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Best carry-on luggage of 2021

For frequent travelers, an excellent cabin bag is a must.

Packing the right bag can only make your travel experience that much more enjoyable. And since hauling unwieldy luggage through a crowded airplane aisle is… less than ideal, you’ll want to take a look at this list of amenity-filled carry-ons.

Compare carry-on luggage

Tarmac Carry OnOrganizationEagle Creek$300

Carry onBest forBrandEstimated priceWhere to buy
The Base 15lTech enthusiastsDouchebags$129
Luggage Crew 11Frequent travelersTravelPro$200
Centric Expandable Hardside Carry OnStyleSamsonite$100
Hardside Spinner Luggage – 20″Budget shoppersAmazonBasics$50
Alpha 2 International Expandable 2 Wheeled Carry-OnElite travelersTumi$600

Best carry-on luggage

Douchebags The Base 15l

Organize your tech with this carry on backpack.

This unconventional carry-on uses Douchebags hook-up system to attach to their larger Little Bastard suitcases but transforms in to a backpack when you want to leave your heavy luggage behind.

  • Amazing versatility and organization
  • Zippered side access. Fits a 15″ laptops.
  • Rib Cage construction protects the gear inside the bag
Where to buy:

Travelpro Crew 11

Travel like the pros with a carry-on that’s a top choice among flight crews.

In addition to these features, it also includes an external USB port to keep your devices fully charged.

  • Scratch and stain resistant exterior
  • Lifetime guarantee protects your bag against airport-inflicted damage
  • Eight self-aligning magnetic wheels rotate easily so you can pull your bag with ease
Where to buy:

Eagle Creek Tarmac Carry-On

With handles on the top and side, this bag is thoughtfully designed.

Because it’s important to choose a carry-on that’s… well, easy to carry.

  • Available in asphalt black, slate blue or highland green
  • Expansion zipper for additional storage
  • Holds laptops up to 17″
  • Features to clip on your jacket or a second bag
Where to buy:

Samsonite Centric Expandable Hardside Carry-On

Fans of hard-sided luggage will love this sleek spinner.

Pick from eight colors that allow your carry-on to become a fashion statement.

  • Lightweight
  • Scratch-resistant exterior
  • Full zip divided interior
  • Integrated, TSA-compliant locks
Where to buy:

AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner Luggage – 20″

If you’re shopping for a carry-on on a budget, don’t forget about Amazon’s house brand.

It offers high-quality products for less than major brands, and you can upgrade to a bag with TSA-approved locks for $10 more.

  • Fully lined interior with divider
  • Hard shell protects your gear
  • Expansion zipper increases storage by 15%
Where to buy:

Tumi Alpha 2 International Expandable 2-Wheeled Carry-On

The crème de la crème of small luggage options.

For those who enjoy an elevated travel experience, there’s nothing quite like this sophisticated and professional bag.

  • Customization options such as monograms available
  • Top quality construction includes supportive X-brace
  • Recessed wheels for a sleek appearance
  • Exterior pockets to store small items
Where to buy:

Is it worth investing in a carry-on bag?

Frequent travelers need a carry-on that won’t hold them back. A bag that maximizes storage efficiency and ease of transport is ideal. The right carry-on could even eliminate the need to check a bag.

Before investing in a carry-on, ask yourself how often you’ll use it. If the answer is “a lot,” it may be worth investing in a high-quality bag. If you only travel occasionally, an inexpensive, basic carry-on is likely a better bet. Of course, there are plenty of in-between options as well.

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Soft vs. hard carry-on bags

Soft-sided bags form the majority of the luggage market and are often made from nylon or canvas-like materials. Hard-sided or hard-shell cases are traditionally made from polycarbonate and can offer sturdier protection for your belongings.

Each case type has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • Flexible
  • Lightweight
  • Extra pockets and compartments
  • Can rip if low quality
  • Less protection
  • Harder to find four-wheeled models
  • Protective
  • Often comes with built-in locks
  • Flat-lay packing
  • Inflexible
  • Prone to scratches and dents
  • Does not typically include side pockets

Carry-on weight limits

Many airlines enforce strict weight limits for carry-on luggage, which are usually anywhere between 20 and 40 pounds. These limits are put in place to ensure that there is space on board for all passengers to safely stow a carry-on baggage.

Weight limits can depend on the ticket you’ve purchased and vary from airline to airline. Check your carrier’s policy before you start packing, especially if you’re changing airlines mid-journey.

What can’t I pack in my carry-on bag?

Some items shouldn’t be packed in a carry-on bag because they take up too much space or weigh too much. There are also many items that are outright banned for air travel. These may vary from airline to airline, especially if you’re flying with an international carrier. Items that are regularly banned include:

  • Knives
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Sporting equipment
  • Metal cutlery
  • Tools
  • Straight razors
  • Letter openers
  • Golf clubs
  • Cricket bats
  • Pool cues
  • Hypodermic needles
  • Fireworks
  • Aerosols
  • Handcuffs
  • Cable ties

Where to shop for carry-on luggage online

  • Shop Amazon
  • Shop Macy's
  • Shop
  • Shop Luggage Pros
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Don’t check a bag

Traveling with a quality carry-on bag will allow you to get out of the airport faster, which means more time to enjoy your vacation or take a breath before your afternoon meeting. An easy-to-maneuver, well-organized bag could be a worthy investment.

How did we choose these products?

To choose our list of the best carry-on luggage, we compared the material, size, durability and extra features of some of the most popular models currently available.

Frequently asked questions

What are the advantages of a hardside carry-on?
Hardside carry-ons are good for people who are concerned about the safety of their gear. For starters, a hardside bag will keep your things from getting crushed. They’re also less permeable and, consequently, better at keeping out the elements.

What are the advantages of a softside carry-on?
On flights with small overhead compartments, a bag that’ll give under pressure might fit where a hardside bag wouldn’t. A softside bag will also give you more flexibility in packing since the exterior expands more easily.

What are the size regulations for a carry-on bag?
Regulations vary from airline-to-airline, so check before your flight. The typical carry-on size requirement is about 2″ high by 9″ deep by 14″ wide.

Are there weight restrictions for carry-on bags?
These restrictions are airline-dependent. Check your airline’s guidelines before packing.

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