The 15 Best Carry-on Luggage of 2022, Tested and Reviewed

The Samsonite Freeform is perfect for frequent fliers.

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Carry On Luggage Test

Travel + Leisure / Tamara Staples

Every frequent flier needs a good carry-on. And even if you travel only occasionally, you'll be glad to have one on hand. But besides allowing you to bypass checked baggage, what makes a high-quality carry-on? If you ask us, it's about capacity, maneuverability, durability, and design.

With this in mind, we tested nearly 120 carry-ons, including suitcases, duffles, weekenders, backpacks, and underseat bags, to see which models check all the boxes. We packed them up, spun them around, hoisted them overhead, rolled them over various surfaces, and whacked them with a baseball bat to see how they'd hold up in a real-life setting. (Read more about how the tests were performed below.)

The results of these tests were considered along with the price, weight, dimensions, materials, and smart features to narrow it down to the best carry-ons currently on the market. Our number one pick is the Samsonite Freeform Hardside Spinner, an exceptionally durable, smooth-rolling suitcase with a compact design and an expandable capacity.

Best Overall: Samsonite Freeform Hardside Expandable Spinner

5
Samsonite Freeform Hardside Expandable

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: Earning perfect scores in all tests, this all-star carry-on has a spacious capacity, a super-durable thermoplastic shell, and smooth-rolling wheels.

What to Consider: There's no designated zippered section for dirty clothes.

We tried lots of excellent suitcases, but the Samsonite Freeform Hardside Spinner was a clear winner. Earning perfect scores in all our tests, it's easy to maneuver on two or four wheels and rolls smoothly on various surfaces, including carpet and hard flooring. We also like that the aluminum telescoping handle extends and locks with the push of a button.

This all-star suitcase has various pockets within the main compartment, and it expands a couple of inches when you need extra space. We were able to pack enough clothes for a four-day trip, including two pairs of shoes, multiple jackets, and two toiletry bags — no expansion needed. We wish this carry-on had a zippered section or removable bag for dirty laundry, but it does have a separator to keep your shoes away from your clean clothes.

Our testers loved the sleek, minimalist-modern design of the Freeform, which comes in 12 hues ranging from white to mint to merlot. After hitting it with a bat, the polycarbonate (high-strength thermoplastic) shell was scuff-free and showed virtually no signs of damage. We wouldn't stress about accidentally rolling it into a puddle either. Considering the reasonable price, durable construction, and spacious capacity, we think it's a great choice for frequent fliers and anyone in need of a high-quality carry-on.

Price at time of publish: $190

Dimensions: 21 x 15 x 10 inches | Weight: 5.6 pounds | Capacity: Not listed | Expandable: Yes | Smart: No | Warranty: 10-year limited

samsonite freeform carry-on

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Overall, Runner-up: Travelpro Platinum Elite Carry-on Expandable Hardside Spinner

4.8
travelpro-platinum-elite-carry-on-expandable-hardside-spinner

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    4.7/5
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: This thoughtfully designed carry-on has a comfortable handle, a sturdy polycarbonate shell, and four self-aligning spinner wheels.

What to Consider: The price is a little steep, and we wish it had a few more zipper pockets within the main compartment.

Travelpro's Platinum Elite Hardside Spinner was a close runner-up to the Samsonite Freeform. Its durable ​​polycarbonate shell stood up well to being hit with a bat and pushed off a table. The adjustable handle feels solid while offering a comfortable grip, and thanks to the self-aligning spinner wheels, the whole thing rolls smoothly — though it takes a little more elbow grease to maneuver it on carpeted floors.

Our testers had no issue packing the clothes and shoes on our list when they had expanded the suitcase. Keep in mind, of course, that this makes it a bit harder to fit in an overhead bin. A few more internal pockets would have been nice as well, but in the end, we think the durable design is worth the investment.

Price at time of publish: $370

Dimensions: 23 x 14.5 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 8.5 pounds | Capacity: Not listed | Expandable: Yes | Smart: Yes | Warranty: Limited lifetime

travelpro platinum elite hardside carry-on

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Hardside: Away The Bigger Carry-On Flex

4.8
The Bigger Carry-On Flex

Away

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    4/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: This carry-on has a lightweight yet sturdy shell and two main compartments with a compression system, making it easy to fit and organize all your stuff.

What to Consider: It might not meet carry-on sizing requirements in the expanded configuration, and the exterior might scratch under heavy use.

