Carry on luggage is the “new thing.” You can keep all of your belongings safely with you throughout the flight. You don’t have to worry about lost luggage or standing in a line hoping your bag is on the tarmac instead of at a different airport miles away.
There are also savings involved with a carry on suitcase. There are assorted fees when you check your luggage at the gate. While hand luggage brought onto an airplane is possibly subject to fees, it’s certainly cheaper than the alternative of checking luggage.
You will save money with carry-on luggage if you can keep it under the airline’s weight limit. It’s also nice being able to skip the insanity at the baggage terminal. Smart packers will also realize that they can fit a lot more than they thought into a carry-on bag. Carry on luggage does have its advantages. It will simplify things during travel. However, it only applies when you have the right luggage. You don’t want to be that passenger whose clothes are exploding out of a small suitcase.
Before you head off on your next trip, take a look at your luggage. Does your carry-on bag work for you, or is it a pain to pack? When it’s time to replace your luggage with something more functional, here are a few tips to consider.
International vs. Domestic Carry-on Bag Sizes
The best way to avoid carry-on luggage fees is to follow the airline’s guidelines. There are size restrictions for suitcases, and it can vary depending on if you’re flying in-country or overseas. Airlines do list their weight and size restrictions for international and domestic carry on suitcases. It’s also easy to check on the airline’s website. Look under luggage information.
International flights are stricter when it comes to size limits. Try to keep your suitcase at 21-inches. It fits easily into an overhead storage bin without taking up space reserved for your seatmate. Domestic flights will give you a little more leeway if your suitcase is slightly oversized, but it’s still a good idea to stay within the size restrictions.
Fully booked flights mean less room for luggage that won’t fit under a seat or takes up most of the overhead compartment space. To avoid your carry on being sent to checked luggage, and the added fee, look for suitcases that measure 22” X 14” X 9”. You won’t have any problems getting your luggage through the boarding gate and onto the plane.
Soft Side vs. Hard Side Carry-on Suitcases
There are advantages to both soft side and hard side carry on luggage. You’ll also find a few downsides. It comes down to your preferences and even what you’re packing. Soft side suitcases do weigh less, and this is always a plus. No one wants to lug a heavy suitcase around. You also get a little more room since the material has a little give.
Hard-sided suitcases are heavier, but they’re also sturdier. The hard sides also provide better protection than soft-sided luggage. You’ll also find that hard side carry-ons last longer. The bags are designed to withstand normal wear and tear.
Spinner vs. Two-Wheel Carry-on Suitcases
You do get a little more packing space with a two-wheel carry-on suitcase. Extend the handle, tip the bag back a little, and you’re ready to wheel it down the concourse. You do lose a little space with a spinner suitcase. It comes with 4 wheels, instead of two. There is a bonus to the extra wheels. It makes the suitcase easier to maneuver down tight aisles and crowded thoroughfares.
How to Know If Your Carry-on Suitcase Works for You
It’s one thing to love your luggage’s look and how everything fits inside, but this doesn’t mean that the suitcase will work for you. It’s not possible to try a suitcase out before you buy it. You can try it out at home before your next trip. If it doesn’t work, you can return it and try another piece of luggage.
Pack the suitcase at home. Try wheeling it around. Experiment with corners and tight spaces. You’ll encounter these situations in your travels. You also want to pick the suitcase up. You’ll have to carry it up and down flights of stairs. If it’s too heavy to pick up comfortably, you’ll have problems getting it into the overhead bin.
Another good idea is to familiarize yourself with the various pockets and compartments. Your suitcase comes with plenty of them. Along with checking out any features, you also want to look at the construction. You don’t want your new suitcase to fall apart in the middle of a busy airport.
Our 9 Best Carry On Luggage Picks of 2021 for You
There’s not a shortage of carry-on suitcases to choose from, but some are better than others. Here’s a look at this year’s best picks for carry-on bags.
