Is it time to buy a new carry-on bag? Read on to find the best carry-on luggage across a variety of categories, as well as what you should consider before investing in a new piece of luggage.
What is a carry-on bag?
It’s all in the name: A carry-on bag is a small piece of luggage you take with you on a plane or train. The carry-on bag is typically a hard- or soft-sided bag with a handle and wheels, though there are a wide variety of carry-on bags to meet the unique needs and style preferences of travelers.
What is considered a carry-on bag?
- Duffel bags: You might consider a duffel bag with wheels for ease of transport.
- Garment bags: These are also considered carry-on baggage by most airlines, and many offer pockets for storing additional travel essentials.
- Airline-approved pet carriers: Some airlines consider pet carriers to be carry-on luggage. Check with your airline when preparing for your trip with Fido.
Smaller items such as backpacks, purses, briefcases and camera bags are not considered carry-on bags and are instead labeled as personal items by most airlines. Typically, travelers can bring one carry-on bag (for the overhead bin) and one personal item (for under the seat) on the plane, free of charge.
If traveling with a baby, diaper bags and other baby travel gear generally don’t count toward either allowance (meaning you can bring these items in addition to your carry-on bag and personal item).
How to choose a carry-on bag
When it comes to choosing the best carry-on bag, the decision comes down to three main considerations: personal travel style, your preferred airline(s), your destination, and your preference between hard-sided or soft-sided luggage.
Personal travel style: Wendy Perrin, travel expert and editor of travel planning site WendyPerrin.com, says your carry-on bag should reflect what you need to pack. “It makes a big difference whether you need to take dressy clothing like business suits or it’s just a trip to the beach where it’s a T-shirt and shorts,” she says. For example, if you tend to dress up for work, you may want luggage with a built-in garment bag, whereas if you’re an adventure traveler, a rolling bag may best accommodate your gear.
Your travel style also includes how much you typically pack. If you aim to pack light and avoid paying for checked luggage, you’ll want a carry-on bag that has features such as compression straps, organizational compartments and/or complementary packing cubes you can buy to go with it. You’ll also want to consider any items you might purchase in your travels. “In my most recent trips to Europe, I’ve packed carry-on-sized, wheeled duffel luggage,” says Jeff Wilson, the host of PBS series “Real Rail Adventures.” “I like that, on the way home, I can loosen the compression straps to make room for all of the souvenir chocolate.” He adds that depending on the types of souvenirs you want to purchase, you might need to check your carry-on bag for the return flight.
- Airline: Depending on whether you’re flying domestically within the U.S. or traveling internationally, your carry-on bag size limitations will vary by airline. You may also want to consider which airlines you typically fly and check their policies to help you decide what carry-on is right for you. This will save you time (and perhaps money) during both your luggage search and your packing process.
Destination: You’ll also want to think about transit within your destination. Will you be traveling around via train? You’ll probably want something lightweight. Will you have to navigate cobblestone streets to reach your hotel? You’ll want to make sure you have a carry-on bag with sturdy wheels.
Also, if you plan to travel with a carry-on bag only, think about your full itinerary. Can you easily purchase items you may need in your destination? Will you be able to do laundry?
Hard-sided luggage vs. soft-sided luggage: Deciding whether you’d like a hard- or soft-sided bag is another consideration and largely a personal preference. Travel expert Samantha Brown, host of PBS’ hit series “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love,” says she recently made the switch to hard-sided bags since they won’t expand beyond airline carry-on size requirements and they provide additional protection.
She also advises consumers to consider the wheels. “A lot of times manufacturers, to make it lightweight, will give you lighter-weight features, and the wheels will be tiny,” she explains, suggesting to look for a bag with 2-inch wheels since it needs to carry the weight of all your belongings and navigate everything from escalators to cobblestone streets.
A great way to check a bag’s durability is to read what others have to say about it, too. “Reviews are the perfect way to see how a bag measures up,” Brown says.
The best carry-on luggage for 2022
Based on consumer reviews and travel expert insights, U.S. News has complied a list of the best carry-on luggage, including everything from affordable carry-ons to luxury carry-on luggage, along with rolling bag options for weekend getaways and adventure trips.
