The Best Under Seat Carry On Luggage

While They're Scrambling For the Overhead Lockers You'll Be Calmly Taking Your Seat

In Summary: The Samsonite Wheeled Underseater won the top pick for the best under seat carry on. It's not that much smaller than a regular carry on and it fits most airline under seat dimensions perfectly.

The knockout punches were:

  • It's everything most people want in a carry on just in a smaller format
  • Two sizes to choose from

The secret to using the under seat space for your luggage is knowing the dimensions of the space under the seat. Doh!  

We cover this in detail in this post. It also helps to learn how to travel light.

If you can do this you might progress from a wheeled rolling underseat bag to a smaller backpack like this one especially for weekend trips or overnighters.

Samsonite Wheeled Underseater

Why Use An Under Seat Carry On

"welcome to my world won't you come on in"

I was flying from Malta to Budapest last week on Wizzair. The flight was delayed by 1 hour but they didn't announce the delay... they just told everyone to go to the gate.

Because the flight was delayed some people ended up standing in line for almost 2 hours before they could board.​

I never jump up when the gate is announced and I'd never pay for priority boarding. I just sit somewhere I can keep an eye on the size of the line. It's so much easier to walk up to the gate when the queue is almost at zero. Trust me the I arrive at my destination at the same time as everyone else!

At the risk of pointing out the obvious... the plane isn't going to leave any faster just because you got to your seat quicker. The only argument for rushing to the front on the boarding line is that you'll get a good place in the overhead bins to put your carry on bag.

When you store your carry on under the seat you don't need to care about overhead locker space. Your under seat area is always free! You just need to make sure you have a bag that is going to fit.

The first time I stored my carry on under the seat it was an accident. It just happened because all the overhead spaces were taken. I actually had a carry on backpack that time and it went under no problem at all. That was the day of my under seat enlightenment and I've never looked back since.

In short.. here is how to board a plane like a pro:

  • Be last on
  • Store your carry on under your seat
  • Choose a seat near the front exit
  • Be first off. Simple.

Now I know this tactic isn't for everyone. Because many travelers are still desperate to fly with the maximum legal carry on size. And the under seat area is smaller than the limits for overhead bins.

But if you can get your carry on bag just a little smaller then you can reap the benefits described above. No more fighting for overhead bin space!

Welcome To My World

I'm James Eagleman aka The Carry On Guy. Flying doesn't need to be stressful and under seat luggage is one way to make your flight a lot calmer.

This post is all about using underseat carry on luggage. The Jim Reeves classic song above has nothing to do with that... but maybe it will put you in the mood 🙂

What Are The Under Seat Airline Dimensions?

Airlines don't actually tell us what the size under the seat is. It's different for different types of plane.

There is a good trick that you can use to find out though.

When people carry pets on board flights they are not allowed to go in the overhead bin. That would be cruel!

You must keep your pet in the space under the seat in front of you. Bingo!

So we can use the published size information about pet carriers to give us a good idea of the under seat dimensions.

Bingo!! No that's not the dogs name... but pet carriers need to fit under the seat so we can use pet carrier size limit information to give us an idea how big the under seat area is on our flight!

Here are some of the most common sizes. Please do your own research and even contact your airline to check.


Pet Carrier Under Seat Size Limit

Air Canada

21 x 15.5 x 9 inches

Virgin America

18  x 15 x 8 inches

Spirit Airlines

18 x 14 x 9 inches

Southwest Airlines

18.5 x 13.5 x 8.5 inches


16 x 10 x 8.5 inches

Alaska Airlines

17 x 11 x 9.5 inches


18 x 14 x 8 inches


17 x 12.5 x 8.5 inches

American Airlines

19 x 13 x 9 inches

United Airlines

18 x 11 x 11 inches (for soft sides)

The area under the middle seat is usually the widest so it gives you extra room. But well... it's the middle seat...

