You can spot a seasoned traveler with ease. They are confident, anticipating at checkpoints, and they ooze knowledge of airport procedures. One more thing that gives them away is their carry-on luggage.
If you frequently travel on business or pleasure, you need luggage that can pack your laptop, suit, and few other necessities perfectly without compromising your style.
What will you need to consider? First, the size especially given the restrictions set by various airlines. American Airline, Delta, and United Airlines have set the limit to 22″ x 14″ x 9″. Anything bigger than that will, unfortunately, be sent back to be checked in.
Most frequent travelers swear by the wheel of the luggage. The material could be on point, with a zillion compartments, but if the wheels fail, the luggage is as good as dead. If you want wheels that will stand the test of time (and of various terrains), go for the rugged kind, like the ones you find on skateboards. They can handle just about anything.
Now… check out our best carry on luggage from the table below:
Best Carry-On Luggage 2018:
|1. Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 Softside Spinner||21″ x 15″ x 8″||8.5 lbs||Domestic Carry On|| Check Price
|2. Briggs & Riley Baseline Exp. Softside Upright||21″ x 13.8″ x 9.8″||8.9 lbs||Domestic Carry On|| Check Price
|3. Samsonite Wheeled Underseater Small||13″ x 13″ x 9″||6 lbs||Under Seat Carry On|| Check Price
|4. Delsey Helium Aero Exp. Hardside Spinner||21.75″ x 13.75″ x 9.75″ (wheels included)||8.2 lbs||International Carry On|| Check Price
|5. Travelpro Maxlite 4 Exp. Softside Spinner||21″ x 14″ x 9″||5.9 lbs||Domestic Carry On|| Check Price
|6. Briggs & Riley Transcend Exp. Softside Upright||22.5″ x 14″ x 9.3″||8.1 lbs||Domestic Carry On|| Check Price
|7. Delsey Chatelet Hardside Spinner||21″ x 13.8″ x 9.8″||8.3 lbs||Domestic Carry On|| Check Price
|8. Osprey Ozone 22″/46L Wheeled Luggage||22″ x 14″ x 9″||4.37 lbs||Domestic Carry On|| Check Price
|9. Vera Bradley Weekender Bag||12.5″ x 18.5″ x 7.5″||3 lbs||International Carry On|| Check Price
Let’s start with our most recommended bag:
1. Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 Softside 21 Inch Spinner Review:
This luggage measures 21 x 15 x 8 inches, and it is quite light. It comes in different colors too. You have a choice between blue, twilight blue, cypress green, jet-black, and ruby red. It is aesthetically appealing as that would not be a deal breaker. No one wants to run through the airport with ugly luggage.
The size meets the demands of the strictest airlines in the States, and so you will not be asked to turn back and check your bag.
If you are keen on a sturdy handle, you will notice their push-button locking one with a comfortable grip. Do not be fooled by the soft outward appearance of this luggage. It is made of nylon with a water-resistant coating on the exterior.
While on the handles, you will be pleased to know that it has them both on the rear and the side. I find this feature thoughtful as it makes it easy to pull it out of the overhead bin regardless of how you hold it.
The cover is rugged in appearance and texture, but inside you will find a smooth nylon cover that keeps your possession moisture-free and well organized. It has three main compartments. The two pockets on the exterior allow you to pack more stuff.
The interior is not just roomy, but very roomy. You will comfortably pack enough for a three-day business trip and leave sufficient space for the new pair of shoes you are certainly going to buy on impulse. What I find to be absolutely thoughtful is the ‘suit cover’ for transporting your suits and other clothes without folding them too much.
That is not all about the interior compartment. The luggage has a sealed pocket for your toiletries as well as a mesh pocket. Your laptop will be safe inside here. It is the ideal carry-on for a short trip.
And Now the Famous Wheels…
The prominent Split Spherical Wheels on this luggage have travelers talking about making a change. The design is such that each half of an individual sphere wheel moves independently to make it easy to roll your luggage through both smooth and uneven terrains.
Thanks to the multi-directional ability of the wheels, turning will be a breeze. It moves with ease to remove any weight from your shoulder or hand.
Samsonite has a 10-year warranty on this baby. Judging from their other products, you are probably never going to need the warranty.
