Help! I need a super small carryon!

What if you have pared down your packing list to your bare essentials, but your personal item still won’t fit under the seat in front of you? A couple of months ago I got an email from a reader about this exact scenario.

I am a pretty well optimized business traveler – I’ve got the smallest, lightest carryon that complies with European airline size regulations, as my business travel takes me to Europe frequently. I’ve got a pretty small tote for my laptop, chargers, scarf, reading materials, wallet, snacks etc. I put my tote under the seat in front of me.

The last two flights I’ve been on – Aer Lingus & British Airways – due to their retrofitting power outlets under the seats, there hasn’t been enough room to put my tote underneath the seat in front of me. Really, even taking my laptop out of the bag I cannot fit the laptop in the small space. I have a 15″ MacBookPro. The space on one flight was no wider than 8″ and on the other about 10″. I cannot imagine what you could actually fit into those spaces, other than a smaller purse than I’ve seen on anyone but a six year old.

It’s causing me to rethink my packing – I expect to be able to work on a long transatlantic flight for a few hours, and while the power outlet is nice, I hate putting my laptop and entire tote in the overhead bin, especially it if winds up a distance away from my seat.

First off, I commend you for your commitment to light packing. I think I would need more than that for a trans-Atlantic flight! Second, I totally get it! And I think it’s crazy that even with super minimal packing you’re still not able to fit your bag under the seat. I really only have two possible suggestions:

Angle your bag. I have been on planes where my purse didn’t quite fit under the seat, but by either angling it or lying it on its side I was able to get it in there. Of course, if it were that easy you wouldn’t really have a problem, would you??Case logic tote

Smaller bag. I went online and tried to find some very slim laptop bags that will still hold other things. Honestly, there aren’t that many. However, with a little creativity I think we can make this work.

This Case Logic bag is as slim as they come. It will hold up to a 15” Macbook Pro, plus a tablet, cords, and magazine. If you have a Kindle, wallet, scarf, and chargers (plus a few small snacks) I think you could make it work. The biggest problem I see is that I can’t imagine fitting a water bottle in there. However, add one of these Bottle Bandits, and you can simply attach a bottle of water to the outside (or use a reusable water bottle with a built in clip).Biaggi foldable tote

I also found this Biaggi Contempo Foldable tote. It is probably a bit too big for what you’re describing, but it would fit really well on most planes and holds a TON of stuff. Plus it folds up into almost nothing when you’re not using it, which I think is magical.

Readers, any other suggestions? Have you faced this problem on international flights?

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  1. I really like the choices you have given her and may see about getting one myself. Thanks for the info

  2. The well-packed ladies have it much easier than do men. Fine whatere bag suits your needs, call it a purse and off you go. If you stomp hard enough, it too will fit under your seat.

  3. Well-packed ladies have it so much easier… Find whatever sized ‘container you need and call it a purse. If you stomp on it enough, it too will fit under your seat.

  4. I travel a lot to Europe too, and rarely take more than a carry-on (my best? taking a carry-on and small personal item for 4 weeks in London and Lisbon.). I have a similar problem on occasion, but having a squishy personal item helps. I use a Vera Bradley bag, or a backpack, and they have some pretty nice and professional looking ones. I take the Weekender, but the smaller totes would work too.

  5. What is the “smallest, lightest carryon that complies with European airline size regulations”?

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