Baggage on Spirit: Holy Expensive Carry-on Fees Batman!

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Baggage Spirit I previously wrote about traveling on Spirit Airlines and how I thought they were a good deal *if* you were aware of all extra fees and could avoid them or minimize them as much as possible.  I recently went on a quick out-and-back to Baltimore from DFW.  My intent was to take no bags and fit everything we needed for 48 hours in a backpack and duffel bag that I could put under our seats so I wouldn’t have to pay baggage or carry-on fees.  I noticed on our first flight that to purchase a carry-on bag at the gate Spirit now charges $100.  I didn’t get a picture of it since we had some issues getting to the airport and were at the point of running to make sure we made the flight.  😛

I have one duffel bag I’ve used for every flight we’ve taken on Spirit.  It fits their “personal bag” size but it has wheels; a nice bonus when I’m traveling with the kids and I can get one of them to pull the bag through the airport.  I never had a problem with my bags on a Spirit flight but on the way back to Dallas I noticed many people getting pulled aside being told they were going to be charged the $100 carry-on fee for having a duffel bag with wheels.  Every single person wanted to talk to a supervisor before paying the $100.  When my son and I went through, sure enough, they told me one of our personal bags counted as a “carry-on” because it had wheels.  Never mind I already saw a guy with a much bigger duffel bag get on without a problem only because his bag didn’t have wheels. Baggage Spirit

I see most people are losing their fight with the Spirit employee who came down to charge everyone their bag fees.  I had already run to the closest gift shop to see if they had any bags for sale I could stuff our things into and dump our other bag but no luck.  I’m texting my husband who’s on the same wavelength as me and tells me that if they insist I pay the $100 I should try to fit everything into the backpack and leave anything that would be cheaper to replace than pay a $100 bag fee.

Baggage Spirit When it’s my turn I tell the employee I have used this bag on every Spirit flight I’ve been on (out of three different airports) and have never had to pay a carry-on fee.  She asks if it will fit in the “personal” bag measuring device.  I tell her yes and promptly put the bag in there.  She says okay and tells the gate agent to let me through.  I think I was the only one who won that battle since everyone else either had real carry-ons, or their duffel bags stuck up 6 – 12 inches beyond the maximum size for a personal bag and they couldn’t stuff them down to fit because of the wheels.

An interesting thing to note, it seemed out of all these people pulled aside, I was the only one aware of the bag charges for Spirit Airlines.  At the very least everyone else feigned ignorance.  I wondered how anyone could really not know about the bag fees since Spirit puts it all over their website, tells you when you’re buying your tickets, sends you E-mails asking to purchase bags the week before your fight and asks you again one last time when you check-in online and print your boarding passes and tells you that you will be charged more if you wait to purchase them at the airport or at the gate.  The best thing I can come up with is 1) they were pretending not to know so they wouldn’t get charged or 2) these people bought their tickets from a third party (cheaptickets, priceline, or similar) and was not properly informed of the bag fees when buying their tickets through these third party sites.Baggage Spirit

If someone has bought Spirit through these sites and didn’t have a problem with that, let me know, but that’s the only thing I can come up with why so many people seemed completely unaware of the bag fees on Spirit (or they were merely pretending not to know).

I have at least one more flight on Spirit Airlines that I’ve already bought tickets for to a friend’s wedding in New York this spring (ah-hem).  Lesson learned, on that flight I will take personal bags without wheels so I can guarantee I can smush them into their “personal bag measuring device” so (hopefully) I will not have the fear of a $100 carry-on fee again.

Why do you charge so much for baggage Spirit?!


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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.


  1. B-Rad

    January 30, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Seems like the perfect bag if it does indeed fit inside the personal-bag-measurer-thing AND has wheels. Which bag is it exactly? May want to look into getting myself one.

  2. shannan

    May 30, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    I know not everyone sews, but I made my own fits under the seat duffle/backpack for my spirit travels…and it is cute, not just your standard looking luggage. It is however rectangular box shaped which allows me to pack more but looks odd as a backpack when people are used to more trim looking backpacks…but I don’t care cause it is free!

  3. K.May

    June 13, 2014 at 3:44 am

    Did you make your bag from a pattern? If so which one?


  4. Brian

    June 28, 2014 at 3:34 am

    Question: If you didn’t book a flight using Bare Fare, do you have to pay for a carry on?

