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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. Rob says:

    Stay with the same color scheme and take 1 less pair of shoes than you think you’ll need

  2. Lisas says:

    Pack all clothing in a vaccuum storage bag & vaccuum out all air. Then on return trip repack clothing in bag & either borrow hotel’s vaccuum cleaner or take a very light hand held food storage vaccuum device to vaccuum air from bag.

  3. Deborah says:

    Roll up garmets instead of folding to conserve space.

  4. Melinda Urion says:

    Select color scheme and limit items to mix and match. Select what to take and then put half away.

  5. Melinda Urion says:

    If traveling in the fall or winter, buy dark colored walking shoes that match jeans and darker clothing that you can use during the day and at night for dressier occasions and nix the other shoes.

  6. Melinda Urion says:

    Toiletries take up a lot of room and can be heavy.
    —A product like vaseline or mentholatum can serve multiple purposes — lip gloss, shoe cleaner/buffer, nail and cuticle conditioner, eyebrow smoother, nighttime heel and elbow moisturizer.
    —Get moisturizer with sunscreen and tint to avoid taking multiple products.
    —Use hotel-provided shampoo and conditioner rather than bringing your own.
    —Use shower gel or shampoo for laundry.

  7. Melinda Urion says:

    If living in swimsuits, re-use underwear based on number of hours worn for dinner.

  8. Melinda Urion says:

    Take pieces that fill multiple roles — swim cover up can be used as night shirt. I have terry rompers that I sleep in, use as a cover up and lounge around in in the room.

  9. Melinda Urion says:

    Rather than traveling with lots of guide books, cut out the sections you want (or photocopy the pages)and create a very small notebook (like the kind used for pocket calendars)to take with you. This also forces you to do your homework in advance, take more time to enjoy the anticipation, learn about where you are going and sleep on the plane rather than trying to do all this before you land. This is particularly useful if you are visiting several areas. In 1981 in our first trip to Europe, my husband and I visited France (Paris and Alsace-Lorraine region), many areas in Switzerland, Vienna and Salzburg. Needless to say I accessed many different guide books for this trip (including one about hiking trails in Switzerland) and this worked perfectly. I used a 5×7 size and kept with me each day only those pages I needed. As I finished each area, I tossed those pages and lightened the load. (I had used photocopies so I still had the complete books at home).

    The most important thing was the fun I had doing it and preparing for the trip.

  10. Melinda Urion says:

    Hair care — the toughest thing on a vacation. You have your daily routine but it probably takes some or all of the following: hair blower, hair straightener, hair curler, hair curlers, mousse, leave in conditioner, straightener, volumizer, hair spray, hair gel, styling mousse or gel, and the list goes on.

    Before I go on vacation, I decide that a vacation is for fun and I am not going to use the same time getting ready in the morning that I do at home.

    So I go to my hairdresser for a really good cut and experiment on a few weekend days (when I’m not going to see anyone) to forgo my usual routine and just blow dry and brush my hair to see how it works out and whether I can live with it. After a few tries, I have a nice, casual, fast style that will get me through the vacation with the hotel-provided hair blower and nothing else.

    Also, without having such a “precise” routine and hair style that I am striving for, I am not as inconvenienced when it rains or is very humid. I don’t have to worry about electrical converters for my hair appliances and I can forgo many toiletries that are used only for my hair.

    • Joan says:

      When I am on vacation I do not wear makeup, a bra or style my hair.
      And, the funny thing is that people (especially in Hawaii), treat me like a local! I love it!

  11. Always place your home address not only on the outside of your bag but in the inside of your bag as well. Also if two people are travelling together share each others piece of luggage…some of yours in his….some of his in yours….if one is lost, you will each have at least some of your needed items.

  12. Sharon says:

    I bought some of those leak proof bottles from the Container Store and transfered my hair care products and stuff over. No big bottles to carry, no leaks in the suitcase and you can buy the size needed for the length of the trip. After vacation I store them away and then all I have to do for the next trip is top them off and I don’t forget.

  13. Maria S Marcano says:

    Put all important documents (passport, airline tickets, itinerary, copies of
    credit cards, etc.) in a zip lock. Put it in an accessible place in your carry on. They will be handy, keep clean and dry, and will be easy to find. If leaving it in hotel room, please put a lock in that compartment of your carry on.

  14. Shari says:

    I always wear my bulkiest items (shoes, jeans, coat)and pack the rest. Take outfits that I can wear with the same pair of dress shoes so I only have to bring one pair, and minimize toiletrie by purchasing travel size items. For makeup, simply ask the ladies at the makeup counter of your favorite department store for some samples – tell them you’re considering purchasing this brand or that, and you just can’t decide – they’re usually happy to oblige.