Wheels that turn like a dream
Conforms to size requirement by both local and international airlines
Quite pricey for the size
2. Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic Carry-On Expandable Upright Review:
B&R is known for quality. Most people who travel frequently favor B&R luggage for quality and durability. That aside, the company has a lifetime warranty on their products, which will include damage by the airline. Granted the products are pricier, but the quality makes them worth it.
This luggage looks classy and sophisticated. You could easily buy it for that trait, but luckily, it has more. The colors are limited to black and olive (sorry, color enthusiasts).
It has a cheat-sheet. The luggage expands by up to 25% of its size to accommodate more clothes when packing. You can always collapse it back to its original 14 x 9 x 22 inches so that it fits perfectly on the overhead rack. There are a few complaints about the size being a tad big for international airlines, but it varies from one to another. Thanks to this, you can pack enough for a 2-5 day trip.
The exterior has two pockets, both of which would fit books, thin files, and a laptop too. The interior is way roomier than it looks from outside. It has a self-contained in-built suiter to keep your business clothing in the best shape.
It is unbelievably amazing that your clothes will get to the other side of the world without folds! And it is quite roomy too, as this space will accommodate two suits. You can always zip it out when you do not need it. Still within the main compartment is a section for your apparel and toiletries.
It does not have an attachment for a tote bag, but you can slide one over the handle, and it will be safe all through. It has an umbrella pouch too, for when the skies decide to open up before you get to your hotel room.
This luggage has both handle on the top, which is the norm. I only wish they had one or two on the side to make it easy to pull from the overhead bin.
Now, let’s discuss the material…
Nylon makes for excellent material, thanks to its robust yet gentle nature. The exterior is rugged, which adds to this bag’s charm, and it has a water resistant topping. Not to say that you will land in the middle of nowhere with torrents of rain on your back, but it makes you feel safe knowing that no moisture can reach your possession.
This Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic Carry-On is quite light too, but that will be the least of your worries with its wheels. They roll easily on smooth terrain and even bounce off the stairs without any problem.
Simplistic and spacious
Limited color choices
3. Samsonite Wheeled Underseater Small Review:
Sometimes you want luggage that does not make it look like you are
relocating to the moon. They do not come in ideal sizes than this 13 x 13 x 9 inches that weighs 6 lbs. It is predominantly black, a bummer for those who love a little color, but then again its functionality outweighs the lack of diversity.
The material is a blend of polyester and nylon. You can bet that this carry-on is waterproof, thanks to this mix. You may undermine this bag for its size, but you would be surprised how much it fits.
Being that the interior is nylon, it accommodates quite a lot without straining too much. If you are one of the famed smart packers, you will fit clothes to last you five days inside this seemingly small luggage.
Apart from the size being ideal for all airlines, it fits perfectly under most seats. In fact, that is how Samsonite advertises it. You may not think much about this feature until you notice how handy it is for seniors who can hardly carry large loads up the overhead.
Now, this luggage has lots of zippered pockets, which when utilized wisely, will pack more items. It even has two side pockets for a water bottle and an umbrella. These two are not zippered. The pockets on the outside are ideal for those items that need quick retrieval. If you have bigger luggage, you can just stack this on top instead of dragging them both.
The handle feels flimsy at first, but then you realize later that it is by design. It will not come off, but it will easily adjust to fit your height.
The two wheels are not exactly designed for rough terrain, but they hold their own. When it becomes tough for them, you can always use the Velcro straps.
Being from Samsonite, you can trust that this luggage is high-quality. The manufacturer gives it the same warranty as to its larger counterparts. For the price of a few pairs of shoes, you get 10 years of world travel.
Small and handy
Has a handle and Velcro straps
4. Delsey Luggage Helium Aero International Carry On Expandable Spinner Trolley Review:
I do not find the Delsey Luggage to be exceptionally striking, but aesthetics do not really matter, do they? This luggage measures 21.75″ x 13.75″ x 9.75″ with the wheels, and it can accommodate quite a lot. If you compress the sides, you could reduce it to 8.5 inches.
This size is within the requirements of the leading domestic and international airlines.
This particular model comes in various colors like red brick and platinum. It has two major compartments and smaller ones inside. The outer compartment is spacious and lined to carry a laptop, iPad, and chargers.
