We all want more airplane space. Wouldn’t it be great to have a portable space-time wormhole? You could stuff all your travel baggage into it, tuck it in your pocket, and when you arrived at your hotel room, voila! Unpack it.
Unfortunately, we don’t know how to make a wormhole, and what little we know about the universe suggests that if you put something into a wormhole, it would get ripped apart and could not be retrieved. But here are some ways to create more airplane space from what the airlines give you:
Underseat Space: The space beneath the seat in front of you — unless you’re seated in the front row — is a precious commodity and, unlike the space overhead, it’s yours, all yours. Except once long ago, when I sat behind a lady who insisted on wedging a large purse under her seat, in “my” space!
The underseat space is not a rectangular vacancy, far from it. Sometimes it’s roughly rectangular, but often there are mysterious boxes protruding into the space; and sometimes the seat supports are not equally spaced, so some underseat spaces are very narrow indeed. To make the most of this space, you need something that will conform to the space available.
I found an easy solution that allowed me to take an overnight trip with nothing but an underseat tote bag, purchased from L.L.Bean. I filled it loosely and since it is unstructured nylon, I was able to nudge it into some pretty small airplane spaces with no problem. The bag conformed, and because the items inside were loose, they moved around and conformed too. That bag has been discontinued, but if you search “foldable duffel” on amazon.com you will find many compact conformable bags that can serve. As long as the largest dimension is no more than 20 inches and you underfill it, it should squush beneath the seat ahead with no problem.
If you take this approach, you need to have as flexible a bag as possible — no wheels, no stiff parts at all. It’s helpful to have one with a shoulder strap. And to keep your clothes from being a total jumble, roll them into tight rolls and line the bottom of the bag with them to make a flat surface. They will still conform when you need them to, but will keep most of their shape.
Overhead Space: A similar approach works for a bag you store overhead. Use a flexible duffle bag, without a firm frame. Then resist the temptation to fill it all the way up. If you only fill it three-quarters full, you can jam it into a left-over bit of overhead space that’s almost always available. This is handy if you are ‘way back in the boarding line and most of the storage is full when you finally get on the plane.
Bonus: You have probably noticed those impossibly small frames standing next to the check-in counter. Well, sometimes, especially in small airports overseas, they actually make you fit your carry-on bag into the frame, and require you to check it if it doesn’t fit. If you have super-flexible luggage, your chances of fitting the frame go up tremendously!
Passenger Space: What about room for the most important element of the trip, namely you? Research pays off. For example, seatguru.com can help you compare airline seats so you can select a more comfortable one. You can improve matters if you mostly fly one airline: study their perks and find out how to get those roomier seats, such as exit row, bulkhead, or “premium” seats. Having an appropriate credit card from that airline may raise your seating priority, or help you to an “elite” status more quickly. And use your space to your advantage: move your legs now and then, at least every hour, to keep the blood circulating so you don’t get clots. If you can’t get up and walk down the aisle, at least flex your calves a few times by pointing your toes to raise your knees up and down.
Do you have tips for more airplane space or happier travel? Share your thoughts!
Takeaway: Flexible luggage pays! And I guess, flexible bodies too.