(Note: Prices were accurate at the time this article was updated; they may fluctuate due to supply chain issues.)
Best Soft-sided Carry-on Luggage: Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Carry-On Spinner
Note: This carry-on bag is so popular that it is currently sold out in every color except black. You can sign up to be notified about other colors when they are back in stock.
This 21-inch spinner suitcase has a deluxe tie-down system and a removable fold-out suiter designed to hang clothes and prevent garments from wrinkling. The expandable design offers up to 2 inches of extra packing space (but may exceed some airline carry-on size restrictions), while integrated accessory pockets and a removable TSA-compliant quart-size wet pocket provide easily accessible organization. Travelers say the extension handle and spinner wheels of this bag make it easy to maneuver through airports, and the high-quality construction provides a durable travel companion. This top-rated bag is available in multiple colors including black, maroon and gray.
[Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Carry-On Spinner: $315 or less. View deal.]
Other soft-sided carry-on luggage to consider:
Samsonite Silhouette 17 Carry-On Spinner: Featuring a removable FlexPack system with modular organization and compression capabilities, removable toiletry bag for security checkpoints and a designated technology pouch, this suitcase offers plenty of tools to keep things organized while traveling. Travelers really like the abundance of features of this bag including the easily accessible exterior pockets, and they also like its stylish appearance. Constructed of 100% post-consumer recycled PET bottles, with dual spinner wheels and fusion zippers, this carry-on suitcase is available in black or merlot.
[Samsonite Silhouette 17 Carry-On Spinner: $269.99 or less. View deal.]
Travelpro Maxlite 5 21-inch Expandable Carry-On: Travelers appreciate the lightweight design, easy maneuverability and the adjustable handle of this suitcase. Available in multiple colors including black and purple, this carry-on has multiple exterior pockets including two quick-access compartments, front pocket, full-length interior lid pocket and a side accessory pocket. Expandable up to 2 inches, this bag gives you added space for mementos you find along the way, and it has top and side handles for easy lifting into overhead bins. Plus, spinner wheels will help you wind your way through any terminal.
[Travelpro Maxlite 5 21-inch Expandable Carry-On: $159.99 or less. View deal.]
Best Hard-sided Carry-on Luggage: DELSEY PARIS Chatelet Hardside Luggage
(Courtesy of DELSEY PARIS)
When it comes to the look of a bag, Brown says she likes a sleeker, more modern design, and reviewers say this DELSEY PARIS Chatelet option fits the bill not only in style, but also in functionality. The carry-on spinner has helpful features like a braking system that locks the two front wheels with the push of a button and prevents the bag from moving – for example, when traveling on a bus or train. You can still pull it, however, on the back two wheels. Made of durable materials in three color choices, this bag also provides travelers with multiple compartments separated by a zippered fabric divider, as well as a laundry bag, shoe bag and removable hanger – extras that consumers find useful. Interior straps also help keep items in place.
[DELSEY PARIS Chatelet Hardside Luggage: $319.99 or less. View deal.]
Other hard-sided carry-on luggage to consider:
(Courtesy of Paravel)
Paravel Aviator Carry-On: This carbon neutral suitcase features a durable recycled polycarbonate exterior, vegan leather details and an aircraft-grade recycled aluminum handle. On the inside, the lining is made from 15 upcycled water bottles with a compression board and removable accessories pouch. Travelers love the sleek styling of the bag, along with the smooth maneuverability of the wheels, and the way it works well with Paravel’s packing cubes. Ideal for the stylish and eco-minded traveler, the bag is available in a choice of five colors, including black and navy.
[Paravel Aviator Carry-On: $350 or less. View deal.]
(Courtesy of Solgaard)
Solgaard Carry-On Closet Plus: Ideal for the traveler who wants to stay organized and self-contained, this unique design features a patented built-in shelving system. Travelers adore the six-shelf system, saying it makes items easy to find and the compression feature maximizes packing space. They also like the built-in TSA lock, as well as the solid polycarbonate shell and aluminum frame. You can choose from four colors, including red and black, as well as limited edition color options when in stock.
[Solgaard Carry-On Closet Plus: $295 or less. View deal.]
