You’ve probably noticed that the overhead bin space has been filling up faster these days. It’s a race to get on board just so you have a place to stow your carry-on luggage.
I wish I could say it was because more people are attempting to pack light these days, but it can most likely be attributed to the lack of knowledge about what the best carry-on luggage choices. When too many ill-fitting suitcases get stuffed in the bins at odd angles, there’s less room for everyone.
You don’t want to be one of those people who can’t seem to get their luggage to fit no matter which way you stuff it. You want to travel with ease and be able to fit your suitcase in the overhead bin, no matter what airline you’re flying. Believe me, then you can enjoy the trip without suffering from the overhead bin luggage wars. Rest assured that each of these are great options for luggage that fits in the overhead bin.
If you choose good lightweight carry-on luggage, you won’t have to struggle to carry it up the stairs either. That’s why we’ve done the work for you and picked the top 4 best carry-on luggage choices out there, all which fall into the acceptable airline size range (see this chart on carry-on luggage size). We’ve tested the lightest luggage, hardside luggage, rolling carry on luggage and even the best luggage sets.
You might also like:
See all of our travel gear reviews.
Airline Luggage Restrictions
You may not think the regulations for carry-on luggage has changed much, if you’re one of those lucky few who haven’t faced the scrutiny of the luggage czar when checking in for a flight. But, if you’ve ever had to squeeze your suitcase into the sizer to prove its worthiness to fly in the cabin, you know – most carry-on suitcases are egregiously over the allowable size.
The maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels.
Yes, there are airlines that allow larger sizes than that and probably even a few that require something smaller. You should plan to fly with the lowest common size for carry-on luggage. And don’t forget that weight matters too!
Carry-on Luggage Buying Criteria
For frequent travelers, the same set of criteria for luggage always rises to the top. You want the lightest luggage possible, easy to manage, that you don’t have to worry about fitting within the regulations of the various airlines. So those are the criteria we used when determining the best carry-on luggage for 2016. Price is obviously also a major factor. Also how well it will stand up to the brutal beating it receives from baggage handlers.
- Light weight
- Easy to manage
- Fits within airline regulations
- Price (each option hovers around $100 or under)
Our choices for top luggage range from travel backpack to hard-sided suitcases and spinner suitcases. This is because it’s impossible to suit every traveler’s preference and needs with just one style of luggage.
We are typically backpack-only travelers and prefer to pack as light as possible, but there are times when a backpack is just a bit too small, or more often, when it’s too cumbersome to carry for a longer length of time. In those cases, we take a light weight suitcase. If you travel frequently, you may choose to purchase more than one type of carry-on luggage to suit multiple use cases. This list should satisfy all of those needs.
The best carry-on luggage for 2017
I don’t know about you, but I love the ease of purchasing on Amazon, so I set up our guide right in an Amazon viewing window to make it easy for you to click to read reviews or check out pricing.
Best Soft-Sided Carry-On Spinner
Travelpro Luggage Maxlite3 International Carry-On SpinnerThis TravelPro Spinner suitcase is one of the easiest pieces of luggage to travel with. The 21-inch size will fit in almost every overhead bin. It measures 21 x 14 x 9, and it is one of the lightest carry-on luggage sets you’ll find.
It has a couple of convenient zipper pockets for tucking things away, plus a lid compartment for pressed items to keep them wrinkle free. The criss-cross, adjustable straps will hold everything else in place. It has quite a bit of internal space, plus it’s expandable for times when you’re not flying in tight restrictions and want to put more in it.
It has spinner wheels that glide in all directions, so you don’t have to always be pulling the suitcase along behind. The gliding mechanism eases stress on the arms and shoulders, which you’ll definitely notice after a few miles trekking through an airport. The aluminum handle locks in two positions for a better grip, no matter how tall you are. And it has a comfort grip handle to ease stress on your hands as you pull.
This suitcase comes with a limited lifetime warranty. Do keep in mind that this bag exceeds the size limit for European low-cost airlines, like Ryanair. You need to buy the International Maxlite4 for that, which measures 20 x 14.5 x 7.
Best Hard-Sided Carry-On Spinner
Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Spinner 20Samsonite is one of the top luggage brands on the market, so you know you’re getting a durable and reliable product for your money when you buy one. I’ve had some of my Samsonite suitcases for 8 years and after all the trips I’ve taken with it, it’s still one of the best suitcases I own. The Omni PC Hardside spinner suitcase will stay looking good, due to the 100% polycarbonate construction with scratch-resistant surface. It’s one of the best bets for hardsided suitcases.
The 360-spinner wheels take away the need to pull a heavy suitcase behind you. Push it is a breeze with the lightweight wheels. The zippered interior divider and cross-straps make organization on the inside easy. And the suitcase is fully expandable for when you need to fit in more. Just don’t add more when you’re flying, because the expansion makes the case too big for most airlines. The side-mounted, TSA-approved locks are an added bonus.
We also like that this suitcase style can be bought as a set. see the price for the set here It’s often that we interchange our luggage due to the type of trip we’re taking. With the set, we can choose which piece to take every trip.
Best Lightweight Carry On Luggage
Lucas Vortex Ultra Lightweight Collection 20 Inch SpinnerIf you’re looking for the best lightweight rolling carry on luggage, look no further. We’ve found the best option for light carry on luggage in the Lucas Vortex 20in Spinner. It weights only 3.8 pounds. In luggage weight, that’s really light. It’s almost as if there’s no weight to the luggage itself, and when you are trying to keep your luggage weight under 23lbs, you will be very glad that’s the case. Just don’t pack too many things in the outside pockets. It has a tendency to become front heavy and fall over.
The bag itself measures 21 x 14 x 8, so it meets our size parameters, and the price is definitely right. The value for money with this bag is great. With the weight being so low, you’d expect to lose some of the heavier features, like the dual-locking telescope handle or the egonomic grip, but this bag has both.
Best Travel Backpack
Mountain Hardwear Enterprise 33 BackpackThis is my favorite backpack. It’s a 33L pack, which can accommodate a 7-day trip that doesn’t require a broad wardrobe. So much fits into it in an organized and compact fashion, especially when using packing cubes (see below).
There is one large main compartment, a smaller front compartment for a laptop or accessories, and two zippered pockets along the front to hold smaller items that you need to get to easily. The back is sturdy but not inflexible, so it is very comfortable to carry. There are chest and stomach straps that help even the load. I tested this backpack out alongside another pack of the same size, with the same weight packed inside and it was considerably more comfortable than the other one. It also felt many pounds lighter, due to the sturdy back construction.
If you like the ease of carrying your stuff in a backpack, rather than wheeled carry on luggage, this is our go-to backpack. We never have a problem fitting it into the overhead, and when space is no longer available there, it’s no problem because the backpack fits easily under the seat.
Best Packing Cubes
These little packing cubes did wonders for my packing and I’ll never pack again with out them. Fitting a week or two’s worth of clothing into a carry-on sized luggage has never been easier or more organized. You can fit so much into these cubes and they keep everything nicely folded and stowed in the bag. Even if TSA has to perform a random bag check, you can be sure all of your unmentionables aren’t being flung around the screening room for everyone to see.
You really can’t go wrong with any of these carry on suitcases. They are all the best carry-on luggage choices 2017. All of them offer ease of packing and carrying. We switch between them depending on the situation and like having the flexibility.
What is your favorite carry-on luggage? Have you tried any of these choices?
Disclaimer: There are affiliate links to Amazon in this article. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.