There are very few certainties in life — and not having enough overhead bin space on an airplane is definitely one of them. As many travelers know all too well, as much as you might try to strictly abide by an airline’s carry-on size requirements, chances are high that if you’re one of the last people to board a full flight, you’ll end up having to gate-check your luggage due to a lack of bin space. Want to avoid the hassle on your next trip? Consider investing in a great weekender bag like the ones shown below.
Unlike most regular carry-ons, these bags offer more than enough packing space for a quick trip, yet will still manage to fit under the airplane seat in front of you. So if gate-checking your bag is not your favorite activity — whether it's because you're not willing to risk lost baggage, or you're simply not keen on having to wait for your things once you reach your destination — your best bet is to not bring a suitcase that needs to go in the overhead bin, and to use a weekender bag instead. Here are some of the best picks out there:
“Weekender” doesn’t have to mean duffel — or any kind of shoulder bag, for that matter — and this bag is case-in-point. Tortuga’s Setout Divide has the easy carry benefit of a backpack, with the capacity and organization of a traditional weekender. Even better: the bag opens completely flat, so you can pack the two main compartments (one with a compression strap, and one closed off by a zippered mesh divider) as easily as a suitcase. Put your clothes and other large items in those sections, your computer and tablet in the padded sleeves, and small necessities in the outside zippered pockets. If the bag gets too heavy, you can stabilize yourself with the padded (and removable) hip belt. $179
“I recently received the Pakt bag as a gift and love it,” Christopher Avery, a full-time father, part-time attorney and entrepreneur, tells Mic. “The bag’s minimal design makes it convenient to throw over a shoulder or under the seat. I love the TSA pouch that keeps my watch, phone and wallet — and everything else in my pocket — from getting lost during security. The bi-fold design provides the structure to keep everything in its place and still easily accessible without removing any contents.”
As if all of that wasn’t enough, the bag also opens flat for easy packing. And the company has a lot going for it behind-the-scenes, too: According to its website, Pakt uses 100% animal-friendly materials, its bags are made “under safe, legal and humane working conditions,” and the shipping packaging is 100% plastic-free. $275
Don’t let the “small” size indication fool you: This weekender, which also comes in a “large” (but not so under-seat friendly) size, fits a ton of items. The padded bottom pocket has plenty of space for at least two pairs of shoes (possibly more, depending on the shoe type) or a whole lot of miscellaneous essentials that you want to keep safe. The main compartment includes a few slide pockets big enough for small tablets or e-readers as well as an interior zipper pocket, and the rest of the bag is a vast space that can hold multiple outfits, toiletries and more. Even when it’s packed full, the bag — which can also slide over a suitcase handle, if you do bring a rollaboard — can still fit under almost any airplane seat. $128
Tumi is a tried-and-true classic when it comes to luggage, with a seemingly endless list of loyal fans. Among them is Lindsay Silberman, a content creator and blogger, who tells Mic that she's certain this particular bag is “the greatest weekender...on the market.”
“For starters, it gives you the most efficient use of space without adding unnecessary bulk, and every aspect of the design has been carefully thought out,” she explains. “It expands in the center to give you extra room if needed, it has a ton of pockets — both interior and exterior — and it also has a sleeve on the back that makes it easy to slide on top of luggage." $425
Away first made waves with its sleek, phone-charging suitcases, but the brand has been gradually expanding its collection to include a handful of other travel pieces — one of which is the equally sleek carry-all, The Everywhere Bag. If you travel with a suitcase, this bag can serve as an excellent accompaniment (and can slide over your luggage handle), but it can also stand on its own for a quick weekend jaunt or trip that requires minimal gear.
The main compartment features one large space where you can keep clothes, toiletries, and a pair of shoes, as well as six smaller pockets for organizing everything else. The exterior, meanwhile, has a hidden, phone-sized pocket and a waterproof umbrella pocket (which you could, of course, use for other things if rain isn’t in your trip’s future). The bag comes in a range of nylon colors, as well as two leather options (black and pink), to suit almost any traveler. And, with Away’s 100-day trial (you can test the bag on a trip and return it within 100 days of purchasing if it doesn’t suit you), it’s hard to go wrong. $195
This canvas weekender is proof you don’t have to break the bank to get a solid travel bag; and it’s one that Dave Bowden, founder of Irreverent Gent, swears by. “Don't let the ‘Oversized’ in the name fool you: The bag perfectly conforms to carry-on size standards and easily slides into the (increasingly tiny) space underneath an airplane seat,” he tells Mic. “In addition to being compact, it's also stylish, rugged and holds a surprising amount of stuff. The interior of the bag is mostly open, but a sleek pocket on the side allows you to slide in tablets and other devices so that they'll be protected. For my money, it's basically the perfect travel bag.” $50
If you’re not into carrying all of your belongings on your shoulder, this bag is a good fit. It’s the size of an under-seat bag, but has wheels and a retractable handle so you can roll it just like you would a traditional suitcase. “I travel a lot for work and...the Travelon Underseat is a fantastic bag for anyone who spends a lot of time on airplanes,” John Linden, an interior and furniture designer, tells Mic. “This suitcase has saved me so many travel headaches.”