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Under seat luggage review and BTW, flying is challenging

I have several short domestic trips on the calendar and had asked awhile back for recommendations for a small, under seat rolling bag to replace my usual backpack. As I was looking at all my options, one color of the Amazon Basics under-seat rolling carryon dropped in price from $120 to $59 (and it wasn’t the Prime sale) making my decision easy. I actually love the bag and I am amazed how much it holds. I packed my Keen Rose sandals, pjs, two pair of pants, four tops, underwear, my iPad and all my toiletries with no problem. (The small RS packing cubes fit nicely.). The bag opens fully and has some nice pockets. The price bounces around. Right now all colors are in the $85 range.

One thing the bag is not is waterproof. And why would I know that??? I was flying Delta for which I have no priority as far as boarding. I was in the last boarding group. After the second from the last group, Main 2, boarded, the agent announced that there was no more room onboard for carryons and luggage would need to be checked. Unfortunately, I had a small tote with my jacket, snacks and kindle. I know it would have stored in a small place in the overhead, but no dice. My under-seat carryon had to be checked through to my final destination. There were two couples behind me that were headed overseas and had packed carryons for the trip. They were understandably aghast at having to check their bags. They begged to be able to retrieve them at the Atlantic layover, but no. There was no option for gate check, no option to retrieve the bags at Atlanta baggage. All luggage was going to the final destination.

When I changed planes in Atlanta it was POURING rain. When I retrieved my bag at my final destination it was soaked through and my clothes were wet on the side of the bag that must have been sitting up on the luggage cart. I assume my bag was on top as it was so small.

Did it fit under the seat? I don’t know. On my return flights there was room in the overhead and I popped it in to be efficient and not hold up the loading process playing with luggage. Lesson learned. No second bag, no matter how small. I saw on my return that Delta counted the tiniest little purse as a separate item. If a passenger couldn’t condense to two, a bag was checked, no matter space on the plane. I know, too, I will reinstate my airline credit card to give me priority boarding prior to my RS trip in the spring.

Sorry my saga got so lengthy!

Posted by
905 posts

For clarification, did you observe Delta disallowing purses as a personal item plus one carry-on on an international or domestic flight? I don’t fly Delta as it rarely meets my needs out of Chicago, but some domestic carriers I fly offer “basic” fares under which only a personal item such as purse is allowed, no carry-on with included in the fare. (Add-on price may allow a carryon). In any event, interesting rather chilling observation.

I pay for priority boarding on my regular, generally full routes these days if I don’t have an upgraded seating class. My favored carry-on fits under the seat, but one or two gate agents have still disallowed it if I’m at the end of the boarding.

Posted by
160 posts

I had a small cross body purse that measures 6” x 7” and the gate agent would not let me board before I tucked it into my tote. The small purse counted as an additional personal item, which was not allowed. (I had my rolling bag, the tote and the purse which went into the tote.) I did purchase an upgraded ticket - refundable and not basic economy - but that didn’t get me any higher in the boarding priority. I need to check into buying priority boarding.

Posted by
905 posts

Thanks Kathy. It is too early in the AM for me. No coffee yet. I actually misread you first post which is clear - if I'd read it properly.

I thought you were observing people with one carry-on and one personal item being denied both of those. I see now that you state, "condense to two", so obviously you intended to indicate no slack on the Delta rule of one carry-on and one personal item. Not the one item only that I mis-read.

Thanks for the clarification and the post. I must say that it irritates me no end when I have carefully followed the airline rules and I see folks boarding with carry-on, personal item, and an addition like a full shopping bag or personal item that is almost as large as their 22" roll aboard! Paying the extra for early boarding is worth relieving my irritation and confidence that I can keep my carry-on with me throughout the flight.

Posted by
905 posts

I watched an amusing, but telling interaction at the Copenhagen airport earlier this summer as we prepared to board a flight within Europe.

A young man with an American accent approached the gate agent and politely explained that he had purchased one of SAS's basic fares and had intended to also purchase the extra fee to bring his carry-on aboard. However, the website hadn't worked, so he was unable to complete the add-on fee. Could he pay her, it was a small bag.

The agent's response was "How small? Americans tend to think "small" is this - arms thrown wide open. Europeans define "small" as "this" - hands brought within a foot of each other.

Very good humored and bottom line the young man boarded with his small, even by American standards, bag.

Posted by
2491 posts

Interesting story, sorry your clothes got soaking wet!

I never thought of this possibility of luggage not being water proofed or water resistant. Obviously hard sided bags are.

