Carry-on luggage becomes the standard after just one case of lost luggage disaster. My own required me to meet a then-boyfriend’s family in his old gym shorts after a luggage went missing between London and Tokyo. Since most of my flights are on European airlines, which charge $50 to check a bag, I no longer typically bring a larger baggage. I’ve learnt from writing this post how important choosing the correct carry-on luggage is to having a stress-free airport trip.
We talked to 15 frequent passengers to produce a list of the best carry-on cases, duffels, and backpacks for every kind of traveller, whether you’re looking for a carry-on that can hold all of your belongings or simply a piece of lighter luggage for a weekend away.
Best carry-on bag overall
With gliding 360-degree spinner wheels, a sturdy polycarbonate shell, built-in separators, and an integrated USB charger, this case provides (practically) everything for less than $300.
The case was initially drawn to Briona Lamback, the creator of Buoyant Travel, by this charger. According to the customer, “Away was one of the first brands I learned about that had a built-in portable charger, and the laundry bag that comes with the luggage was one of those elements that made me feel like they’d thought of everything a traveller needs,” she says.
Although Lamback acknowledged that her overstuffed suitcase’s frame supporting the dividers broke, she insisted that “the bag’s body (the important part) holds very well.” The slim case has a “limited lifetime warranty” and is offered in eight matte colours, including a deep green and dusty pink.
Best carry-on bag for the money
Hardside carry-on spinner suitcase from Amazon Basics
Robin Reetz, a writer, prefers this inexpensive case. Because it is constructed of ABS, a less sturdy plastic, it is more affordable than many polycarbonate alternatives. Reetz claims that the low-cost case performs admirably despite this.
It’s truly ideal for a weekend getaway or a four- to five-day journey, she claims. All of my friends who have Away and Delsey baggage are now considering purchasing this bag after I recently travelled with them.
The case has many of the same features as cases that cost two times as much but comes with a shorter guarantee of three years. It has compartments and 360-degree spinner wheels.
Best carry-on suitcase made of polycarbonate.
Jenna Milliner-Waddell, an associate editor for the Strategist, is a fan of the July polycarbonate case. “I’ve never had an issue with mine fitting in an overhead cabin, and it’s been roomy enough to hold clothes for an outfit-change-heavy weekend in Miami and a weeklong trip to my parents’ house over the holidays,” she claims.
She’s also taken aback by the bag’s silent wheels: “I used to only Uber to JFK because carrying my suitcase to the subway and getting trapped on every irregularity in Brooklyn pavement was aggravating. Now I roll it anywhere without a difficulty.
The top carry-on polycarbonate case for domestic flights
Moving Larger Carry-On
Also owned by Lamback is Away’s Bigger Carry-On. According to her, it “works best for trips on this side of the Atlantic; across the pond, it’s usually considered too big for European carry-on standards.” She then takes out the Away Carry-On in its place.
Best statusy carry-on case made of polycarbonate
Rimowa Basic Cabin Bag
Summer Hull, director of travel content at the Points Guy, argues that the cost of this Rimowa Essential case is justified because she travels frequently and considers her luggage to be a “regular companion,” not just something she uses sometimes. According to her, this case fits easily into overhead bins.
“I won’t pretend to understand all the physics behind the bearings and axles on Rimowa’s bags, but I do know they spin amazingly well through the airport,” she continues. Simply simple, according to Papier’s creator and CEO Taymoor Atighetchi, “Nothing beats Rimowa’s smooth wheels.”
Additionally, you have TSA-approved locks, an adjustable divider system, a strong telescopic handle, and the brand’s Multiwheel system. The polycarbonate exterior of the Essential Cabin makes it significantly lighter than a traditional aluminium Rimowa. Isabel Tan, a fashion blogger, liked this when packing 15 or so outfits for a trip to Bali.
In addition to packing her case to the full, stylist Tina Leung informed us that she takes it with her everywhere she goes, from Montana one week to New York Fashion Week the next. Leung informed us that practically every area she has been has a place to drop in for repairs, and Rimowa offers a lifetime guarantee on its cases similar to Away.
Best carry-on polycarbonate case for lengthy journeys
Closet for carry-ons by Solgaard
This closet-like case should suffice for extended trips if you need a carry-on. Travelling has changed for Kiki Reginato, senior director of e-commerce operations at New York Magazine. “This case has enough of room. I own the smallest one and have frequently gone on ten-day journeys with it, she claims. You never have to unpack because the case’s compression chambers expand to create a shelf system (Reginato does this very infrequently).
