Avoid carry-on fees, pack your free personal item.

Packing carry-on is my preferred way to travel because it saves time at the airport and money when traveling. I almost always pack in my carry-on luggage but I recently flew Frontier Airlines to Portland, OR and realized it costs more to carry-on than to check a bag. As a result, I chose to pack in my free personal item to forgo the $35 carry-on fee and save time at the airport. 

My trip was super short. I flew in Friday evening and left Sunday night so clothing, footwear and accessories were pretty minimal. Although, I did have to include a few necessities though like a rain jacket, waterproof boots, and a day pack since we were hiking Saturday. Also, I had to take weather into consideration since it varies so much in the Pacific Northwest.

Since I had a small amount of space to pack in, my free personal item has to fit under the seat in front of me, I chose essentials that I could rewear from hiking to activities in the city. As well, I knew warm layers and waterproof outerwear was a must. When packing light it’s so easy to forgot that the one jacket you pack will be worn with every outfit so versatility is key! Therefore, I chose technical pieces that easily cross over into everyday wear with more urban styling, this way I had the performance I needed on the trail but felt polished for a night out in the city. 

What I packed in my personal item

Rain Jacket, Arc’teryx Venda Anorak

This anorak from Arc’teryx is the ideal cross over piece. It performs like a technical piece because it’s made with gore-tex fabric to be waterproof, windproof and breathable but stylish enough for the city. It also features a Gore C-knit backer which offers a softer, lighter and more breathable waterproof jacket. This equals increased comfort with less clamminess.

waterproof rain jacket

Down jacket, Arc’teryx Nexis Jacket

This is the perfect midlayer for shoulder seasons. It’s insulated with 750 fill goose down and features a water repellent shell. This bomber style jacket was perfect for roaming around the city. It also has the technical performance I needed to double up as a midlayer for a hike. 

down jacket midlayer

Waterproof hiking boots, Salomon Outline GTX

These boots have been my go to all winter. They are lightweight like a sneaker with enough grip to scramble over rocks and slick surfaces. They also feature a full gore-tex membrane to keep my feet dry. Styled to look more sleek than a traditional hiking boot and with minimal break in required.

Waterproof hiking boots

Waterproof chelsea boots, Sorel Harlow WP boot

I pretty much only buy practical footwear now although I don’t want to look like I’m going on a hike everyday. When I search for new casual boots I want to stay on trend but also look for specific technical features and all day comfort. These chelsea boots are made of waterproof full grain leather and a sole designed with increased traction to keep my on my feet in wintery conditions. 

Waterproof leather chelsea boots

Gloves, Arc’teryx Venta glove

These are my favorite gloves. They are made of a lightweight windproof material with a water repellent outer. The inside has a light fleece lining to keep my hands warm but what really wins me over is the dexterity of these gloves. It’s easy to perform most tasks while wearing them. They are also my go to Spring skiing gloves! 

Lightweight windproof gloves

Packable waterproof daypack, Sea to Summit Ultra-sil dry daypack

I’ve been loving all my sea to summit packable bags especially this daypack. It’s made of Ultra-sil nylon making it durable but extremely packable. It packs into it’s own tiny stuff sack that fits in my palm! Also, it’s waterproof making it perfect for rainy day adventures. 

Packable waterproof daypack

Plus, I squeezed in a few outfits and accessories. 

  • Pajamas 
  • 3 tops (active, causal, sweater)
  • 3 bottoms (jeans, hike, leggings)
  • Beanie
  • Toiletries + curling iron 

How I saved space by using packing cubes

What makes packing for a weekend even easier is packing cubes. I’ve been using Eagle Creek packing cubes for years because they help me stay organized when traveling and compact my clothes so I can pack more with less space. If you’re not familiar with how to use packing cubes, check out my post how to pack better with packing cubes. 

I have the Pack-It Specter starter kit which includes three pieces. A medium garment folder that I pack shirts and sweaters in. It can hold up to 12 shirts and pants plus, keeps clothes wrinkle-free. It also includes, a medium cube which I pack my pants in by rolling each pair. Lastly, a small cube which I put socks, accessories and undergarments in. Since I was conserving space on this trip I stuffed these items into the medium cube with my pants. 

Most importantly, the cubes are made of ultra-light silnylon ripstop (same as my daypack) which makes them durable and super light. Therefore, I’m not packing a lot of extra weight by using them. When using all three, they weigh just over a half a pound. 

packing in free personal item
Use packing cubes to compact and organize clothing
packing in free personal item
packing in free personal item

It's that easy to pack your free personal item

I got everything I needed for the weekend into my free personal item to forgo the $35 cost of carrying on a bag (which I promptly spent on snacks and souvenirs). Although, it fit snugly under my seat, I got lucky and had open overhead bin space above me to stow it in. 

Next on my list is to find a new bag, within personal item dimensions, that is functional for packing a weekend in and comfortable to wear. Got any suggestions? Leave me a comment!