of only what was needed, limit to two pairs of shoes, one wearing, one in suitcase, planned to do laundry about the 4th day, which limited the clothes that I really did not need to pack. You really just need to take only what is totally necessary and buy the rest when you get there, or take and toss which leaves room for the return trip items that you have bought.

  13. JG Givens says:

    I ALWAYS carry those little rubber ear plugs! You NEVER know who will
    be sitting next to you, in front, in back or across the aisle. Those
    little ear plugs are a LIFE saver when there’s crying babies around
    who are driving OTHER people nuts! Best “carry on” item made!

  14. Carol Coriell says:

    Consider eliminating a bulky toilet kit. Use zip lock bags instead. Take along a skirt hanger (the kind with a swivel hook and 2 pinch clips), and hang the open bags from it back to back, then hang in the bathroom. And there you have a cheap, lightweight, and very usable toilet kit.

  15. Susan says:

    Those darn airlines will try to get us one way or another. That’s why we try to fly Southwest when we travel. When I really have to conserve space, I try to stick to clothing in white, khaki and black and mix and match as much as possible. I’ve learned to take one pair of shoes besides the sneakers I am traveling in. I don’t take an alternate purse. If I need something at dinner, I ask my husband to carry it for me (like a lipstick) or I put it in my pocket. Pants with pockets are are necessity as far as I’m concerned.

  16. Gayle Seaman says:

    Best tip: Take half as much stuff and twice as much money!
    All airlines have different requirements so a trip overseas with different airlines (all in metric) is dizzying. Plan to lose your checked luggage and pack a change of clothes that don’t wrinkle and dry fast in a roll-aboard. Shoes, camera, cell phone, separate passport photos (as you can get a new passport, it’s the photos that are hard to come by) and copies of itinerary, passport and credit cards in purse, roll-aboard and on your body are all that really matter. Packing for 3 days is all you need for 3 days or a month-it’s all the same. Less is more!
    Plan to have fun and leave your “stuff (=trouble) at home!

  17. James says:

    I will only bring 2 or 3 pair of jeans for the entire week to save space. So I will wear each jean for 2 days (or 3 days). As for shirt, I will bring one each day since when you take picture… people won’t pay attention to your jeans, but they do notice whether you are wearing the same shirt for several days. If the weather is cold then I will bring 1 jacket with me (a reversible one where you can wear 2 color on both side); matter of fact, I will wear it while I’m traving to and from airport. If it is a hot weather, then I will bring several shorts and T-shirts to save space. I won’t bring any soap, shampoo or towels since those the hotel already provide. Whatever you can think or know of the hotel will provide then you don’t need to bring those extra items so call your hotel ahead to find out. For instances, definitely don’t want to bring an iron, or hair blow dryer…hee…hee… That will save some space in the luggage. People will say the toiletries provided by the hotel are not a good quality, but so what… Using it 3 or 4 won’t kill you.

  18. Carol Aldy says:

    When traveling outside the US, we always pack laminated color copies of our passports. We also never pack all of our cash & credit cards in the same place. That way if one bag is lost or stolen, we always have some cash and a credit card stashed in the remaining bags.

  19. Susie says:

    For the ladies….buy Chico’s Travellers Line of clothing….All interchangeable and won’t wrinkle!! Can be used for dressy or casual occasions. Also can be washed out in the sink, hang to dry, and will be dried by morning….that is an A+ for me!

  20. limledi says:

    Always pack light even for long trips by bringing the essential items only. A week clothing will be enough especially for cold countries. Just laundry your clothes if needed. Bring only what you will need & use and not the whole closet. Remember to weigh your luggage before going to the airport to avoid excess luggage fees. You can buy a portable weigher that you can bring along your trips.

  21. Sharon Cranford says:

    Always take clothes that I am ready to give away and leave them. I take old underwear and throw it away. I’ve left clothes/shoes all over the world. I lay clothes on the bed and stack them, then fold them into the rectangular size that will fit into the suitcase. I roll underwear, socks and stuff in corner spaces. If packing athletic shoes or full shoes, I fill them.
    I take very light weight dressy shoes and athletic shoes. I also always take a pair of light weight rubber flip flops which serve well for bedroom shoes and pool shoes.

  22. Kathy says:

    Only like to take carry-on so I know my items will be at the same place I am. I wear a flip flop type shoe to airport, carry tennis shoes cause they take up too much room in suitcase. I wear the flip flops so I can put shoes on/off easily at airport. Take clothes that wash and dry easily. Layer clothes if weather is cooler

  23. julie says:

    i like to buy all my personal items when i get to my destanation so i can travel lighter

  24. I USE THE PACKING LIST FROM independenttraveler.com

  25. CL says:

    I use a lot of ziplock bags when packing. They keep bottled liquids contained, and they’re good for keeping socks and other small items organized. Large ziplock bag will help keep charger cords and headphone cords contained.

