The 5 Best Carry-On Luggage in 2020
Whenever possible, we recommend using the best carry-on luggage.
Traveling with only a carry-on bag helps you save time, avoid checked luggage fees, and make sure your baggage arrives at your destination in one piece. That’s not always the case with checked luggage (but is why we’re grateful for travel insurance).
Whether you only want to use carry-on luggage or you need an excellent companion to your checked bag, you’ll need a reliable piece of luggage to take with you on the plane.
There are many factors to consider before you buy such as how many wheels or if the case should be hard or soft.
So, how do you choose?
See our top picks of the best carry-on luggage options and our buying guide to help you make the right choice.
#1 Delsey Luggage Helium Aero Carry-On Luggage
Delsey’sHelium Aero Hardcase Spinner is one of our favorite carry-on luggage options. Made of 100% polycarbonate, it weighs only 8.4 lbs. Features include:
- Four spinner wheels
- Polycarbonate shell makes lightweight, scratch resistant and crack resistant
- Two large, interior compartments to keep you organized
#2 Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Global Carry-On
Looking for a great business bag? Victorinox has you covered with its sleek, lightweight carry-on luggage. Features include:
- Break and scratch resistant
- Built-in TSA-approved lock
- Dual-caster spinner wheels help this luggage glide
#3 Samsonite Omni Hardside Spinner
Samsonite’s Omni hardside spinner is hands-down our favorite carry-on luggage on the market. It’s available in ten colors. Features include:
- Bags weighs just 6.8 lbs
- Hardshell materials with a micro diamond, brushed exterior to help hide nicks and scratches
- Spinner wheels make the bag glide across airport floors
#4 Rockland Melbourne Expandable Carry-On Luggage
Looking for a carry-on that is affordable, lightweight and durable? Check out Rockland’s Melbourne luggage. Constructed of polycarbonate material, this carry-on luggage is lightweight and easy to maneuver. Features include:
- Affordably priced
- Four spinner wheels provide 360-degree spinnability
- Mesh compartments to keep you organized
#5 Travelpro Maxlite Expandable Rollaboard Suitcase
If you’re looking for the best luggage for men, take a look at Travelpro’s Maxlite Expandable Roller. It’s a traditional softshell bag, but its expandable handle makes it perfect for tall people. Features include:
- One main compartment
- Telescope handle extends up to 42.5 inches
- Weights just 6.6 lbs
Best Affordable: Rockland Melbourne
Looking for lightweight, affordable, stylish carry-on luggage?
Rockland Melbourne has you covered.
Made from polycarbonate material, this expandable spinner luggage is lightweight and durable. It protects the contents of your luggage. Four multi-directional spinner wheels rotate 360-degrees, making this suitcase more mobile.
This luggage has interior mesh, a zippered pocket, and an elastic pocket, which allows you to pack more while avoiding the excess weight surcharges imposed by most airlines.
And you can’t beat the price.
Rockland Melbourne Pros
- Affordable price: This bag proves that price has nothing to do with quality.
- Multiple compartments: Bag has mesh zip pockets and an elastic pocket helping you stay organized.
- Spinner wheels: Four spinner wheels rotate 360-degrees making this bag oh-so-easy to maneuver.
Rockland Melbourne Cons
- Outer shell: Customers say that the shell cracks easily.
Best for Men: Travelpro Maxlite
If you’re looking for a soft-shell, two-wheeled roller suitcase at an affordable price, you can’t go wrong with the Travelpro Maxlite carry-on.
It’s lightweight at just 6.6 lbs and has a telescoping handle that adds length and can extend up to 42.5 inches. It’s perfect for those 6-foot plus people.
It has one main, deep interior compartment that contains small zippered compartments for extra storage and organization. Plus, there’s a front lid with enough room for a few pressed shirts and pants. It’s perfect for short business trips.
Travelpro Maxlite Pros
- Affordable price: This carry-on bag is affordable while still being made of high-quality materials.
- Expandable handle: The handle makes it perfect for tall people.
- Large size: This luggage has one large compartment and can expand.
Travelpro Maxlite Cons
- Two wheels: If you’re looking for two wheels this is great. If you prefer a four-wheeled carry-on spinner, keep looking.