Best Lightweight Carry-on Luggage: Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin
Weighing in at 4.9 pounds, this bag offers classic Rimowa construction including its multiwheel system with ball-bearing mounted wheels and cushioned axles, but weighs 30% less than its other models. The T-shaped handle has three level choices for maximum comfort and the built-in TSA lock can be opened by security without causing damage. Inside the bag, there is a zippered mesh divider to keep contents in place. This Rimowa carry-on is available in black or green, and travelers praise the lightweight design, sleek look and wheels that seem to glide effortlessly.
[Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin: $580 or less. View deal.]
Other lightweight carry-on luggage to consider:
(Courtesy of Samsonite)
it Luggage World’s Lightest Carry-On: Constructed with a lightweight fiberglass structure and high-tensile fabric, this bag combines durability with functionality. Travelers appreciate not only the lightness of the bag, but also the lay-flat design for easy packing and the wide soft grip handle for added comfort. Designed in London, this carry-on has two large zipped exterior compartments and four interior mesh slip pockets. As of July 2022, it is only available in blue.
[it Luggage World’s Lightest Carry-On: $99.99 or less. View deal.]
Samsonite Freeform Carry-On Spinner: This modern-looking, hard-sided carry-on weighs just 6.5 pounds. Popular with both business and leisure travelers, this suitcase has four double spinner wheels and is available in black, white, navy or sage green. Consumers praise its features, calling out its light weight, durability and easy-to-roll wheels. This carry-on suitcase also includes a TSA-compliant three-dial combination lock, two separate compartments for packing and a few interior zippered pockets for storage. Additionally, the suitcase is expandable if you need it to be.
[Samsonite Freeform Carry-On Spinner: $199.99 or less. View deal.]
Best Carry-on Luggage for Women: CALPAK Ambeur Carry-On Luggage
Blending fashion with function, this chic design is available in gold, silver, rose gold and black. Crafted with polycarbonate and ABS, this lightweight suitcase weighs 6 pounds and includes a TSA-approved combination lock. Its four dual spinner wheels and extending handle provide easy maneuverability for every adventure. Inside, there is a divider with two zippered pockets, an interior accessory pocket and compression straps. Owners of this suitcase say they love the sleek style of the bag, the metallic colors and the durability, adding they appreciate that it’s roomy with an expandable option.
[CALPAK Ambeur Carry-On Luggage: $195 or less. View deal.]
Other carry-on luggage for women to consider:
Bric’s Bellagio V2.0 Carry-On Spinner Trunk: Evoking the golden age of travel, this vintage-inspired suitcase is created from lightweight polycarbonate, with an ergonomic three-position adjustable handle. Available in four colors, including cream and blue, this luggage impresses owners with its fashionable design, smooth rolling Hinomoto wheels and durable construction. Offering a sizable interior, the suitcase has a zippered herringbone print divider, an accessories bag and straps to hold contents in place while traveling.
[Bric’s Bellagio V2.0 Carry-On Spinner Trunk: $665 or less. View deal.]
Best Carry-on Luggage for Men: TUMI Tegra-Lite 2 International Expandable Carry-On
Featuring Tegris construction (the same material used in professional race cars and protective sports equipment), this sleek design is equipped with a built-in garment sleeve and an integrated USB port (battery sold separately). It expands up to 2 inches, and there is a slip case entry into the main compartment. Travelers appreciate the TUMI Tracer technology that can reunite owners with their lost bags and the complimentary monogramming, as well as the durable exterior of the suitcase and the way it rolls easily. The carry-on suitcase has a telescoping aircraft-grade aluminum extension handle, along with top, side and bottom handles for easy maneuvering.
[TUMI Tegra-Lite 2 International Expandable Carry-On: $850 or less. View deal.]
Other carry-on luggage for men to consider:
(Courtesy of Arlo Skye)
Arlo Skye The Zipper Carry-On Max: Crafted from durable German polycarbonate, this lightweight carry-on weighs 7 pounds and is available in five colors, including classic black and navy options. Inside, there’s an antibacterial lining with silver fibers woven into the material, which prevents germ growth and odor-causing bacteria. Plus, there are two shoe bags and a laundry bag for staying organized. Users of this bag rave about the quality of it, the styling (many have received multiple compliments on their suitcase) and the smooth wheels. The carry-on also features an integrated aircraft-compliant charger that can be removed in just one click, a leather luggage tag and a TSA-approved combination lock.
