Best Carry On Luggage

UPDATED AUGUST 2018

Move quickly through any airport or train station with a new set of carry on luggage.

BEST CARRY ON
LUGGAGE 2018

BOTTOM LINE

The Windfield 2 comes from Samsonite, which has a long history of providing travel products to customers. The bag has ample pockets inside for storage and a telescoping handle, but some may find that it isn’t quite big enough for their travels.

PROS

A telescoping handle extends to help you wheel the bag around behind you. It also comes with 10 pockets inside for organizing all your things.

CONS

Some customers found that it was a little too small for their belongings. Others complained that the suitcase does not expand like others do.

BOTTOM LINE

Travelers who want to look stylish while on the go will like this Delsey Paris bag, which uses both deep brown and champagne in its design. Some found that the exterior is prone to damage, but most like that it comes with locks to keep their belongings safe.

PROS

The Luggage Chalet comes with locks approved by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) for frequent travelers. This hard-sided suitcase comes in a soft champagne color with some deeper brown leather accents.

CONS

This carry on piece is a little too expensive for some customers. Past shoppers also complained that the bag develops scratches fairly easily.

BOTTOM LINE

Weighing just six pounds, the Maxlite3 is easy to carry and use in the airport. It has straps inside for storing more items inside, and you get an exterior zippered compartment. This bag doesn’t have the higher end look that some like though.

PROS

Lots of padding on the sides add to the comfort that you have when traveling with this bag. It’s also a spinner and has wheels that let you rotate the bag up to 360-degrees.

CONS

Despite its higher price tag, the Maxlite3 has a somewhat cheap look to it. Some customers found that it didn’t hold up well to frequent travels either.

BOTTOM LINE

Rockland makes this suitcase for those who don’t like to travel with a lot of stuff. Its polycarbonate protects your belongings and keeps the weight of the bag down. Its handle isn’t quite as strong as some shoppers would like though.

PROS

Suitable for those who want to pack lightly, this carry on suitcase uses a polycarbonate shell that protects everything stored inside. It comes in different patterns and colors to match your personality too.

CONS

This bag is a little too small for those who travel with more things and is too small for most adults. It also comes with a handle that may feel flimsy in your hands.

BOTTOM LINE

This bag is suitable for frequent travelers and those who vacation in the great outdoors. It features a kick plate, a rip stop that is waterproof and reinforced pockets. The only real issue that some have is that it doesn’t stack well with other bags and luggage.

PROS

Available in multiple colors, the Load Warrior features a nylon exterior with lots of pockets for all your stuff. A rip stop adds to its structure, while a kick plate keeps you from accidentally damaging the bag.

CONS

The warranty on this bag requires that you ship it back to the manufacturer for repairs. The handle on this bag prevents you from stacking other bags on top.

Shopping Guide for Carry On Luggage

The best carry on luggage makes it easier for you to get through crowded airports, pack your car and find all your belongings when you arrive at your final destination. As we know that the best carry on luggage 2018 products will vary from traveler to traveler, we identified the best products for different types of travelers. You can find a bag that fits in the trunk of your car on a road trip and bags that you can store in the overhead compartment on an airplane.

Though some people swear by duffel bags, our list of the best carry on luggage 2018 products include hard-shell and soft-side bags. Duffel bags do not offer the protection that you need and can result in you missing items when you arrive because the bag came open during transport. Hard-shell cases use polycarbonate and other materials to create a rugged shell that offers a good level of protection. Soft-shell cases and soft-side bags are suitable for other types of travelers.

The top bags that we found can hold up to anything and everything you go through on a trip. You will find luggage suitable for both adults and kids.

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Shopping Guide for Carry On Luggage

Selection Criteria​

We never recommend a product that we didn’t try out and test in our workshop. When looking at the top carry on bags and suitcases, we put each bag through the ringer. Our testing ensured that each product could stand up to all the experiences and activities that a traditional traveler would go through. With rolling bags, we walked across different surfaces to see how well those wheels could hold up to grass, concrete, tile and even carpeting. We also check the handles on these suitcases to see if the handle felt strong enough for traveling.

