TikTok is full of handy tricks and life hacks that can save you money and make you wonder how you ever got through life before you learned them. One of the latest hacks to go viral on the site has gotten the attention of travelers — and for good reason.
The TikTok #pillowhack is helping people flying avoid paying checked bag or overweight fees by simply using a zippered pillowcase as hand luggage instead of an actual bag. Here’s how it works: Open pillowcase, remove pillow, stuff with clothes. It’s best if you leave out any clunky items like toiletries or shoes because it will not only look less convincing, but it’ll be too uncomfortable to use as an actual in-flight pillow. And who doesn’t love a multitasking travel hack?
While TSA will know it’s full of clothes as soon as it goes through the scanner, there are no security restrictions on bringing clothes or a pillowcase into the airport. When it’s time to board, the flight attendants don’t care what personal items you bring on the plane, they just have to make sure you don’t exceed the airline’s limits on the number of personal and carry-on items.
Most airlines allow one free personal item per passenger, defined as anything that can fit under the seat in front of you on the plane. However, other small items like pillows and blankets are usually exempt from the restriction. Budget airlines (like Spirit or Frontier) are a little stricter than full-service airlines with their baggage rules, but will still typically let passengers bring a compact pillow or neck pillow on board in addition to a personal item without hitting them with a carry-on fee.
To buy: amazon.com, from $17
That’s what makes this such a handy trick for saving on baggage fees. On airlines that charge for a carry-on, you can avoid fees by fitting everything into a backpack or tote plus your pillowcase. On airlines that don’t charge for carry-ons, the pillow hack is handy for overpackers that don’t want to pay for a checked bag — whatever you can’t squeeze into your carry-on and personal item, you can pack into your pillowcase.
If you did spring for a checked bag but you were already pushing the weight limit with what you packed for the trip, toss one of these empty pillowcases in your bag and fill it with clothes on your return flight so you have room for the souvenirs you picked up. Plus, when you get home, you can unpack and put an actual pillow in it! Honestly, the possibilities are endless.
With all that in mind, some pillowcases are better suited to the task than others. So wherever you’re headed and whichever airline is taking you there, these are the five most durable and spacious pillowcases ready to serve as disguised luggage on your next trip!
MIULEE Waterproof Pillow Covers
One of your best bets when choosing a pillowcase for this travel hack is opting for something designed to be outdoors. These MIULEE Waterproof Pillow Covers, for example, are built to be tough, waterproof, and resistant to wear. That means you can carry this with you on your travels without worrying about torn seams or ripping the fabric — and if it’s raining when you land, your clothes are still protected by the PU-coated polyester canvas cover.
They’re also compact enough that they shouldn’t attract as much attention from flight attendants as a full-size bed pillowcase might. Plus, the two-pack means you and your travel buddy can try out the pillow hack together.
To buy: amazon.com, from $15
Jepeak Burlap Linen Throw Pillow Covers
This two-pack of Jepeak Burlap Linen Throw Covers features burlap linen construction that’s soft yet sturdy enough to keep your clothes safe. They don’t have a waterproof coating, but they’re still designed to be durable enough for outdoor use. Plus, they come in seven different sizes and 18 colors so you can easily coordinate with your luggage and get as much extra storage space as you need.
To buy: amazon.com, from $16
Uxcell 100 Percent Egyptian Cotton Pillowcases
These Uxcell 100 percent Egyptian Cotton Pillowcases are held together with double-layer stitching and a hidden zipper closure that tucks away beneath a cotton hem along the edge. That means you can stuff this full of clothes without tearing any seams and nap on the plane without worrying about the zipper scratching you. The soft, durable cotton pillowcases come in three sizes, from standard bed pillow up to king size, and dozens of different colors.
As a full-size bed pillowcase, this gives you plenty of extra storage room for your clothes, but you might get noticed by flight attendants on some airlines. If you’re traveling with a full-service carrier (like Delta or Alaska Airlines), you should be fine, but a low-cost carrier like Frontier or Spirit might make you pay a carry-on fee.
To buy: amazon.com, from $17
Utopia Bedding Waterproof Pillow Protector
If you want waterproof protection but you need the storage space of a larger pillowcase, try these zippered pillow protectors from Utopia Bedding. The knitted jersey fabric on the outside is soft enough that you can rest your head on this as if it were an actual pillow, and the TPU coating will keep your clothes dry no matter what weather you arrive in. The pillowcase also features double-hemmed stitching and a strong zipper so you can pack this to the brim and not worry about seams coming undone.
To buy: amazon.com, from $11
Dot & Dot Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow
For airlines that might be less flexible about allowing passengers to carry a pillow in addition to a personal item, you’ll need to take your disguise to the next level: the neck pillow. This twist travel pillow comes with a removable cotton cover so you can simply slide the memory foam pillow out and pack your clothes inside the cover. While boarding, drape it around your neck and it should pass as “attire” by most airline standards.
Being a neck pillow, the cover isn’t quite as spacious as ones for throw pillows or bed pillows, but it is about 26 inches long. That should still be enough room for a summer weekend trip or for just packing the overflow items that won’t fit in your backpack or suitcase.
To buy: amazon.com, $25
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