Best for Women: Samsonite Omni
Samsonite’s Omni carry-on spinner luggage is our top pick for women because it’s easy to maneuver. It’s lightweight, has re-engineered spinner wheels for easy mobility, and comes with a TSA-approved lock.
It’s even available in ten colors and features a micro diamond, brushed exterior that hides scratches to keep the bag looking as good as new.
Samsonite Omni Pros
- Color option: This luggage comes in ten colors. You can go with your basic black or try the radiant pink if you want to stand out.
- Lightweight: This cabin luggage option weighs only at 6.8 lbs and easy to handle.
- Spinner wheels: This bag glides across the floor with little force thanks to its four spinner wheels.
Samsonite Omni Cons
- Wheel quality: Customers have reported wheels can jam easily.
Best for Business Trips: Victorinox Spectra 2.0
If you’re traveling for business, you’ll need nice carry-on luggage. No one wants to be the guy that checks a bag and makes the rest of the team wait for the person with the beat up luggage. It doesn’t give a good impression.
Victorinox is our favorite luggage for business travel. If you’re looking for more of a business backpack, we’ve reviewed those too.
This bag is sleek, lightweight and break- and scratch-resistant. It has TSA locks and rests atop four dual-caster spinner wheels that make it seamless to maneuver.
Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Pros
- Aesthetics: This sleek-looking bag also claims to be scratch resistant.
- Organization: Two main compartments make organization a cinch.
- Wheels: Duel-caster spinner wheels make this suitcase glide.
Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Cons
- Price: This is one of the pricier luggage pieces on our list, so it is a big investment.
Best Lightweight Carry-On: Delsey Helium Aero
Are you looking for a lightweight suitcase?
Check out the Delsey Helium Aero Hardcase Spinner.
This stylish bag is made of 100% polycarbonate and weighs just 8.4 lbs. The material is also practically crack-proof!
It features four spinner wheels for easy handling, two large compartments, and even has a comfortable handle.
Delsey Helium Aero Pros
- Compartments: This bag features two large, interior compartments to keep you organized.
- Four spinner wheels: This bag moves with little effort from you.
- Lightweight: A polycarbonate shell makes this bag super lightweight without sacrificing in quality or protection.
Delsey Helium Aero Cons
- Size: This bag will not fit into most commuter airline compartments.
Carry-On Luggage Buying Guide
There are a lot of different types of carry-on luggage.
Consider the following things to help you find your ideal carry-on bags.
Size and Weight
The first thing you should think about is what its primary purpose will be.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Do you need it for weekend trips, or will you try to fit a week’s worth of clothes inside?
- Will you use it more for long-haul domestic flights, commuter flights or international flights?
If you typically go on short trips, you may be able to get away with a smaller sized bag. A smaller bag is easier to fit inside the airline’s compartments.
The max size for domestic carry-on luggage is 9″x 14″ x 22″ (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), and this includes wheels and handle. This size is the universally accepted carry-on size in the U.S., but not all commuter flights can handle a bag this big.
If you tend to frequent traveler on commuter flights, we recommend you find a small bag to avoid checking it. Global carry-on bag regulations vary by airline and region, but a bag this size will work on most international flights.
Weight is also important. As you’ll need to lift the bag up into the airline’s storage compartment, we recommend finding the lightest weight bag that you can. Chances are you’ll be packing it with shoes and other items that can add up in weight, so start with the least amount of weight possible.
Softside vs. Hardside Luggage
Once you’ve figured out the size of carry-on you want, take a look at the material.
You may ask yourself, “which is better, soft-side vs. hard-side luggage?”
There are benefits to both, so it’s your call. One isn’t necessarily better than the other.
Hard-side luggage is more protective of its contents. If you tend to pack breakable goods, a hardside luggage might be your best option. It’s also water-resistant, so it might be the best choice if you go to wet destinations.
Soft-side bags are more malleable than hard-side bags. Soft bags also don’t show wear and tear as much as its hardside counterparts. If aesthetics are important, perhaps you’ll prefer a softside carry-on.
Look at both to see which you prefer.
If you don’t mind carrying your carry-on bag, you could find a cool, vintage duffle bag. However, if you would rather wheel your bag, we recommend finding something on wheels.
There are two types of wheels: in-line wheels and spinners.
