What is your go-to carry-on suitcase?

40+305 Bag
By: barkbudCC BY 2.0
I am having a nightmare of a time trying to find carry-on suitcase. I am going on two trips — Isle of Wight for five days and then Italy for seven days — so I need something small enough for a carry-on, that can store a lot.

What carry-on do you use?

Many thanks. -Pauline

As I've shared before, this is my go-to carry-on. But it's more of a hand bag than a suitcase, and I'm currently also in the market for a carry-on suitcase. So I've rounded up some of my faves, and then I'd love to hear your suggestions as well!

Travel-tested AF

These two were touted as the best in this impressively comprehensive article

Briggs & Riley Baseline International Carry-On Expanadable Wide-Body Spinner
Briggs & Riley Baseline International Carry-On Expanadable Wide-Body Spinner

If you fly more than 25,000 miles a year, invest in a bag with unique features, superior details, and plenty of expandable room. This manufacturer guarantees your satisfaction.

Photo by Caleigh Waldman courtesy of The Wire Cutter
Photo by Caleigh Waldman courtesy of The Wire Cutter

For most flyers, this 22-inch Travelpro offers the best balance of size, price, reliability, and durability, with high-end details.

Smarter than your average carry-on

The Genius Packer charges your phones, organizes all your cords, has a secret spy umbrella, AND does this cool air compressed laundry storage thing!

 Bluesmart Carry-on suitcase

Bluesmart Carry-on suitcase

This one started at Indiegogo, now we here…

The Bluesmart Carry-on is the first suitcase to connect wirelessly to your smartphone so you can keep your belongings charged, tracked, locked, and underweight. Our charging dock, with two USB ports, lets you power your phone up to six times so you never have to crowd around an airport outlet again. A built-in tracker lets you know where your bag is, anywhere in the world, for free. The scale is conveniently built into the handle so you can just pick it up and it’ll tell the app how much it weighs. You can also remotely lock the bag or set it to auto-lock if you get separated from it

Obviously yours

Brics Bellagio Ultra-Light 21 Inch Carry On Spinner Trunk
Brics Bellagio Ultra-Light 21 Inch Carry On Spinner Trunk

This one comes in a variety of colors, is travel-tested, and light-weight so that you can pack it full and not need help putting it in an overhead bin.

Rockland Melbourne 20-Inch Expandable Abs Carry On Luggage
Rockland Melbourne 20-Inch Expandable Abs Carry On Luggage

I love my bright orange bag — it's small enough to be a carry-on, but it's bright enough that I can see it coming from a mile away when I have to expand it and check it on my return trips home.

What are your favorite carry-ons?

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  1. When I'm travelling using hand baggage only, I generally take this https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cabin-Max-Barcelona-backpack-Guaranteed/dp/B00DYVGHN6?ie=UTF8&ref_=pe_385721_51767431_TE_dp_1 (in purple, though that colour option seems to have disappeared). It's not beautiful, but it is fairly practical. I've had it for about a year, and used it on several trips, and it's not yet showing signs of wear.

    It's sized to fit within most airline carriers hand baggage restrictions and it is pretty large. There's a slim pocket on the front you can tuck maps etc into, but the rest of it is one space. As it's not a rigid suitcase you can squeeze things in fairly well. I normally also take a handbag with the things I want easy access to for the flight (kindle, snacks, etc) – I think most airline carriers now allow this. The bag itself is pretty light.

    I find that for travelling around places that involve steps a backpack is the easiest option for carrying things (over the shoulder bags put all the weight in one place which hurts, and pull along suitcases need carrying whenever you're not on smooth terrain). This one has padded and well structured straps. The bit the sits on your back is padded too – it's generally very comfortable (my husband steals it a lot when he travels without me). So, overall, I would recommend this.

  2. I have the Rockland bag and am taking it on a 10 day trip to Peru next week. I got mine at Costco 🙂 For trips where I want to keep everything to a carry on but will need a lot of outfits, I make an outfit list with outfits for each day based on our planned activities mix and matching a few items.

