When Spirit Airlines broke new ground by announcing that it will charge passengers $45 for carry-on bags starting Aug.1, I took it as a personal challenge. I had to prove I could travel without even a carry-on.
The answer is in what the airlines call a "personal item." That typically is a briefcase, purse or, in Spirit's case, its Web site even shows a small backpack. To prove my case, I used a Case Logic bag measuring a mere 13 by 9 by 4 inches and an SeV/Scottevest Pack Windbreaker, with its 17 pockets ($75 from scottevest.com).
Though the case is meant to carry a netbook and a few other miscellaneous items, it's certainly not meant as luggage. But I was able to pack a long weekend in there.
In the case: two pairs of polyester-cotton pants that refuse to wrinkle, three cotton T-shirts that look good wrinkled, three pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, one pair of swimming trunks, one hairbrush and a sunglass case. It was very lightweight but tightly packed.
In the jacket, which also packs away into its own pocket: one BlackBerry; one phone charger; one digital camera; one MP3 player; toiletries, including toothbrush, toothpaste, flossers, stick deodorant and suntan lotion; my wallet and keys. If I'd felt the need, I could have put a pair of "crushable" shoes in the jacket, something like a pair of Converse canvas uppers.
Though I didn't fly with them, I did spend about three hours on a train with the jacket and bag, and walked a mile and a half. Nooooo problem.
The bag could have gone under a plane seat and left plenty of foot room. The jacket did feel a little lumpy on the train, but aesthetically, no one could tell I had it packed. In fact, it would have held more.
Bottom line: We can do this!