It also offers easy access for passports, boarding passes, and cash through a zipper that you can open halfway or bring all the way down.
The interior is super spacious. A lady reviewer said she managed to cover a week’s formal and informal clothing, as well as four pairs of shoes. Remember she included toiletries in the luggage, and she still managed to fit everything without sitting on it to zip it up. With smart packing, you can fit more than a week’s clothing.
The inner compartments make enough space for undergarments, jewelry, and toiletries. You can expand the interior by 2 inches to fit more stuff, but this could make it hard to foot into the plane’s overhead.
It is light even before you pack anything in it. The handle adjusts to suit both a short and a tall person. The only downside to this is that it does not cater very well to those below 5 feet. It is, however, perfect for those standing at 5’ 2”.
The wheels are one of this luggage’s best qualities. They are large and easy to maneuver anywhere, regardless of the terrain. They easily glide on the floor, handling all the weight, and relieving your shoulders and hands.
This luggage is simple, yet highly functional.
Spacious compartments including a soft padding for a laptop
At 21.75″ x 13.75″ x 9.75″, it might be slightly too tall for some airlines
5. Travelpro Maxlite 4 Expandable 21 Inch Spinner Suitcase Review:
This luggage looks classy, has one main handle and two on the side for easy retrieval. The main handle is easily adjustable with the touch-button, and it will perfectly accommodate both tall and petite people.
The rubber-covered grip is both comfortable and ergonomically designed. You can drag it for miles and not hurt anything.
It is made of 100% polyester, which is durable and easy to clean. It is also water resistant. Its interior is lined with soft fabric to keep your clothes and items safe and dry.
The wheels on this Travelpro Maxlite are not the biggest, and so they may give you a little trouble on uneven terrain, but they glide excellently on smooth ground. You can drag it down the stairs without much trouble, although it will not take it as well as those with larger wheels.
To improve maneuverability, the bottom has a tray that aligns and stabilizes the wheels. By doing this, the weight of the luggage is made to shift to the bottom to ensure that you never feel it on your arms and shoulders as you drag the luggage.
It measures 21 x 14 x 9 in, so it qualifies as carry-on luggage in leading local airlines, and it weighs a mere 6 lbs without any load. It can carry quite a lot, especially given its spacious interior. If it looks small and compact from the outside, you would be surprised at how much weight it can accommodate.
The lid compartment holds your pressed shirts and secures them in place while the rest of the roomy interior is ideal for all of the other clothes. A hold-down strap pushes the clothes down and allows the case to accommodate enough for a 5-day trip. You will have a mesh compartment for your undergarments and toiletries.
Travelpro offers this product at a reasonable price and backs it up with a lifetime warranty.
Lifetime guarantee on this simple, yet elegant luggage
Adjustable main handle and two side handles
6. Briggs & Riley Transcend Domestic Carry-On Expandable Upright Review:
If you are yet to try Briggs, then you are in for a treat. The luggage maker is one of a kind! First, it’s a carry-on luggage, and so it will save you the trip to the baggage claim area. It is beautifully designed to fit the bill of an upwardly mobile traveler, whether for business or leisure. It measures 22 x 15 x 8, dimensions which agree with domestic and internationally flight requirements. It weighs about 8lbs, but you will not feel the weight too much, thanks to the wheels.
Color is not a deal breaker to many, but this one gives you several options: crimson, black (all time favorite) and hunter green. The material is 100% nylon, and so you can wipe it clean even when you don’t want to wash it. The maker gives you a lifetime warranty that covers airline damage. Nylon is so resilient that it defies moisture and regular tear. It may be a tad costly, but we certainly think it is worth it, seeing as it could last you several years.
Now, let’s talk room. An expert packer will fit enough for a week in this luggage. The handle is positioned in such a way that it does not take in too much space that would have been reserved for your items. The main compartment is huge with no pockets, which is how you are able to fit in so much.
On the side, you have the ‘suit compartment’ that leaves your clothes wrinkle-free, saving you time and money. Laptops and books will fit in here too if you don’t need it for suits. The compartment is not lined ideally for a laptop, but that’s why you have a laptop case.
The zips work perfectly, especially the main compartment zipper, but we found a little hitch with the secondary compartment’s zipper. It needs a bit of effort to zip, but you we hope it gets easier with time. The handle unlocks well, and the two wheels will never let you down even on gravel. This is Briggs, after all!