    • Tiff

      June 28, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      Yup, you still have to pay carry-on fees. It’s $35 if you pay for it before you check-in online, $45 if you pay at online check-in, $50 if you pay at the desk agent (before going through security) and $100 if you pay at the gate agent. If you’re a $9 fare club member it’s $26 if you do it online before you check-in to your flight instead of $35 and it’s $36 instead of $45 during online check-in. It’s actually $5 less to check a bag than to have a carry-on with the exception if you get to the gate and have to check it. That’s still $100 no matter what. But if you pay for it online or even with the agent at the ticket counter it’ll be cheaper to check your bag than to bring a carry-on. Here’s the link on Spirit that shows the breakdown of bag prices:

      • Kerin

        August 19, 2015 at 7:12 pm

        Are baggage fees per person or per party. I have our family of four traveling. I guess what I am trying to say will we each get a bag at $35 or will it jump up with each of us?

  5. Glenn Morazan

    July 13, 2014 at 1:54 am

    I have likely the same bag and without heels is a Adidas and wondering if its gonna cost me something? Because really looks close to yours but i’m not sure if they are going to let me with that bag?

    • Tiff

      July 18, 2014 at 8:19 am

      If it doesn’t have wheels you have a better case since you can more likely make it fit into their sizer for carry-on bags.

  6. shauna

    August 15, 2014 at 2:01 am

    I have a couple of questions about luggage on spirit….we are flying from Atlanta to cancun, with a stop in Miami . will I have to pay for bags in Atlanta and Miami? also at the en do four trip will I need to find a way to pay online before the flight back or can I pay all luggage fees upfront

    • Tiff

      August 15, 2014 at 2:42 am

      If you bought it as one ticket from Spirit that included the stop then it should be just one baggage fee even though you have two legs of your trip. You can pay all the luggage fees upfront if you want to. If you have more than one bag you plan on checking; I would purchase each bag under a different person so you only have to pay the “first checked bag” fee which is cheaper than checking a second bag under the same person. Also make sure your bags weigh 40 lbs or less or you’ll have to pay the overweight luggage fee as well. Hope this helps!

  7. Jeff

    August 18, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Regarding the personal bag sizer, is it like a box you must fit your bag in? I have a bag with wheels, so it’s pretty rigid, and measures about 16 3/4″, I’m wondering your opinion if there is any grace room they will allow?

    • Tiff

      August 18, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      It is a box you need to fit your bag in. Per Spirit’s website the measurements may not exceed “16 inches by 14 inches by 12 inches (40 cm x 35 cm x 30 cm)”.

      It really depends on where you’re flying in and out of. I’ve been in places where they are constantly monitoring the line and pulling people out whose personal items look too big, and other times they don’t seem to be paying THAT much attention. This is where they make their money (the $100 carry-on fees for unsuspecting people). That’s why after this incident I stuck with backpacks I knew I could smush to fit their sizer if I was ever called out. To-date they have never questioned our backpacks for our “personal items”.

  8. jrhone

    August 26, 2014 at 8:48 am

    We got our tickets to a third party travel site. We didn’t buy the tickets through spirit website that means we have to pay for our carry on bags?

    • Tiff

      August 26, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      You will have to pay for traditional carry-on bags no matter where/how you bought your tickets. If you just have a personal item (back pack, small duffle bag, etc.) you will not have to pay for that.

      You can still get the cheaper bag rate through Spirit’s website. You will need to go to the “manage travel” tab on the main page and input your six digit/letter confirmation number. You will also need to create an account on Spirit’s website. Creating the account isn’t that bad. They just require your name, birth date, a valid E-mail address and a password. Once you do that you can go into manage travel and pay for your bags under “change/add bags”. Make sure to do it for both your flight out and your return flight. Good luck!

  9. jrhone

    August 26, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks Tiff! Spirit should pay you for answering all of our questions or hire you.

    • Tiff

      August 26, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Lol, thanks! If anyone at Spirit knows about me I’m sure it’s a love/hate relationship. I answer people’s questions, but I also tell them how to avoid Spirit’s fees. 😉

      • Tshara Harris

        February 20, 2017 at 3:35 am

        Hey taking a trip to Vegas soon I wanted to bring 1 carry on and 2 duffle bags bit im so scared of spending so much how do I get around this help please lol

        • Tiff

          February 20, 2017 at 8:58 pm

          How many people are traveling with you? You only get one personal item free per person and it has to fit in their baggage sizer for a personal item. If it’s just you I would try to fit everything in the one carry-on and one personal item.