  15. Laura says:

    After laying out everything you are considering taking on your trip, go back about a week before the trip and select only half the items, putting the others away. Then the day you pack, select only half again, making sure you have mixes and matches, and only clothing and shoes that are absolutely comfortable. Pack nothing that is in the catagory of \what if\. You may still possibly come home with an item or two you never used.

  16. Harry Chambers says:

    I cannot say enough about using 1 carry on bag no mattere where or how long you are going…… and rolling your clothes to use less space and to eliminate wrinkling. My wife and i went to Paris this year and utilized them both. We both felt much more confident only looking out for our carry ons. And when we arrived the rolling method was amazing….We had starched shirts that did not have a wrinkle and the same with trousers and skirts. At first I wasn’t sure it would work but then I seen it firsthand. Since then we have used these methods a few more times with very pleasing results.

  17. Carolyn says:

    I pack everything in 1 or 2 gallon zip lock bags. Each one will hold a couple of pairs of pants, shirts a smaller size bag holds underwear and pj’s. I use a folded piece of cardboard to put the clothes between and slip it into the bag so it is easy to put the articles in. Then I put it in the top part of the carry on to take with me. I Leave an opening at the top so I can push out all the air before zipping it closed. This really condensed the packages & nothing shifts around. There is plenty of room for shoes and personal items left over.

  18. Bobbie says:

    If you go away on a vacation, odds are that you will not run into the people you meet again, so wear the same clothes over and over again instead of packing to impress.

  19. Dan Watts says:

    I’m a commercial photographer and carry a lot of gear. When I fly to location shoots, I pack and send (Surface FedEx) one bag of clothes to my hotel at the location. Then I ship my equipment (Surface FedEx) to the location of the photography shoot. I carry on my laptop and sometimes my camera bodies and lenses. I save a fortune by shipping by surface/land and I can have it anywhere in the US in 2-4 days. The cost is generally what I would have paid the airlines and I don’t have to schlep all the gear through the airports. It’s shipped right to the photo shoot and my clothes are waiting for me at the hotel.

  20. Gia says:

    Always pack less than you think you will need because more than likely you will not use everything you pack. You can always wash clothes out and hang overnight to dry if needed. Pack everything with mulitiple uses in mind. I also save space by utilizing my walking shoes to pack small items in; shampoo, hair products, skin products, toothpaste/toothbrush, etc.

  21. michelle says:

    EWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!! Seriously undies don’t take up much room at all!

  22. Glorya Nevius says:

    Pack, then take out half. You will honestly not wear everything you think you will.

  23. pegasusa says:

    Packing cubes! Undies in one, rolled or folded shirts in another, pants etc in the third. I just throw the undie cube in the drawer and for quick unpacking. I love them and gave them as gifts for Christmas!

  24. Tisha says:

    get an e-book reader — carry 300 books in less than the space of a paperback. a light rain jacket with a lot of big pockets will let you pack more stuff for “free” by stuffing it in the pockets — and you just take the jacket off to go through the x-ray at security (rather than trying to remember to empty and re-fill every pocket in your cargo pants). a cargo vest would work too — but you probably want a rain a jacket for your trip, anyway.

  25. lynn says:

    Use the vaccuum bags that don’t need a vacuum. Wear your bulkiest shoes and mix and match outfits

  26. Brenda says:

    Always take comfortable, well-broken-in shoes: one pair packed, the other pair on your feet.

  27. Mary says:

    I choose non-bulky items to pack and wear my jacket and jeans on the plane as well as the heaviest or bulkiest shoes. I pack in zip lock bags and roll my clothes. You also have to plan to wear things more than once especially if it isn’t a terribly hot destination. I carry medications and most of my toiletries in my purse, which I place inside a tote bag that is under the seat compliant.

  28. Betty says:

    love doing carry-on, but when I was a single traveller, I always had issues with hoisting a carry-on into the overhead….I love under the seat storage…

  29. Brenda says:

    Never pack more than you can carry yourself. There are many times this will be so much more convenient.

  30. Judy says:

    For wrinkle free hanging clothing, use the dry cleaners bags. Wrinkle free every time.

  31. Dan Freeman says:

    Scan your passport, passport photos and paper tickets (if not the e type). Store this (in an email for e.g.) in your web based email account. You can also store the details of your emergency ‘lost card’ telephone numbers in your web based email account so you know who to contact if your credit card or ATM card is lost or stolen. This way, even if you lose everything, you have immediate access your all important information. You can even email the details page of your passport to the embassy or consulate when applying for a new one.