  26. Shanta says:

    It is amazing how you can manage for a week with clothes in a carry on!!! After travelling a number of times I realized that I always packed too much clothes and with the baggage fees being charged now I decided to smarten up and tried living for a week with clothes in a carry on. GUESS WHAT…I SURVIVED!!! Just pack a lot of mix & match and enjoy your shopping there if you need something.

  27. Sharon Cranford – I love your post. Disposal clothing so to speak. Being a travel researcher I have come to depend on the Independent Traveler as a major source of information. When researching travel for a client, they are the first source I go to to see if I can get what I need before checking any other sites. Thank you so much IT. You make my job so much easier.

  28. Kristine says:

    I like to ups a suitcase a week ahead. It’s very reasonable if you use ground & you don’t have to worry about hassling with it.

  29. Cathy says:

    As bicycle travelers, my husband & I are nuts about minimal packing. We take NOTHING we won’t wear every day or every other day, washing in the sink each night, hoping it dries by morning. It is easy to pack for such trips, when you basically pack a single change of clothes!

  30. sandy jamison says:

    I use my cell phone on airplane mode on a cruise as my alarm clock. I use all personal size lotions, shower jell and perfumes. I pack everything liquid in zip locks bags in case they leek. Pack and then remove half and you’ll still have enough clothes!!! Leave your temper at home and pack your patiences because “things” can happen and don’t let it ruin your vacation.

  31. Debbie says:

    Our family of 4 includes two teenagers. Two helpful hints save lots of squabbling over the amount of clothes they take. Halfway through our trip, we ALL do our laundry, so they only take enough clothes to last this long – and we’ve had some great adventures locating laundromats/understanding directions when traveling in a foreign country! Second, all 4 of us put our underwear, bras (for two of us!), and socks rolled into gallon zip-lock bags – makes it much easier for all of us to grab our own stuff, see “how much” underwear we have left, and unpack/put clothes in drawers/re-pack in a short time.

  32. DCS says:

    the trick is to wear layers, especially if traveling from warm to cool climates and vise versa. then, when you arrive at your destination find the nearest goodwill or other resale shop and buy your clothes there. go to a laundrymat and wash them and you are set. when the trip is done, take them back and drop them off at the drop off center.put your original layers back on and travel home. that way there is more room in your luggage for the goodies you picked to bring home.

  33. Chris says:

    I love to pack neutrals, always a couple of white t-shirts and always check ahead to see what amenities are provided at my hotel so I don’t bring extra stuff I can get at the hotel. I also use large ziploc bags to keep things better organized!

  34. Cathleen Clark says:

    Here is my best travel tip: If you are traveling to a warm or tropical location, select outfits that are slightly well-worn that you are thinking of discarding anyway. As you progress through your vacation, you can throw the outfits out, thus saving room for souvenoirs or trinkets. :) Good luck and have fun!

  35. George says:

    Stuff every cubby hole. If you pack shoes, fill them with socks, toiletries, or anything else to take advantage of the space.

  36. Cyndee says:

    I have gotten so used to traveling lightweight using a 21″ or 19″ suitcase that I have gotten rid of all my larger suitcases altogether. When I travel I chose articles of clothing that can be worn at least 2 – 3 times in the week and the fabric weight easy to wash and dries quickly. If it gets cold I layer. or add a pair of leggings underneat my pants to keep me warm and layer in a cardigan under my blazer jacket. I stick to colors like black and white and spice up my outfits by adding a colored scarf or costume jewelry to accessorize. I break down my clothing in thise order:
    1 black long black jeans,
    1 pair leggings,
    1 pair black long stretch pants,
    1 black pair skort,
    1 black pair capris,
    2 white tops (1 tunic,
    1 short sleeve collar shirt),
    2 black women’s cut tee shirt, (different styles)
    2 black tops or blouses,
    1 white french cut dressy tee shirt with some bling added to it.
    1 swim boycut shorts and tankini. (cause you never know if you will stay somewhere off the grid that might have a pool or a hot tub), I chose the two piece so that it can be switched out and used as underwear and casual top if you happen to run out of clean clothes.
    3 pairs socks,
    2 bras, black white,
    1 LBD,(little black dress, tank top style polyester cotton blend)
    1 black ruana (lightweight cotton)
    2 pairs shoes, 1 walking, *usually weaing the shoes) 1 sandals or dressy flip flops) or black sneaker style,
    5 scarves,
    1 black blazer jacket

    If you roll these items, you can fit everything into 1 21″ suitcase or even a backpack and still have room to put makeup and small supply of toiletries. You can have all this in your bag without even having to open up the expansion zipper. If I do, then I know that I am over packing and I take something out. And if you cannot lift the bag by yourself, then definitely I am overpacked and I can do without that extra blouse or tee shirt. Give it a try. Once you see how much easier it is to get around, you will never check in a bag again. I know i don’t. Happy travels.

