Gone are the days of unrecognizable black canvas bags with wobbly wheels and tears in the corners! For even the most infrequent of travelers, carry-on luggage is not something that should be skimped or compromised on.
We’ve reviewed the best carry-on luggage of 2021 and shared our expert tips on what to look for when shopping for the lightest and most durable cabin bags!
Best Carry-On Luggage of 2021 Reviewed
Top luggage brands have recently rolled out some of the best looking and most practical small suitcases we’ve seen so far. Business travelers and outdoor adventure-seekers alike can find maximum value, space, durability and security in our collection of the top carry-on suitcases of the year.
Most Affordable Carry-On Luggage
Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside 20 inch Luggage
If you’re a highly-organized traveler looking for a durable, stylish, and theft proof option, then the Samsonite Winfield 2 is for you. With a full-zip interior divider, side mounted TSA locks, and a 10 year limited warranty, this top rated carry-on bag will keep your stuff tidy and last you for a while. Plus, ringing in at under $100, it won’t break the bank.
Best Lightweight Carry-On Luggage
Genius Pack 21″ Aerial Hardside Carry On Luggage
With a sleek, minimalist design and weighing just 6.2 lbs, the Genius Pack “Aerial” is perfect for the no-fuss traveler! The bag features durable spinner wheels, its own laundry compartment, interior organization compartments, a packing checklist, and is scratch and stain resistant.
If you’re looking for an easy packing experience in a lightweight bag, the Aerial is for you!
Read more: Packing Light: How To Pack For Carry-On Only
Nicole Miller Paige Collection Carry On Under Seat Bag
Weighing in at only 6.3 lbs, the Nicole Miller Under Seat Bag is perfect for those who prioritize a light, sleek bag. This rolling bag features a retractable handle, side and front zippered pockets, and is stylish to boot!
If you’re seeking a good balance of classy and casual in a bag, then this is one of the best cabin luggage options for you!
Best Carry-On Luggage For Frequent Travelers
Biaggi Contempo Foldable 18″ 2 Wheel Fashion Tote
Any travel product with the word “foldable” in the name immediately draws in any seasoned traveler. This Biaggi carry-on collapses to half its size for easy stowing away (perfect for sailing trips or sleeping in a campervan!), is durable and water resistant, and uses hinge-lock technology. However, the real draw is its size.
With a little research, we’ve found the smallest combined dimensions of all international airline carry-on restrictions to be 21 x 13 x 9 — and this bag is one of very few to fit within them! Being one of the best international carry-on luggage options on the market, you can be sure that no matter where you fly or what airline you take, this tote will meet all requirements.
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2
I have to admit, this post would not be complete without mentioning a Travelpro suitcase. This tried-and-true brand has been used by airline employees for years, namely for its simplicity and durability, and has some of the best luggage reviews from airline professionals.
Travelpro’s latest carry-on — the Platinum Magna 2 — can withstand plenty of wear and tear over the years and is practical in every way. A “comfort” handle and and MagnaTrac wheels that self-align, in addition to convenient built-in zipper pockets, are added bonuses on an otherwise no-frills suitcase that will last a lifetime.
Best Smart Carry-On Luggage
Samsonite Spinner Underseater
One of the biggest airport hassles is drained batteries, a problem that can easily be solved with this sleek, smart-suitcase.
The Samsonite Spinner not only looks sleek and sophisticated but has built-in technology to serve as a USB charging port for all your electronic devices. Not only that, the bag will fit perfectly in front of the seat in front of you, it features spinner wheels, and it weighs only 6.5 lbs!
Most Durable Carry-On Luggage
Eagle Creek Load Hauler
Dual backpack straps, an adjustable shoulder strap, and padded handles on both the top and front of this bag make Eagle Creek’s latest duffel an ease to carry and one of the best carry-on bags to take along on your adventures!
High durability and maximum abrasion resistance means you can throw this bag around just about anywhere without worry of tears or damage, but the makers of this bag offer a full lifetime warranty on it just in case.
A safety whistle and lockable zippers ensure extra security while you’re near or far from your bag, and practical outer pouches for toiletries and gear give you all the space you need to carry all your travel belongings with you in-flight.