We also liked the stylish Bigger Carry-On Flex from Away. This hardside suitcase has a lightweight yet sturdy polycarbonate shell. The impressively durable material didn't dent upon being whacked with a bat, though it did sustain a few scratches when we threw it off the table. We found it easy to clean, however.

The bag has two main compartments and an interior compression system, making it not only easy to fit but also to organize all the necessary belongings. You can also extend it for a little more space, and there's a hidden laundry bag for dirty clothes. Our testers said it glides and turns really well on two or four wheels, while the grab handles make it easy to lift overhead. The Bigger Carry-On Flex certainly isn't the most affordable option we tested, but you'll definitely get your money's worth.

Price at time of publish: $345

Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 7.2 pounds | Capacity: 47.9 liters | Expandable: Yes | Smart: No | Warranty: Limited lifetime

away bigger carry-on flex

Travel + Leisure / Tamara Staples

Best Softside: Travelpro Platinum Elite 21” Expandable Carry-On Spinner

4.8
Travelpro Platinum Elite 21in Expandable Carry-On Spinner

Travelpro

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    4.5/5
  • Design
    4.8/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    4.5/5

Why We Love It: It's an attractive, well-made bag that held up admirably during our durability tests.

What to Consider: You'll have to buy a powerbank separately to use the charging capability.

Our favorite softside suitcase is the Travelpro Platinum Elite Spinner. Made of premium fabric with leather corner piping and chrome hardware, it held up well under many hits with a bat — no tears or scuffs in sight. We found it easy to fit everything into the two main compartments and mesh zippered pockets, though we had to expand it, which makes it substantially larger.

The Platinum Elite is a breeze to maneuver on four wheels, gliding smoothly and turning with ease. (Pulling it on two wheels calls for a bit more effort.) This smart carry-on has a USB port with a designated pocket for a powerbank, which you'll have to buy separately. It also comes with a TSA lock. All things considered, we think the price is fair for such a reliable, feature-rich design.

Price at time of publish: $370

Dimensions: 23.5 x 14.5 x 9 inches | Weight: 8.3 pounds | Capacity: Not listed | Expandable: Yes | Smart: Yes | Warranty: Limited lifetime

travelpro platinum elite spinner carry-on

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Splurge: Tumi Continental Dual Access 4 Wheeled Carry-on

4.6
Tumi Continental Dual Access 4 Wheeled Carry-On

Tumi

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    3/5

Why We Love It: The Tumi Alpha Continental has ultra-smooth spinner wheels, a comfy telescoping handle, several organizational compartments, and a built-in USB port.

What to Consider: This is the most expensive option we tested and also one of the heaviest.

If you're open to splurging on a high-end suitcase, we recommend the Tumi Alpha Continental. Our testers said it moves like a dream on various types of flooring, thanks to the four smooth-gliding spinner wheels and comfortable telescoping handle. Made of the brand's signature ballistic nylon, it also passed our baseball bat test with flying colors.

We were able to pack everything into the main compartment and various inner pockets without a fuss — no expansion needed. There are three external pockets, including a padded laptop sleeve. All zippers are conveniently lockable, and there's a TSA combination lock for extra protection. The Alpha Continental also has a built-in USB port you can connect to a powerbank (sold separately). Though the price is a little hard to justify, this is undoubtedly a high-quality carrier. The only other thing to note is that at nearly 12 pounds when empty, it's one of the heaviest carry-ons we tested.

Price at time of publish: $975

Dimensions: 22 x 16 x 9 inches | Weight: 11.9 pounds | Capacity: 42 liters | Expandable: Yes | Smart: Yes | Warranty: Limited

tumi alpha continental carry-on

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Budget: Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner

5
Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: This wallet-friendly carry-on has a scratch-resistant shell and a surprisingly spacious capacity.

What to Consider: It only comes in four colors and doesn't have any smart features or a combination lock.

For something more wallet-friendly, look no further than Amazon. Our testers said this affordable hardside suitcase maneuvers really smoothly, even on carpet and over bumps, and handles turns like a champ. Not only that, but the scratch-resistant shell held up surprisingly well through our bat and drop tests.

We were able to fit clothes, shoes, jackets, and toiletries without having to expand it, though we're comforted by the fact that there's room to spare. The Amazon Basics Hardside Spinner exceeded our testers' expectations in more ways than one. And while it only comes in four colors, we're big fans of the simple, sleek design.