          Right now through April 3, 2017 this is the size limit for the free personal item:

          Personal item (e.g., purse, small backpack, etc.): Dimensions must not exceed 16 x 14 x 12 inches (40 x 35 x 30 cm) including handles and wheels.

          For Travel April 4, 2017 and Beyond:

          Personal item (e.g., purse, small backpack, etc.): Dimensions must not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm) including handles and wheels.

          You will have to pay for the carry-on. The earlier you pay for it the better, and this is their size-limit for that:

          Carry-on bag: Maximum of 22 x 18 x10 inches (56 x 46 x 25 cm) including handles and wheels. We may require that a carry-on bag travel as a checked bag if it cannot be safely stowed on a particular flight.

          If you’re taking a carry-on bag you will automatically be in the “Group 1” boarding group so make sure you don’t pay extra for that! Good luck!

          • Joey

            June 5, 2017 at 5:06 am

            Hey! Quick question. If for some reason they say my carry on is too large will I be charged for them having to stow it as a checked bag?

  10. jrhone

    August 26, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    You are right! Lol! One more question we actually traveling tomorrow we have two kids with us my 3 year old and my 1 and we are actually bringing two strollers do I have to pay for the strollers as a carry on bag?

  11. jrhone

    August 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    • Tiff

      August 26, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      No worries, you won’t have any trouble gate-checking that. Going through security you’ll probably have to carry your younger child through the airport scanner and fold up the stroller to go through the X-ray machine.

  12. jrhone

    August 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Thanks alot!

    • Tiff

      August 26, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      No problem! Hope you guys have a great trip! 🙂

  13. susan romano

    September 4, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    i will be using the free bag on this flight and was wondering about personal items that are liquid [perfume hair spray makeup etc]

    • Tiff

      September 4, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      It’s the same as the normal TSA carry-on rules. One quart-size bag, liquids, gels, pastes, can’t be bigger than 3 oz, yada, yada, yada. I have to admit that when I’m traveling with the kids I tend to put some of my extra “necessities” in their bags, since they don’t need more than toothpaste and shampoo. =)

  14. Dot

    September 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Im getting nervous about our upcoming flight early November to Disney! Is that the back pack you take as a free bag? It looks huge! We are thinking it has to be some kind of tiny bp. Yours looks stuffed!! Im not so much worried about the bags as the cancelled or delayed flights! Thanks for your informative site! It has given me a little more peace of mind!

    • Tiff

      September 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Yup, just a regular backpack. I’ve noticed more and more travelers on Spirit carrying them on their flights. There’s also no weight limit to your “personal item” so I tend to put our heavier items in the backpacks. They have to be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Spirit sometimes lets people put their backpacks in the overhead bins if they’re not full with carry-ons (and they’re usually not).

      I make sure to sign up for E-mail and text alerts so I get notified if a flight’s delayed. I’ve been on over 20 flights with Spirit and have had three delays and one turn-around for maintenance. Every other flight with them I’ve been on was either on-time or even early. If you get in an “extreme delay” situation they will let you change your flight free of charge.

      Good luck and I hope you have a wonderful trip!

  15. Min

    October 15, 2014 at 4:29 am

    Will a backpack sized 22″ x 8″ x 12″ be allowed free carry on?
    if it can be squished into their 16″ x 14″ x 12″ bin?

    • Tiff

      October 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      As long as it doesn’t have wheels or a pull-out handle you should be fine as long as you can squish it into the measuring device. =)

    • Kim

      June 29, 2015 at 3:27 pm

      Hi. My bag has the same dimensions. Were you able to carry it on without any problems?

  16. Andrea Ramos

    April 10, 2015 at 4:08 am

    Hi Tiff,
    we are flying to Punta Cana from Fort Lauderdale and I am worried about my carry on fitting. I wanted to take my Grand Traveler (Vera Bradley not sure if you are familiar with the bag and brand) and it’s cotton so I can squeeze it where I need to and I was thinking of putting my cross body inside my carry on. Will I still be charged for the carry on? and will that size be ok? it does not have wheels.

    • Kim

      June 29, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      Hey, we you able to use your Vera Bradley bag without a problem?

