How to Pack a 18x14x8 Bag & Satisfy TSA’s Carry-On Rules
Your trip is booked! But you bought the bare basic economy fare, restricting you to one personal item that will fit under your seat with a maximum size of 18x14x8. Now it’s time to fit everything you need to take with you into that restricted bag size and do so within the TSA 311 Carry-On Rules. Don’t panic, we have you covered! With the tips below on how to pack and maximize space, you’re just a few steps away from packing like a pro!
Take a Few Minutes to Brainstorm
What items could be borrowed, laundered or purchased at your destination?
Borrow items if possible at your destination. Have a friend that wears the same size? Perfect! Especially for large bulky items such as coats, hiking boots, or something else you will only wear once while you are there.
Is it possible to do laundry at your destination? Handwashing just a few items will extend your wear greatly and buy you room in your carry-on bag. Both of KindLather’s dissolving Kind BODYLather™ and Kind HAIRLather™ Paper Soap Sheets also work great as travel laundry sheets for handwashing clothes (not recommended for dark garments). Our toxic-free natural soap and shampoo are true multi-tasking products that save both space and weight, plus reduce the amount of liquids to carry!
Items that can be easily found at your destination could be purchased once you arrive, such as toothpaste and suntan lotion.
Plan of Action
With the above in mind, plan the clothes you will need. What can you wear more than once with another shirt, pants, shorts or a skirt? Plan clothes for each day of your trip, focusing on what can be worn again with something else.
Take shoes you can wear with many clothes combinations. Don’t forget about any excursions you have planned in which outdoor specific shoes are required.
When deciding on certain clothing items, many times (every single time for me!) it is necessary to ask yourself, “Is it a MUST, or just nice to have?”.
Taking a purse? Plan to take a purse that is not bulky, and is both flexible and foldable as this will need to be packed in your carry-on baggage until you reach your destination. It is best to choose one that will go with all outfits and if needed, take a very small flat wallet size clutch for evenings out. This small wallet size purse could also double as a small makeup bag, etc. in the purse you carry daily.
Let’s Talk Liquids
According to the TSA rules on liquids for carry-on items, aerosols, creams, gels, and pastes are also considered ‘liquid’ and must adhere to the limit of 3.4 oz max per each container. All must fit into a 1 quart-size clear plastic resealable bag (1 bag per passenger).
Something you may not know - The TSA liquid rule does not apply to solid stick deodorant, solid lipstick, and solid stick sunscreen. These items are NOT required to be packed in your quart-sized liquid bag. Opt for small solid stick versions when you can.
To reduce liquids and lighten your toiletries bag the natural way, try using KindLather™ Paper Soaps. KindLather offers Unscented Kind BODYLather™ for hands, body, and shaving; the convenient travel soap sheets are made with an all-natural body wash of pure castile soap.
Also available, hypoallergenic and fragrance free Kind HAIRLather™ Sheets for sensitive skin and color safe shampoo needs. This extra gentle Kind HairLather can also be used for hands and body.
Consider taking solid hair conditioner and lotion bars in lieu of liquid conditioner and lotions. Just one more way to save on space in your quart-sized liquid bag! A quick search for these little travel hack jewels on Etsy brings up many natural options to choose from.
Once you decide upon mandatory liquids, gels, creams, pastes and any aerosols you will need; determine the amount of these items you really need for the duration of your trip and take only that amount, of course in 3.4 oz or smaller containers. This will help with the weight you will be carrying. Every little bit helps!
If you have any bottles or containers that are not more than half full, it is best to condense down to a smaller container or bottle to save on space. This will result in more room for other items. The Container Store is one option to find many small containers, bottles and glass options as well. Note, when using glass it is always best practice to protect the glass individually with a fabric, paper towel, or tissue to avoid breakage.
Let’s Start Packing! How to Pack & Maximize a 18x14x8 Bag or Personal Item
Check the latest forecasted weather for your destination. Weather patterns change quickly and it is always best to check again one more time before you leave in case you need to reassess the clothes and shoes you packed.
