Answering Readers’ Questions: Where does the personal item go?

a woman carrying a pink bagHere is a recent email from a reader:

I have my first day trip coming up in a few weeks. Since I’m not spending the night anywhere, I’ll only be bringing my laptop bag. Where should I put it while I’m on the plane? It’s technically a personal item, so does that mean it should go under the seat in front of me?

Great question! There are two schools of thought on that. One, since you’re not bringing a larger rollaboard bag, you can put it in the overhead bin if you want. Just make sure to put it on the smaller side of the plane if there is one. The other thought is that since it fits under the seat in front of you, it should go under the seat in front of you, freeing up space in the overhead bins for the larger bags. (Pictured: My beloved Lo & Sons O.G. is now available in Raspberry, aka hot pink! I want one so bad I can hardly stand it.)

I typically will always put my personal item under the seat in front of me, because it’s considerate to leave space for the larger bags (plus could help the plane take off sooner!), it doesn’t really change my comfort level, and it’s easier to access when I’m sitting by the window. However, as my pregnancy progressed and bending became more difficult (and finally impossible!), I moved to sitting in aisle seats and putting my purse in the overhead bins so I could access it if needed.

So honestly, it could go either place—under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. The one place it should never go? Behind your legs or under your seat. This just takes room away from the person behind you.

Readers, where do you put your personal item when it’s your only bag?


  1. This varies greatly on the airline in question.

    I tend to fly United-nental and on most of their flights the FA’s repeatedly announce that smaller bags MUST go under the seat in front and will keep checking the bins for -too small- items during the entire boarding process, and then loudly try to find the owner to hand it to them.

    Then the only exceptions would be if you are in a bulkhead where you can’t put bag under seat in front.

  2. Im a fan of helping out the group. To me, that means if it fits under the seat in front of you, put it there…but you are not obligated, as you did pay for a sliver of overhead bin space as well

  3. 25% all of August for Lo and Sons!! I got mine in Army green the other week and I am in loove with it. Thanks for reviewing it!

  4. My personal bag is always a “Pilot case” or so called (by pilots) “Flight bag” and I put it everytime (!) in the overhead bin. I personally hate it to have some of my baggage in front of my feet. Maybe i hate it because I’ very tall (more than 1.80 meter).
    @Denise: I was really wondering about that it is a MUST that smaller bags should have in front of my feet. Here in Europe where i live we really have some strange LCCs like Ryanair but i am pretty sure that even they do not force you to but your luggage in front of your feet instaed of using the overhead bins. And i won’t accept it. Maybe it sounds that rude but i pay for my flight AND I pay for space in the overhead bins as well because it is part of the whole ticket fare.


    P.S.: pls. appologize if i made some mistakes but i am living in Germany and my mother language is german 😉

  5. I always under seat in front of me. Even on the tiny commuter planes my laptop back pack fits, and all of my entertainment is right there in reach.

  6. personal bag is under the seat in front where it’s accessible at all times during the flight, and it’s more secure if/when i take a nap…

  7. If there is a laptop in that laptop-bag, it should ALWAYS go in the seat in front of you. A lot of insurance companies won’t cover damages to computer equipment/photo equipment if it is left in the overhead storage. (My guess is that this is because of turbulence and whatnot).

    For me, in addition to the computer-stuff, I’ll always have the personal bag in front of me, including all the things I might need for the flight, just so I don’t have to constantly get up and open the overhead storage.

  8. I put as much as possible under the seat in front of me. So many reasons: (1) I have short legs, and my backpack or bag makes the perfect foot rest for me. Otherwise, I get really uncomfortable. Hard to explain, but true. (2) I always seem to want something from my bag – book, knitting, notebook, work file, laptop, whatever. It’s just so much easier to remove, use, and return stuff to a bag in front of you. I can’t imagine trying to get something from the overhead while sitting in a window or middle seat, and/or if there is turbulence. Totally stuck. (3) Things get moved, crushed, shoved to the back, etc when they are put “up top.” (4) Safety and insurance, as mentioned above.

  9. Do you take the OG on flights as a personal item and fit it under your seat? I’m wondering if I can use it along with a standard wheeled carry-on! Tx

  10. My personal item always goes under the seat in front of me. I want access to my laptop, magazines, etc at a moments notice. I’ve had the same experience on UAL as Denise. I don’t want to fight with these people (FAs or other “entitled” passengers).

    I was recently on a flight (SEA-ORD) and the woman in front of me put her bag under her seat and kept kicking my briefcase back. I politely reminded her that her storage area was in front of her (also full). Since I was in exit row the FA took her extra bag and stowed it elsewhere. She was extremely unhappy with me the entire flight.

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