Carry on luggage isn’t exciting, but it is essential for any travel pro. It took me two years of travel around the world until I decided to ditch the backpack in exchange for a piece of carry on luggage designed for the overhead.
When you travel as much as we do you want the best bag you can find to carry your garments. A lot comes down to finding the perfect sized piece of luggage that fits the maximum-allowed carry-on dimensions
Since making the switch to hard shell luggage we haven’t looked back.
The best carry on luggage should be able to easily pack up to a week’s worth of clothes and have solid build quality. There are three types of luggage styles in regards to carry on. Those are the suitcase, carry on size backpack, and duffel bag.
We’ve scoured the internet and tried out a number of bags, suitcases, and backpacks to generate this list of the best carry on approved luggage. That way you get the right piece of luggage and make your next trip a breeze.
The Best Carry-On Luggage
The Best Rolling Luggage Carry-Ons
eBags EXO 2.0 Polycarbonate Hardside Spinner — Best Hardside Luggage
Dimensions: 22″ x 14″ x 9″ Weight: 6.65 pounds
This is the exact carry on suitcase I have and I absolutely love it. It’s my go to carry on luggage for international travel and when I’m not using it Cam is. The hard shell outer case ensures all your valuables are well protected. We travel with a lot of electronics that are fragile so we love having a bag that has a tough outer shell. The bag opens at the center to two separate sides of compartments. Once there it is so easy to stay organized with this bag.
There are two compartments within the bag, one designed for clothes with a compression system and the other is designed for shoes, toiletries, and where we store our electronics. Included with the bag is a nylon dirty clothes bag to separate clean from dirty and keep your clothes looking fresh.
We also love the security of the bag with a built-in TSA approved lock. It’s also extremely stylish and looks great when traveling and fits easily into overhead luggage space. The best part is you can buy this with achecked bag component as well, making it one of the best luggage sets by eBags!
Delsey Turenne Carry on — Best Lightweight Carry On Luggage
Dimensions: 9.8″ x 13.8″ x 21.8″ Weight: 6 pounds
If you are after the best lightweight suitcase for international travel the Turenne is your bag! The Turenne is the lightest of all of Delsey’s hard suitcases. Some of its main features are 4 easy to maneuver double wheels, TSA lock, large capacity, incredibly hardwearing zip, two mesh zippered compartments, and a 10 year worldwide guarantee. Also it comes with a laundry bag and a shoe bag. I love all of Delsey’s products and this rolling luggage is no different.
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 — Best Softside Luggage
Dimensions: 9.5″ x 15.2″ x 22.8″ Weight: 8.13 pounds
This bag checks off every criteria you could ask for in a flight approved bag. It’s durable yet features soft sides that are weather sealed. A telescopic handle that is strong and locks well is sure to save you any grief. Travelpro offers a tremendous lifetime warranty on the bag and will fix many problems including airline negligence. A feature that will be sure to win over many is the suit fold-out storage for business travelers making this bag the best carry on luggage for business travel.
Overall the build is quality when it comes to the bag with tough YKK zippers that interlock and water resistant lining. Other interior designs include mesh lid pocket and accessory pockets to help organize toiletries. The Travelpro also comes in at an affordable price for a bag designed to last a lifetime.
Chester Spinner Carry-On Luggage — Best Spinner Carry On
Dimensions: 13.5″ x 8.5″ x 21.5″ Weight: 9.05 pounds
At 7 lbs, this is one of the lightest carry on luggage pieces you can get. A hard shell exterior, with the design of a soft shell. This is a pretty good option if you like the way soft shells are built but prefer the durability of a hard exterior. It’s extra lightweight, has the four spinner wheels for smooth movement, and is water resistant.
The interior is spacious, with multiple zippered pockets, dividers, and straps to keep everything in its place and eliminate your things getting completely thrown around and jumbled during the journey. The lightweight suitcase has a 100% aluminum telescoping ergonomic handle with two lock positions for ultimate control and maneuverability. Giving you minimal weight on your arm and a comfortable drag.