[Arlo Skye The Zipper Carry-On Max: $350 or less. View deal.]
Best Carry-on Luggage for Business Travel: Away The Daily Carry-On with Pocket
(Courtesy of Away)
Featuring a unique and removable accordion packing system, plus a secure 13-inch laptop sleeve, this bag is designed to carry your business travel essentials. The polycarbonate hard shell is available in black or navy, and integrates the features of a rolling laptop bag within a carry-on spinner suitcase. Travelers with this case say they love way the compression system maximizes their packing space and they like the removable laundry bag.
[Away The Daily Carry-On with Pocket: $245 or less. View deal.]
Other carry-on luggage for business travel to consider:
(Courtesy of Arlo Skye)
Arlo Skye The Zipper Carry-On Max with Front Pocket: If your business travels tend to be domestic on medium or large aircraft, this suitcase offers maximum space with a larger interior and antimicrobial lining. The tone-on-tone hard-shell zippered front compartment can stow your laptop, passport wallet and other essentials so you’re always prepared for unexpected security checks, while the whisper-quiet wheels help you roll with your travel needs. Owners of this bag say they love the built-in airline-compliant removable charger because you can quickly charge your phone while you’re waiting at the gate, and they appreciate the bag’s durable construction and smooth wheels. On the inside, you’ll find two shoe bags and a laundry bag, plus a handy cotton cover to keep your bag from getting dusty between trips. This polycarbonate hard-shell design is available in a range of colors including maroon and yellow.
[Arlo Skye The Zipper Carry-On Max with Front Pocket: $375 or less. View deal.]
TUMI Alpha Garment 4 Wheeled Carry-On: Business travelers say this is the perfect suitcase for short business trips, as it easily holds a suit, a couple of shirts, dress shoes and other necessities. They also report it pairs well with TUMI briefcases that can be attached to the top of this piece. On the inside, there is a zippered garment compartment for a suit, a hanger bracket, a dual-compartment zip pocket, compression straps and two removable mesh zippered pouches. The five-stage telescoping handle and four-wheel design is engineered to roll down an airplane aisle with ease, and the gusseted front-zip pocket provides an accessible spot for your boarding pass, reading material, reports and paperwork.
[TUMI Alpha Garment 4 Wheeled Carry-On: $925 or less. View deal.]
Best Large Carry-on Luggage: Monos Carry-On Plus
Designed to fit into most overhead bins on domestic flights, this bag is ideal for travelers seeking to maximize the space in their carry-on bag. For those who love details, this bag has an aerospace-grade German polycarbonate hard shell in an array of colors, including white and olive green, Hinomoto Lisof silent run wheels and a four-height adjustable telescopic handle. Meanwhile, the interior is lined with an antimicrobial fabric and includes a built-in compression pad. Travelers who have this bag appreciate its construction, including the quiet and easy-rolling wheels, durable yet lightweight polycarbonate exterior, and the sturdy ergonomic handle.
[Monos Carry-On Plus: $255 or less. View deal.]
Other large carry-on luggage to consider:
(Courtesy of ROAM)
Roam The Large Carry-On: This extra-capacity carry-on suitcase offers an extra 2 inches of width, giving you more room for all of the finds you gather on your travels. Measuring at 22 x 16.25 x 9 inches, this suitcase qualifies as a carry-on for most domestic flights. There’s an interior compression system on both sides, helping travelers maximize every inch of packing space. Plus, the bag’s lining is washable and water-resistant. Users of this bag love that you get to choose your own front, back and trim colors, and many praise the sleek construction and compliment the way the bag rolls smooth. In addition to the personalization of choosing your own color scheme, the brand also includes a complimentary monogram. It’s the perfect choice for the traveler looking to show their personal style.
[Roam The Large Carry-On: $575 or less. View deal.]
Best Carry-on Luggage for Under the Seat: TUMI Oxford Compact Carry-On
Whether you’re going on a short trip or you want to keep your belongings close, this sleek TUMI carry-on offers a lockable laptop compartment and a built-in USB cable. Made of the brand’s signature nylon with gold zippers and accents, this lightweight underseat carry-on has two main interior compartments that can be transformed into one large compartment. Reviewers love the elegant look of the bag and appreciate the sleeve, which can be used to attach the suitcase to the top of another roller bag.
