Backpack As A Carry-On: Is A Backpack a Personal Item & Does It Count As Your Carry-On?

backpack personal item
backpack personal item

How To Use Your Backpack as Your Personal Item

Rebecca Treon Nov 05, 2021

The right sized backpack can be used as your personal item with no problem. Stow your carry on backpack pack beneath the seat and fill it with all the essentials for fuss-free, easy travel.

There’s nothing quite like traveling light. Whether being charged to check your bag, spending an unnecessary time at the ticketing counter checking the bag, or waiting at the carousel after landing to pick up your bag, there’s every reason to opt in on all the benefits and ease of a well-packed carry-on these days. And, a backpack can double up as your personal item and carry-on so you get the best of both. With smart packing, you can fit all the essentials for your trip into one medium-size backpack. Eagle Creek’s backpacks are lightweight, fit within the dimensions required by the airlines, and best of all, are made using sustainable practices.

Good packing can really make a difference to your comfort levels both on the journey itself and at the destination. Here’s what we recommend you pack in your backpack so everything you need during a flight is right at your fingertips.


What’s the right carry on backpack size?

Every airline has its own policy for carry on luggage and personal items. Many airlines will allow a backpack as a personal item, and for those that don’t, a backpack can still be your carry on luggage as long as it is under the size restrictions for the particular airline. The standard domestic carry-on luggage size is 22" x 14" x 9.”

While most Eagle Creek backpacks will fall under that range, the Tour Travel Pack and the Explore Transit Bag  are the right size as well as built to be durable and practical for travel. You can check out all of Eagle Creek's travel bags to find the right option for you.


How to pack a backpack for a trip

Here’s our checklist of everything you need to pack in your backpack so you can stay organized and be ready to travel light right. 


Personal essentials

Whether you’re doing a long haul or a short jump, you’ll want to freshen up throughout your flight. Build yourself a little refresh kit which could include lip balm, hand lotion, hand sanitizer, eye drops, hairbrush, facial cleansing wipes, a toothbrush and paste, makeup, and any other essentials. Keep this handy in a separate pocket or at the top of your main compartment, so you can get to it easily. And, don’t forget any medications. Always carry these with you in case of a delay or lost luggage. Pack your toiletries kit in its own pouch so you can easily take it out going through security, and make sure all sizes are TSA compatible.


Personal items & entertainment

Keeping all your important documents organized is key to a successful trip. Whether passport or ID, credit cards, and other important cards you’ll need like auto or health insurance cards, proof of vaccination, make sure to have backup copies of these on your iPhone or leave copies of them with a trusted friend or family member back home in case of an emergency. 

Download any podcasts, audio books, or movies you plan to watch on a personal device before your trip so you don’t have to pay for expensive in-flight WIFI—although some airlines offer this complimentary, and if you want to tune into any in-flight entertainment, pack a set of wire headphones as AirPods or other bluetooth headsets aren’t compatible with most in-flight systems. Bring a spare battery pack or charger to give your electronic equipment a boost, and don’t forget to pack a couple of pens, which will come in handy for any writing or notes or filling out landing cards if you’re traveling internationally. For long haul flights an eye mask, neck pillow, and ear plugs are a must if you plan to get some sleep. 

Food & drink

There’s nothing worse than arriving hungry or even hangry at your final destination, and having to wait even longer to get a bite to eat. Pack a few healthy, simple snacks like popcorn, cereal bars, trail mix, or small containers of fruits and veggies. And, don’t forget your reusable water bottle. Hydrate before you go through security, put your empty bottle through, then refill before you board.

Think basic and layer up

When planning your vacation wardrobe, expert packers know to bring several mix-and-match items that will create several different outfits, for example, a shirt that can go with a skirt or with pants, or a scarf that doubles as a pool cover-up. When on the road, you’ll want to avoid fussy items that are uncomfortable, need ironing, or can only be worn one way. It can get super chilly on a flight so layer up on sweaters and hoodies, and if you’re traveling to a hot destination, wear a tank top or tee underneath so you can easily peel off the layers once you arrive.

It’s always a good idea to pack a change of clothes, whether to freshen up or just to have options in case of extended travel time. Maximize the space in your backpack by utilizing rolling clothing to optimize space. Before you pack, take one last look and do a final edit of anything you don’t really need.

It’s always a good idea to pack a change of clothes, whether to freshen up or just to have options in case of extended travel time. Maximize your space in your backpack by utilizing packing cubes, Kondo’ing your potential items, and rolling the clothing to optimize space. Before you pack, take one last look and do a final edit of anything you don’t really need.

With organized and smart packing you can easily get all of these essentials into a backpack like the Wayfinder 20L or the Wayfinder 30L


Carrying everything you need with you is incredibly freeing, leaving you more energy to enjoy your trip.

Rebecca Treon

Rebecca Treon

Rebecca Treon is a Denver-based freelance food and travel writer who has written for BBC Travel, Hemispheres, Thrillist, Huff Post, and many others. You can find her work at or follow her on Instagram @RebeccaTreon.