Is checking in luggage a hassle you can do without when you fly? Long lines, excess fees, and the chance of lost luggage mean that more of us are opting to travel with only carry-on luggage. There are many options for carry-on luggage, like suitcases, duffel bags, backpacks, and more, so we made a list of our 10 favorite options to help you find the bag you need for your upcoming trip.
We've looked through a wide variety of options and found Coolife's Luggage Suitcase to be our favorite since it's durable, can be pulled in any direction, and has plenty of pockets. We also have a buying guide and a 10 list to help you choose your favorite option from the bunch.
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With so many options for carry-on luggage, it can be hard to choose the right one. It all depends on your physical condition, where you’ll be traveling to, and what your comfort preferences are.
The most common maximum dimensions for carry-on bags are 9 x 14 x 22 inches. This includes the handles and wheels. However, sizes can vary by airline or even airplane type so always check before you fly. Budget airlines often have much smaller limitations, for example. Some may even have weight restrictions, such as Frontier having a 35-pound weight limit.
If you prefer not to put your bag in the overhead storage or want to keep your personal items at hand, you can store it beneath the seat in front of you instead. These spaces are typically smaller than the overhead compartments, however, so not all carry-on luggage will fit under your seat.
This is especially the case with hardshell luggage. If under-seat storage is important to you, we would suggest prioritizing soft luggage and backpacks. These are typically smaller and can often be squashed into tight spaces such as under a seat.
When you look into carry-on luggage sizes, you should also consider what works for you. This is especially the case if you have any physical limitations that affect how much weight you can carry.
If you have any back problems, then a rolling suitcase that has as much maneuverability as possible is a better choice than a backpack. Even though they're bigger, you won't have the weight on your back and can instead pull or push your suitcase. You may also want to go with a smaller one that can fit under the seat, so you don't have to use the overhead storage.
Backpacks may be better for others who prefer to have their hands free and don't want to deal with the hassle of dragging a suitcase with them. If you do opt for a backpack, make sure it has comfortable straps that are wide and well-cushioned. Some larger backpacks might have a waist or chest strap too, which can also help to distribute the weight equally.
Depending on your destination and your method of travel, there may be a type of bag that suits your circumstances better than others.
Small suitcases are very popular as carry-on luggage, so you're bound to have multiple options if you opt for one of these. They're gentler on your back than a backpack but struggle with uneven surfaces. They're made for city and resort breaks instead of hiking through mountains!
A hardshell suitcase will protect your belongings and prevent them from becoming squashed or wrinkled if you packed them well. They allow you to make the most of your case space and can generally hold more than a backpack.
Be aware of how heavy the suitcase is before you purchase it. Some suitcases, especially the hardshell type, can weigh several pounds even while empty. You may not need to carry these bags on your back, but you will still need to navigate weight limits and stairs with them.
Rolling carry-on backpacks give you the option of either pulling the bag like a suitcase or wearing it like a backpack. You can pull the bag along when you're walking through a smooth airport and wear it when navigating stairs or rough streets.
Rolling backpacks usually have a handle to pull them, so they're more structured than regular backpacks. They might have metal rods down the back for the handle to push into when not in use, so you may find them to be uncomfortable if worn for extended periods. Their wheels are often not as sturdy and maneuverable as suitcases, either.
Some carry-on backpacks with wheels come with a zip-off day pack. This can either be separated and worn as a backpack on its own or left on the larger back to increase its capacity.
The duffle bag straps and material should be as resilient as possible. Many duffle bags use materials such as polyurethane fabrics which are water-resistant and durable. Keep this in mind if you may run into bad weather on your trip.
If you know you're going to walk for long periods of time, you'll need a bag that can be carried. A traditional duffel without wheels is usually lighter and more mobile but often comes with a single shoulder strap which can strain your back after a while.