- Best Hardside Carry-on: Briggs & Riley Sympatico Expandable 21-Inch Luggage
- Best Softside Carry-on: Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-Inch Expandable Spinner
- Best Carry-on Spinner: Chester: Minima 22” x 14” x 9” Carry-on Luggage
- Best Two-Wheel Rollaboard Carry-on: Briggs & Riley Commuter Expandable Upright (Two-Wheel)
- Best Lightweight Carry-on: Briggs & Riley Expandable 22-Inch Luggage
- Best Large Carry-on: Delsey Paris Turenne 21-Inch Spinner
- Best Affordable Carry-on: AmazonBasics 21-Inch Spinner
- Best Underseat Carry-on: Travelpro Maxlite 15-inch Underseat Carry-on
- Best International Carry-on: Tumi – Alpha 3 Expandable 22-Inch Spinner
The sleek-looking carry-on luggage is lightweight and durable. It comes with a 3-layer polycarbonate construction that can take a beating. The bag is designed to expand 2.5 inches, so you get more packing room, and then compress back down to standard carry-on size.
Worried about wrinkled clothes? The interior compression straps keep everything neatly folded and in place. Your belongings are still organized after the trip. It’s a spinner suitcase, so getting through tight spaces is a breeze. The four rubber wheels roll smoothly and easily. You won’t be that person struggling with your suitcase in the airport.
Measuring 21” x 15” X 9”, you’re good to go in most overhead bins. It does expand to fit more gear, but you want to watch this on international flights. The space for an extra outfit is nice, but there are strict weight and size limits when you’re bringing a carry-on with you on an international flight. You also don’t have to worry about replacing your luggage. It comes with a lifetime warranty that covers damage by airlines and other non-normal wear and tear issues.
For current pricing, click here: Briggs & Riley Sympatico
Best Softside Carry-on: Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-Inch Expandable SpinnerHere
Weighing only 7.8 lbs, before packed, you won’t strain a muscle tossing the carry-on in the overhead compartment. The Platinum Elite is designed for travelers. It even comes with a handy USB port and power bank pocket. You can keep your devices charged while you’re waiting for boarding to begin. Both meet FAA regulations, so you won’t have any problems during check-in.
You can expand the suitcase a couple of inches, just enough for that extra pair of shoes. There are two TSA approved water and stain proof pockets on the outside. Ideal for toiletries and other accessories. There’s a tie-down system inside the case that holds your clothes in place. You won’t have to find an iron to smooth out the accumulated wrinkles.
Maneuvering the carry-on doesn’t involve a struggle. The collapsible leather-wrapped handle is non-slip and comfortable to grip. The four spinner wheels are designed to roll smoothly and effortlessly. They’re all part of the precision glide system. You can manage any turn or narrow space without worrying about bumping into a fellow traveler.
There are six color options to choose from that include a deep burgundy and navy blue. It will help your luggage stand out amidst the blacks bags in the bin. With a lifetime warranty, you don’t have to worry about replacing the bag if it breaks or is damaged by another passenger’s luggage.
Shop the latest pricing on Amazon: Travelpro Platinum Elite
Shop this item direct from Travelpro and receive a free gift of packing cubes ($40 value): Travelpro Platinum Elite
Best Carry-on Spinner: Chester: Minima 22” x 14” x 9” Carry-on Luggage
Getting through the airplane cabin with a suitcase in tow is never easy. There’s always something in the way. With four multi-directional wheels, you won’t have any problems getting effortlessly through tight spaces.
Along with easy maneuverability, the lightweight suitcase comes with an ergonomic telescoping handle. You get two locking positions, making the luggage perfect for travelers at any height. To make tossing the hard case suitcase easy into an overhead bin, there’s a top and side handle. Retract the main handle and use the soft side and top one to get the bag in and out of the bin.
The hard-sided suitcase may only weigh 7lbs, but it’s surprisingly durable. Constructed from Makrolon polycarbonate, it’s more durable and lighter than aluminum. You’ll also love how easy it is to wipe clean. Your suitcase will always look new.
Durability and easy handling are great, but you bought the suitcase for storage. You’ll be amazed at what you can fit inside and still find everything organized. There are two compartments, along with three small interior pockets. You won’t have a problem finding anything you packed. While there aren’t any straps to hold belongings in place, it’s not a problem. The separate compartments keep everything neat and organized.