Many travelers want bags that meet TSA guidelines but still have enough space for all their things. Our testers actually experimented to see how much they could fit inside each one and if the bags expanded to store additional items. We also looked at the exterior for any pockets or extra storage options and at the inside to see if the interior had any additional storage. The hard work that we did makes it easy for you to find out which bags will fit all your belongings and which bags are tough enough to stand up to all your travels.

Carry On Luggage Selection Criteria

Best for Stylish Travelers

If you want to look and feel your best when traveling, you’ll want a bag like the Luggage Chalet from Delsey Paris. This suitcase practically screams class and elegance with its soft brown leather accents and soft champagne exterior. Its exterior shell uses a type of virgin polycarbonate that will impact your belongings from shocks and drops as well as sharp temperature changes.

The four wheels placed across the bottom allow this bag to move smoothly as you race across any type of terrain. You can use the Stop and Go system for added stability too. This system lets you lock two of the wheels to keep the bag from moving as you sit, but you can then pull the bag behind you with the other two wheels.

Celebrities would love this bag because of its locking system, which keeps all belongings secured and protected. This locking system actually lets you lock the two zippers to the bag to keep others from opening it. Only when you enter the right code can you release those zippers.

The interior features two different compartments for packing your items and tie down straps. Those straps ensure that not a single item moves during your travels.

Best for Stylish Travelers

Best for All Types of Traveler

Our top choice for any type of traveler is the Load Warrior from Eagle Creek. While it meets the standards for airport travel, this bag is also great for road trips and camping vacations. Instead of using polycarbonate, this soft-shell bag uses nylon and other materials with reinforced areas. Eagle Creek looked at which areas wear down first and added reinforcements to make the Load Warrior last longer. It also has reinforced blocking and bumping areas that keep the bag from breaking down as it rubs and bumps against other things.

Despite its soft-shell design, the Load Warrior comes with the same two wheels you would find on hard-shell suitcases. Those wheels have an oversize design that helps you move the bag when it’s completely full, but the bumpers located in front will not get in the way of the wheels. The Load Warrior also comes with a geo rip stop that is water resistant to keep your belongings safe and dry, and the material used in the bag itself is ballistics grade, which adds even more security to it. This bag can hold up to anything you do on vacation.

Best All Around Bag

When looking for the best all-around bag, we knew that Samsonite would take the top spot after looking at its Winfield 2. Opening this case will reveal two separate packing areas inside. One side comes with a mesh panel that sits on top of your belongings to keep the items from shipping or shifting as the case moves. This panel also has individual zippered compartments that let you store delicate or smaller items like electronic devices and socks. The second compartment uses tie down straps that keep your items in place. Inside the Winfield 2 are a total of 10 different compartments for organizing everything you want to take with you.

This bag also comes with nice features like four spinner wheels that move in any direction. Those wheels help the bag follow along behind you and reduces the risk of the bag catching on the ground or floor. It uses a polycarbonate shell that absorbs all the bumps and shocks of the bag bouncing in the airport and a built-in locking system. That locking system keeps the zippers locked to the side until you enter the right code. Samsonite offers the Winfield 2 in a range of colors for travelers.

Best All-Around Bag

Best for Kids

Though the Rockland Polycarbonate Carry On is suitable for adults, it also ranks as our top choice for kids. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns that children will love, including a colorful own pattern and a darker tribal pattern. This bag comes with a telescoping handle for pulling the suitcase on its four bottom wheels and a canvas handle for carrying it by hand. The interior has one side with two zippers that divide the side into two separate compartments and tie down straps on the opposite side. Though it may look fairly small, this soft-shell case can hold enough clothing and accessories for an adult to travel for up to two days.

The manufacturer recommends using it for up to four pairs of underwear, four tops, five bottoms and a single pair of shoes. As kids’ clothing is smaller, your child can fit enough inside for a trip of up to four days or longer. Kids even have enough room to bring along some books and/or toys from home.

Best for Kids

Best for Budget Travelers

Retailing for around $110, the Maxlite3 from Travelpro is the top bag for budget travelers. While other bags cost less, the Maxlite3 is strong enough for any type of trip that you want to take and will last through dozens of vacations. It uses a soft polyester lining that won’t damage your clothing and features multiple pockets on the interior. The main compartment has a small mesh pocket on the side with a zipper to store smaller things. You’ll find a hidden zippered compartment located on the inside of the top too. This top piece has its own zippered compartment on the outside that is the perfect size for storing your passport or anything else you might need at the airport.