As with any other carry-on luggage, you'll need to stick within the size limitations. Also, like backpacks, most airlines won't allow you to exceed a maximum capacity of 40 liters. Duffel bags can fit under your seats while giving you easy access to your belongings.
As you look at suitcases, you'll notice some come with spinner wheels while others have in-line ones. Spinner wheels can turn 360-degrees, so you can spin them in any direction. This gives you solid maneuverability with your suitcase. However, spinner wheels have a hard time with uneven surfaces since the bumps can knock them off course.
In-line wheels remain fixed on one spot, so the wheels can only go forward or backward. While they require more effort to maneuver, they have an easier time going over uneven terrain.
If you plan to spend most of your time indoors or on smooth streets, you could go with spinner wheels. On the other hand, you may want in-line wheels if you plan to go hiking or walk on rougher surfaces.
One great advantage that carry-on luggage has over checked luggage is that it's always with you. You have the option of dipping into your carry-on to pull out something if you need it. This can be made even easier if your carry-on has easy access pockets.
Backpacks and softshell suitcases typically have several pockets, so you can keep important belongings in reach. Whether it's a water bottle, book, or electronic device, you can easily access them without having to open the main compartment.
Hardshell cases don't generally have pockets on the outside, but can have easy access pockets inside. You might need to open the case fully, but many have mesh dividers with pockets that can just as easily hold something you need.
Although carry-on luggage is always with you, it's still at risk from thieves. Airports are busy places with thousands of people walking through them daily. When you consider the stresses and strains of traveling added to the mix, it's easy for thieves to take advantage of a distracted passenger.
Many suitcases and even backpacks have a combination lock to secure the zippers. However, it's generally just the main compartments that have this feature and not any side pockets. Make sure that you don't put anything of value in an unsecured pocket.
If your backpack or suitcase doesn't have a combination lock or padlock included, you should consider investing in some. They can be bought in many places, including the airport itself, so you can keep your belongings safe.
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Luggage Expandable Suitcase
Best Carry-on for Durability and Security
Disney Softside Luggage
Best Duffel With Quick Access to Belongings
Evercat Candidate Duffel Bag
Best for Long-Lasting Luggage
Hardside Carry-On Spinner Suitcase
Best Lightweight Duffel With Wheels
Rolling Duffel Bag
Best Rolling Backpack With Plenty of Compartments
Underseat Carry-On Spinner
Best Hard Case for Keeping Belongings Secure
Best Carry-Only Duffel Bag for Travel
Softside Expandable Carry-On
Best Soft-Sided Luggage With Chic Designs
Travel Laptop Backpack
Best Duffel With Ventilation and Different Carrying Options
Moonlight Hardside Luggage
Best Rolling Bag for Light Packing and Business Trips
This Coolife hard carry-on suitcase comes with multiple mesh pockets and organizers to make storage easier. The three-digit lock also provides plenty of protection to prevent people from opening the luggage.
Some reviewers weren't happy the luggage couldn't expand, so they couldn't stuff it with more belongings. On the bright side, various reviewers appreciated the lock included with the luggage. They also liked the hard case since it added durability.
This Rockland duffel bag uses a u-shaped zipper on the top rather than the traditional straight-line zipper, so you can stuff more belongings in there and the zipper won't break. It also includes Velcro-wrapped handles for easier carrying, a ton of pockets, and different ways to carry it.
A couple of reviewers had problems with the material ripping or tearing on them near the pockets or along the zippers. Despite that point, quite a few reviewers liked that they could easily fit the duffel bag under airplane seats. They also appreciated the zippers, saying they were sturdy.
This hard carry-on bag from Samsonite can protect your belongings from physical damage and theft with its durable material and lock features. It also has four double spinner wheels for easy movement and an extendable handle to help you transport the bag easily.
A couple of reviewers noticed some issues with the handle, saying it was flimsy and would come off easily. Nevertheless, a good deal of reviewers loved how the outer shell was durable and held up as they traveled. They also appreciated how they could expand the thickness to store more belongings.