We have had torrential downpours here in Atlanta this summer.

Posted by
740 posts

Sadly this is an example of how out of control some of our fellow travelers are.

I don’t fly much anymore maybe twice a year. And yet I have encounter someone trying yo put their stuff under my seat. And another time someone with so much under their seat that they had to place their feet/knees in their neighbors spaces.

I am pretty tall myself and I need my space for my feet. This is why I often check a bag, so I can use my overhead space to store my small bag in the overhead Vs under the seat.
Foot/leg space is precious to me.

Add in that people often carry too large a “carry on”. My primary bag is actually a bit large if you measure it but compared to what many bring on (in the US) it is small. This takes up all the space in the overhead and the space fills up. I have had folks want me to but my small bag and my jacket under the seat, but as I point out I don’t have a regular carry on bag just so I CAN use my under seat space befor my feet/legs.

Posted by
2267 posts

Any bag that big and/or firmly-structured is going to be a crap-shoot for getting it under seats. The seats' "legs" do not align with individual spaces, and often split them awkwardly. Then there are the video-on-demand boxes—one per row, at least that take up space. Compound those variables across different plane types... If a personal item does not fit under the seat, you could end up trying to put two bags in the overhead, and no one wants to be that jerk. (Because, let's face it... No one that gets themselves into that situation is going to volunteer to gate-check a bag.)

I'd never take a 'personal item' bigger than about 20 liters, and only soft-sided, so it can squish a bit into whatever space I end up with.

Posted by
7 posts

Been there! You never know when that can happen. I've been on tours that you need to walk your luggage to a bus that parked a couple of blocks away in the rain. I've had suitcases put outside the hotel waiting for transport and it was raining. That's why everything goes into a cube then into a plastic bag and then into the suitcase. Small stuff gets the cheap grocery store plastic bags. Packing cubes get a nice ziplock type storage bag. Besides - plastic bags come in handy during the trip and you'll always have some!

I love a bargain! Good catch on the bag! I just got a new carry-on from Amazon that was marked down from $230 to $115 for only a few days.

Posted by
160 posts

You are right, polishancestry, there are a number of opportunities for bags to get wet, I may begin to use plastic bags, too. Also thinking of hitting my luggage with some waterproofing spray.

Posted by
3984 posts

I discovered a weak point in my hard sided 21” suitcase two winters ago when we landed in Honolulu during an hours long deluge. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel in Waikiki Beach but roads and parking lots were flooding. I had to carry my bag through the worst of it but just pushing it along on very wet surfaces I discovered that water could get into some wheel areas and the bottom third of the clothing in my suitcase was soaked from the taxi drop off to the hotel entrance. I now check weather more carefully and would pack into a sturdy garbage bag before placing my clothes into the suitcase if downpours were predicted. It was 8” of rain in a short time with major flooding, power outages and highway closures.

Posted by
6832 posts

I need to check into buying priority boarding.

Kathy, I have the AMEX Delta SkyMiles Gold card, which gives me priority boarding on Delta. This is the lowest price Delta card that does this. I used to have the Platinum card when I was working but didn't see the need for that once I retired. You also get a bag checked for free.

Usually you can find some good deals online. I think right now they are offering 40,000 bonus points (after spending a certain amount) and the first year's fee of $99 is waived. I think it's worth it since I fly Delta a lot.

Posted by
6832 posts

I had a small cross body purse that measures 6” x 7” and the gate agent would not let me board before I tucked it into my tote. The small purse counted as an additional personal item, which was not allowed. (I had my rolling bag, the tote and the purse which went into the tote.)

For years, Delta has turned a blind eye to people who board with a carry-on, personal item and purse. And I know because I have done it on several occasions (mine is usually a small crossbody bag). But the last few times I've flown Delta, I've noticed that they are rigidly enforcing the rule about ONLY bringing on 2 items. The gate agents now make several announcements that extra bags must be packed in the carry-on or the personal bag. And they are checking people as they board to make sure.

I don't mind - mine is usually small enough that I can tuck it in my personal bag for the flight. But I think that more and more, airlines are going to be enforcing many of the rules they previously disregarded.

Posted by
648 posts

Agreeing with all the previous posters. We recently flew home on Delta, and I had a small backpack and a tote bag + what is essentially a neck wallet, 7 x 4 ½, which holds my phone, money and credit card.
When asked to put it in my tote, I must have registered a shocked look because the gate agent told me in a very apologetic tone, “They’re getting very strict.”

I was happy to comply mainly because she let the very bulging carryon suitcases belonging to my husband and daughter pass by without any comment.