Price at time of publish: $89

Dimensions: 22 x 15 x 10 inches | Weight: 6.3 pounds | Capacity: Not listed | Expandable: Yes | Smart: No | Warranty: No

amazon basics carry-on

Travel + Leisure / Tamara Staples

Best Style: Beis The Carry-on Roller

4.7
beis-the-carry-on-roller

Nordstrom

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    4/5
  • Durability
    4.5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: This attractive carry-on has a mostly monochrome exterior with contrasting wheels and a cushioned handle, plus a surprisingly spacious capacity with various organizational features.

What to Consider: This in-demand suitcase sells out often, and it was slightly unwieldy on some surfaces.

If luggage aesthetic is a top priority, Béis might be your best bet. The brand's endlessly chic and versatile Carry-On Roller has a mostly monochrome exterior with contrasting wheels. We found it easy to pull and turn on two wheels, even over bumps, though it was slightly unwieldy at times when we maneuvered it on all four wheels. And we had no trouble lifting it overhead.

Beyond its attractive design, our testers were thrilled by the generous capacity and organizational features. This carry-on has dual main compartments, multiple zippered pockets, handy drawstring bags for dirty shoes and clothes, and a padded divider for a laptop or tablet. The cushioned silicone handle is a nice touch, too.

Price at time of publish: $198

Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 inches | Weight: 8.3 pounds | Capacity: 49-61 liters | Expandable: Yes | Smart: No | Warranty: Limited lifetime

beis carry-on roller

Travel + Leisure / Tamara Staples

Most Durable: Briggs & Riley Sympatico Domestic Carry-on Expandable Spinner

4.5
Briggs & Riley Sympatico Domestic Carry-On Expandable Spinner 22”

Briggs & Riley

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    4/5
  • Design
    4/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    4.5/5

Why We Love It: The shock-absorbing Makrolon polycarbonate stands up to dents and scratches, and the wheels glide with ease over bumps and around corners.

What to Consider: It's expensive, and the expander is located on the inside, which is a little counterintuitive.

The most durable carry-on we tested is Briggs & Riley's Sympatico Domestic Spinner. This compact suitcase is undeniably expensive, but hear us out. The exceedingly robust, shock-absorbing Makrolon polycarbonate shell sustained exactly zero dents or scratches during our bat and drop tests. "I would expect it to last for five to 10 years, even if someone traveled frequently," said one tester.

Durability aside, this carry-on was easy to maneuver on hard floors and carpet, around tight corners, and even over bumps. The capacity is also decent, and we didn't have any trouble zipping it up, though it was slightly cramped in the non-expanded configuration. One thing to note is that the expander is on the inside, which isn't the most intuitive. Other than that, we loved the look of the glossy exterior and think it definitely reflects the premium price tag.

Price at time of publish: $599

Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 inches | Weight: 8.8 pounds | Capacity: 41.3-50.5 liters | Expandable: Yes | Smart: Yes | Warranty: Limited lifetime

briggs & riley sympatico domestic spinner carry-on

Travel + Leisure / Tamara Staples

Best for Staying Organized: Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus

4.7
Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus

Paravel

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    4.5/5
  • Value
    4/5

Why We Love It: A compression board makes it easy to fit everything into the zippered compartments, and there's a removable laundry bag for dirty clothes.

What to Consider: This suitcase isn't expandable, but it's one of the larger carry-ons we tested.

For Type A travelers, we recommend the Paravel Aviator. Noting the "awesome capacity and organization," our testers raved about how this suitcase packed up. Even though it's not expandable, the built-in compression board makes it easy to fit everything into the zippered compartments. It also comes with a removable laundry bag for dirty clothes.

Inspired by retro luggage with a modern twist, this classy carry-on is a sight for sore eyes. Not only that, but the durable polycarbonate exterior feels sturdy and sustained just a few minor scuffs during our tests. It's super easy to maneuver, too. Although the Paravel Aviator is priced somewhat steep, we think it's a worthwhile investment for those in the market for a high-quality suitcase.

Price at time of publish: $375

Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 8.5 pounds | Capacity: 46.6 liters | Expandable: No | Smart: Yes | Warranty: 10-year limited

paravel aviator carry-on plus

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Lightweight: Delsey Paris Clavel Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels

4.5
Delsey Paris Clavel Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    4/5
  • Durability
    4.7/5
  • Value
    4/5

Why We Love It: At just over 5 pounds, this hardside suitcase is lightweight and compact while still fitting an impressive amount of clothes.