The material is practically indestructible
The maker gives it a lifetime guarantee that covers airline damage
It is roomy, and the main zipper works like a charm
We like the color choices
The handle ‘jams’ at times, failing to lock to the standard height
The expansion zipper does not operate as smoothly as that of the main compartment
7. Delsey Luggage Chatelet Hard 21-inch Carry on 4 Wheel Spinner Review:
Champagne: that’s one of the colors of this luggage, and just like the drink, it oozes charm and class. Well, it comes in black, brown, and chocolate/tan if champagne is not your color. It actually looks more expensive than it is. The side handles parts of the body are lined with brown, while the four wheels enable it to slide comfortably on concrete floors.
The material, 100% Virgin Polycarbonate is moisture and tear resistant. It has a fabric lining that goes a long way to preventing damage from the things inside. The clear color catches dirt easily, but it dries fast when washed and you can always wipe it clean too. We questioned several owners and found that the material handles poor handling quite well, and so it will not tear under normal circumstances.
The wheels are great because they glide well on tarmac. You can try your luck on gravel, but I’d be careful not to ruin them. The lock system is the best thing seeing as it stops the two front wheels on their track. You activate the brakes with a button on the main handle. The back wheels will still be active even when you lock the front ones.
The luggage has two roomy compartments. The main one is large and open, allowing you to pack as many clothes as your skills will allow you. We can confidently say it will fit clothes for three days if you are taking it on a business trip. Here, you have straps to hold the items down and minimize movements when traveling. A cover separates the compartment that ushers in the second compartment.
The secondary chamber is smaller than the primary one, but it too has straps for minimized movement. The interior is a bold crimson red which is so different from the usual black and dull colors. You have a bonus hanger for your suits and two organizer bags matching the interior part.
This luggage has a TSA approved lock to keep your luggage secure as well as in its place without ruining the system. The maker gives it a 10-year limited warranty. It measures 20.25 x 14.25 x 9.5 and weighs 8lbs.
Beautiful, classy colors and a bold interior
The four wheels glide effortlessly, and the two front ones have an excellent locking system
It catches dirt easily
It is a tad pricey
8. Osprey Ozone 22″/46L Wheeled Luggage Review:
Blue is only one of four colors that this luggage comes in, and the material, 210D Nylon makes it stand out. When you look at first glance, the material looks light, but a closer glance will tell you otherwise. It has handles from three angles; the top, back, and on the side, making it easy to grab from any side.
The main handle at the front is straight, which makes it unique from the rest. Your lock is on the main handle. The main compartment will fit clothes for three days to a week depending on what you carry. The luggage’s shape works in its favor, and the placing of the handles makes all the difference.
The main compartment is quite roomy seeing as no other smaller compartments are invading it. It does not have a separation for suits, but the straps keep clothes and other items from being moved during travel. The other compartment at the top of the luggage is not so large, and it is not properly lined for laptops unless you protect it with a special case. However, it is lined for your documents, newspapers, books, and toiletries.
You have three TSA-approved travel zippers that all lock well and protect your stuff from theft. Oh, we forgot to mention the dimensions: 9 x 14 x 22 inches and slightly over 4lbs heavy. It’s just the perfect size for international and local travel. The material is surprisingly light, and you could be forgiven for thinking it would not weather the storm, but vinyl is no pushover.
The lightweight aluminum frame is not complete without two wheels that glide smoothly when you pull it around. They do not lock, but then again you don’t need that feature with two wheels, no? The wheels have hidden bearings that allow you to negotiate corners quickly.
The colors do not show dirt easily, but even when it does, a wet cloth will work adequately. The shape is somehow oval, and so you cannot lay your clothes flat, and this eats a little into the available space. Still, you have enough room.
Indestructible lightweight material
Great colors choices that hardly show dirt
The ideal size and weight for international and domestic travel
Dries fast when washed
Some people think it’s not roomy enough
The secondary compartment is too small
9. Vera Bradley Weekender Carry-On Bag Review:
A little color never hurt anyone, no? It brings out the girl in you! Well, this carry-on luggage has lots of color seeing as its floral and happy. It is not all that large at 12.5″ x 18.5″ x 7.5″, but then again it is not meant for the main items such as clothes. This bag fits perfectly on top of your luggage, and the interior lining will allow you to carry some sensitive items.