[TUMI Oxford Compact Carry-On: $625 or less. View deal.]
Other carry-on luggage for under the seat:
DELSEY PARIS Helium DLX 2-Wheel Underseater: Perfect for business trips or weekend getaways, this bag has a built-in laptop and tablet sleeve, to keep your devices protected while traveling. There is also a zippered front pocket for quick access to small essentials such as hand sanitizer and earbuds. Travelers love the size, the fact it fits easily under the seat on the plane, the smooth spinning wheels and its spacious interior. Available in black or mocha, this two-wheel design has spinner wheels, is constructed of lightweight Duratec fabric and has a sleeve to secure the bag on the handle of a larger suitcase. Note: This bag is currently out of stock, but is expected to return in August 2022.
[DELSEY PARIS Helium DLX 2-Wheel Underseater: $280 or less. View details.]
CALPAK Hue Mini Carry-On Luggage: Combining design with practicality, this recently introduced underseat style from CALPAK features a durable polycarbonate hard-shell construction in multiple colors including black and pink sand. Travelers love the sleek style, colors and the spacious interior, saying it is ideal for business trips or weekend getaways. The interior has compression straps and an interior divider with zippered compartments, while the exterior has a bottom grab handle, four dual spinner wheels and TSA-accepted lock.
[CALPAK Hue Mini Carry-On Luggage: $165 or less. View deal.]
Best Luxury Carry-on Luggage: Rimowa Classic Cabin
Designed and engineered in Germany, this classic style by the iconic luggage brand is a quintessential staple. Recognized around the globe and featured in some of the hottest shows, including “Emily in Paris,” this hard-shell suitcase is created in a high-end anodized aluminum alloy and finished with riveted high-gloss aluminum corners and handmade leather handles. Blending engineering with craftsmanship, the suitcase is available in black or silver. Travelers appreciate the sturdy construction, eight wheels and the iconic way the bag combines art and function. On the inside, you’ll find a height-adjustable divider to keep all your outfits and essentials organized. Finally, the telescopic handle and the ball-bearing mounted wheels will help you smoothly glide from one destination to the next like a true jetsetter.
[Rimowa Classic Cabin: $1,265 or less. View deal.]
Other luxury carry-on luggage to consider:
Globe-Trotter Safari Carry-On: For the traveler that loves classic styling, this suitcase from the iconic British brand is an essential. Since its founding in 1867, Globe-Trotter has been the destination for the “quintessential British suitcase.” This fresh take on a modern classic is available in cream or brown with natural trim, and you can choose between two or four wheels. The body of this suitcase is constructed of vulcanized fiberboard and finished on the corners and handles with genuine leather. Measuring at 21.65 x 15.75 x 8.27 inches, this carry-on suitcase meets most airline carry-on requirements, and has enough space for three to four outfits, making it an ideal choice for weekend getaways. Personalization is available for an additional fee.
[Globe-Trotter Safari Carry-On: $2,195 or less. View deal.]
Best Affordable Carry-on Luggage: Coolife Luggage Expandable Carry-On
Equipped with a built-in TSA lock, telescoping handle and spinner wheels, this hard-sided design is a traveler favorite. Users of this bag appreciate how much they can fit within the suitcase, the colors and the durability for the price. Constructed of ABS+PC material and complemented by a fully lined interior, this carry-on suitcase is available in five colors, including white and orange.
[Coolife Luggage Expandable Carry-On: $89.99 or less. View deal.]
Other affordable carry-on luggage to consider:
eBags Fortis Pro 22-inch Carry-On Spinner: Featuring an interior compression strap with built-in packing cubes, along with a removable laundry bag, this bag offers handy travel amenities. Travelers like the external USB port along with the expandability of the bag and variety of color choices, such as red and blue.
[eBags Fortis Pro 22-inch Carry-On Spinner: $159.99 or less. View deal.]