What to Consider: It sustained minor denting, and the handle is somewhat short and felt a little loose during our tests.

The carry-ons we tested ranged in weight from 12.9 to 4.36 pounds. Weighing just over 5 pounds, the Delsey Clavel was the best lightweight option we tried. This hardside spinner has a polypropylene (thermoplastic) shell that held up pretty well during our tests, though a particularly hard bat swing did dent it slightly. While it looks small, it holds a surprising amount of clothes, even without the expander, and should fit into an overhead bin without any issues.

Our testers said this carry-on maneuvers well over cracks and bumps. However, the handle is somewhat short and feels slightly loose. Still, we think the price is fair and would recommend it to anyone in the market for lightweight, fuss-free baggage for shorter trips.

Price at time of publish: $380

Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 10 inches | Weight: 5.3 pounds | Capacity: 43 liters | Expandable: Yes | Smart: No | Warranty: 5-year limited

delsey paris clavel carry-on

Travel + Leisure / Tamara Staples

Best Expandable: Samsonite Outline Pro Carry-on Spinner

4.7
Samsonite Outline Pro Carry-On Spinner

Samsonite

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    3.5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: The expandable design has multiple compartments for stashing all your belongings, plus a compression system to ensure you're getting the most out of the available space.

What to Consider: The wheels could be more durable and don't turn very sharply.

Samsonite's Outline Pro Spinner has an expandable design with various compartments for packing and organizing all your stuff, plus a compression system to ensure you're getting the most out of the available space. We were able to easily fit four days' worth of belongings without having to use the expander, so it's nice to know there's wiggle room.

After hitting it several times, we didn't notice any scratches or dents. While this carry-on maneuvered pretty well, the wheels didn't seem as durable as others we tried, and it didn't turn very sharply. Still, it redeems itself with a polished exterior, built-in USB port, and reasonable price point.

Price at time of publish: $200

Dimensions: 20.5 x 14.5 x 10 inches | Weight: 7.3 pounds | Capacity: Not listed | Expandable: Yes | Smart: Yes | Warranty: 10-year limited

samsonite outline carry-on spinner

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Backpack: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

5
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Comfort
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: It's got a generous capacity, various pockets, a laptop sleeve, contoured straps, and a raincover for protection from the elements.

What to Consider: The price is pretty steep for a backpack, but you can count on quality.

Clocking perfect scores in all our tests, the best carry-on backpack is definitely the Cotopaxi Allpa. Boasting a generous 35-liter capacity, plus various pockets and compartments, it makes packing pretty stress-free. Not only that, but the side zippers allow for easy access, even when it's stuffed full. There's also a padded sleeve for your laptop or tablet.

The pack is available in several cheery colorways with a slightly rugged flair, and our testers loved the design and looks. It's made of high-strength polyester with ballistic nylon paneling and coated with water-repellent thermoplastic, so you can count on it to hold up for years in various weather conditions. It even comes with a raincover for an extra layer of protection. The contoured straps make it super comfy to wear, while the handles make it easy to lift overhead.

Price at time of publish: $200

Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 8 inches | Weight: 3.5 pounds | Capacity: 35 liters | Expandable: No | Smart: No | Warranty: No

cotopaxi allpa travel pack

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best Weekender: Away The Large Everywhere Bag

5
Away The Large Everywhere Bag

Away

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: The clamshell-style design has two large zippered compartments, plus various pockets, a laptop sleeve, carrying handles, a shoulder strap, and a locking zipper.

What to Consider: It's nearly the size of a carry-on suitcase, and the shoulder strap is a little finicky.

The Large Everywhere Bag from Away is our favorite weekender on the market. It's designed like a clamshell suitcase, folding out from the center to reveal two zippered mesh compartments. After packing it up, our testers said it's undoubtedly big enough for a four-day trip — maybe longer. The nylon exterior feels sturdy, albeit a little boxy, and flaunts a professional, minimalist appeal.

This carrier has two handles and a removable shoulder strap. The strap is comfortably padded, and while it's supposed to be adjustable, we found it a bit finicky. Other notable features include a padded laptop sleeve, a magnetic locking zipper, and a trolley sleeve that slides onto the handle of any suitcase. While the Large Everywhere Bag is nearly the size of a rolling carry-on, it's substantially lighter-weight at under 4 pounds. We think this is a solid choice for business travel and short trips, whether you get there by plane, train, or automobile.

