I Found the Best Personal Item Bag for Travel

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Updated 11.01.2019: 18 months later and it’s still my favorite! If I met you on a flight and offered a peek inside my personal item bag, you’d shake your head. When it comes to a personal item travel bag, I’m not a light packer. Efficient? Yes. Light packer? No.

When the folks at Baggallini asked me to try their expandable carry on duffle, I crossed my fingers that this would finally be the bag that offered lots of room in a stylish package. Guess what? I hit the jackpot.

Two photos: First one is Baggallini expandable carry on duffle in black print. Send photo shows all of the items that were packed inside.
Finally! A personal item bag that holds all of my stuff!

Meet my new favorite personal item bag 

I have a love-hate relationship with the typical small items bag. There are plenty of styles that look good but most of them aren’t large enough to hold a 15” Macbook Pro—necessary for operating my business on the road.

And on those trips where I also need to carry a camera, which is most of the time, fitting both of those items into a personal carry-on is hopeless. Alan usually ends up wearing the camera bag around his neck. Nice husband.

Black and white print Baggallini expandable carry on duffle underneath an airline seat.
I placed the bag upright underneath the seat and it still fit. This left a little room for my feet.

Taking the Baggallini Expandable Carry on Duffle on a test run

In April, Alan and I will be traveling on a 42-day cruise that starts in Hong Kong and ends in Vancouver. For once, I want to arrive at an international destination without an overloaded personal item bag. Of course I’ll bring the laptop and camera with me.

Will the Baggallini expandable carry on duffle be the answer? I decided to take it on a test run for a two-week trip to the Oregon Coast to find out.

A closeup view of all the items that I carried on this trip. And they fit easily without needing to expand the bag.

Since this was a “relocate our office to the Oregon Coast trip,” I packed everything that I needed to work for two weeks away from my desk. From the photo of what my bag held, you see:

  • 15” Macbook Pro with cover
  • Laptop plug
  • Small black canvas bag that held papers, brochures and two portable hard drives
  • Jewelry pouch (my jewelry always goes in the personal items bag)
  • Pouch packed with adapters and cords
  • Plastic pouch for pencils, notepads, and miscellaneous stuff
  • Blue bag filled with lipstick and hairbrush (a boomer gal has to look good)
  • Kindle (how else will I entertain myself on travel day?)
  • Checkbooks (yes, I have to pay bills even when I’m having fun)
  • Medications in a plastic bag (another always pack in your personal bag item)
  • Two glass cases (sunglasses and regular)
  • Bag for small liquids that need to go through TSA
  • Microfiber cloth (because screens get dusty and dirty)
  • RFID phone wristlet that attaches inside the bag to hold my RFID wallet
Black and white printed expandable carry on duffle bag packed for a trip.
All packed and ready to go. This looks more like a stylish tote than an expandable carry on duffle bag.

Here’s the bag all packed, and as you can see, I didn’t need to use the extender.

Alan and I traveled to Oregon on small commuter jets where you have to check your rolling carryon at the gate, which is why I never pack jewelry, electronics or medications in them.

I had no worries about the Baggallini expandable carry on duffle fitting on the small plane. It slid easily underneath the seat in front of me. Or I could have placed it in the overhead.

Photo of a black expandable carry on duffle bag expanded.
Example of how the duffle looks expanded. Photo courtesy Baggallini.

The expander came in handy on the return trip

I had left my camera in Oregon on our last visit. But I needed to bring it back to Montana in anticipation of the Hong Kong to Alaska cruise. So I unzipped the extender to make more room in the bag for the camera. Everything fit. There was still room for the expandable duffle to slide underneath the seat in front of me, although I decided to stow it in the overhead bin.

Black print expandable carry on duffle underneath an airline seat.
Expanded, the bag needed to be placed horizontally underneath the seat. But it still was an easy fit.

When using the extender, think about how heavy the bag will be once it’s packed. If you’re placing it on the top of a rolling carryon, the bag is easy to manage. But I would not have wanted to use the shoulder strap to wear the duffle over my shoulder through the airport, that’s shoulder surgery waiting to happen.

Deluxe Travel Cosmetic Case. Photo courtesy of Baggallini.

A sleeve on the back so of the duffle allows it to slip over the handle of a carryon. Either I had the bag too stuffed or my carryon handle was too thick to slip the bag over the handle but I’m going to work on that for next time.

Why I think the Baggallini expandable carry on duffle is the best personal bag for air travel:

  • Looks like a chic tote bag rather than a duffle
  • Very lightweight (when it’s empty)
  • Comes in a fashionable black diamond print (my favorite) or solid black
  • Water resistant fabric that is also handwashable
  • My laptop fit without needing to unzip the extender.
  • I could find everything easily.
  • Fits underneath the seat.
  • Zips closed so that nothing falls out.
  • The bag grows taller rather than wider when using the extender.

The expandable carry on duffle would work great for a romantic weekend getaway, especially when I’m not taking my office with me. There’s enough room for a couple of changes of clothes, a pair of shoes and a cosmetic case.

Deluxe Travel Cosmetic Case. Photo courtesy of Baggallini.

How I’ll use the Deluxe Travel Cosmetic Case on a luxury cruise

Baggallini also sent me the Deluxe Travel Cosmetic Case in the same black print fabric. On a weekend trip, I’d use the hang up case for makeup and toiletries. There’s a removable soft-lined pouch that’s wonderful for storing jewelry.

But on a luxury cruise, there’s enough storage in the bathroom that there’s no need for space saving travel items like a hang up toiletry case. Instead, I’m going to use the case for storing jewelry and scarves. How organized! I like to bring plenty of costume jewelry (and a few favorites from my fine jewelry) and scarves on long cruises to extend the look of my outfits.

With three compartments and a removable pouch, the Deluxe Travel Cosmetic Case will be a versatile addition to my cruise luggage. And it will fit easily into the expandable duffle bag. I’d never pack jewelry in checked luggage or a rolling carryon that might need to be gate-checked.

Need tips for what to wear on a luxury cruise? You’ll love my suggestions in Luxury Cruise Wear for Boomer Women.

Is the Baggallini expandable carry on duffle the best personal item carryon bag for you?

Two flight attendants started Baggallini twenty years ago, when they couldn’t find lightweight travel bags to meet their needs. In the case of the expandable carry on duffle and the deluxe travel cosmetic case, they’ve created well-organized, easy-to-clean personal item luggage that holds up well. And they look good, too!

Will the Baggallini expandable carry on duffle become your new favorite? I’m predicting that you’ll be emailing me that it’s the best personal item carryon bag you’ve tried in a long time.

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