Use both packing methods of rolling and flat-packing your clothing to be most effective. Flat-pack bulkier items, such as pants and sweaters. Roll smaller and delicate clothing like shorts, shirts, dresses, and skirts. The rolled smaller items can also be used to fill any open spaces.
Rolling clothes helps maximize your space and fill your bag from edge to edge, decreases the amount of creases and wrinkles, and gives better visibility into your bag, allowing you to find items quickly.
Another space-saving method is to use compression bags and there are many options on the market to choose from.
- Put items inside other items, i.e. socks, underwear, swimsuits, etc. can be stashed inside of shoes or perhaps a water bottle you may be taking anyways.
- Fill in open spaces with smaller items, such as phone chargers, rolled socks, swimsuits, underwear, rolled t-shirts, bras, or lingerie.
- Open spaces on the sides can be filled in with flat items such as maps, magazines or a book you plan to take.
- Make use of plastic bags already on hand, reuse them for dirty clothes and to place your shoes in to protect clothing and other items. Keep the bags for future trips or recycle them.
- Make sure to pack items on top that you will need to access during the trip, i.e. your quart-size bag of liquids, passport, ID, phone, cash and credit cards. Or, another option is to put some of these small items in pant or jacket pockets (see below under Tips & Options). This not only saves room in your carry-on bag, it aids in quick access to these important items.
Good to know: TSA allows disposable razors in your carry-on baggage, but NOT the safety razor straight edge type in which the razor blade itself easily pops out for replacement.
More Tips & Options
- Wear pants, a sweater or a jacket with pockets on the plane (the more the better). This is a great opportunity to stash small items and especially ones you need quick access to – passport, ID, money, credit cards, phone, lipstick, children’s toys, snacks, etc. The list is endless. As long as your pockets are not overly stuffed and not obviously bulging, you could put a few small items in any pockets you may have. Remember you must remove all items from your pockets when going through security.
- Wear bulky items on the plane such as sweaters or running shoes.
- Layering clothes is an option, especially if it’s winter. Sounds crazy, but it works!
- Wear your hat, bulky scarf, coat or sweater on the plane. You can take it off once you are seated, or carry it on top of your bag. Most airlines allow hats, coats, scarfs, sweaters, a travel pillow, or a personal size small blanket to be carried on the plane in addition to your carry-on personal item. Just don’t overdo it and be sure to confirm with the airline prior to flying.
- You can carry a book or magazine on top of your bag right on to the plane. Once you are seated, stash it in the seat pocket in front of you. Just don’t forget it before you leave the plane!
- If your bag does not have wheels (most 18x14x8 bags do not as it takes up precious real estate), I highly suggest a handle grip commonly sold for carrying many grocery bags at one time. The one I use and pictured above can be bought from . The comfort padded area has really made a difference on my hands!
- Remember you must return with this same carry-on baggage. Unfortunately, that limits you on buying items to bring back home. Think about shipping items back home, or of course you have the option of paying for overhead bin use or a checked bag for the return flight if needed.
- If ever you question an item, it is always best to check the TSA website for the list of TSA Allowed Items as well as the TSA Restricted Items.
- Haven't traveled in a while? It would also be good to review the latest TSA guidelines and regulations found on the TSA website.
Important to Keep in Mind
The 18x14x8 dimensions are exactly what will fit in most spaces under the seat in front of you. Depending on the airplane, seat assignment, and equipment under the seat, the area can be even smaller making for a really TIGHT fit – believe me! It is best to leave a little room in your bag to accommodate these unexpected tight spaces.
The airlines are very strict about these size limitations. If it does not fit under the seat in front of you, the airline can AND will keep you from boarding with it until you pay extra for placing it in the overhead OR checking it. Either way, at the gate these options are extremely pricey.
No sweat, as you now are a packing pro! As long as you adhere to the 18x14x8 limit, your bag does not bulge and you leave a little room in your bag for possible tight spaces; you are on your way to a smooth trip right through security and onto your flight!
Safe & Stress-Free Travels!