    • I wish this article had come out before I bought my American Tourister! I nearly bought a Rockland, but there were quite a few 1 star reviews on Amazon. How long have you had yours?

  3. I prefer to have a backpack for carry on. This means that if I need to have a bigger checked bag I don't have to awkwardly drag two suitcase, it's easily for busy airports/train stations as you're not tripping everyone and they never ask to check the size/weight etc at airports. This is the one I've had since 2010 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lowe-Alpine-TT-Carry-Daypack/dp/B00JQLKAWW I'm sure they have a newer model but the one I have is still perfect. I use it for weekend breaks (where I can fit my raincoat and day rucksack inside) and for trips up to two and a half weeks. It's also pretty light.

    3 agree
  4. I always take either my LL Bean messenger (That is HUGE) as a carry on, or I take a backpack. I like both.

    LL Bean tends to have great luggage and it lasts FOREVER.

    3 agree
  5. Lowe Alpine 45L carry on bag!!! It's amazing!!
    https://lowealpine.com/uk/at-lightflite-carry-on-45-22
    Mine is an older version than this, but I'm on the road at least once a month for a week or two and it has been amazing. Still looks like new, is really secure, and you can fit boatloads in it. Fits fine in overhead bins, under seats, on buses, and carry on your back! Never use anything else!! It's fabulous!!! I combine it with Eagle Creek packing cubes and you can find everything quickly. (If I didn't have this bag, I'd have an Eagle Creek one, also amazing, but this one was much cheaper)
    My co-workers are always amazed I can carry so much in it for weeks at a time.

    1 agrees
  6. I'm so sad. The nylon on the 12-year-old Travelpro that I abused for 2 years as a flight attendant is starting to unweave. 🙁 It was the best bag EVER, even though it is a bit on the heavy side (flying home from Europe in March, it was technically 1.6 kg overweight). I would definitely recommend the brand as long as you're not flying an airline with strict weight restrictions.

  7. http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/88638?feat=816-CL1&page=turbo-transit-pack

    I have an older version of the LL Bean Turbo Transit pack, and I like it because it has an extra space just for shoes. My warning, for any type of bag, would be to get lots of little locks (or even zip ties) because when I brought my backpack, they had to stash it with luggage free of charge because so many people had carry-ons to avoid fees. One of the pockets opened, because zipper, and I lost a belt.

  8. I try to carry light on the plane and stick as much as possible in my checked bag, so I usually only bring a rolling laptop bag. It has two big sections and one small pocket, and it's always been sufficient for my laptop, purse, medicines, change of clothes, water bottle, and reading material for the flight. I like to travel alone and I don't trust strangers with my bag, so I assume that anything I bring past security is going into the bathroom with me at least once and manuevering in those stalls is annoying at the best of times.

    1 agrees
  9. I just bought this: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B019HL10PG/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    It's cute as can be, but I feel like the layout isn't great (the interior pictures are of a different bag). The top of the case has a pocket for shoes and a pocket that looks like it's supposed to be for toiletries. The main part I feel gives up too much space for the telescoping handle. I haven't used it yet, so we'll see what happens.

    A travelers forum I read suggested Travelpro and one of my checked suitcases is a Travelpro and I adore it. It is definitely the best suitcase I've ever owned. And the paperwork that comes with their suitcases claims 9/10 flight attendants use Travelpro, so there's that to consider.

    Up until I bought the American Tourister (because I'm concerned I'll have to check my bag as I'm going to be testing the limit of restrictions) I always just used a Lesportsac Weekender (I can't remember if they are Large or Extra Large) like this one: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B010UPKEFU/ref=twister_B00DZMKABO?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

    The benefit of that is while everyone is trying to cram their bags into the overhead compartment and they sometimes even run out of space, I could always just slide my bag under the seat in front of me. And, due to the structureless nature of the bag, I'm able to fit tons in it. Also, they come in tons of cute patterns. The only down side is for some odd reason, I've had lots of people ask me or assume that it's a baby bag.

