The Best Carry-on Luggage, According to Travel Editors

Roam Luggage's The Large Carry-on meets all our wildest travel expectations.

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best carry on luggage travel
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We know the original "Keep Calm and Carry On" slogan wasn't initially intended to have anything to do with luggage, but we really do believe in skipping a checked bag whenever possible. With all of your belongings on board, you can take comfort in knowing everything you'll need upon landing is with you — not headed to a different destination because it didn't make the connection or lying alone on a tarmac somewhere, probably in the rain, which is how we tend to visualize our luggage when we're feeling particularly anxious watching dozens of not-your-bags roll out onto the baggage claim carousel.

And less stress isn't the only pro of going carry-on-only. A carry-on bag is also much easier to handle. That's why our favorite carry-on is Roam Luggage's The Large Carry-on. It's a spinner, so it's unbelievably easy to navigate over everything from cobblestone streets to there terminal floor, and its extra-spacious interior holds everything you need without exceeding airlines' carry-on limits. But if you're looking for something a little different, like softside luggage, a travel duffel, or even just something smaller, take a look at our list below — it has a pick for every type of traveler.

Here are a few more helpful points to consider when choosing your new carry-on luggage.

Domestic v. International Carry-on Bag Sizes

While there are generally only a few inches of difference between carry-on luggage dimensions, you'll want to pay attention to the carry-on size restrictions of the airlines you fly most often. A good rule of thumb for domestic U.S. flights is to adhere to suitcases sized 22 by 14 by 9 inches. If you're often flying internationally, you may want to opt for a bag that stands at 21 inches instead, just to be sure you won't run into any issues when boarding. International carry-on luggage rules tend to be a bit more strict, especially if you're flying with a budget carrier.

Softside v. Hardside Carry-on Bags

If you always seem to be forced to gate check, you may want to opt for a soft-sided bag. They generally hold up best to wear and tear, though hard-shell bags are adopting more aesthetically durable materials as their popularity grows. Hardside luggage is generally a little more protective of what's inside, while softside bags may allow you to squeeze in an extra bit of baggage for the way home because the fabric has that added give.

Two-wheel v. Spinner Carry-on Luggage

Spinner luggage has four wheels, usually multidirectional, that will allow you full control of the bag. This is helpful if you feel more comfortable wheeling your bag beside you when walking instead of hauling it behind you, and if navigating the bag down tight airplane aisles always seems to be a struggle. Do keep in mind, however, that two-wheeled suitcases don't have to lend as many inches dimension-wise to the wheels — so you may be sacrificing already precious packing space if you opt for a spinner.

How to Make Sure Your Carry-on Works for You

Once you receive your bag, test it out before your trip. Did you just like the look of it, or is it really functionally the best suitcase for how you travel? Stuff it full and wheel it around to see how it handles. Pick it up and lift it over your head to mimic putting it in the overhead bin. Familiarize yourself with all of the pockets and features. Even if you've read tons of luggage reviews and bought a bag from one of the best luggage brands, you'll want to evaluate the quality before traveling with it, because if there's one true law of luggage, it's that if your luggage is going to break, it will absolutely find the most inconvenient time during your trip to do so.

Check out our list of this year's best luggage choices in every category and keep reading for even more details on each.

Best Large: Roam The Large Carry-on

Grey Hardside Carry-on Suitcase
Courtesy of Roam Luggage

Roam Luggage is completely customizable, so you can design your suitcase exactly the way you want it. From zipper pulls to stitching, you can make a Roam suitcase entirely your own. Plus, the innovative brand was founded by two former Tumi executives, so you know that quality is key. The hardside suitcases are made from 100 percent virgin polycarbonate that's designed to hide scratches. The brand offers four different sizes of luggage, including two carry-ons, like The Large Carry-on (measuring 22 by 16.25 by 9 inches), which is accepted as a carry-on on almost all domestic flights in the U.S.

To buy: roamluggage.com, $575

Best Softside: Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Spinner

Grey and black softside carry-on suitcase
Courtesy of Amazon

Travelpro has been an industry leader since its founder, pilot Bob Plath, first added wheels to a suitcase to create the Original Rollaboard back in 1987. And the company's commitment to advancing technology is still super evident in its new Platinum Elite line. This spinner incorporates a contoured and comfortable handle, wheels that are aligned by built-in magnets for effortless rolling, damage-resistant zippers, a fold-out suiter, and tons more organizational components into a sleek, leather-trimmed package. And all of that's offered at a reasonable price point.