For current pricing, click here: Minima Carry-On
Best Two-Wheel Rollaboard Carry-on: Briggs & Riley Commuter Expandable Upright (Two-Wheel)
You won’t find anything to complain about with the Briggs & Riley Commuter Luggage. It’s great for short, overnight trips and longer excursions overseas. A lot is going on with the suitcase’s exterior features. The soft side carry-on boasts a lightweight and durable fiberglass frame. Its flexibility helps the frame keep its shape, so your suitcase looks great no matter how many times it’s bumped and kicked.
The outer nylon fabric is dirt and moisture resistant. It also withstands most normal wear and tear. Your suitcase is designed to last for a lifetime of travel. The two wheels provide a smooth ride, and their low-profile design ensures they’ll fit in most overhead luggage bins. To give you plenty of comfortable control, the aluminum handle has three locking heights. Worried about getting the suitcase into a bin? It comes with a retractable side handle.
Along with an ID tag you can hide to protect your personal information, there are two outside pockets. One is designed for easy access. Perfect at security checkpoints. The larger zippered pocket is ideal for storing extra items you might need on the flight.
Inside the suitcase, you’ll find garment panels you can cinch in place. It will keep your clothes neat inside, along with other belongings. The suitcase is small at 19” X 14” X 9”, but it also expands up to 33%. While you don’t want to go over the airline’s maximum carry-on size, a little more space is always helpful when you don’t know what to pack.
Check out the latest pricing here: Briggs & Riley Commuter Upright
Best Lightweight Carry-on: Briggs & Riley Expandable 22-Inch Luggage
The weight of your luggage is important. It determines if it’s a carry-on and how easily you can maneuver it around. Weighing slightly over 9lbs, this expandable suitcase won’t overstrain you when you lift it. As a bonus, it also functions as a nesting bag with larger Briggs & Riley luggage. It makes for easier storage when you’re not using the suitcases.
You don’t have to worry about someone getting into your luggage. It comes with a double lockable zipper. The included lock is TSA approved, so you won’t have any trouble at the gate. There’s also a pocket designed to hold items TSA will want to look at. Designed for easy access, you won’t hold others up waiting to get through screening.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a small or gigantic airport, getting around other travelers is never a straight shot to your gate. There’s also the problem of getting down the plan’s aisle to your seat. The narrow design was created for easy maneuverability. With four spinner wheels and a four-point locking handle, you won’t have any problems with control. Add in the hybrid fiberglass frame and nylon fabric, and you have a lightweight and durable suitcase that’s easy to control.
It does only measure 22-inches. It might not look like you can fit a lot in there, but you’ll be surprised. It can expand up to 25% for additional packing space. You can also compress the bag down when you’re only using it for a night or two. Inside, you get a garment carrier. Perfect for easily wrinkled items. There are also compression straps to keep the carrier in place. Your clothes will look like they were freshly pressed out of the suitcase.
Shop this item here: Briggs & Riley Expandable
Best Large Carry-on: Delsey Paris Turenne 21-Inch Spinner
When you want to protect your belongings, a hard side suitcase is best. Fabric doesn’t provide the protection you want. Constructed from polycarbonate, the suitcase can survive any bumps and knocks it gets in the airport. While the luggage does have a sturdy construction, it’s also lightweight. At 4.8lbs, and with the side handle, you can easily get it up in an overhead bin.
Navigating busy airports and crowded aisles is a breeze. With four multi-directional wheels, and a sturdy base, you’ll easily make it through a cramped situation. Recessed into the front of the carry-on is a three-digit lock. TSA approved it keeps your belongings safe from nosey fellow passengers.
For additional safety, there’s a patented outer zipper. It’s three times more resistant to tampering than standard suitcase zippers. You don’t have to worry about the zipper breaking when you’re opening the suitcase, or it splitting open during the flight.
You don’t have exterior pockets, but it doesn’t mean you’re limited in space. The lined interior has two compartments, along with zippered dividers. It keeps your items organized without shuffling around. There are also two bags for shoes, along with one for laundry. Your clothes will stay clean no matter what you pack inside.
You can find current pricing here: Desley Paris Turenne
Best Affordable Carry-on: AmazonBasics 21-Inch Spinner
You can get everything you want in a carry-on at a price that won’t blow your budget. Functionality, professional design, and durability all come with the AmazonBasics 21-Inch Spinner.