The bag is not only cute, but it has a trolley sleeve to make carrying through the airport much easier. It is practically weightless and foldable you will fit it effortlessly in an overhead bin or under the seat. While the bright color may catch dirt much faster, the fabric is washable, and it dries with ease. You can either machine wash (cold) or hand-wash it, and it will remain as good as new.
The interior of the Vera Bradley Weekender is roomier than you would think, and it has five pockets to fit various items. You can even fit your laptop as long as you protect it properly seeing as the lining is not padded enough for such. It has one large pocket at the front and just under the magnetic front, and then on the side, you have two sizeable ones.
How do you carry it around? It has a large strap that you can sling across, or you can place it on top of your luggage. While it is not exactly small, it folds nicely to fit into your other luggage when you don’t need it.
The floral pattern of this bag will attract color lovers. Its soft material wears well, but you do not want to scrub it too harshly during washing. Does the material stain? Well, it does, but it also cleans easily, thanks to its softness. If you are creative with your packing and don’t mind wrinkles on your clothes, you can pack enough for a weekend.
Easy to wash and dry
It has five compartments and a roomy interior
We love the trolley sleeve in this version
A bit pricey for its size
Some feel it is too big to sling on your shoulder
How to Choose the Best Carry-On luggage – Buying Guide:
We aim to provide you with information about all of the best luggage brands and the best carry on luggage around! Whether you take a weekend trip once a year or you travel the world year round and check in periodically at home, we can help you find the best luggage for your travels.
Carry on bags, rolling bags, hard shell bags, large capacity bags; there is a huge variety of choices, and we can help you figure out what you need.
We have a few basic and general recommendations. These ideas are where we like to start, and we think that people can customize from there.
Rule 1: Take Only Carry-On Luggage
It is not always possible, depending on your situation and travel destination, but it should always be your goal.
For example, when you travel with little kids, you will have to check your bags because all the space in your carry on will be used for all of the paraphernalia needed by them (diapers, snacks, spare clothes, toys, etc.)
Whenever you travel alone though, you will always be able to pack all of your belongings for the trip in a carry-on bag and a personal item (this varies, but will be either a large purse, a tote bag, or a laptop bag).
Get the best carry-on suitcase you can, and it will eliminate a whole slew of worries that other travelers have to deal with.
Rule 2: Pack Light!
Learning how to pack lightly and efficiently is one of the best skills you can learn. It makes your travel smoother, easier, and cheaper. This goes hand in hand with rule 1. And in fact, if you can’t accomplish Rule 1, then Rule 2 will prove very tough. It sounds so simple but it is actually difficult!
Everyone seems to have the ingrained impulse to add just one more shirt or just one more pair of socks to make sure to cover all contingencies. People also appear to want to pack a lot of just in case options. The problem is that all of those I might use these items take up a lot of extra space. And even worse they are almost always unnecessary!
You should pack only the things you *know* you will need. If you find yourself without something that you need you can usually buy it at your destination, or buy something that will serve the same purpose. In the worst case, you can just do without and count it as a travel experience.
Obviously, this advice is not appropriate for medications or health care items but clothing, footwear, jackets, accessories, gadgets? Absolutely! Sometimes it is also useful to purchase specialty items that are designed to be light and pack up into a small space.
This second rule helps you to pare down your belongings to just the stuff you really need to take. It helps you to make choices and minimize. It saves you time and money at the airport (no standing in lines to check baggage and then pay for the privilege, and no standing around the baggage carousel waiting to pick up your stuff at your destination airport). It makes it easier to use public transportation because it is far easier to bring a carry on bag onto a bus or a train than it is to wrestle with large bags.
Now that we have given you a brief idea of the size of the bag you will need to bring, we will help guide you to the selection of your ideal bag! Samsonite, Delsey, and Travelpro are some of our favorite brands because they provide high-quality luggage at affordable prices.
Types of Luggage:
Hopefully, we have convinced you about the benefits of choosing a carry-on suitcase. But once you have done so, there are still a lot of choices to make!
