These days, most major airlines allow passengers at least one carry-on bag, regardless of fare or destination. Having a quality carry-on bag can be a lifesaver on any flight, allowing you to bring some essentials to keep you occupied until you land. It’s important to understand, however, that not all carry-on luggage is created equal. Most airlines offer space for both underseat and overhead carry-on luggage—and understanding the differences between each type will help you better plan for your next trip.
Underseat Luggage vs. Carry-On Luggage: What’s the Difference?
While underseat luggage is a type of carry-on luggage, it differs greatly from traditional carry-ons in the sense that this type of luggage is specifically designed to fit underneath the seat on an airplane. When most people think of “traditional” carry-on luggage, they tend to think of the bags that are stored in an overhead bin for the duration of the flight. And underseat bag, then, tends to have a more compact design that makes it easy to stow underneath your seat or the seat in front of you. These bags also tend to be made of soft-sided materials so they can be easily “squished” or compressed to fit under the seat as needed.
If you already have a traditional carry-on bag that you’re tired of lugging around due to its large or awkward size, you may benefit from purchasing quality underseat luggage. Some travelers even enjoy having an underseat bag in addition to a traditional carry-on, as underseat bags can sometimes be brought on as a personal item at no additional charge. Either way, underseat luggage can be a great alternative to clunky carry-on bags—and we’ve got some picks for top underseat luggage brands that can help you get started in your search. We also offer some information on the advantages and drawbacks of using underseat luggage, as well as top considerations to keep in mind as you shop.
Top 5 Best Underseat Luggage Brands
CHESTER luggage has long been known for its innovative design and durability. Their Minima Carry-On Spinner Suitcase is a great pick, but they’re currently developing an underseat suitcase that will offer the style, durability, and maneuverability of the Minima in a more compact design. All CHESTER luggage also comes with a 100-day trial and free returns for added confidence with your purchase.
Samsonite is another trusted luggage brand that offers underseat luggage, kids luggage and luggage for college students, including the popular Samsonite Advena Wheeled Underseat Carry-On. This bag features a telescoping handle and wheels for easy transport through crowded airports, as well as front a side pockets to keep essential items accessible. Samsonite also carries underseat bags with spinner wheels for even better maneuverability, such as the Silhouette Underseat Spinner.
Another reputable brand in luggage, Travelon, offers a couple different underseat baggage options. One popular choice is the 6454 Wheeled Underseat Carry-On with Back-Up Bag, which features a water-bottle holder, telescoping handle, and two smooth-spinning wheels. Travelon also offers anti-theft underseat bags, underseat spinner bags, and more.
Travelpro specializes in great carry-on luggage designs and offers a few different underseat options from which to choose. Their Maxlite 5 Rolling Underseat Carry-On is a popular option that’s available in four color options and is lightweight for easy carrying. Many of Travelpro’s underseat bags include such features as padded laptop/tablet sleeves, rear-stacking straps, and removable plastic compartments.
5. High Sierra
High Sierra is a brand known for its active wear, but it has been making waves in the luggage world as well. With a few underseat luggage options, High Sierra’s bags often include such features as dedicated tablet storage, expandable zipper pockets, beverage holders, and in-line skate wheels for smooth maneuverability. Meanwhile, their underseat bags are designed to conform with size specifications set forth by most major airlines.
Advantages of Using Underseat Luggage
Still not convinced that you need an underseat bag for travel? Consider just a few of the most compelling advantages to owning underseat luggage.
Saves You From the Hassle of Overhead Bins
If you’ve ever had to maneuver a suitcase through a crowded airplane aisle and into an overhead storage bin, then you know just how much of a hassle this can be. This applies not only as you’re boarding your plane, but when disembarking as well. As you retrieve your luggage from the overhead compartment, you may be holding up an entire row of other passengers waiting behind you. When you opt for underseat storage instead, you can enjoy the freedom of simply finding your seat and stowing your bag underneath as needed. No longer will you need to worry about lifting heavy bags and finding space for them in the crowded overhead bins. And of course, when your flight lands, you can simply grab your bag from the seat in front of you and be on your way.
May Help You Avoid Checked Baggage Fees
The right underseat bag may even help save you money by avoiding additional baggage fees. Since most airlines these days include at least one carry-on bag with your fare, you may be able to pack all your essentials for a short trip in your underseat luggage. You may be surprised at just how much room is available in these innovative bags; if you’re going on a short weekend trip, you may even be able to fit all your belongings into one of these bags for easy traveling and no need for checked bags. This not only saves you money, but saves you the time and hassle of waiting at the baggage claim as well.
Protects Your Belongings From Damage
If you’ve ever stowed any luggage away in an overhead bin, then you know how easily your bags can get tossed around and damaged. This can be due to simple turbulence and shifting during the flight, or even due to careless passengers shoving their own bags into yours. Either way, with an underseat bag, you can keep your bag close by and not have to worry about putting any of your precious belongings into the overhead bins. As a result, you may be able to protect your personal items, such as electronics, from costly damage.