  32. Ebony says:

    Funny as I think I have finally learned how to pack everything in a carry on bag. I was lucky and savvy enough to put 10 days, (yes 10 days) worth of clothes in a carry on suitcase recently. I even amazed myself. It even held a whopping three pairs of shoes which included a pair of tennis shoes. I rolled everything as tight as I could and let me tell you it worked like a charm. Still shaking my head when I arrived at my dad’s place. Even he was amazed and then proceed to ask “exactly how long are you staying again?” lol. I was only there for 5 days but hey, I needed to have options :)

  33. Bea says:

    Buy what you need there. No need to pack anything except essentials!!

    • Joan says:

      That would be cool if you’re going alone or with girls who like to shop.
      And if you don’t care about seeing the sights in the place where you have just arrived. Actually, the best plan would be to go a week early to buy all your stuff!! And then chill. Excellent.

  34. Donna Denny says:

    If you like to take more and avoid the weight problems, consider one of the vests with LOTS of zipper pockets. Fill it up with electronics and heavy things. You have to take it off to go thru the scanner, and when I get on the plane, I take it off again and put it in the overhead. It’s amazing what you can put in them. Scottevest makes one, but there are knock offs, too. Got mine on eBay!

  35. Donna Denny says:

    Fill up your shoes with small items!

  36. Tina Campbell says:

    Find a way to keep the airlines from reading this so they don’t decide that these packing ideas are really smart and start charging for all the above :)

  37. Vernon says:

    I hate bag fees as much as anyone. I am 6′ tall, 230 lbs and wear a size 14 shoe. Carrying on is fine for a short weekend trip but I refuse to live in the same clothes for 2 weeks. If you can afford the trip the the bag fees shouldnt break you. If you cant afford the bag fees, well then you shouldnt be travelling (I appologize and make exceptions for those with circumstances who have to fly).

    I dont even think a pair of shoes would fit in that bag let alone a change of clothes. I also won’t fly Spirit.

  38. Sue says:

    If you’re a female, take two pairs of shoes: one black pair of sneakers for walking around, one dressy pair of black shoes (flats would be better than heels!).

    If you’re a male, you can get away with wearing a pair of black sneakers throughout your trip. No one is ever going to look at your feet and point out that you have sneakers on instead of dress shoes.

    Of course, coordinate everything in your wardrobe with blacks and grays.

  39. Steve says:

    Roll clothing to pack,and take mix and match outfit pieces.
    Wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and pack one pair of dress shoe.
    Use small trial sized shampoos or deodorants…Much smaller easier to pack.

  40. Take your common sense and good manners with you when traveling.
    Treat fellow travelers/people serving you,as you would want to be treated.
    You don’t need a suitcase to carry a smile…

  41. Carolyn says:

    Be sure to fill all ‘open’ space such as inside shoes, corners of bag, etc.

  42. Joyce says:

    If you have some things that are older outfits – wear them and just leave them. Someone (Housekeeper, etc.) may be able to use them. Then you will have space for things you want to bring back. As for travel containers for make-up, etc. – try prescription vials – (some have lids that only you can get off. – Try them and see how they fit in 1 qt. zip lock bag, you’ll use them all the time

  43. Jack says:

    Take a Tide to Go pen, so you can wear garments more than once without any stains!

  44. Laurie says:

    I always pack with tops and bottoms that can be mixed and matched. try to carry as many flats as possible, and use spacebags to minimize the volume of what’s in my suitcase. If I carry a jacket i wear it on the plane, along with the bulkiest clothes and shoes I will need on vacation. Also, I don’t mind doing a little laundry on vacation; it’s usually just a load or two.

  45. Cindy says:

    Buy light weight clothes that do not wrinkle and roll them. Tuck them throughout the holes that your other clothes make. Take more tops than slacks and try to re-wear the slacks. Only take 2 pr of shoes. Daytime and nightime (a little dressier shoes).

  46. Karen says:

    Stuff socks and underwear in shoes. Put all liquids/creams in zip-lock bags before putting them in checked luggage.

  47. Sylvie Leonard says:

    My husband and I did 3 weeks in Europe with a carry on suitcase and a small backpack. That’s the best way to travel, easy to get on public transit, train, etc. Colour coordinate everything. And bring the smallest size possible of toiletries, there are tons of places to buy replacement if need be.

  48. Di says:

    Pack – unpack – pack again — its amazing how much stuff we bring that we do not use –

  49. Pamela says:

    When I pack for the 5 of us, I use grocery bags to pack a days worth of clothing.Girls in one(3) boys in the other(2) Not only am I recycling my old grocery bags, its easy to “push” bags around to fit in a suitcase, and you dont lose any part of an outfit trying to shove it some place. You also end up have built in laundry bags, for everyone.It’s a snap!

  50. Peggy says:

    Put sweaters and bulky items in extra large zipper bags, have the kids sit on them to get out all of the air! Amazing what a difference it makes!

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