    • So I have info to share regarding my own new darling little American Tourister. I had it all packed and ready to go. When I was waiting for the airporter, I decided to take some things out and put in something that had just come in the mail. And imagine my horror when I couldn't get the bag open. The lock jammed. After asking all over two airports and trying to find out what to do on-line, I ended up having a maintenance worker at the hotel I was staying at cut the zipper so I could get at my things.

      Something I did find out though, from the woman who worked in the lost luggage room of the airline I fly is that built-in locks on suitcases jam regularly.

      On the bright side, I contacted Samsonite (via Amazon) the day after I got home and they responded in about 2 hours, apologizing and issuing me a complete refund, without even requiring me to go through the hassle of returning the bag.

  10. For me it depends on many things but the two most critical are whether I am staying in the same place for the whole trip (and if staying in lots of places am I using transport etc with surfaces I can use on) and if it’s my only luggage.

    My most frequent trip is hand luggage only short cheap flight (ie not paying extra for check-in luggage) from UK to The Netherlands to see my in-laws a for long weekend. For this trip I only have to handle my luggage in airports and the Dutch train system and then otherwise leave it in our bedroom at my in-laws all weekend and I prefer a wheeled suitcase option here. I chose mine because it is cabin baggage sized and has four wheels which means you don’t bear any weight at all (you push rather than pull it at an angle) which you do if you suitcase has only two, and a comfortable handle for when you do have to lift it. I used it for the first time I travelled post hysterectomy and it was great. It also expands should I need it, has a sturdy pulling/pushing handle and I have also seen several flight attends use this brand! I usually have a small crossbody bag with me as well (for passport, tickets, wallet and kindle) and this can be tucked into in the front pocket to satisfy the only one piece of carry-on luggage rule the budget European airlines go in for. This gets pulled out again when the coast is clear (clothes with big pockets are good here too….).

    I can’t find the exact model I have but it’s an Antler brand one and this other model of theirs is very similar, I have never paid this much for luggae but it was worth every penny! If you are UK based (just a hunch….) you can get this at Argos but here is an Amazon link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Antler-Suitcase-Tourlite-Black-3198224019/dp/B009ST9LJK/ref=sr_1_8?s=luggage&ie=UTF8&qid=1466423788&sr=1-8&keywords=Antler

    If I am going for 2 weeks+ holiday type thing and am taking check–in luggage as well then I usually take a backpack that I will probably use on holiday as my carry-on luggage. For shorter trips where I am only taking carry-on luggage but am staying in more than one place and am likely to end up handling my luggage outside the safety of smooth airport floors (ie charming but uneven Siennese streets) or am going to have to take it in and out of several different hotels etc, I prefer a backpack to my wheeled suitcase.

  11. These days, you might as well assume that if you have a rolling suitcase, it's going to be checked to be stowed under the plane. There's just not enough bin space. Every single time I've flown, I've seen the airline resort to checking ALL rolling "carry on" suitcases just as general boarding begins.

    I've always carried a regular ol' backpack and had no checked luggage, and it's worked beautifully for me. I make sure my backpack can fit under the seat in front of me and live with however little clothing that means. I tend to wear layered clothing on the flight so I can sneak in a few more pieces into my vacation capsule wardrobe. Haha.

  12. I don't travel very often, but last time I used a Targus rolling case that has a thingy for laptops. I just took the laptop bit out and jammed it full of clothes. I also carried an Ogio messenger bag as my personal item. I crammed my purse, books, Kindle, candy, spare undies, and a light jacket in that. I always am the first to volunteer to check my carry-on to my final destination since I am lazy and too short to really get my bag into the overhead compartment anyway. I just make sure that I have all my necessities in my messenger bag in case I end up without my suitcase for a while.