Delsey Cruise Lite Hard 19″ Spinner Suitcase — Best Affordable Carry On
Dimensions: 19″ x 13″ x 9.5″ Weight: 6.8 pounds
Delsey makes one of the best affordable carry on luggage on the market. This spinner suitcase from Delsey is a pretty good compromise, where the price doesn’t reflect all its excellent specifications. The exterior is easily recognizable, with textured decorative panels.
It’s got all the basic things you need from your carry on suitcase: an extendable handle for pulling with you, four spinner wheels, simple inside mesh pockets to help organize your belongings, TSA lock to protect your belongings, and a top and side grip handle to make it easier to hoist into the overhead compartments.
At a 38L capacity, it holds more than you think it will, so it’s still suitable for those slightly longer getaways
Travelpro Maxlite Expandable Hardside Spinner — Best Carry On Luggage for Women
Dimensions: 9″ x 14.5″ x 23″ Weight: 5.94 pounds
Looking for pink carry on luggage? This Travelpro bag is kind of cool (but still practical); it changes color in the light and depending on the viewing angle. If you do decide to check it rather than using it as a carry-on, it’ll be more easily identifiable. It’s also got a hard shell, and because of this, it’s incredibly lightweight. Its main compartment expands by two inches to cram just a little bit more into its already-roomy interior, and there’s an accompanying divider to maximize the use of space.
Spinner wheels and a side handle mean you can choose how you travel with this one. All the important features, like a secure lock and multiple interior compartments for the most sensible packing, are in place so you’ve got something super functional. Also it has so many organization compartments for little things making it a great contender for best carry on bag for a woman.
eBags Fortis Pro Traveler Hard Shell Luggage Spinner — Best Smart Luggage
Dimensions: 9″ x 22″ x 14″ Weight: 8.58 pounds
Exterior-wise, this is a heavy duty option, especially if you’re worried about your bag getting thrown around a bit. A scuff-resistant hard shell exterior makes this more resilient against wear and tear. Don’t be fooled by that, though; it still expands by an inch and a half to accommodate those extra items you initially thought you wouldn’t need but decided to pack at the last minute. Security-wise, this is also pretty intense; there’s a TSA-approved combination lock to keep your items inside extra secure.
Easily one of the biggest draws of this rolling case is the exterior USB charging port, so if your phone dies, it’s an easy fix to be able to charge it quickly (but you have to make sure the charger itself is charged—it’s like a portable charger in that way). Inside, there’s a removable laundry bag (how many times have you made short trips and kicked yourself for having nowhere to keep your dirty laundry?), zippered compartments, and a divider to help you better organize your items.
Tumi Osona Compact Carry-On — Best Weekend Carry On
Dimensions: 4.5″ x 12.2″ x 15.5″ Weight: 9.25 pounds
Compact is right; this little roller is definitely on the small side, but don’t be put off by its humble appearance. Though it’s a lot more compact, it’s ideal for shorter trips and is the perfect weekend luggage. The interior storage layout is optimized so you can make the most of the available space. The interior compartments can be zippered to be separate or opened up to create a single roomy interior.
Spinner wheels and an extendable handle make rushing around the airport a total breeze, and smaller means it’s definitely a little more lightweight. There are layers of storage on the exterior to keep smaller items like your laptop, wallet, keys, and things like documents secure but accessible. There’s also a side-carry handle, because if you haven’t entirely filled this roller up, you might want to have the option to carry it by hand as opposed to dragging it along beside you. Tumi is a good luggage brand and comes with a high price tag, so this bag definitely is not for everyone.
Briggs & Riley Domestic Carry-On Upright Two-Wheel Garment Bag — Best International Carry On Luggage
Dimensions: 9″ x 14″ x 22″ Weight: 9 pounds
By no means is this Briggs & Riley bag cheap carry on luggage, it is an awesome 2-in-1 carry-on and is approved for overhead compartment storage by all major US airlines. The reason for the high price point is the compression system. You can easily overstuff the bag, and then zip it up for compression making it the perfect carry on size again. It has a garment section and a more packing case-style section, so packing your clothing and your hardware (laptop, etc.) together is fully an option. The main compartment is also lockable, something any traveler will be grateful for when your bag is out of your sight.