Four spinner wheels on the base move in a complete 360-degree circle to ensure that this bag moves just as quickly as you do, and those wheels also help the bag move in unison with you. It features a solid handle on the very top for grabbing the bag and carrying it by hand. You can also use the telescoping handle to pull the Maxlite3 behind you.

Best for Budget Travelers

TSA Luggage Requirement 

The TSA has regulations in place that dictate the size bag you can carry on the plane. Though some manufacturers claim that their bags meet carry on requirements, not all do. You can typically carry a bag that is up to 22-inches by 14-inches by 9-inches. Keep in mind that this can vary across airlines too. JetBlue Airways will let you bring a bag on board that measures 22-inches by 14-inches by 10-inches, Qantas Airlines lets you carry any size bag with a linear measurement of up to 45-inches.

Some luggage manufacturers make carry on bags with extending designs. You can use zippers on the outside to increase the amount of storage space available on the inside. Do not assume that you can fill the bag with as many things as you want though. Many airlines will weigh your bag and will only let you bring it on board if it weighs less than the maximum amount. The maximum weight limit ranges from 15 pounds to more than 30 pounds.

TSA Luggage Requirements

Benefits of Wheeled Bags

You can purchase a duffel bag or a backpack to take on vacation with you, but wheeled suitcases have a number of benefits that you won’t find in other bags. Those benefits include:

  • Less Back Pain: When you carry a bag with your hands or on your back/shoulders, you’ll feel pressure and pain in your back. Wheeled suitcases let you travel with less discomfort.
  • Protect Your Valuables: Thanks to the new locking systems designed by manufacturers, you can protect your valuable as you travel. Locks prevent others from accessing the interior of your bag and stop the bag from accidentally coming open.
  • More Convenient: Using a wheeled bag is also more convenient. The wheels prevent the bag from catching on the overhead compartment and allows you to get across the airport faster.
  • Easier Organization: Most wheeled suitcases come with a number of compartments inside that make it easy to organize all your belongings. You can organize items by day of the week or clothing type.
Benefits of Wheeled Bags

Interior Features to Consider

Don’t spend so much time looking at size that you don’t consider what the interior of the luggage looks like. It’s important that you check the inside to ensure that it has all the space you need and that it comes with features that will work with your belongings.

One thing that many people do not consider is what the corners look like. Curved corners can cause a few different problems. Those corners do not offer the protection that you need when carrying your bag. Curved corners also limit the amount of packing space available to you. Sharply designed or squared corners offer more protection and maximize your packing space.

Look at the interior of the bag to see if the manufacturer mounted the handle inside. While some think this makes the handle more dependable, it significantly reduces the amount of space inside the bag. Check to see if any interior pockets take up space inside too.

You’ll want to look for pockets and tie down straps as well. Pockets keep your beauty supplies and accessories from spilling out. With tie down straps, you can keep clothing and shoes from moving inside the bag.

Interior Features to Consider

Soft-Shell vs. Hard-Shell Bags

An important thing to think about when looking at carry on luggage is whether you want a soft-shell or hard-shell bag. Manufacturers also use the terms hard-sided and soft-sided to describe these bags.

Soft-shell luggage often uses a softer material like nylon that is durable enough for regular travel. Other bags use the same ballistics fabric used to make bulletproof vests. These models are best for those who want to take more with them. The material actually expands slightly to help you fit more clothing inside. This can result in you packing too much and going over the size or weight requirements for certain airlines though. Soft-shell bags can also rip or tear when caught on metal or hard objects.

Hard-shell luggage uses polycarbonate or a similar material that will keep your belongings safe when stored in an overhead compartment or in the cargo hold. These suitcases often come with built-in locks that use an entry code you establish. Hard-shell cases do not have the added pockets found on soft-shell cases though and will limit how much you can fit inside.

Soft-Shell vs. Hard-Shell Bags

Other Features to Consider

Other features that you may want to consider include the wheels, handles and any exterior pockets. Exterior pockets should have durable zippers that will not move or wiggle as you move the bag. Zippers that wiggle can come loose on your trip and cause damage to your belongings. You also risk the zippers catching on other objects and damaging the bag.

