13 Days, 1 Carry On*

13 Days, 1 Carry On*

13 Days, 1 Carry On*

I’m going to try something new–Spirit Airlines.

Deep breath. Moment of meditation. Manage expectations.

And, I’m going to do it without paying extra for luggage. At Spirit, you can take one, and only one, personal item that fits under the seat–16” x 14” x 12” for free. It’s a long story, but I have two round trips on Spirit in my future. So, I thought it prudent to purchase a special bag that perfectly fits the space provided–$32. My future self will let you know if any of this was a good idea.

If I wasn’t traveling with my 17″ laptop for work, I probably could have used my tiny red roller bag. However, this is a working/friends’ wedding/multi-stop vacation, requiring a variety of items–big laptop, camera, formal outfit (dress, purse, shoes, wrap) for Kara & Carl’s wedding and everything else for 13 days on the road. And, if I was traveling on any other airline, I could have used my 22″ grey roller bag that fits the laptop perfectly. But on Spirit, that bag would cost me $26 more (each way). Yes, you gotta wonder if the Spirit motto, “Less money, more go” shouldn’t be “Possibly cheaper, more pain in the ass”.

To save space, I am using some time-honored packing methods–rolling, stuffing, wearing and rationing. I’m going to pack one weeks worth of stuff (photo of optimism below) and do laundry on the road.

You’ve seen this before. If you roll shirts, skirts and shorts into baby burritos, they are magically smaller! (photo below)

Stuff socks in shoes. Amazingly, stuff a dress into a tiny purse (before/after photo below). When your bag is completely packed, stuff some small things around the edges; underwear, socks and granola bars are the perfect size.

It’s always a good plan to wear your bulky things–jeans, sweatshirt, jacket, socks and heaviest shoes (photo below). It seems like the wearing pile is nearly as large as the bag!

Figure out how much shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, toothpaste, lotion, etc. you will need and don’t bring more (photo above). If you’re staying at a hotel, skip any toiletries they will provide.

*Truth be told, I sent a small box ahead because I didn’t think I could squish my formal attire, work tools and everything else into this bag. Total cost, $13. Some of my things will be used up, dumped or stay at my at my destination, so I don’t plan to ship anything back. Savings $13 and about 7 lbs that I don’t have to carry through airport security.

I’m back in Chicago and reporting on my Spirit Airlines adventure. My flight from ORD to BWI on Wednesday morning was 10 minutes delayed and fairly empty. Once airborne, empty seats were up for grabs and I traded my center seat for an aisle. My bag fit perfectly under the seat, but because the plane wasn’t full, there was plenty of room in the overhead compartment.

On the way back from BWI on a Monday evening, the plane was nearly full and delayed 25 minutes. This time I was assigned an aisle (no extra charge). My bag took up all the room under the seat, but I still had plenty of space for my feet.

My only issue is that after years of using roller bags, carrying a bag—especially a heavy bag—seems nuts. To make my bag a little lighter, I carried my laptop and a few heavy things in a smaller bag on my other shoulder and crammed everything together in the one (free) bag just before boarding. It’s tough to find a roller bag that is small enough to meet Spirit’s requirements and fit under the seat.

All things considered, I’d give Spirit 4.5 stars.

For those new to Spirit, a few words of advice before your first flight: Your plane probably won’t leave on time. The seating is a little tighter than other airlines. The seats don’t recline. Nearly everything is extra—drinks (even water), snacks, your favorite seat, any bag over 16” x 14” x 12”, printing your boarding ticket at the airport, etc. However, it’s not like camping–you do not need to bring your own toilet paper!

The Bag

Bag prices on Spirit Airlines


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