  37. Linda says:

    I really like using zip lock bags since I can squeeze a lot of air out of them for saving space plus it’s easy to see what I have without creating a mess that has to be refolded to get back into place. Bags also confine any leaky bottles. I definitely vote for taking older clothes that can be left behind to leave room for purchases.

  38. John Lynch says:

    Marcia on 22 September commented to the effect that last people aboard are left with no overhead luggage space – We have noticed this phenomenon in the USA but nowhere else in the world. Every space is labelled with a seat number. What is it that stops cabin staff in the USA from restricting premium passengers from using other people’s overhead luggage space? Is this just because they are scared of people with money?

  39. janet fauble says:

    I find it peculiar that one airline could actually help create a piece of luggage. I like its size but it could be useful for only very short trips, weekends, or overnight. I doubt that I will ever fly Spirit airlines with such strange qualifications and demands.

  40. Mindy says:

    I always seem to overpack. I loved reading the helpful hints in the comments already placed. I sometimes do the throw away old clothes to make room for souvenirs on the way home. :)

  41. Jerry says:

    I wear as much clothing on my body as I possibly can when I fly. I can wash many clothing items in the hotel sink at night and they are dry by morning. Vacations for me are warm-weather destinations, so I can leave the bulky stuff behind.

  42. ulla hjortflod says:

    For my long haul flights I always pack 1 change of clothing in my hand luggage in case my suitcase goes astray. All toiletries fit into the plastic bag that customs allow. This so that I can have a shower and get refreshed at stopovers. That makes me feel fresh and ready straight after arrival.

  43. Miguel-e says:

    For long foreign trips I take a bag of old clothes that are perfectly fine but I don’t care for or wear anymore (socks, t shirts, underwear) and use them one last time on route and toss them. That way I don’t have to wash any, my lugagge gets lighter thus making room to buy new items besides I already have the space at home to store them.
    Another unexpected bonus has been in poor countries when the maids have come running for blocks to return some clothing left in the room. Once we tell them we don’t want them, they ask if they can keep them (for children). Well their surprise and gratitude is so great, better than any tips.
    To think that this simple action can become such a good deed still overwhelms me that nowadays I try to take-along even more of those un-used garmets.
    My Recycling with a purpose is “green to the extreme”

  44. Lois Graham says:

    I always pack the bulky items in “travel space bags” where you can roll out the air. We often go on ski trips and this works especially well for all the heavier clothes, long underwear, etc needed for skiing to allow more packing space. I take a couple extra with me. Dirty clothes always take up more room so I put the dirty items in them and roll out all the air for the trip home.

  45. Robin Riley says:

    To avoid overpacking, I make a chart of the days I am going to be on my trip and list what I am going to wear each day and STICK TO IT. This list helps me know what I have with me and what goes with what.

  46. Lisa Evans says:

    pack a cloth carry sack for the “extras” that you purchase. It’s a lightweight carry on and keeps your new “treasures” safe. It can conform to any carry on size requirement, and it is an easy “throw it in” and retrieval bag. I need 3 hands when I travel, so, instead of juggling a pocketbook, reading material, travel documents, souveniers all separately, just put them in this carry sack and throw it over your shoulder. It can also double as a beach sack, or a shopping sack while on vacation.

  47. Sarah Zavakos says:

    I always pack LOTS of plastic baggies of various sizes. These are great for keeping little items together in a bag or for wet swimwear, bath ecessories, snacks, dirty shoes,etc. I also pack mix and match shirts and pants. I was on a 15 day cruise once and we had a lady at our dinner table that only brought one outfit with her-WOW!!!I was amazed!! Hey-we all wish we could do that, now don’t we? Pack light, the airlines get enough of our money!!

  48. LOUISE DIETS says:

    Thanks for all the hints. I’m horrible at packing and need all the help I can get.

  49. Mindy G. says:

    Our business requires travel domestic and international. I have really enjoyed the travel and packing tips on this blog. I can’t think of too much to add. My husband always wears a cap. It is a really good trip if we make it home without leaving the cap on a plane, in a car, etc. **) We each travel with a pack pack as our carryon. We always pack the same things in the same pockets. So we know exactly where everything should be. Organization is the key to happy, stress free travel. Happy trails to all of you!

  50. debbie says:

    We purchased travel vests from Magellan and now fill all those pockets with necessities – especially the heavier things like cameras and small accessories especially when we go on scuba dive trips and need so many pieces of gear. We did have a few airlines over the years weigh us as well as our carry-ons, but they couldn’t do much about the “excess” weight on us! This is especially helpful with airlines that restrict the carry-on to 15 lbs and we like to carry our regulator, mask and swimsuit with us. Now with the vest, we can put the camera and a few other things in the pockets to lighten the carry-on. Plus most of the pockets zip and we can keep passports, money and ID’s on us without the fear of leaving them behind or someone stealing them.

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