Buying Guide for Carry-On Bags
Why buy a carry-on bag?
A nice carry-on provides convenience for long flights and saves money if you don’t need to check several bags. Some carry-on bags are designed for multipurpose use, such as a gym bag or camping bag. So if you buy a TSA-approved carry-on that you can use beyond the airport, you won’t need to buy a separate bag for plane travel.
What should you look for in a carry-on bag?
- Organization: Regardless of the length of your trip, you want a carry-on designed for sensible organization. Look for a spacious main compartment and zippered pockets for storing small items like socks that could get lost in the mix. Great carry-ons have several pockets of varying sizes to keep in place varying-sized items. Shoes and laptops, for example, need each their spot.
- Material: A carry-on’s exterior material differs widely from the next. So, how you’ll choose should be based on what you need in a carry-on. A hardshell carry-on will have the best protection over cloth types, but it won’t be able to bend and flex. If you want to use the carry-on for other purposes like an everyday tote, that may be a drawback. Otherwise, look for durable nylon, polyester, or thick canvas.
- Type: You can’t overlook the importance of selecting the right carry-on for your travel needs. The predominant types are those with wheels and those without. Which to buy? The advantages of rolling carry-ons are many. They can be easier to maneuver, especially with heavier loads. Look for multi-directional wheels for slick pivoting and a retractable and lockable handle. Shoulder bags are also user-friendly in that most of us find them familiar. Just sling it over your shoulder like a purse or cross-body briefcase. Their soft exterior can make overhead compartment storage easier, too.
What extra things should you check for in a quality carry-on bag?
For TSA purposes, you will want to check that your carry-on bag has the proper dimensions, which will depend on the airline. You will also want to consider the weight of your carry-on bag and the items you pack to ensure it doesn’t go over the restricted limit.
Our Picks for the Best Carry-On Bags
Kenneth Cole Reaction Renegade 8-Wheel Spinner Carry-On
An expandable, rolling hard-shell carry-on that's lightweight and good-looking.
Pros: From top to bottom, inside and out, this rolling carry-on offers the qualities a traveler wants in a durable carry-on. The ABS hard outer shell is flexible for optimal shock resistance and features molded corner guards, making it impossible to damage. Even so, it’s a lightweight 7.35 pounds, ideal for dodging those bag-checking fees. With the eight-wheel multi-directional spinners and telescoping retractable handle, you’ll have no trouble maneuvering it through the airport—finally, the interior. The main compartment has several zippered pockets to organize your belongings, plus elastic shoe pockets and a garnet restraint panel.
Cons: It is prone to scratches.
Bottom Line: ‘Reaction Renegade’ is an apt description for this super durable yet elegant carry-on. It comes in several colors, too.
Gonex Canvas Carry-On Duffle Bag, 50 L
A canvas duffel bag with a professional look and a rugged feel.
Pros: For one thing, it passes as a business duffel bag, one you might take as a carry-on for a meeting or convention. Its high-density cotton canvas, bronze-tone hardware, and large zippers with stylish pull tabs make a look fit for first-class or coach. The bag has impressive expandable features as well. Convert the 20.8-inch-long bag to 24.4 inches by pulling down two side zippers. There are capacity and organizational aspects to appreciate as well. The main compartment has two sides, two front and one back pocket, each with its zipper. With a 50L volume, this duffel bag should be sufficient space for all your necessities and a little left over.
Cons: Some colors do not match the colors indicated in the product image.
Bottom Line: It sure seems fit to carry all your belongings for an overnight or weekend trip for a carry-on. In addition, the bag comes with rounded and stitched grip handles and a padded, adjustable, removable shoulder strap for carrying in three different ways.
HYC00 Carry-On Duffle Bag for the Shoulder
This multipurpose carry-on comes in lovely colors and has handy features.
Pros: Make this fashionable airplane carry-on shoulder bag what you want. The interior features an interior zippered pocket, a main pocket, an open mesh pocket, and a wet pocket. This organizational system and its high-density, water-resistant nylon material allow you to separate dry and wet items. So you can pack a wet towel after a workout, for example, and tow a 15.6-inch laptop in the padded sleeve of the zippered compartment. The bag measures a generous 10.63 x 21.65 x 7.09 inches.
Cons: This is a smaller size, so it may only be suitable for a short trip.
Bottom Line: This great find is awesome for travelers who want a multipurpose carry-on bag for all destinations.
Samsonite Under-Seat Carry-On Spinner with USB Port
This carry-on stows right under your seat, preventing overhead compartment stress.
Pros: It comes as no surprise that this Samsonite rolling carry-on bag is a keeper for those who frequently fly since it fits under most airline seats. The four multi-directional spinner wheels provide a smooth ride, and the ergonomic push-button locking handle makes for easy steering. The main compartment measures 14.5 x 13.5 x 6 inches and features a padded laptop compartment. There’s also a built-in USB port, a significant boon to those who spend a lot of time waiting for flights. Also impressive are the exterior, front, and side pockets for storing items you need to access quickly.
Cons: This carry-on may be on the smaller side.
Bottom Line: This carry-on model lives up to the Samsonite reputation for durable, high-quality luggage. It’s also up to date with accommodations for your laptop and other devices that require USB charging.
Pelican Air 1535 Carry-On Travel Case
An insanely heavy-duty carry-on case with an impressive interior organizational system.
Pros: This carry-on is not just shock-resistant; it’s crushproof. What’s more, the travel case is dustproof and waterproof. Built with wheels and a retractable extension handle, the lockable carry-on is TSA-approved. It gets a lot of attention for its polycarbonate exterior; however, the interior features impressive organizational capability that shouldn’t escape consideration. Inside are packing cubes with transparent mesh covering for easy identifying where you put, for example, your socks or shoes. The lid organizer comprises zippered pockets and an outer mesh pocket. The interior measures Interior 20.39 x 11.20 x 7.21 inches, so you have plenty of room to work with.
Cons: This is a pricier option.
Bottom Line: This exceedingly protective case will have your back through all the escapades you may encounter on airplane travel.
To avoid unnecessary bag check-in fees and convenience while seated for your flight, think about investing in a carry-on bag. We presented five options varying from a simple duffel bag to a crushproof rolling carry-on. Now you have a better idea of what to look for in a carry-on bag that’s ideal for you.