You can check with SeatGuru and it will let you know if any seats have electrical gear or anything else under the seat that might cause an issue.

The best way to store you bag under the seat is with the top handle facing the aisle and the bottom where the wheels might be facing the window. This will give you the most leg room.

How To Choose An Under Seat Carry On

You can put all sorts of bags under the seat. Backpacks and duffels work well. Also there are quite a lot of bags designed for the express purpose of being stored under the seat.

It's best to avoid a hard case for putting under the seat. You really will get on a lot better with a bag that has some squeeability. Also if you are packing antique crockery you might want to opt for the overhead bin.​

With a backpack I just stuff it in the best I can and then push it futher under using my feet. Underseaters can sometimes take up some of your leg room so if you can put it under an empty seat (again it helps to board last since you can see which seats are empty).

Our top pick bag is ​16.5 x 13 x 8 inches. That means it holds about 28 liters.

I often recommend the Lipault Paris Carry On since it's 21 x 14 x 8 inches and this works with a lot of airlines (for overhead bins). That carry on is 38.5 liters.

So the underseater space is about 30% smaller than the size of a regular carry on. ​

Samsonite Wheeled Underseater Review

The Samsonite Wheeled Underseater comes in 2 different sizes both of which can work well as underseaters.

If you are using this bag as your main carry on and not trying get away with it as a second item i'd recommend getting the larger bag to allow you to take more stuff.

The Samsonite is styled like regular carry on rolling luggage it's just a little smaller. This is great when you want an under seat carry on for business travel and when a backpack or duffel doesn't look professional enough.

The large bag is 16.5 x 13 x 9 inches. You can see from the under seat sizes listed above that this bag will fit under the seats in some but not all airlines.

You especially need to be careful with the depth of the bag. The measurement from the floor to the underside of the seat varies between 8 and 9.5 inches.

90 %
Satisfaction Rating
  • 2 sizes to choose from
  • 1 inch too wide for some many airlines

Briggs & Riley Expandable Cabin Bag

The Briggs & Riley Expandable Cabin Bag is made to fit under the seats.

It's 16.5 x 11 x 4 inches when not expanded... small right?

But when it's expanded it's 16.5 x 11 x 8 inches. That's not too shabby!​

That works out to be about 22 liters capacity so it's roughly about half the size of a maximum legal carry on.​ This means it's great for short overnight trips or longer trips for minimalist packers.

The black styling means it will look professional for business trips. It's more professional that a holdall or backpack.​ It also comes in Olive green if you have a strong stomach for the hideous.

It will fit laptops up to 15 inches in the middle compartment but you might want to get a padded sleeve ​to protect your laptop.

I love how this bag expands. This means on longer trips you can use it as a 2nd personal item. On shorter trips it expands and you can just it as your main carry on.

Briggs & Riley always make a quality product. This bag is no exception. It's not cheap but if anything goes wrong with the bag you'll be covered by the Briggs & Riley warranty.​

92 %
Satisfaction Rating
  • Expands from 4 inches to 8 inches so no problem fitting under the seat
  • Not using all the space under the typical airline seat
  • No wheels

Final Notes

Welcome to my world! Won't you come on it? Miracles I guess... still happen now and then.

Isn't that Jim Reeves song awesome and relaxing? I might try to remember to listen to it next time I'm boarding a flight!​

Know and the door will open. Seek and you will find 🙂

Airline travel doesn't need to be so stressful. Instead of standing for 2 hours in that boarding line you could be sitting sipping a cappuccino. 10 minutes before take off you can waltz on and slide your bag underneath your seat.

You just need to reduce you carry on size by about 30%​. That's not so hard really when you know how.

And for peats sake people! When the airline lands you won't get getting off the plane for a good few minutes.... so stay in your seat and remain calm.

You can't get off the plane until they park and open the doors!!! So sit down, chill the f*ck out, and listen to some Jim Reeves :)​

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