These bags have a hard exterior, generally made out of a plastic composite. They do the best job of protecting your belongings (far more than a bag with an exterior made of fabric). They are also less flexible and generally heavier.
This is the most popular type of bag. These bags are made of durable fabric that is usually resistant to water and stains. Often, these bags are expandable typically via a zipper that allows that bag to expand an inch or two in height.
This might not sound like much, but it can make a world of difference when you need to squeeze in a few souvenirs into an already full bag!
Backpack vs. Wheels:
You will need to choose whether you want a backpack style bag or whether you want a more traditional luggage with wheels. The wheeled luggage is much easier on your back and wrists.
A backpack style requires you to carry all of the weight, but it can be a lot more flexible regarding maneuverability. Stairs? No problem! Charming bumpy cobbled streets in an old European town? No big deal!
I prefer wheels, myself, but young fit people who often find themselves roughing it might prefer a backpack.
If you do choose a wheeled style, give some thought to investing in a spinner bag. The less expensive bags have two wheels that obviously roll when the bag is pulled. A spinner suitcase has 4 wheels that rotate 360 degrees this makes the bag a breeze to maneuver in almost any situation.
Be careful though a spinner bag can sometimes scoot away from you if its upright on public transportation! I once had a bag roll halfway down the aisle of a bus in Geneva after that I learned my lesson to put my bag on its side, or to make sure to keep a good hold on it in that type of situation.
How Much Should You Spend?
Bag prices vary a ton based on style, function, material, brand, etc. An infrequent traveler looking for a functional yet affordable bag can find one for $100-$150.
More frequent travelers or people wanting a higher quality bag with more features can expect to spend somewhere between $150-$300.
Extremely frequent travelers and individuals who want the top of the line bags can expect to pay as much more as they are comfortable with. A lot of great bags are in the $300-$500 range, but above that, we think you are probably paying mostly for a name and less for quality and function.
What To Pack:
Now you have made the great decision to take a carry on bag, and you have learned about the choices you have when purchasing luggage. The next step is to learn exactly what things you should pack! You might find the thought of packing all of your stuff in a small bag daunting, but have no fear, we are here to help.
First, choose a base color for your wardrobe. It might be black, navy, brown, or beige but pick one color that everything else you choose will go with. You want one consistent palette so that you can maximize your outfit choices from the pieces you decide to bring.
Here is my basic clothing list. I always start with this and alter it slightly depending on the season and my destination. Browsing some capsule wardrobes on Pinterest is a great way to get some inspiration.
- 1-2 solid color casual dresses in a comfortable, washable fabric. These can ideally be worn with sandals or casual shoes during the day or dressed up with a statement necklace and ballet flats in the evening. I almost always bring a knee length black wrap dress and/or a knee length black sheath dress.
- 1-2 pairs of capris or pants. I usually like 1 pair of jeans and 1 pair of black capris.
- 2-3 short sleeved tops. I like to bring one white and two more colorful choices.
- 1 sweater or cardigan.
- 1 coat or jacket.
- 1 pair of yoga pants + 1 tee shirt (for use as pajamas or workout/active wear).
- 1 pair of casual leather sandals.
- 1 pair of athletic shoes.
- 1 pair of ballet flats.
When traveling, I will wear jeans, my athletic shoes, and my coat since they are the bulkiest items. I also find that a comfortable travel uniform.
How To Pack:
If you want to know How To Pack Over 100 Items Into a Carry On, you need to watch the video below of adventurer Rachel Grant where she packs a year worth of clothes in a Biaggi Zipsak foldable suitcase. She also provides some excellent packing tips such as using space-saving packing cubes.
Whether you are packing for vacation, traveling for a week, a month, or a year, Rachel will show you how to pack light and make the most of your carry on space. Learn how to pack a suitcase the right way:
Here are the best tips on how to pack your belongings into your carry on bag from the video:
- Roll clothes to save space
- Stuff shoes with folded sock balls. This also helps keep the shoe’s shape
- Use rubber bands to keep your shoes compressed and together
- Fold similarly shaped clothes together
- Always pick lightweight fabrics for your clothes
- Use packing cubes to keep your clothes compressed and organized
- Put heavier items at the bottom of the bag
- And that is it. Safe travels!
I Hope you have picked your favorite carry-on to buy from our top picks and Happy travels!