Many bags now come with two separate handles. One uses nylon or another durable material and sits on the top of the suitcase. This handle should feel comfortable in your hand and not break away from the bag as you carry it. Check the telescoping handle to ensure that it comes out smoothly and that it feels sturdy as you pull it.

With the wheels, you want to see how smoothly those wheels glide across linoleum and the other surfaces that you typically see in airports. The wheels should move so smoothly that you have no problem spinning or turning the bag.

Packing Tips

Even if you have the right carry on luggage, you may still have a hard time deciding what to take and what to leave at home. We compiled a list of packing tips that will make it easier to stay on track as you prepare for your next vacation.

  • Reuse each item at least once: Create a chart that shows all the clothing you want to bring and how you will use each piece. When you wear each item at least two times, you can leave more things at home.
  • Use plastic bags: Use ordinary sandwich bags to keep things contained inside your bag. Keep smaller items like prescription medications, jewelry and bathroom products together. You can use a larger bag to store muddy or dirty shoes and clothing on your way home.
  • Leave some space: Leave yourself some space in the bag for any souvenirs or other items you pick up that you want to bring back. When you pack too many things, you may find that you go over the maximum weight capacity when you bring more things home.
Packing Tips

Other Types of Luggage

In addition to a carry on bag, you may want to pick out one or more other bags that you can use on longer trips. Some of those bags include:

  • Garment bags: Designed for use with delicate fabrics, a garment bag allows you to store a suit or dress inside. These bags prevent wrinkles from forming in the fabric.
  • Duffel bags: Usually made from nylon or a similar fabric, these bags have a rounded or cylindrical shape. Two handles on the top allow you to carry it over your shoulder or by hand.
  • Travel duffel bags: These products combine the features of a rolling suitcase with a duffel bag. Many have extra pockets and straps on the outside for carrying books, laptops and other items.
  • Laptop case: If you travel for work or use your computer on vacation, look for a laptop case. These cases absorb shocks and impacts to keep your computer safe and have storage pockets for laptop accessories like a charging cord and spare battery.

Samsonite and other companies also make luggage sets. These sets come with multiple bags and cases in a matching design.

Other Types of Luggage

Average Prices for Carry On Luggage

The amount that you spend on a carry on bag will vary based on the strength and durability that you need. You’ll find bags priced at between $25 and $50, but those cheaper bags are not suitable for frequent travelers. Not only can the zippers stick or break, but the bag itself can actually fall apart. You can get a much better bag for between $100 and $200 like any of the following models.

  • Priced at right around $100, the Winfield 2 comes with a dependable warranty from Samosonite and a polycarbonate shell. You can choose from different colors that cost more or less.
  • Spending closer to $200 lets you bring home the Delsey Paris Luggage Chalet, which has brown accents on the outside. This bag might make you feel like a celebrity as you rush through the airport.
  • The Load Warrior from Eagle Creek is almost as expensive as the Delsey Paris bag at around $180, but this rugged suitcase is suitable for most vacations. You can take it camping in the great outdoors and carry it onto a flight.
  • Priced at around $110, The Travelpro Maxlite3 gives you lots of storage inside and even more storage on the outside. It even spins 360-degrees to keep up with your pace and movements.
  • Rockland offers a more affordable option because its polycarbonate suitcase retails for less than $60. Despite costing so much less than other bags, it’s a solid choice for kids and light travelers.
Average Prices for Carry On Luggage

Frequently Asked Questions

A: Bag weight is important because its overall weight tells you how easily you can carry and travel with it. Some hard-shell cases weigh as much as 10 to 20 pounds before you put a single thing inside. Heavier bags will feel cumbersome as you try to push or pull them.

A: A travel pack is essentially a backpack designed for long-term travel. Most of these bags come with padded straps that protect your head and shoulders. You will have interior packing space and straps and pockets on the outside for storing food and other items. Travel packs are often too large to qualify as carry on luggage.

A: If you invest in carry on luggage that does not come with a lock, you will need to add one of your own. You can pick up a lock with TSA approval from stores located inside the airport and from online sites. Locks that use a code are generally better than those that use a key. If you lose the key, you’ll need to cut off the lock to get inside, which will damage your bag.

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