I feel like I’ve had an interesting longterm relationship with luggage. It’s no secret that traveling most of the year means I use mine frequently. When it comes to the best carry-on luggage there are many factors to consider. For me, a good carry-on that does the job is one that works as well as it looks. It’s the kind of suitcase I want to bring with me for every occasion.
Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the “pretty” designs but ultimately, I want to make sure those wheels will last through a two-week trip. Carry-on luggage has evolved over the years and certainly, most brands are creating in only the hardshell category for these. A lot of it has to do with durability and functionality, allowing flyers to max out space inside. I
In this guide, I’m going to break down the factors to consider when choosing your carry-on, different price options, and discuss how each suitcase differs. Here’s a look at the best carry-on luggage.
Factors to Consider for the Best Carry-On Luggage for You
The first thing to look at is key differencing factors in luggage. It’s the things that matter from a regulation standpoint and a personal preference. For instance, not everyone loves two wheels and that’s okay. Each of these luggage companies does things a bit differently so here are the main factors you want to look at:
How big is your carry-on allowed to be? It may just be the number one question when it comes to travel! Each airline does have different rules but the standard domestic flight runs at 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Some airlines run smaller but this is a good standard for US flights. For Europe, the best rule of thumb is 21 inches, not 22. And yes, airlines like Vueling or EasyJet measure those things. Remember you’re also allowed one personal item in addition to your luggage.
This has frequently become a problem when flying. Ever checked in for a flight and they weigh your carry-on and it’s too heavy? Airlines are starting to implement new safety standards for carry-ons stored in the overhead compartment. Too heavy and it’s unsafe for other passengers. Some airlines run at 15 lbs and others up to 22 lbs. *Best to always check before.
Wheels and Handle
When it comes to wheels, this is a very personal preference. If you have a bad back, it is shown that a suitcase with four spinner wheels makes it easier to push. This is what I personally prefer as it glides across an airport with ease. For two wheels, you will either need to pull the bag behind or push in front. I find in the suitcase the quality is found in one main compartment: the wheels and handlebar. It’s often the first thing to breaks so this is the reviews I look for first.
Hard or soft suitcase? I always take a hard shell suitcase and here’s why. It’s almost always water-resistant. Ever arrived somewhere tropical and your suitcase is thrown up on top of a car and it starts to pour? Guess which suitcase is soaked. The same goes for when your luggage sits out on a tarmac waiting to get loaded. I’ve had it happen to me multiple times and vowed to always travel with a hard shell suitcase. I also find that it protects what is inside more. Though this is a carry-on and it should be with you, this extra level of protection is great in the long term.
There is so much tech being introduced with these fancy new suitcase companies. Here are a few features to consider:
- TSA Approved lock — I love it and the ability to lock your suitcase is wonderful when it’s built-in. I’d prefer one with more than without.
- Battery packs — it was great until they proved to be a safety risk. I’d opt to not get a suitcase with a built-in battery unless you can easily remove it as airlines are not allowing you to check a bag with a battery in it.
- GPS tracking — I’m into it, I like the idea of knowing where my luggage is if I have to check my carry-on. But not a deal-breaker.
Best Carry-On Luggage Under $100
Dimensions: 22″ x 15″ x 9.5″
Weight: 6.81 pounds
One of the highest-rated suitcases on the market and available on Amazon is this Samsonite luggage. Samsonite has been making luggage for years and is reliable when it comes to this price point. The expandable design means that if you do end up shopping on your trip, you can fill it a bit more. It also has four spinner wheels for easy tow and a non-scratch surface. It’s just at that $100 mark so keeping it in this category.
This is a good expandable suitcase.
Dimensions: 22.0″ x 14.6″ x 9.4″
Weight: 5.8 pounds
We actually have one of these American Tourister suitcases and it did the job when we lived in Europe. The pricepoint is nearly unbeatable at $69. It is a bit more flimsy but for under $100 it’s great. This is a great option for an affordable international carry-on.
