What do you take on the plane with you when you travel? My personal item contains everything I need to keep me calm and occupied during the flight—iPad, iPod, iPhone, MacBook, journal, pens—and items I need before and after boarding—tickets, hotel/car confirmations, ID. I can fit all of that in my tote or backpack, of course. Fighting to get something out during the flight, however, drives me crazy. They sardine-like seat configuration of airline seats these days makes trying to get into your personal item more like an exercise in futility.
When I attended the Travel Goods Association Show in 2017, I happened upon a booth promoting an item that was supposed to take you from your home-to-hotel easily and allow you to have all of your in-flight necessities close-at-hand. The carry-on was a rectangular box-like tote ( into which one could fit everything I mentioned above plus a change of clothes. Roughly five-to-six inches thick, the tote would have to go under the seat in front of me. "How," I wondered, "is that different from what I'm carrying now?" It wasn't.
At the TGA show this year, I noticed a different booth selling travel totes. These totes were about the size of a magazine and not much thicker. I walked over. "Can you tell me about your tote, please?" I asked Judy Spelbrink, owner of Flightline Travel. Judy built her prototype with an old iPad cover held together with duct tape because she, like so many of us, wanted certain items within reach during a flight. To the Flightline Travel Tote she added several features—pockets that can hold lipstick, pens, tickets, and more. Each tote also comes with lip balm, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, eye shield, socks, brush/comb combo, ear plugs, and a removeable bag in which you can carry essentials to the restroom.
Judy asked me if I wanted to try one out, and I was more than willing since I had a few flights in my near future.
A few days after the tote arrived, we flew to Tampa on Southwest. In addition to the travel kit, I packed my iPhone, iPod, iPad mini, journal, pens, and confirmation papers in the tote, threw it into my purse, and off we went. Once we boarded, I took it out and placed my purse under the seat.
As Judy had mentioned to me, because the seat sizes are shrinking, the tote didn't fit horizontally into the seatback pocket. I was still able to put it in vertically, though, and I could reach whatever I needed during the long flight. My overseas flights were different, however.
Since I needed much more on the overseas flight, I also put my IDs, passport, bus ticket, and hotel confirmations in the tote. Throughout the flight, the tote was either in the seatback pocket in front of me (photo bottom right) or in the little seat locker (business class). I no longer had to worry about where I put my iPhone or iPod (which, if you know me, is about every 10 minutes) because they were always safely where I could see and reach them easily. Once we arrived in Rome and Copenhagen, I knew where I had put my passport and ID and pulled them out easily.
I didn't stop using the tote at the end of the flight, by the way. Once I arrived in Italy and Denmark, I used the tote to keep the daily tickets and confirmations for our travel, excursions, and hotels. As scattered as my mind can be at times, I always worry about losing things. The Flightline Travel Tote kept me organized in the air and on the ground.
I liked the tote so much that I'm even going to use it when Mike and I drive anywhere so I can keep my necessities near me. I tested it recently when we drove just around town, and the fits between my seat and the car door.
I do highly recommend using the tote, but there's one small change I'd like to see in the tote. As it is now the tote opens wider at the top than it does at the bottom...almost like a v-shape. Adding a few things that are wider than the bottom strains the tote a bit and makes it bulkier than it would be if the bottom were wider. I would suggest squaring the bottom so everything drops in more easily. (Note: Judy told me they are going to use my suggestion in the next upgrade of the tote.)
The Flightline Travel Totes come in a variety of finishes. The one Judy sent me was the purple pyramid, but there are also a black vinyl, a vegan leather, and a few sunbrella striped versions. Prices range from $45 to $75. Extra travel kits retail for $10.
For more information or to buy a tote, click here.