When everything is packed, she says, “I find it very satisfying to pull the straps on the side and press everything into this compact mass of clothing.” It resembles a vacuum seal in several ways. She can bring her medium 39-liter bag on most aircraft throughout the world, and you can bring the large case on most American airlines. It has the standard features you’d expect, such a strong handle and easy-gliding wheels, and Reginato compares the build quality to those of her Away cases. Depending on your preferences, the sole drawback? Quite a subdued palette of colour schemes.
Best carry-on aluminium case
Carry-On Aluminium Edition for Travel
Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon, a travel journalist, refers to this aluminium case from Away as her “workhorse.” She claims the luggage is perfect for her needs and that she typically takes three- or four-night trips to the Caribbean. “The backpack almost always has one side packed and ready to go. My toiletries bag is next, followed by a shoe bag (containing three pairs of shoes), another packing cube, which has items like glasses, workout bands and a Nike raincoat.
Greaves-Gabbadon wanted a bag with clamps for added security because zips always felt flimsy. Additionally, its wheels are slick: “I feel like I could just push it with my middle finger and it would glide along the concourse.”
Best carry-on bag for materials a mix
Carry-on luggage from Calpak with a hardshell pocket
The robust shell and sturdy wheels of this case are wonderful, while Brittany Allyn, the company’s founder, says the pocket is “great to quickly tuck in your laptop and get it out through security.” Additionally, it moves rapidly and comfortably.
According to Allyn, “having a bag that can fit as much as possible (because I’m an overpacker and not afraid to say so) and can get me to my gate ASAP is most important.” Additionally, this bag has a reliable lock and a limited yet potent colour palette (the sage green is comparable to Rimowa’s Bamboo).
optimum carry-on duffel bag
Black Hole 40L Duffel Bag in Classic Navy from Patagonia
The Black Hole by Patagonia, which has received accolades from Strategist editors and frequent travellers, was just crowned the best weekend bag overall. The “zillion separate little pockets and perfectly sized compartments for things like chargers and night guards and passports and AirPods” are what senior editor of Strategist Simone Kitchens loves most about her larger, 55-liter version.
The backpack’s strap design makes it a clever travel companion even though the bag is lightweight (less than three pounds) and water resistant thanks to a waxy coating. In order to give your shoulders a break if you’ll be walking for a long distance, you can swap the over-the-shoulder strap for backpack straps.
Favourite larger carry-on luggage bag
Weekender in Tecovas
Andres Zuleta, travel expert and founder of Boutique Japan, uses this duffel while going on small local visits. Tecovas, an Austin-based company, is perhaps best known for their cowboy boots.
The waxed-canvas bag’s leather handles and tough appearance show Tecovas’s design heritage, but it goes beyond mere looks thanks to its inside and exterior pockets, durable wax coating, and long, detachable shoulder strap.
Best carry-on bag for brief journeys
Herschel Tech Backpack Daypack
According to Lauren Chan, the CEO of Henning, “Most of my travel these days is for modelling jobs, which last only a few days and — here’s the kicker — for which I don’t need to bring many of my own clothes.”
This implies that she frequently chooses a rucksack. “I can just throw it under my seat when the overhead compartment is small or full,” the traveller said. “It’s so much easier to move around the airport with.” This rucksack is perfect if you, like me, prefer to travel light, and, like Kipsta’s Essential bag, it won’t cost you any more money. “I’d say it’s big enough to fit all of my tech, toiletries, and about three outfits,” claims Chan.
best rucksack for a big laptop
Outbreaker laptop backpack from Tortuga
With this Outbreaker backpack, travel writer Gabby Beckford prefers to travel light. Despite having a remarkable 27-liter capacity and many zipped sections, it is small enough to fit beneath the seat in front of you as a personal item.
Beckford also appreciates the large front zip, which opens more like a suitcase than a backpack and allows you to see everything you’re packing at once. By redistributing the weight of the backpack away from your shoulders with the waist strap clipped, you can avoid potential aches and pinches.
The ideal carry-on bag for keeping things organised
Travel Pack Cotopaxi Allpa 35 L for a Day
The clamshell pack from Cotopaxi is a good option if you enjoy the idea of a backpack but want something a little roomier, according to author Margaret Eby. She claims that this bag unfolds into a butterfly configuration, “allowing you to make better use of all the space,” in contrast to typical backpacks that simply zip at the top.While we appreciate the interior room, the mesh packing cubes that are already there make it ideal for maintaining order.
On a ten-day trip to Italy, Eby used it to carry a change of clothes, a laptop, snacks, a sun hat, a jewellery case, a day handbag, and even a crochet project. She also claims that no squishing is necessary for it to fit comfortably under the seat in front of you.