Booking a flight is only the beginning of the many decisions involved in planning a trip. In addition to choosing a hotel and activities, you need to think about what kind of luggage is best suited to your travel plans. With so many airlines now charging additional fees to check a bag, carry-on luggage is the way to go if you're embarking on a shorter trip. Things to take into account when choosing a carry-on bag include size (both for your packing needs and to meet your individual airline's carry-on size restrictions) and style (backpack versus duffel bag versus rolling). For a rolling suitcase, you also need to consider the number of wheels (two versus four) and whether you prefer a hard-shell or soft-side suitcase. A good warranty is always a nice bonus, and of course, your personal budget is going to impact your choice.
We've analyzed the options and narrowed the competition down to 5 pieces of carry-on luggage that we feel the best about recommending. While we consider a rolling suitcase to typically be the best model as they result in less physical strain and exertion, we've also included suggestions for a travel backpack and a duffel bag, in case you personally prefer those options. Before choosing your bag, always remember to check with your individual airline ensure that you meet their most recent carry-on restrictions.
Our Top Choice Carry-On: Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 22-Inch Expandable Rollerboard
Though 4-wheel suitcases typically offer better maneuverability than their 2-wheel counterparts, we like that the Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 is slightly bigger than the 4-wheel Travelpro Platinum Magna 2. It measures 22.75 inches high, 15.25 inches wide, and 9.5 inches deep, with its specific case dimensions measuring 21 inches wide, 14 inches wide, and 9 inches deep. It weighs in at 7.7 pounds before packing. The expansion feature adds 2 inches for you to add in some souvenirs at the end of your trip!
Best High-End Carry-On: Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic Expandable Carry-On 22" Upright
The Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic Expandable Carry-On is our high-end pick, costing $519 on Amazon at the time of writing. It measures 22 inches high, 14 inches wide, 9 inches deep. The case itself measures 19.5 inches high, 14 inches wide, and 8 inches deep. This suitcase features 4 wheels and the ability to expand up to 25% for any extras you want to pack. The handle includes four stop-heights so you can adjust it to your comfort. Like the Travelpro, this Briggs & Riley carry-on includes a built-in suiter to prevent wrinkles in your clothes. It also boasts a flat interior (no bars) in order to further enhance this suitcase's ability to maintain the wrinkle-free appearance of your clothes after travel. At 9.3 pounds, keep in mind that it does weigh more than the other options we've reviewed. The only reason this suitcase scores lower than the Travelpro is its steep pricetag.
Best Budget Carry-On: Samsonite Omni PC Hardside 20-Inch Spinner
Samsonite is a common household name when it comes to luggage thanks to their reputation for durability. The Samsonite Omni PC Hardside 20-Inch Spinner is our budget rolling suitcase pick at less than $100 on Amazon. Most hard-shell suitcases do not have the ability to expand, however this one pleasantly offers 2-inch expansion capability. It is lighter than the Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 at 6.8 pounds and has four wheels instead of two for greater maneuverability. The packing space, however, is also smaller than our Travelpro pick, though this tends to be true for all hard-case carry-ons. This Samsonite's overall dimensions are 22 inches high, 15 inches wide, and 9.5 inches deep. The case itself measures at 19 inches high, 14.5 inches wide, and 9.5 inches deep. One aspect that travelers may find annoying is the lack of a handle on the side, which could make maneuvering (think lifting and arranging in an overhead compartment) a bit more of a hassle. It does have a handle on top though, in addition to the typical expandable handle. Samsonite does offer a warranty for items bought on their site, however the Omni PC Hardside does not appear for sale there. If you purchase this bag on Amazon, there is an option to add a 2-Year Accident Protection plan for an additional $10.99 at checkout.
Best Travel Backpack: Osprey Packs Farpoint/Fairview 55 Travel Backpack
For those who prefer to travel with just a backpack, we like the Osprey Fairview 55. If you have a longer torso, you may prefer the Osprey Farpoint 55, which is different-sized but otherwise practically the same. These backpacks offer a 52-55-liter internal compartment, depending on which size you get, and it is designed to carry up to 40 pounds. Inside the main compartment, you'll find a mesh pocket as well as two internal compression straps to extra organization. The bag also comes with a removable daypack, which is a great feature for touring once you've reached your final destination.
Best Duffel: Patagonia Black Hole Duffel – 45 L
Of all the carry-on options, we like the duffel bag the least because it tends to put strain on one shoulder. However, there are those who still prefer duffels, and if this is you, we recommend the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel – 45 L. This bag measures approximately 20 x 12.5 x 9.5 inches and has a volume capacity for up to 45 liters. It weighs less than two pounds prior to pack
When choosing your carry-on luggage, it's important to keep in mind your own specific needs and preferences. If you're bringing professional clothes and won't have an iron handy, you may like a bag with a built-in suiter and wrinkle-preventing capabilities. If you know you tend to overpack, expansion-capability is also something to strongly consider. You will definitely want something durable, and should check whether your luggage comes with any guarantees. We prefer four-wheeled luggage for the easiest maneuverability, but you may be comfortable with two-wheel or even a duffel or backpack. Whatever your choice, we wish you safe and pleasant travels!