To buy: amazon.com, $281 (originally $330)

Best Hardside: Briggs & Riley Sympatico Expandable 21-inch International Spinner

Navy hardside carry on suitcase
Courtesy of Briggs & Riley

This glistening suitcase really is the full package. The Sympatico carry-on is one of Briggs & Riley's top sellers. It's equipped with double swivel wheels, an impact-resistant polycarbonate shell, and a pretty incredible compression system that you can simply snap back down to regulation size after packing 22 percent more inside. With the lifetime warranty — the best in the business — to boot, it's absolutely worth the investment.

To buy: briggs-riley.com, $599

Best Underseat: Travelpro Maxlite 5 Rolling Underseat Carry-on Bag

Best Underseat Carry-on: Travelpro Maxlite 5 Rolling Underseat Carry-on Bag
Courtesy of eBags

Though it be but little, this bag is mighty. The polyester exterior is both water-repellent and stain-resistant, while its high-performance inline skate wheels make for effortless navigation. At just 15.25 by 13 by 9 inches, it's sized to fit snugly beneath all standard airline seats. And it even comes with a matching hanging toiletry organizer to stow all of your 3.4-or-less-ounce liquids.

To buy: amazon.com, $119 (originally $140)

Best Affordable: Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner

carry-on luggage update
Courtesy of Amazon

If you only travel a few times a year, it's definitely worth considering a more affordable suitcase. More than 19,000 five-star ratings suggest Amazon's own line is certainly on to something in the luggage category. As the name suggests, this little polycarbonate spinner packs in all the basics: expansion, zippered pockets, and an internal compression system to keep belongings secure and as wrinkle-free as possible.

To buy: amazon.com, $75

Best Zipperless: Arlo Skye Polycarbonate Carry-on Max

Navy Hardside Carry-on Suitcase
Courtesy of Arlo Skye

You may never realize how much time you're wasting with zippers until you try out a suitcase that clasps shut. This carry-on from luggage startup Arlo Skye — which was founded by Tumi and Louis Vuitton alums — checks all the boxes of today's busy traveler. It's got a durable shell, a removable charger, Japanese Silent Run wheels, and an elegant yet simple design.T

To buy: arloskye.com, $475

Best Luxury: Rimowa Original Cabin Spinner Luggage

Nordstrom holiday gift hub
Courtesy of Nordstrom

Rimowa's grooved suitcases are nothing short of iconic; it's no wonder the brand has built a following of loyal A-list clientele. Not only are its cases made to look good, they're made to be used — really used. They're water-resistant, secure, and so very strong for how lightweight they are. And all of the dents, scars, and stickers you may pick up will only add character, telling micro-stories of the places you've been.

To buy: rimowa.com, $1,150

Best Wheeled Duffel: eBags Mother Lode 21-inch Wheeled Carry-on Duffel

Best Wheeled Duffel Carry-on: eBags TLS Mother Lode Mini 21
Courtesy of eBags

Almost 5,000 reviewers have given this best-selling wheeled duffel an average 4.6-star rating on eBags' site — safe to say it's a crowd favorite. It's super compartmentalized — much more so than your average one-compartment duffel — with two main packing sections, a divider, and plenty of auxiliary pockets, too. The two wheels are quiet and smooth to roll. The four external compression straps will make sure your contents stay secure. And it's available in seven colors, so there's sure to be one for every traveler's style.

To buy: ebags.com, $170

Best Backpack: Tortuga Setout Backpack

carry-on luggage update
Courtesy of Tortuga

This popular backpack has the capacity of a suitcase, but it can be worn for hours of exploring without discomfort or the annoyance of having to rake your rollaboard across cobblestoned sidewalks. It's made from waterproof material, and it has lots of smart organizational components for your tech, padded straps and a removable hip belt, lockable YKK zippers, and many more features you'll be thankful for while on the go.

To buy: tortugabackpacks.com, $299

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