  17. Joseph

    May 24, 2015 at 3:53 am

    Spirit now acknowledges that the personal item IS allowed to have wheels.

    On this page:

    They say:
    “Personal item (e.g., purse, small backpack, etc.): Dimensions must not exceed 16 x 14 x 12 inches (40 x 35 x 30 cm) including handles and wheels.”

    • Tiff

      June 21, 2015 at 1:18 am

      Good to know. Thanks! =)

  18. Jenn

    July 30, 2015 at 12:00 am

    Hi Tiff What are the dimensions to your duffel bag because I have an adidas duffle that i bought at Ross dress for less and i forgot the dimensions and i have a flight to miami on saturday and im stressing over wether I can take my duffle without paying?

    • Bre

      July 28, 2016 at 6:31 am

      Did this bag work out? The adidas one from Ross? I found some at Academy as well.

  19. Rhandi

    September 2, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    It says you can carry on a camera as it is not baggage. Can it be in a camera bag or is that considered another bag? Can you carry, in your personal bag, anything like hair product, shampoos, make-up or toiletries?

  20. Rhandi

    September 2, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    And can you bring snacks or a drink in your bag?

  21. Linda

    September 2, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    I just bought a new 21″ spinner Samsonite for my CLE to LAX trip this weekend. I understand Spirit is sticky with their carryon limit of 22x18x10 including wheels and handle. My new piece measures 23.5 with wheels. Have you seen people get socked with having to check bags if they are just a little over? Its the last thing I want to happen. Advice? I paid upfront for carry on. Thanks!

  22. Lindsay

    August 31, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Hey Tiff!

    Thanks for sharing you expertise! My husband and I are flying Spirit from the ATL to DC via Baltimore this fall. I’m having serious luggage anxiety. We fly in Thursday evening and out early Sunday afternoon. We’re staying with friends, so lots of extras can easily be left at home. My goal is to get everything we need for the trip in two personal items.

    Have you flown with Spirit recently? Will two backpacks still make the cut at personal items? I’m looking at getting the High Sierra Emmett bag.

    Any thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated! 🙂


    • Tiff

      September 1, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      We flew on Spirit a few weeks ago and a backpack per person is still fine as your “personal item”. One thing I always remind women is that your purse counts as a personal item too, so if you need to bring it, make sure you stuff it in your backpack.

      As long as your bag fits into their measuring device for personal items you’ll be fine. The allowed dimensions are 16″x14″x12″. Good luck and I hope your flight goes well!

  23. Guadalupe Villegas Rojas

    November 27, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Hello, so I have a duffle bag I recently bought from amazing hoping to use as a carry on but afraid it might be too big? The best thing it has zippers on both sides to make it longer or it’s actual size I’m wanting to use it fully extended but afraid it might not fit in the overhead…any ideas? This is my first time flying and I did my research. But if possible that the bag can fit fully extended then I would like to use it fully extended or partially extended. It’s winter and here in Texas isn’t as cold as Michigan so definitely need some thick shirts. Taking my jacket but wearing it to avoid having to place it in the bag taking up all the space.

    Link of duffle bag:

    • Tiff

      November 28, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      As long as you can squish it to fit in their bag measuring device, you should be fine. That’s why I don’t suggest bags with handles or wheels as a personal item unless they’re really small and you’re 100% positive they will fit. Currently their personal item size limit is 40 x 35 x 30 cm. Your bag is a little bigger than that, but if you don’t pack it completely full it should fit. As of April 4th, their personal item sizes are changing to 45 x 35 x 20 cm. Hope this helps and good luck!

  24. Jacki

    March 5, 2017 at 3:09 am

    I’m so glad I found this page! Very informative! I have a couple problems I was hoping you’d be able to give little insight to. I’m conflicted on how to pack my bags. I’ve had two family members fly Spirit on two separate occasions. (LAX to Dallas) They both carried a small backpack that qualifies under Spirit’s BareFare. In addition to that, they had a small purse with them over their shoulder. They didn’t pay for any and both had no problem getting through the gate and boarding. I’m flying to the same destination in a couple months. Conflicted on if Spirit lets you carry a women’s purse in addition to a small backpack…or should I just stuff my purse into the backpack and then take it out once I’m seated on the plane?

  25. Sonny

    March 9, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Great page and information. First time booking with Spirit Airlines and at least I now know what I got myself into. Thank you

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