Many of the budget airlines, particularly in Europe, limit passengers to one piece of carry-on luggage (which also must be within the confines of specified measurements and weight restrictions). Many of these airlines, absurdly, do not allow you to bring on an additional small, under-seat bag (i.e. handbag or laptop bag). And this rule is often strictly enforced.
I try to pack lightly for several reasons: 1) I don’t want to deal with the possibility of lost baggage, 2) I’m uninterested in paying extra to check a suitcase and 3) I don’t want to waste time standing in line to initially check my bag and then waste more time on the other end retrieving it.
I do have the good fortune of wearing mini-human-sized shoes/clothing, so I can get away with only a one piece of cabin luggage in most scenarios. But even I struggle without the option of that additional personal item. This is especially challenging because I typically travel with a large DSLR camera.
However, I’ve discovered a loophole in this luggage limit that I'm prepared to share with you, because I like you!
In my experience, even the strictest of budget airlines will allow you to bring on one duty-free bag, in addition to your one carry-on. I’ve also learned that duty-free shops are typically not fussed about giving you an empty bag if you ask nicely, especially if you tell them that you’ve experienced a toiletry explosion incident (that’s the excuse that I always use, but feel free to be creative here).
Once the duty-free bag is obtained, I put my purse in it and voila - the extra carry-on bag solution that you’ve been looking for!! How's that for a nugget of wisdom?
The other, more random option, is to wear as much of your luggage as possible. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but wearable luggage is actually becoming a real thing and is increasingly becoming a way for people to beat the strict luggage limitations.