Dimensions: 15” x 14” x 8.5”
Weight: 5.4 pounds
If you’re in need of a soft, under the seat carry-on, this one is it. It is a 2-wheel roller but I love that it can stack on top of another suitcase with the built-in sleeve.
Best Carry-On Luggage Under $200
Dimensions: 21.5” x 13.75” x 9.25”
Weight: 8.4 pounds
There are not many suitcases between $100-200 and this is one of them. I love it for the TSA-approved lock that is built-in and the extra laptop sleeve in the front. This suitcase would do well with a few packings cubes and the extra removable accessory pocket is a great touch.
Dimensions: 20” x 14” x 9”
Weight: 7.1 pounds
Another great option from Calpak who is doing beautiful and functional design. The easy access and modern take on a trunk suitcase are wonderful. It is expandable was well for another 2 inches (that extra inch or two helps!). The dimensions of this suitcase are 20” x 14” x 9” making it a good international carry on.
Best Carry-On Luggage Over $200
Dimensions: 22.7” x 14.7” x 9.6”
Weight: 8.4 pounds
This is the suitcase I have used for the past three years, it’s held up to the task. The price point is at the lower end of nice suitcases and so it works well in this category. I love stacking other bags on top of this when rolling through an airport and the adjustable handlebar has passed the test.
For sizing, the “bigger” carry-on does run into issues on smaller planes like regional flights and Europe domestic, so if you’re worried, I’d recommend the regular carry-on.
The TSA approved lock and compression system makes this hardside luggage my favorite for the price.
Dimensions: 19” x 14” x 9”
Weight: 8.1 pounds
One of the priciest carry-ons but arguable the best made and most reputable. Briggs & Riley has set standards for luggage for years.
It has a roomy interior and almost looks completely flat. Our friends have had their Riley baseline for almost 8 years and have maintained well. The luggage piece is very lightweight and measures in at 22 x 14 x 9 inches for the right size.
Dimensions: 22.8″ x 15.0″ x 9.6″
Weight: 8.7 pounds
This suitcase is beautiful and the color choices are elegant. From their site, here are a few key features:
- Impact-resistant exterior
- a zipper-less design
- anti-microbial interior lining
- a super-fast phone charger that is removable.
Dimensions: 22″x 14″ x 9″
Weight: 6.6 pounds
If you love to customize your suitcase and don’t want to lose it in the crowd, Roam is the best high-end solution for this. Their luggage comes highly recommended from both the fashion and travel industry and is ultra-lightweight. One of the lightest on the market.
From their site on the material they use: “using proprietary nano-coating finish atop 100 percent virgin U.S. polycarbonate that shrugs off scratches and dents.”
Dimensions: 22” x 14” x 9”
Weight: 8.65 pounds
It’s one of the most expensive on the market, but those who love TUMI are a tried and true fan. They succeed mostly in the business traveler section of frequent flyers and for good reason. Their style is classic, functional, and durable.
This one is a sandwich style, meaning it zips open in the middle. Though TUMI used to have a lifetime warranty, it now offers a 5-year warranty.
Dimensions: 21.6″ x 15.7″ x 7.8″
Weight: 7.5 pounds
It’s sleek and well-designed. The M5 from Horizn screams cool and is lightweight. It has a one-click removable smart charger, which means you can have the tech and not worry about airline regulations. The high-end Japanese 360-degree spinner wheels come as one of the highest-rated on the market.
Other great features include a water-resistant front pocket for up to 15″ laptops — this is the suitcase I’m buying next. Plus, that added feature of the compression pad and premium laundry bag is amazing.
As you can see there are many choices when it comes to carry-on luggage. When sifting through, here is a quick list on which I love most:
What I currently use: The Away Bigger Carry-on —$245
What I am buying next: Horizn Studios M5 Cabin Luggage — $285
Best value: Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Spinner 20″ — $102