The exterior fabric is abrasion and weather-resistant; thanks to this durability, dozens of reviewers have said that they’ve been using this bag for nearly a decade. This is definitely a buy-once-and-done kind of purchase. This is great because while it’s a bit on the pricier end of the spectrum, you can at least feel assured that you’re spending your money on something that will last for as long as you need it.
American Tourister Curio Spinner Hardside 20 – Best Cheap Carry On
Dimensions: 9″ x 14″ x 20″ Weight: 6.3 pounds
This is a good, lightweight carry on luggage option for those who need all the space with less of the heft. It’s a little more basic and less heavy-duty because of this, but still gets the job done for travelers who need something uncomplicated to get them through their flight. It’s eco-friendly, too; the interior and exterior are made from recycled consumer materials, so you can feel good about reducing your footprint – especially when travel can be pretty intense in that regard.
This isn’t a two-wheeler dragged on an angle; instead, its four wheels are spinners, so they’ll move with you more seamlessly as you hustle through the airport or train station. There are interior pockets and compartments to make packing a little more organized, including mesh pockets and expandable straps to keep your things in place.
This bag is budget-friendly and a cheap carry on luggage choice. If you don’t need a long list of features and want to keep the quality high but the price on the lower end, the American Tourister is a solid choice.
Eagle Creek Tarmac Carry-On – Best Carry On for Europe
Dimensions 9″ x 14″ x 22″ Weight: 7 pounds
This one is basically a backpack with all the fixings but turned into a rolling suitcase. That means extra exterior pockets with secure zips – super helpful for the bits and bobs you’d rather keep somewhere a little more accessible without the risk of theft. That’s not the only security feature, though; there’s a break-resistant lockable zipper to make sure nothing can be swiped when your bag is being handled.
The wheels are heavy duty for more seamless rolling (no more struggles when you’re rolling down those cobbled streets in Europe!) and are resistant to abrasion and general wear and tear, so this carry on suitcase will last longer. This one also has quite a unique addition that a lot of bags don’t have: there’s an interior keyring that doubles as a bottle opener. With so many features like a padded tablet sleeve, 3-ply polycarbonate back shell, zipper expansion capabilities, and Eagle Creek’s No Matter What™ Warranty, it’s one of the best carry on luggage for international travel.
Travelpro Maxlite 4 Rolling Tote – Best Carry On Luggage for Business Travel
Dimensions: 13″ x 15.5″ x 8.5″ Weight: 5.4 pounds
This bag is the best Underseat Carry On for travel. It’s a favorite for flight attendants and travelers alike because it can easily fit under airline seats (for most planes – check beforehand your plane model) and still has the ability to strap on to larger luggage pieces if need be. It’s only 6.6 lbs, rolls smoothly, and comes in a few fun colors. It’s really a great rolling luggage piece for business travelers, men, women, and children!
If you want to pair it with it’s checked luggage counterpart check here!
Incase EO Roller – Best Briefcase Like Roller
This is definitely a bag that has it all; thanks to a range of specs, it can pretty much hold its own no matter the situation. A pretty good size for a shorter getaway, it can fit most of what you’d need for a long weekend – or a longer trip if you are a frugal packer. It’s got a special weather-resistant exterior (which helps protect the large laptop sleeve), perfect for the transition from airport to city. Its main compartment is expandable, so you can fit 35% more than “full.” This is a bonus in our books, because sometimes you wind up picking up a few things during your trip that you hadn’t anticipated, so having that extra room is helpful.
It’s primarily a rolling suitcase with only two wheels instead of four and a long handle, but that handle can be folded away. If your load is light enough, you can pick up the bag by its side handle, turning it into more of a briefcase-like bag.