It only weighs 6.9lbs, making it one of the lighter hard case carry-on bags. Its outer casing is polycarbonate. It’s lightweight and durable. The lockable zipper meets TSA guidelines. It’s also a breeze to set the code. To open the suitcase, press “000”. Open and shut the bag, then reset the three-digit code. Slide the lock button forward, and your suitcase is locked.
It is a spinner suitcase, so great maneuverability isn’t surprising. The four rubber wheels glide smoothly over any surface. Since they’re spinners, you can easily handle tight turns and sudden weaves through airport traffic. There’s a soft-top handle for easy lifting. There’s also a hard, retractable handle for pulling the suitcase along.
When it comes to the interior room, you won’t be disappointed. You can shove up to 39L or 85.9lbs into the carry-on. The interior is lined and divided into double compartments. There’s a zippered interior pocket, and three smaller zippered ones. You can keep everything secure and organized. Whenever you need a little extra space, the suitcase expands 15%.
For the latest pricing, click here: Amazon Basics
Best Underseat Carry-on: Travelpro Maxlite 15-inch Underseat Carry-on
Overhead bin space is limited on airplanes. Chances are you’re not going to find one by your seat. If you want to keep your suitcase close by, using an under the seat carry-on is best. The Maxlite is a compact 15” bag. It’s also lightweight at 5.5lbs. You can easily fit it under your seat and carry it through the airport.
There are only two wheels, but their inline skate design ensures performance. You can tackle anything from bumps to sudden turns. The collapsible handle is ergonomically designed. You’ll have a comfortable grip and complete control when you’re winding your way to the departure gate.
Even though it’s a lightweight suitcase, it can still take a beating. The polyester fabric doesn’t rip or tear easily. The zippers are resistant to breaking, along with the pulls. You won’t have any problems opening and closing the suitcase. The fabric is also water and stain resistant, so your clothes will look the same as they went in.
It is a small carry-on, but you can fit plenty inside. There’s a large interior pocket, with several built-in ones. They’re perfect for keeping your essentials organized. There is also a removable pocket for wet items. Shampoo and other liquid items won’t leak out onto your clothes. On the outside of the bag, there’s a padded pocket for an electronic device.
Shop this item from Amazon: Maxlite 15-inch Underseat
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Best International Carry-on: Tumi – Alpha 3 Expandable 22-Inch Spinner
International travel is stressful, especially when you’re hoping your luggage keeps up. Having a carry-on with all of the basics will keep you going when your checked baggage is temporarily lost.
The Alpha 3 expandable carry-on is a fantastic choice for international trips. It compresses to a small size that slips easily underneath seats. The suitcase also expands when you’re going on a longer trip. Weighing 10.9lbs, it also won’t break your back tossing the bag into an overhead bin.
The side panels are impact-resistant. There are also sturdy bumper rails. The nylon fabric is resistant to tears and rips. It’s a durable soft-sided carry-on. Even the telescoping handling is designed for durability. It’s constructed from aluminum and has three locking stages. You also have soft retractable handles on the sides and top of the suitcase.
Keeping your belongings secure isn’t a problem. Along with durable zippers, the suitcase has an integrated lock. TSA approved, it locks both the front and main zippered compartments. It’s a three-digit code you set, and it’s easy to unlock.
You have plenty of room to pack more than you need. There’s a zippered compartment that expands the bag 2”. You’ll also find a garment bag, along with multiple zippered pockets. The suitcase makes it easy to keep everything organized. There’s also a mesh outer pocket. It’s designed to hold a USB cable. There’s even a hanger bracket.
Perhaps one of the most ingenious functions of the Tumi, is the ‘Tumi Tracer’, a digital barcode on your luggage that can track lost or stolen luggage, and it’s complimentary with a purchase.
For latest pricing, click here: Tumi Alpha 3
We truly hope we have helped answer any questions you might have related to carry on luggage, whether the right carry on bag size or carry on suitcase. Owning the right piece of luggage is one step in the right direction for smooth travels. We wish you the best in your next travel adventure!!