- In-line wheels are like rollerblades. They roll in one direction and usually are on the backside of luggage. When you pull your bag, the weight goes to the back of the suitcase.
- Spinners typically come in fours. There is one at each corner of the suitcase, and the weight rests on the bottom of the bag. Spinner bags are generally easier to manage and control than luggage with in-line wheels.
We recommend testing both spinner bags and in-line luggage to see what you like best. Go to a store and try out both types.
Different types of carry-on luggage have different numbers of compartments. Some have one big area where you can store all of your items.
Others have two: one zippered compartment along the inside of the lid and one main compartment.
If you like to stay organized when you travel the world, we recommend getting a soft-sided carry-on bag with multiple compartments. Soft-side bags tend to have outer, easy access zippered pockets while hardshell roller luggage does not.
Want to stay even more organized?
Invest in some of the best packing cubes.
Smart vs. Traditional
If you like to stay up to date with the latest technological trends, you may be interested in smart luggage.
Smart luggage is typically any travel bags that have high-tech capabilities. These capabilities can include (but are not limited to):
- Bluetooth connection
- Charging stations
- Electronic locks
- GPS tracking
- Remote app controls
- WiFi connectivity
Smart luggage can make travel more comfortable and prevent your luggage from getting lost. It does, however, have some limitations.
The most significant limitation of smart luggage is that some airlines have banned it or placed restrictions on it. Most smart luggage utilizes lithium-ion batteries, which unfortunately can be fire hazards.
Some airlines have banned smart luggage completely while other carriers require you to remove the batteries before your flight. However, without batteries, smart luggage may not be able to function fully.
Is smart luggage worth it?
In our minds, it’s not. While we love indulging in the latest tech trends, we still prefer traditional luggage.
Ideally, we want a lifetime warranty. If a company stands behind its products, it adds an extra layer of trust in our minds.
Most luggage companies do not protect against normal wear and tear of luggage. They also do not cover damage inflicted by airlines, but you can get coverage against manufacturing defects. Most provide warranty between one to five years, but not a lifetime warranty.
When researching luggage brands, see what guarantees the company offers.
Carry-On Luggage FAQs
Have questions about carry-on luggage? You’re not alone. Below are some of the most common questions people ask.
What Is the Weight Limit for Carry-On Luggage?
Good news: There usually isn’t one!
While airlines typically require that checked luggage weigh 50 lbs or less, the same is not ring true for carry-on bags. You just need to be able to lift it into the overhead bin yourself.
There is, however, a size limit, and airlines are strict about this limit. If your bag is too big, the airline will force you to check it whether you want to or not. Sometimes you’ll have to pay extra fees.
Airplanes have compartment spaces for carry-ons. They can be stored in overhead lockers or under the seat in front of you. Make sure yours can fit into one of those compartments.
The maximum size for carry-on luggage is 9″ x 14″ x 22″ (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including the wheels and handle.
What Is the Maximum Number of Carry-On Bags Allowed for Domestic and International Flights?
Depending on the airline, you can typically check three bags.
You may need to pay a baggage fee for some or all three bags. If you choose to carry on your luggage, you will not typically pay a baggage fee, but you have a limited number of suitcases you can take.
Most airlines allow you to carry one piece of luggage and one smaller, personal item such as a purse, backpack, diaper bag, camera bag or briefcase. Both must fit under the seat in front of you or inside the overhead bins.
Most airlines allow a “freebie” too. Duty-free items or food bought in the airport do not count as personal items. Jackets and umbrellas also do not count as personal items.
Some airlines are stricter than others when it comes to the size and number of bags, so check with your airline in advance if you have any questions or concerns.
What Is Allowed in Carry-On Luggage?
Per TSA, you are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the security checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item.
If you think something is questionable, you can send TSA a photo of the item in advance. They’ll let you know if you can bring it or not.
A full list of banned luggage items is available here.
Examples of luggage items banned by TSA include the following:
- Alcohol beverages over 140 proof
- Chemicals such as bleach, chlorine and spray paint
- Gel candles
- Liquids over 3.4 ounces
- Mace, pepper spray, and self-defense weapons
- Sharp tools
- Snow globes
In our opinion, it’s best to travel with carry-on luggage whenever possible. Use this guide to help you make the best decision.
If you need larger bags, check out the list of our favorite checked luggage for when you need more room.Read More