Wet possessions is a major drag - especially if just starting a trip. The idea of placing items in plastic bags (even grocery or shopping bags) is a good one. I have had a couple of bouts of heavy rain and luggage. Generally, luggage made from nylon or polyester will be resistant. Any bag with zippers can never be completely water proof. RedOxx uses rugged zippers that significantly reduce leaks - and they work! Spraying luggage with some scotch guard waterproofing spray (used for hiking boots, etc.) can help.

I learned from a friend that bags are left on the tarmac and airline workers are ordered inside if lightning is present. That means, your luggage can get soaked. Florida has many lightning strikes during storms. (Part of living here.). There may be rain covers available for luggage, though TSA may not approve.

Posted by
27357 posts

I use soft-sided bags and spray them with Scotchguard. I found, to my frustration, that if your bag gets damaged and you want to mend it with the Gorilla tape you so smartly packed, the tape will not stick to the Scotchguarded fabric.

Posted by
160 posts

Thanks, acraven. I wouldn’t have thought of that. Plastic bag it is! Regarding the airline credit cards to gain priority boarding, I gave up my American Airline card because they kept jacking up the mileage needed for rewards. I was better off financially using another credit card’s rewards.

Posted by
271 posts

Concerning wet luggage,

if you are willing to pay the extra money for something more likely to keep your stuff dry than grocery, trash or zipper bags, get some dry bags/sacks.

Use them in place of packing cubes or use them as a liner inside your bag with the packing cubes safely stowed inside.

They are also used to hand wash clothes and transport wet bathing suits or laundry that isn't quite dry by travel time.

And don't forget the outside pockets of your bag. That's where I tend to stick extra paper copies of my itinerary, tickets, reservations, boarding passes, etc.

Posted by
125 posts

In defense of a person having a third bag, it might just contain medical equipment. About two years ago I had a freak accident and suffered a significant leg injury. Sometimes when I fly, I bring an oil cloth bag (it folds small) that has a heating pad and cane that I need for the plane. I started doing that because having the items in my regular carry-on slowed down everyone when I tried to pull them out during the boarding process. I collapse my cane when I board because there have been times when storing my cane in the overhead means it gets behind other peoples suitcases and I can't retrieve it.

I am very conscious of being a good passenger on the plane. I have a roller suitcase that is the right size and an underseat tote bag that fits over the handle of my rolling suitcase. With my oil cloth bag, I can squish it into my tote bag when I have my heating pad set-up done on the plane. I always do preboarding because the leg injury means I am slow and my leg is fragile so I don't want anyone knocking into me with their suitcase. I am having surgery in October so hopefully I will have a normal leg and not need that darn cane and heating pad anymore.

Just wanted to point out that sometimes a passenger having a third bag doesn't mean that they are irgnoring the rules. I checked with Delta once I started flying again after my accident and they approved my bag set-up.

Posted by
443 posts

Itsv, good luck with your surgery in October. You probably have PT ahead of you too. Hang in there.

Posted by
1194 posts

This is why I’ve forced myself to fly exclusively with under seat bags. I know that for domestic flights at least, there won’t be room in the overhead.

If you can get the contents down to 25 liters or so, you can travel with underseat bags.

Posted by
109 posts

I just got the blue quilted version of this bag at my local Goodwill! I had been eyeing it on Amazon, so when I saw it in perfect condition (doesn't look like it has been used at all) for $8 and in my favorite color, I snapped it up. Can't wait to use it.

Posted by
160 posts

What a steal, LAB! That is the exact one I bought. Fun little bag.

Posted by
14163 posts

Kathy, such a good thread!

I had not thought about putting packing cubes in ziplock bags. I always pack extra ziplocks so it would just be stashing them a different way.

I’m on Shetland Island right now. We knew it was going to rain and blow today and I knew my day pack was not waterproof. I started out with most of my gear on anyway today but I’m popping my gear cube in a big ziplock for tomorrow’s adventure!! As soon as everything dries out , that is, 😬😆😆. I’ve got my puffy vest, rain pants, a neck gaiter and a variety of head gear in a large Eagle Creek compression cube. It’s working well to keep gear contained and squished down except for the rain.

And I will 2nd Mardee’s suggestion for the Gold AMEX card! If that’s in your budget, go for it.

Posted by
170 posts

I just followed Mardee and Pam’s lead and got a Delta Amex Gold card. The current bonus-miles offer is 65,000 miles, an offer I couldn’t refuse! With no fee for the first year, I figured I’d give it a whirl.