The Best Carry On Backpacks
Osprey Farpoint 40L
I’ve talked about the Farpoint 55L before on this best travel backpacks post; however, the 55L is too big to be carry-on approved. In comes the 40 liters sized version of the bag. It’s probably one of the best travel bags out there.
Extremely versatile and fully capable of being carried around on a back at length. The side handle on the bag is an added bonus, making it easy to grab out of an overhead bin and carry it off of a plane. Osprey is one of my favorite backpack companies because of their All Mighty Guarantee. If you’re going on a backpacking trip we suggest you check out some of our favorite eco-friendly products for your next trip.
eBag TLS Mother Lode
This bag is described as spacious with plenty of organization to boot. It’s an easy contention for one of the best carry-on bags around if not for its comfortability. However, as I talked about previously there is no one solution fits all to finding a bag. This bag is tremendous for those looking to have a great bag to carry on the plane and then onto their hotel.
I wouldn’t plan on spending a few hours with the pack on because it may become uncomfortable. You can read more about our favorite carry on backpacks.
Topo Designs Travel Bag
Topo Designs launched their latest pack the Travel Bag and it’s a slam dunk for European and business like travel. In terms of style it is the best looking backpack on this entire list. The interior features double zipper U-entry, one large compartment, a medium sized compartment, two small pockets, and two mesh pockets. The exterior features a rear laptop sleeve, a front compartment with organization and U-entry, a vertical pocket with organization, and exterior loops.
The exterior is heavy duty nylon and the bag uses robust zippers that are the best we’ve seen on a travel backpack, albeit a bit clunky. When it comes to support it has side handles on both sides of the backpack, a detachable shoulder strap, and backpack straps with a hip belt and chest strap. The support and straps are detachable and can be stored inside a zippered compartment for travel.
It’s a decent size at 40L and should be enough to for minimalistic travelers in one season for multiple weeks. If you’re an adventure seeker and like to hike, the support system is lacking when compared to top loading packs. The colors and style are also better suited for younger travelers, but it all depends on your style they offer a black if you prefer a more neutral bag we have the olive color pictured above.
All together this is would be my vote for the best travel backpack for Europe and I’ll be reaching for it on my next short trip. It’s loaded with features, space, and has a lifetime guarantee.
The Best Carry On Duffel Bags
The North Face Base Camp Duffel
North Face has been making quality outdoor products for years. The Base Camp Duffel bag is practical and looks pretty freaking awesome. Made from super tough material and soft-sided its “low-tech” in all the right ways. This bag is dead simple, made well, and tough as nails. This bag won’t let you down flying to London or climbing a mountain.
The opening is in the shape of a D and allows for easy access to the whole bag that way you don’t have to dig for your clothes. With two straps the bag can also be carried on your back making it quite the adventurers bag. It comes in a lot of sizes but make sure to purchase the small if you’re looking for a carry on sized bag.
Filson Small Duffle Bag
This is the carry on bag for the stylish traveler. The Filson duffle bag would look perfect in an urban environment or out in the countryside. The bag is made from 100% cotton oil finish is water resistant, lightweight, and durable.
Straps and zippers are of the best quality and are sure to last a lifetime. We love the extra wide strap and storm flaps that ensure your clothes will never get wet. It’s also the perfect size as a carry on bag.
Patagonia Black Hole
Have we mentioned that we love Patagonia before? We’re avid fans of the companies products and it’s likely anyone who’s big into outdoor adventure sports is loves them too. The Patagonia Black Hole bag is one of the largest of the Patagonia brand and perfect for extensive travel.
The bag can pack down small when empty so it’s great to stick in your bag. It was also plenty easy to stuff and organize, thanks to the large U-shaped zipper and two mesh pockets on the top flap. It’s also super lightweight an important aspect we look for in our travel gear.
Elements of the Perfect Piece of Carry On Luggage
There are two main measurements to look at in regards to size for best cabin luggage. That is the capacity for backpacks and duffel bags and size for the traditional suitcase. A great size for space capacity on travel luggage would be 40L. This is a standard size in many backpacks and duffel bags.
