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Spirit Airlines Personal Item Packing for Any Size - 2019

With a smirk on my face, the immediate words that entered my mind were: “W…T…F…. I just bought a Spirit Airlines ticket!"


"Now I gotta figure out how to pack!”

You see, your girl was serious about saving money.  So no checked or carry-on bags fees for me!  No way, buddy!

This budget traveling experiment of mine was officially on and poppin’!

As I walked back to my car, thoughts spiraled around my new to-do-list:

  1. Search online for a personal item bag. (Don’t procrastinate, ma’am!)
  2. Purchase the bag. (Don’t think too hard. Just buy it!)
  3. Pack only the necessities for a 4-day beach vacation. (Oh Lord!)
  4. And, whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to pack (like you usually do).

First Step: Confirming Spirit Airlines Personal Item Dimensions

After my last post on how to save money with Spirit Airlines, one of my run boos asked what this personal item thing was all about.  Great question!

With many airlines, you’re allowed 1 personal item and 1 carry-on bag free of charge.  So for one person that might mean a purse and a backpack.  For others, it could be a laptop bag and 1 piece of carry-on luggage.

Spirit Airlines allows you to take only 1 personal item on the flight for free.  Any additional item/bag brought on the plane you will be charged for, including carry-on bags.

On top of that, the personal item you choose has to meet specific size requirements.  Since April 4, 2017, the dimensions for the personal item bag cannot exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm), including handles and wheels.

So we are talking about packing a bag that is even smaller than the typical carry-on  (no larger than 22 x 18 x10 inches (56 x 46 x 25 cm) including handles and wheels with Spirit).

I know, right! (Holding my head in my hand.)

But guess what?  People do this all of the time, and there are tons of videos out there that show you how to get it done.

So if they can do it, I should have no problems…. right?

Second Step: Buying a Personal Item Bag

What kind of bag will it be?  Should it be something that can roll or maybe be carried on the shoulder?  A piece that’s cute and cheap or pay for durability?

With so many options out there, I decided to narrow it down to a backpack.  The search terms I used were “spirit airlines personal item” and “spirit airlines personal item 18x14x8.”

Numerous hours were spent on YouTube and Amazon looking for the bag that said, “Buy me, Vonita! Buy me!”

Then, I remembered a Swissgear backpack I had from back in the day.  It held up to wear and tear for several years and came in handy as the occasional carry-on.

Choosing durability and a 10-year warranty, I went direct to their website and searched for options.  The Swissgear 5337 Hybrid Laptop Backpack became a contender for purchase!


I double checked the technical specifications on the bag.  The dimensions were listed as 18.5 x 11.5 x 6.5 inches.

In addition to having a cushioned space for most 15" laptops, I was drawn to how it unzipped like luggage, with compartments on each side of the bag.

Another really cool feature is the bag panel being designed to slide over an extended handle for your luggage on wheels. Super convenient on those days when you don’t feel like luggin’ it on your back!

After flip-flopping for a bit and comparing prices between the company website and Amazon, a decision was finally made.  My color of choice: Olive.  

I clicked “Checkout” in my Swissgear cart and awaited the next challenge of my Spirit Airlines saga - packing.

Dun, dun, dun, DDUUUNNNN!

Third Step: Packing the Personal Item Bag (The Hardest Part)

Have I mentioned that I’m a chronic over-packer?  Maybe it’s the nurse in me, but I like to be prepared for those “just in case” situations.

Extra meds, extra bug repellant, extra snacks…extra lots of things!  My friends are quick to talk about my over-packing tendencies and then ask, “Do you have…” when we’re on the trip, LOL!

Anyway… to give you a visual, typically I travel with 3 packing items:

  • my beloved Target tote
  • my 24 inch expandable spinner for all of my lovely, full-sized liquid items (sunscreen, hair conditioner, etc.)
  • my canvas weekender bag (that may either be packed in my checked bag for duty-free purchases or carried-on because I couldn’t decide on what to pack.)

So, to go from all of that to this teeny, tiny backpack was a good reason for me to wait until the night before my flight to get ready.  Yup!  I procrastinated anyway, LOL!


Many of the packing videos I had seen on YouTube were women that appeared anywhere between a size 2 - 6.  I was unable to find any videos of women that looked like me (size 16 - 18), so I was curious to see how this would go.

There I was, sitting cross-legged on my living room floor with a laundry basket filled with freshly cleaned clothes, staring at this backpack.

With a nervous laugh, I said out loud, “I don’t know about this!”

However, at this point, there was no turning back now.  Paying even more for a checked bag the day of the flight (an extra $65 at the gate) was out of the question.

Beginning with some slow, deep breaths and several silent prayers, I commenced with my packing process!

Using my small and medium eBag packing cubes, I was able to roll and compress my clothing items into the backpack.  That bad boy was stuffed to the gills!

After several hours of contemplation, deliberation, and configuration, these were the pieces that made the final cut:

Items in My Backpack:

1 skirt 1 pair of jean shorts
1 pair biker shorts 1 Sports bra
1 pair of relaxation shorts 1 cover up
1 t-shirt 1 strapless blouse
3 tank tops 1 cardigan
1 nightgown 1 pair dressy sandals
2 swimsuits 1 pair of casual sandals (my Oofoos)
6 pairs of undies 1 container of travel size toiletries
1 stick of solid sunscreen 1 pair of reading glasses
2 pairs of sunglasses 2 pairs of hoop earrings
1 pair of stud earrings 1 beach bag
2 small purses 1 passport
1 iPhone 1 small pair of earphones
1 iPod 1 camera - Nikon D3400
Basic medications Cash and credit cards

Referencing advice from many packing posts read, I set my bulkier items aside to be worn on the plane:

1 tank top
1 long sleeve shirt
1 exercise hoodie jacket
1 pair of leggings
1 pair of jeans
1 pair of socks
1 pair of sneakers
1 winter scarf
1 travel coat
*makeup bag in my coat pocket

All done!

Last Step: Spirit Airlines Personal Item Size Test

If you’re unsure your bags will meet Spirit Airlines’ personal and carry-on requirements, measurement bins are available for final inspection.

In my paranoia, I wanted to drive to the airport to make sure my backpack was all good.  This probably would have been a great idea a couple of days before the flight, not 6 hours before I was due at the airport, LOL!

Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about because it fit!  Hooray!


Final Tips for Packing a Personal Item for a Spirit Airlines Flight:

It is entirely possible to avoid luggage fees when flying Spirit Airlines.  If I can pack a personal item for a quick trip, then anybody can!

Just remember a couple of things:

  1. Confirm the size requirements for a personal item on Spirit’s website.
  2. Pick a bag that's affordable for you.
  3. Double check the measurements of the bag you choose.
  4. Pack in advance and test your bag in the measurement bin at the airport (if you're nervous about it).
  5. Wear your bulkier chothing items on the plane.
  6. Utilize your coat/jacket pockets for extra storage.
  7. Buy full-size liquid items (bug repellent, sunscreen, suntan lotion) at your destination.
  8. Choose accommodations with a washer and dryer to clean and reuse clothing if you're vacationing more than 4 or 5 days. (Cheaper option: Bring a clothing line and hand-wash your clothes.)
  9. Check out my YouTube video to see what I packed!

Now that I have saved money by purchasing my ticket at the airport and packing a personal item, the big question remains:

What is the Spirit Airlines’ flight experience like?  Look out for my next post!