Keeps Your Items Easily Accessible
It’s no secret that retrieving an item from your bag in an overhead bin can also be a pain. While the airplane’s “fasten seatbelt” sign is illuminated, you will not have access to any of your luggage in the overhead bins to begin with. And even once you can roam about the plane, getting bags out of the bin can be a hassle. This is where having an underseat bag can come in handy, as this will allow you to have easy and quick access to all your essentials without even having to leave your seat.
Protect Yourself From Strain or Possibly Injury
Believe it or not, injuries occur on airplanes as a result of luggage falling from overhead bins or passengers trying to lift or retrieve luggage from overhead bins. This is especially common when passengers try to lift or retrieve heavy carry-on bags, which can cause strain and other injuries to the spine. Save yourself from these possible injuries by keeping all your essentials underneath the seat for the duration of your flight.
Potential Drawbacks of Underseat Luggage
There are certainly a number of benefits to using underseat luggage while you travel, but there are some potential drawbacks to consider as well.
Will Require Additional Spending
If you already have a traditional carry-on bag that works well, you may have a hard time justifying the added cost of purchasing another type of carry-on bag. This is especially true if you have a limited budget or if you don’t do a lot of airline traveling as it is. After all, a quality underseat bag can easily cost you $100 or more. Still, the cost may be more easily justified when you factor in the money an underseat bag can save you on checked luggage fees, as well as the added convenience of keeping all your essentials within easy reach for the duration of your flight. An underseat bag can also be used as a daily travel bag when you arrive at your destination as well, so it can serve multiple purposes.
May Offer Less Storage Space
Due to its smaller size, an underseat bag will, by its very nature, offer less space for your belongings than a traditional standard-size carry-on. If you’re going on a longer trip or if you have a lot of essentials to carry on the plane with you, an underseat bag on its own may not offer enough storage for everything. Still, using an underseat bag in conjunction with a standard carry-on can save you from needing to check additional baggage.
Underseat Storage May Not Be Available on Every Flight
Be sure to check with your airline before your flight, as some aircraft do not offer underseat storage as an option. If this applies to your specific aircraft, then you will need to make use of overhead storage for all of your carry-on luggage. Considering most underseat bags are made of soft-sided materials, this may not be ideal, as your bags could become damaged when placed into an overhead bin with hard-sided suitcases.
Underseat Space Can Vary From Airline to Airline
Even on aircraft that do offer underseat storage, specific size accommodations can vary from one aircraft to the next. Therefore, your underseat bag may fit just fine underneath the seat on one plane—yet be too large for another plane. This is why it’s a good idea to find an underseat bag that has been designed to conform with the majority of aircraft’s underseat storage dimensions.
How to Choose the Best Underseat Luggage
Looking to purchase your first underseat bag? Start with our list of top five luggage brands above, and be sure to keep these top considerations in mind to ultimately make the purchase that’s right for your needs.
Research Your Airline’s Size Restrictions
If there’s an airline that you fly most frequently, a good starting point is to research the underseat storage dimensions offered by their aircraft. This will give you a better idea as to what size bag will be best suited for your travels and will help you avoid buying a bag that will be too large to be used on most of your flights.
Decide on Must-Have Features
Underseat luggage can vary greatly in terms of features offered, so deciding on your must-haves ahead of time will help you narrow down your options significantly and make for easier shopping. Some common features that travelers love to see in an underseat bag include:
- telescoping handles
- spinner wheels or in-line wheels
- tablet/laptop storage compartments
- removable water-proof storage compartments
- water-bottle holders
Don’t Overlook Materials
While hard-sided luggage offers added durability, you’ll find that most underseat luggage is made of soft materials. The idea is that these softer materials make the bag more flexible, which makes it easier to fit the bag underneath different airline seats. Even with a soft-sided bag, however, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing durable materials that will be easy to spot-clean as needed and that will resist tears or snagging.
Check Out Reviews and Warranties/Guarantees
Some luggage companies, such as CHESTER, offer a money-back guarantee. Finding a company that stands behind their product will help give you added peace of mind with your purchase, allowing you to “try out” the bag and make sure it truly fits your needs before you commit to it. Taking the time to read real customer reviews on an underseat bag will also give you a better idea as to what travelers like and don’t like about it, which can better inform your decision.
Opt for a Good Value Over a Cheap Price
With an underseat bag and with all types of luggage, it’s generally worth spending a bit more money on a quality bag that’s going to last you for many trips/years to come rather than saving a few bucks and ending up with a bag that’s going to need replaced in a matter of a year or two. When shopping for an underseat bag, opt for one that gives you the best overall value for your money—especially if you’re on a tight budget.
Overall, underseat luggage is a great travel accessory to have. Not only can it serve as your primary luggage for a short trip, but it also makes traveling easier by keeping your essentials on-hand and potentially helping you avoid baggage fees. With all this in mind, which underseat travel bag will you buy?