  13. I have this one and love it. This plus a purse, and I've never had to check it….even on small commuter planes. I travel a lot for work (3-5 day trips), and it has more than enough room for my laptop, work clothes and shoes, plus workout clothes and shoes. More recently work took me to France for 8 days and this was still sufficient. I've had it 18 months and its still going strong.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00I2KNDKO/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_2?pf_rd_p=1944687742&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B00M9GGCCI&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=NSVNH4D2ZZX20TF2NDN2

  14. I love Tom Bihn bags, but find them too heavy. These days I've been using a lot of Osprey products – I'm a huge fan of the Osprey Ozone: https://www.amazon.com/Osprey-Ozone-Wheeled-Luggage-Black/dp/B00RZV0A3Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466440509&sr=8-1&keywords=osprey+ozone+18 .

    For my personal item I use this backpack, which goes with me everywhere and fits under any seat. https://www.amazon.com/Osprey-Packs-Cyber-Daypack-Pinot/dp/B00AVSEP4I/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1466440927&sr=8-3&keywords=osprey+pinot

    I also use these ultralight packing cubes to keep things organized (for this size luggage, using size medium and smaller is best): https://www.amazon.com/Uncharted-Ultra-Lite-Packing-Cube-Medium/dp/B00MWWC0ZC/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1466440803&sr=8-4&keywords=uncharted+packing+cubes .

    However, keep in mind that some European airlines have very different size requirements, and it can be hard to find luggage in the US that is small enough for carry on (it's the width limit that is usually the problem). Definitely check your airline's requirements!

  15. I have an Osprey Ozone Convertible 22. It is carry-on size if you don't stuff it too full (if I do stuff it full I zip off the day pack and take it as my personal item and put the rolling part in the overhead bin – this also means you're not stranded without essentials if you have to check the wheelie part), and it is 3 or 4 bags in one: a rolling carryon, an internal-frame backpack, and a day pack (removable). It sustained 3 of us, including one baby in cloth diapers and a full load of camera gear, for 3 weeks in Japan (lots of stops for laundry but it was so worth it to travel light). I just wish the day pack had a hip belt (the internal-frame part does, and also has Osprey's fantastic adjustable attach shoulder and hip harness system). Most of the time I carried the baby in our Babyhawk Toddlerhawk mei tai and my husband wore the bag – other times he'd take the kid, we'd leave the rolling part of the bag at the hotel and I'd wear the day pack with baby needs and other essentials.

    $300 is steep but it made our Japan trip possible and it's been my go-to bag for everything from business trips to weekend getaways ever since. We're looking forward to taking it on Japan Part 2 this fall – hopefully without the diapers!

  16. When I flew to New Zealand and back a few years ago, I used a Kelty Redwing backpack as my carry-on, and it was AWESOME. Because it's a backpack, it keeps your hands free, and because it's meant for hiking/backpacking, it has a padded hip belt which keeps most of the weight off your shoulders. It has an internal frame, which is great for protecting fragile items. Also, you can pack a ton of stuff in it (just make sure to check your weight)!

    1 agrees
    • I *love* the Kelty Redwing. I can easily fit a week of clothes in it. I've had mine for 10 years, and I don't like the newest versions as much as mine (of course), but I think even the newer models are still an awesome option. It comes in a few sizes, but I have the 2500W, which isn't huge but still fits everything. I travel a lot (though I don't hike or backpack), and it's held up really well. I use it as my "big" carryon a lot, and it can fit under some airplane seats in a pinch if you really want it to be your small carryon or if the overhead bins fill up.

      I don't use it for business travel, though, because I don't want to have to smush up my good clothes in there. I bought my go-to roller bag 10 years ago too, and it's also still going strong, but I forgot (!) what brand it is.

  17. Whatever you choose, make sure you can carry it up stairs— italy is has a ton of steps!! I travel a lot and for my specific needs, this is my favorite purchase of all time! It's a normal rolling suitcase, but it has backback straps hidden inside. It's not the best option for those who only ever need to roll the bag (on pavement, in hotels, etc)… but if you go on a lot of cobblestones, gravel, or up staircases… it's perfect!

    There's also a backpack included that can attach to the front or detach and be carried

    Granite gear cross trek

    https://www.moosejaw.com/moosejaw/shop/product_Granite-Gear-Cross-Trek-22IN-Wheeled-carry-on-Duffel_10278974_10208_10000001_-1_

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