The best carry on suitcases have maxed out around 22 inches in length. Both of these sizes will ensure you have as much packing space as possible while fitting overhead requirements. For reference, the standard carry on bag should fit these measurements: 9 in x 14 in x 22 in (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm) including the wheels and handles.
There is a lot of nice design changes each type of luggage is seeing these days. Features I love on a traditional rolling suitcase are four wheels, reinforced padding, and divided storage. Four wheels instead of two are amazing useful because you can rotate the bag and roll down an airplane aisle. You also can conveniently walk with the carry on luggage upright instead of on a slant.
One feature that will make most business travelers drool is a large fold-out suit compartment offered by our favorite suitcases. We also love waterproof canvas materials in duffel bags and straps to throw on your back. Whfront-loading backpacks will make packing and unpacking a breeze.
Material – Hard Luggage vs Soft Luggage
You need to make your mind up on hard shell luggage or a soft-sided bag. Personally, I love to travel with hardside luggage because it looks sleeker and is super durable. It’s important that any piece of carry on luggage you choose should be decent quality material and ideally water resistant. Hard shell cases do tend to be more difficult to fit in overhead compartments though; however, they’re guaranteed to protect your valuables.
We’re also pretty big safari nuts and you can’t bring most hard case luggage on a small Cessna plane. Safari operators prefer duffel bags as they can be thrown around and squished any and which way.
Honestly, the material of our bags often depends on where in the world we’re going. For city jaunts and hopping around Europe we go with hard shells, but in developing nations and more adventurous trips, we go for soft-sided because the bags look less valuable and can be picked up and thrown around easier.
How you get your carry on bag from A to B matters. We like a suitcase with a telescopic handle and a side handle for lifting. These are also aspects to look for in a great backpack and duffel bag. Many travel orientated backpacks these days have a handle on the side that allows you to carry through the airport or throw in an overhead compartment.
4 Wheels vs. 2 Wheels
It’s important to look at the wheels before buying any carry on luggage. The standard 2 wheels are a bit outdated and are for people who want to pull their suitcase behind them. These bags are typically cheaper for the inconvenience.
4 wheels are called “spinners” because they can be spun in all directions and give you full control. I love spinners because I can easily walk upright with them and I don’t have to drag anything behind me. It honestly can get very heavy on your arm if you are pulling a bag behind you for too long!
Smart luggage is a bit of a new term and refers to all the fancy extras in a bag that aren’t needed but are a nice add on that make traveling more convenient. Things like power banks and USB chargers for your phone, TSA approved locks, and electronic baggage tags are smart luggage. You’ll pay more for many of these features, so it’s up to you to determine if it is worth it.
Personally, I love the TSA approved lock – it gives me a great piece of mind knowing someone is not rummaging through my stuff. I have had bags with USB chargers, but have honestly never ever used them.
In addition, many American airlines have banned lithium-ion batteries which the USB chargers have. Many airlines will check and have you remove the battery and carry it on yourself. So if you do opt for a smart suitcase make sure the battery is removable.
The Best Cheap Carry On Luggage Picks
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a bag. It’s totally doable to pick up a piece of luggage for $50 instead of a stylish expensive bag. If you’re only taking one trip a year maybe an expensive suitcase or duffel bag is not your cup of tea. Here are three quick, cheap, and easy picks for flight approved bags.
- Amazon Basics Duffel Bag – It’s lightweight, water resistant, and has plenty of space to pack your belongings in. The bag has a shoulder strap, outside pockets, and two handles. What is awesome about the bag is that it folds up and can be packed in another bag or stored in a vehicle.
- Jetstream Carry On Suitcase – The bag is super cheap for a suitcase. It may frustrate you a bit, but it’s also only $33 on Amazon and carry on approved.
- Modase Lightweight Backpack – This bag is only $19.99 on Amazon and comes with some awesome reviews. It’s top loading and won’t be able to handle a ton of clothes, but again it’s cheap!
There are so many great carry on bag options online to choose from you should never have to have a tough time packing your luggage and having a stress free travel day.
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