Price at time of publish: $245

Dimensions: 21 x 12 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 3.8 pounds | Capacity: 38 liters | Expandable: No | Smart: No | Warranty: 1-year limited

away large everywhere bag

Travel + Leisure / Conor Ralph

Best Duffle: Kipling Bori Duffle Bag

4.8
Kipling Bori Duffle Bag

Kipling

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Durability
    5/5
  • Value
    4/5

Why We Love It: It has a surprisingly large capacity, plus comfortable handles, a shoulder strap, and durable nylon construction.

What to Consider: This popular bag sells out often, and there's no separate compartment for dirty clothes or shoes.

If you're partial to duffles, go with the Kipling Bori. Describing it as "nice and spacious," our testers were able to fit all the essentials — and then some — into the sizable 49-liter main compartment. When you need a smaller bag, just clip the carabiner buckles to cinch it up.

The grab handles and adjustable shoulder strap have a comfortable feel. At just 2 pounds, the bag itself is notably lightweight. Even when packed full, it wasn't uncomfortably heavy. Our testers also said the nylon exterior and lining seem durable, water-resistant, and easy to wipe clean. There's no separate compartment or removable satchel for dirty clothes, but other than that, we really have no complaints about this casual carry-on.

Price at time of publish: $120

Dimensions: 28 x 13.5 x 11.5 inches | Weight: 2 pounds | Capacity: 49 liters | Expandable: No | Smart: No | Warranty: 1-year limited

kipling bori duffel bag

Travel + Leisure / Nick Kova

Best Underseat: Calpak Hue Mini Carry-On Luggage

4.9
Calpak Hue Mini Carry-On Luggage

Calpak

Our Ratings
  • Capacity
    5/5
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Functionality
    5/5
  • Maneuverability
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5

Why We Love It: It's conveniently compact but still spacious enough to hold multiple outfits, and maneuvers effortlessly on four spinner wheels.

What to Consider: There's no outer zipper pocket, and it's definitely not as spacious as some others.

Looking for something you can stash underneath the seat in front of you? The Hue Mini Carry-On from CalPack might be just the thing. Measuring 16 x 14 x 8 inches, it's conveniently compact but still spacious enough to fit a couple days' worth of outfits. There's also a laptop sleeve, making it a top choice for short business trips.

Despite the mini design, the sophisticated color options and modish silhouette will leave no confusion over whether it's for an adult or child. The four spinner wheels offer excellent maneuverability, too, and there's even a TSA-approved lock if you ever decide to check it. If we could change one thing, we'd add an outer pocket for easy access in-flight. But other than that, we think the price is more than fair for the quality, features, and durability.

Price at time of publish: $165

Dimensions: 16 x 14 x 8 inches | Weight: 6 pounds | Capacity: 29 liters | Expandable: No | Smart: No | Warranty: 2-year limited

calpak hue mini carry-on

Travel + Leisure / Conor Ralph

Our Testing Process

The Travel + Leisure team performed various tests to evaluate the capacity, maneuverability, durability, and design of each carry-on. We filled them all with enough clothes and essentials for a four-day trip, including six shirts, three pairs of pants, five pairs of socks, five pairs of underwear, two jackets, and two pairs of shoes, plus one small and one large toiletry bag. We then analyzed how well the bags handled the cargo.

After packing them up, we rolled the bags around on different surfaces to see how well they maneuvered; we lifted them overhead into a makeshift overhead bin. Then we whacked them with a baseball bat and pushed them off a table to see how well they held up to wear and tear. Keeping price, size, adjustability, features, and standout quirks in mind, those with the highest scores in all testing categories were ultimately chosen for this roundup.

tumi continental expandable carry-on

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Other Carry-on Bags We Liked

Samsonite Omni PC Expandable Carry-On Spinner: This is a decent option for a lightweight bag, but ultimately our testers felt some maneuverability issues were enough to keep it off our list of top picks. It didn't turn as sharply as many others, and rolling it over carpet was a bit of a challenge.

July Carry On Pro: We found this suitcase to be aesthetically pleasing, plenty spacious, and easy to maneuver. While the feature-rich design is enticing, it was pretty similar to the Away carry-on, which compressed a little better.

Monos Carry-On Plus: Our testers were fond of this carry-on, noting the ample compartments and spacious capacity. However, it was slightly tricky to turn on four wheels, and the handle wasn't quite up to par with others we tested.