This is a lightweight duffel bag, so it will end up weighing less than other options on our list as you fill it up. The additional pockets also make it convenient to store and organize your various belongings, and the extendable handle and wheels make it perfect for airport travel.
Some reviewers had problems with the handle getting stuck in its up position after a while. Despite that point, more than a few reviewers appreciated the number of pockets in the duffel. They also said it was easy to transport due to the lightweight design.
This one has plenty of pockets with dividers in them to make organized storage easy. It also has a hard bottom to provide waterproofing, and it's available in two different sizes.
A couple of reviewers had problems with the wheels breaking on them after a few weeks or months. Nevertheless, a plethora of reviewers appreciated the sturdy and durable material included with the backpack. They also loved how it had plenty of space.
This Kensie suitcase includes a TSA-approved three-digit lock to keep the belongings safe. It also has a hard shell to prevent both the case and belongings inside from breaking while also including the option to expand the storage space.
A few reviewers said the zippers were breaking after they used the suitcase a few times. On the bright side, loads of reviewers appreciated the durable case and space. They also appreciated the wheels that allowed them to move the suitcase without any issues.
This duffel bag makes stands out since it's made of durable, natural canvas rather than plastic-based materials. It also has padding on the straps and handles to make carrying more comfortable.
Some reviewers had problems with the duffel bag ripping or coming undone at the seams. However, a good deal of reviewers loved its storage size, noting it could hold tons of clothes. They also liked that the bag had excellent canvas material that held up well.
This one includes tons of pockets, as well as spinner wheels to make your trip as convenient as possible. It also has tabs on the zippers, so you can easily grab them whenever you need to open your suitcase.
A few reviewers said this one had a chemical-like smell upon arrival, so you might want to air it out before your trip. However, more than a few reviewers appreciated the wheels since they rolled smoothly making transportation easier. They also liked how it had plenty of pockets for them to store their belongings.
This duffel focuses on providing tons of space for storage since the soft plastic can expand to store more in it. It also includes plenty of straps, so you can carry the bag however you want. The air vents also mean your belongings won't get too stuffy.
A few reviewers said the plastic material was too weak, so it would break and tear at times. On the other hand, a good deal of reviewers said the duffel bag had plenty of room for their belongings. They also said the bag was great for travelers since it's easy to use and grab.
This is a smaller luggage item allowing people to store their necessities like laptops and small gadgets for shorter business trips. It even includes plenty of compartments and pockets to make organization easier for people, and the straps inside will keep your belongings secure even in its upright position.
A few reviewers noted the bag was top-heavy and would fall over when full On the other hand, a good deal of reviewers appreciated how it had enough space to fit laptops in it. They also loved how it was easy to take on a trip.
Lots of outdoor companies make backpacks in different sizes for traveling. A backpack gives you more freedom of movement and is suitable whether you're walking through a flat and smooth airport terminal or a rough hiking trail. Backpacks also give you quicker and easier access to your belongings than many suitcases do.
One of the biggest problems of a backpack is carrying all the weight on your back. As stated earlier, make sure the backpack has comfortable straps and has well-distributed weight. Some backpacks have more structured and hardened shapes and these can dig into you after a period of time.
If you're going to be doing a lot of walking with your backpack, opt for softer bags. They're gentler on your back and usually weigh less in their own right!
We have some more recommendations for products that will make your travels easier. No matter where you go, make sure you're only bringing the best with you!
If you're not satisfied with our choices, see what the people on Amazon have to say! You might even recognize a few options from our list.
No. 1: Coolife｜Luggage Expandable Suitcase
No. 2: Rockland｜Disney Softside Luggage
No. 3: Samsonite｜Evercat Candidate Duffel Bag
No. 4: Fila｜Hardside Carry-On Spinner Suitcase
No. 5: Matein｜Rolling Duffel Bag
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