Amazon Basics 21-inch Hardside Spinner: Travelers love the look, style and price of this hard-sided suitcase. Available in four color choices, including orange and black, this bag has an extra-thick ABS hard shell, four double wheels for maneuverability and a telescoping handle. What’s more, the interior makes it easy to stay organized with a divider and an interior organizer that features three zippered pockets.
[Amazon Basics 21-inch Hardside Spinner: $111.03 or less. View deal.]
Best Tech-friendly Carry-on Luggage: Genius Pack G5 Carry On
Travelers love the 17 built-in features of this bag, including the portable charger pocket (power pack sold separately); the micro umbrella that pops out from the top panel of the luggage; and the interior category compartments made of a specialized stretch mesh for tech, socks and undergarments. The patented compression technology condenses contents up to 50%, and the labeled interior sections with an embedded packing list and separate zip-out laundry bag help you pack and unpack with ease. What’s more, there is an exterior laundry chute to make the task easier. This suitcase is lightweight at 6.9 pounds and provides optimum capacity for its size. Constructed with durable and water-resistant polyurethane coated nylon in six colors including black and hunter green, this carry-on has a telescoping two-position handle, plus easy-grab bottom and side handles for effortless handling.
[Genius Pack G5 Carry On: $239 or less. View deal.]
Other tech-friendly carry-on luggage to consider:
(Courtesy of Away)
Away The Carry-On: Sleek and sophisticated, this spinner suitcase comes in a selection of colors and is a top-rated tech-friendly carry-on suitcase. The bag comes with a removable battery to charge your mobile devices while on the go, which is compliant with all airlines and is TSA-approved. The battery is designed to charge a mobile phone up to four times and can be instantly ejected, if required. Weighing 8.1 pounds, the luggage comes with a nylon laundry bag, as well as two interior compartments, one designed for clothing and the other for hard objects like shoes or toiletries. What’s more, for security, the bag has two zippers that slide into a TSA-approved combination lock, a feature travelers appreciate.
[Away The Carry-On: $245 or less. View deal.]
Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Carry-On Spinner: You can also charge mobile devices with this Travelpro Platinum Elite bag, which has a built-in USB port and TSA-approved pocket for your battery (the battery is not included). Other top features include a fold-out organizer to help reduce wrinkles on suits and other hanging clothes, along with a removable wet pocket and sturdy zipper heads. Note: This bag (the top pick for soft-sided carry-on luggage) is currently available in black, but is sold out in all other colors.
[Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Carry-On Spinner: $315 or less. View deal.]
Best Rolling Bag Carry-on Luggage: Dakine 365 Carry On 40L Bag
For adventure travelers or those looking for style with dependable versatility, the Dakine carry-on rolling bag is constructed in a durable recycled polyester with a water-repellent finish. The bag features a large quick-access front pocket, internal straps for keeping items in place, retractable handle and heavy-duty urethane wheels. Users say they like the lightweight style, ability to easily carry-on and durability, plus many remark on receiving compliments from other travelers. For added security, the bag has a tuck-away ID pocket, and it is available in colors such as black and solstice floral.
[Dakine 365 Carry On 40L Bag: $140 or less. View deal.]
Other rolling bag carry-on luggage to consider:
Lug Porter 2 Wheelie Luggage: Blending fashion and function, this bag with dual spinner wheels weighs 5 pounds and comes in multiple prints including gray, floral and camo. The retractable handle along with top and bottom handles makes it easy to stow in overhead bins, and the multiple exterior zippered pockets are ideal for quick access to hand sanitizer, reading material, electronic devices and travel essentials. Travelers appreciate the organizational features of this bag along with the variety of print choices.
[Lug Porter 2 Wheelie Luggage: $220 or less. View deal.]
baggallini 4-Wheel Rolling Tote: Offering a luggage sleeve and four spinner wheels, this bag can be used alone as a rolling bag or attached to an additional carry-on suitcase. Featuring multiple organizational components, this tote has an interior pocket with RFID card slots and a passport pocket, along with a padded laptop pocket. Constructed of polyester, this tote can be wiped clean with a damp cloth and it is offered in four colors, including black and eggplant. Reviewers appreciate the bag’s compartments, ease of use and stylish look.
[baggallini 4-Wheel Rolling Tote: $124 and up. View deal.]