Arlo Skye The Zipper Carry-On Max with Front Pocket: Even though it doesn't expand, this suitcase fit everything on our packing list, did well rolling over bumps, and showed no signs of damage from our bat swings. While we have few complaints, it just wasn't our favorite in the end.

Bric's Bellagio V2.0 Carry-On Spinner Trunk: Though it's on the heavier side, this fancy suitcase is pretty easy to maneuver and has a subtly old-fashioned, high-end appeal. Unfortunately, the handle got stuck during our tests, which is kind of a deal-breaker for something so expensive.

Delsey Paris Helium Aero Hardside Carry-On: This expandable hardside suitcase has a generous capacity and a glossy exterior that resists dents and scratches. While it takes sharp turns like a champ, it was a bit rickety when rolling on all four wheels.

july carry-on pro

Travel + Leisure / Tamara Staples

Tips for Buying Carry-on Luggage

Consider hardside vs. softside

When buying carry-on luggage, you'll see a range of hardside and softside options. Suitcases with hard shells can be better for protecting things from crushing and are generally easy to wipe clean. However, depending on the color and material, they can be prone to scuffing.

Softside luggage, on the other hand, is typically lighter-weight and often just as durable as its hardside counterpart. While a textile shell can be trickier to clean, it may not show as much dirt or scuffs either.

Look for lightweight construction

Lightweight luggage is crucial when carrying on. Be sure to note the empty weight of the suitcase or bag before buying it, as heftier designs will make a jam-packed carrier all the more cumbersome. Weight affects not only maneuverability but also your ability to hoist it into the airplane's overhead bin. The carry-on suitcases we tested ranged in weight from 12.9 to 4.36 pounds. Anything heavier than that is too heavy.

Decide if you want extra organizational features

Some carry-on luggage is relatively basic, with a main compartment and an additional pocket or two. However, many suitcases, weekenders, and duffles have additional organizational features that make packing and accessing your stuff much easier. This may include a laptop sleeve, a shoe separator, a laundry bag, various zippered sections, exterior pockets, and potentially a USB port with a designated powerbank pouch.

Choose between spinner or two-wheeled luggage

Spinner luggage, which features four wheels that can spin 360 degrees, are easy to maneuver whether you're running to your airport gate or making your way through a new city. They're generally quite easy to roll over various surfaces, making them a great option if you plan to walk for long periods of time with your luggage. Two-wheeled bags, however, may be less sturdy, but they'll give you a few extra inches when packing. Bags with only two wheels also tend to be slightly lighter than their four-wheeled counterparts. When it comes to choosing the best carry-on bag for you, you'll want to consider your traveling style and packing needs.

samsonite black label lite carry-on

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What are the accepted dimensions for carry-on luggage?

    Rules vary among airlines, but most allow carry-on luggage no larger than 24 inches tall, 16 inches wide, and 10 inches deep. Some are slightly stricter, setting the limit at 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Keep this in mind when using your suitcase's expander, as the additional couple of inches could put you over the size limit. When in doubt, check the airline's website.

  • Is there a weight limit for carry-on luggage?

    Some airlines have a carry-on weight limit of roughly 35 pounds. However, this is often not strictly enforced, and many domestic airlines don't have a limit at all. Bear in mind some international flights may restrict carry-ons over 22 pounds.

  • Can makeup and liquids go in my carry-on?

    All liquids, including makeup, lotion, and other cosmetics, must be in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces in carry-on luggage. (For checked baggage, you can bring pretty much any size.) Powdered makeup, bar soap, and solid deodorant are usually allowed in larger containers. You'll also want to put all liquid beauty and personal hygiene products in a clear plastic bag before going through airport security. You can review the TSA's official liquids rules here.

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We tested dozens of carry-ons in our New York City lab. For this article, commerce writer Theresa Holland pored over in-house testing insights and cross-checked product descriptions and manuals to compile a comprehensive list of the best carry-on luggage currently on the market. Of the above brands, she owns carriers and on-the-go accessories from Away, Tumi, Paravel, Amazon Basics, Monos, and July.

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Updated by
Taylor Fox
Taylor Fox, Commerce Updates Writer at Travel + Leisure
Taylor Fox is a Commerce Updates Writer at Travel + Leisure where she tests, researches, and writes about travel products. Taylor holds a Master’s in Geography and has been a writer and editor for over seven years.
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