With compression straps, expandable zippers, and a little smart packing (remember to roll your clothes instead of folding or cramming), minimalist packers won’t even need to check a suitcase!
Delsey Helium Aero
While we typically stand by the saying that “you get what you pay for,” this 100% polycarbonate hardshell suitcase runs for about $100 USD and packs a lot of features in a “small” suitcase. Delsey’s Helium Aero is comparable to Samsonite in strength and style, but has additional organization pockets and an easy-access padded laptop compartment in the front.
Luggage reviews of this carry-on can all seem to agree that the overall quality and price of this Delsey makes it one of the best cabin luggage options on the market!
Read more: Carry-On Packing Guide for Airplane Travel
Best Carry-On Luggage for Business Travelers
CHESTER Carry-On Luggage/22″
While it does offer a sleek style and a great-sized frame, what we love most about this hardshell suitcase is its sheer durability. Made with 100% polycarbonate, this lightweight piece of luggage is water-resistant, super easy to clean, and even has organized compartments for all your possessions.
Not to mention that the Chester carry-on runs at a little less than $200 USD and includes warranty, meaning it will last forever!
Most Stylish Carry-On Luggage
Bellagio Business V2.0 21” Carry On Spinner
I am completely in love with this bag and bring it on all of my domestic trips! The philosophy of Italian travel bag manufacturer Bric’s Milano is to “create elegant, functional travel bags that are good looking, and include all the practical function and modern amenities demanded by today’s traveler.” And boy, does this bag deliver.
A gorgeous, polycarbonate option with leather trimmings, the Bellagio Business Carry On Spinner features an external pocket acting as a business organizer, is lightweight and durable, and even has a water-resistant zipper.
Running in at a little less than $600 USD, this bag will not only make you the owner of the most fashionable bag on the plane, it will also last you years of travel. This is simply one of the best international carry-on luggage items you can buy!
Best Carry-On Backpack
Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack 40L
Not only does the Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack fit almost all carry-on luggage requirements, but it also features packing cubes, three different carrying styles, exterior compression straps, a padded laptop sleeve, and the handiest pockets ever! Hynes Eagle is well-known for creating durable, stylish products and this backpack delivers.
What to Look for in Carry-On Luggage
Size: What is the best carry-on size? In order for you to take your carry-on into the cabin, it’s going to have to meet the airline’s size requirements. That said, different airlines can have different size requirements for cabin luggage, so make sure you check online to see what the standard size is for the airlines you fly with the most.
Weight: As with size, airlines also usually have weight restrictions for carry-on bags. Not only will a lighter bag be easier to lug around, but it’ll give you more wiggle room when deciding what to pack.
Wheels: Carry-on luggage featuring wheels are pretty standard, but not all wheels are created equally. Wheels made of cheaper materials can become scratched, start to wobble, wear away easily, or fall off — and that’s never convenient when you’re on a trip.
Additionally, decide whether or not having two wheels is sufficient for you, or if you would prefer four. Having four wheels could save you arm pain if you have to drag your suitcase around for a while.
Compartments: Regardless of what kind of traveler you are, having conveniently-placed compartments can be a great way to organize your bag. However, make sure these compartments don’t hinder the amount of space inside your bag.
Before you buy, think about the items that you usually take along with you, and whether or not you’ll be able to adjust the compartments to fit them.
Quality: It should go without saying, but definitely read the reviews of every bag before you buy. Look for keywords in regards to the durability and stitching of the carry-on, as an attention to the quality could end up saving you from having to purchase a new bag in a few years.
What’s Not Allowed In a Carry-On Bag
Knowing what you can and cannot bring in your carry-on bag will save you time and hassle when you get to security. These guidelines change a bit country-to-country, but some general guidelines for what to leave at home are are any liquids more than 3.4 ounces (including gels and aerosols), tools, anything sharp (razors, scissors, etc.), sporting equipment (you’ll likely have to check it), weapons & self-defense items, and flammables.
Additionally, most medications will be fine to bring with you in a carry-on, but check the requirements for the country you’re traveling in as you may need a note from your doctor.