Best Carry-on Luggage

Christen da Costa Avatar
Updated Nov 14, 2023 7:25 AM
best carry on luggage featured image that shows the top three best luggage models

To determine the best carry on luggage, we looked at the following features: size, soft-sided versus hard shell (also known as hardside), additional storage, wheels, handles, accessories, and price. All carry on luggage should be no more than 24 inches tall, but depending on your storage needs you may find that soft-sided luggage is preferable to hardside options. Prioritize spinner wheels for easier maneuvering, and look for sturdy handles that make pushing, pulling, or lifting your luggage as easy as possible.

After considering all of the above, we selected the AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner Luggage as our Top Pick. We liked that it was a sturdily built hardside spinner with an ABS scratch resistant design that included expandable storage. Plus the three interior pockets, telescopic adjustable handle, and an additional fixed side handle to make lifting it easier to do. Keep reading to learn more about the rest of our top picks. Keep your suits and good clothing looking fine while you travel after you read our best garment bag guide.

Top 7 Best Carry On Luggage

#1 AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner Carry On Luggage


WHY WE LIKE IT: A sturdy hardside spinner suitcase that can take whatever you throw at it thanks to a scratch-resistant design and expandable storage for the traveler who often overpacks.

Read Full Review: AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner Luggage

  • Best adjustable expansion
  • ABS scratch-resistant exterior
  • 3 interior zip pockets
  • Inconsistent warranty support

Whether you’re a frequent traveler or only take the occasional trip, no one wants to be stuck with a piece of luggage that can’t keep up with them. The AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner Luggage is great for any type of traveler. At 21.6 inches tall and 14.9 inches wide, it complies with most domestic airlines’ carry on requirements. We also like that it features an ABS scratch-resistant exterior that’s designed to stand up to whatever you or those baggage handlers throw its way.

Another core feature is the expanding design. You can increase storage space by 15 percent, making it ideal for last-minute add-ons or if you do a lot of shopping while on vacation. This luggage opens like a book with two roomy compartments. One side also features an interior divider with three zippered pockets to help with organization. Other important functions include the telescoping handle, fixed side handle, and four double spinner wheels for improved stability when you’re on the go. It is the best luggage for your carry on needs.

#2 Kenneth Cole Reaction Out Of Bounds 20-InchSpinner Carry On Luggage


WHY WE LIKE IT: The only carry on luggage in our guide that is TSA and IATA compliant, making it the best carry on pick for international and domestic travel.

Read Full Review: Kenneth Cole Reaction Out Of Bounds 20″ Spinner Carry-On Luggage

  • Best for international and domestic (TSA & IATA approved)
  • 4 360-degree spinner wheels
  • 1 adjustable & 2 fixed handles
  • Not expandible

There’s no reason that you should have to sacrifice form for function — even when picking your luggage. We’ve nominated the Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20-Inch Carry On Spinner Luggage as our Honorable Mention because you can choose from 12 bold colors and the fact that it’s the only recommendation in our guide that is TSA and IATA approved. This means that not only is it compliant with most domestic airline carry on restrictions, but that it’s compliant with many international airlines too. This is especially important if you travel abroad frequently and (for example) want to buy the best international carry-on luggage for Europe.

While this model is the only hard-sided option that isn’t expandible, we like that you still get many of the standard features. This includes spinner wheels, a book opening case style with a zippered divider with an additional large U-shaped zipper pocket. You also get a retractable telescopic handle and a fixed side handle to make lifting your luggage easier. Travel gear should be easy to travel with after all.

#3 American Tourister Moonlight Hardside Expandable Carry On Luggage

Award: Best for Short Trips

WHY WE LIKE IT: We believe this is the best carry-on luggage for business travel because of its lightweight yet sturdy design, expandable storage, and that it complies with most domestic airline carry on limitations.

Read Full Review: American Tourister Luggage Review

  • Perfect for business travelers
  • Rugged durable design
  • 1.5” expandable storage
  • Telescopic handle design impacts storage capacity

If you travel for business, you already know that opting not to check luggage is the way to go. We’ve nominated the American Tourister Moonlight Hardside Expandable Luggage as our best carry-on luggage for business travel because it’s lightweight, compact, and is compliant with most domestic airlines’ carry on policies. American Tourister is a name that’s synonymous with quality, making it a smart choice for frequent travelers whether for business or pleasure.

We like that this rugged piece of luggage comes in 14 different eye-catching colors and measures 21 inches tall. Like most hardside designs, it opens like a book and features a zippered divider with a see-through mesh design. You can also expand this carry on luggage up to 1.5 inches if you need additional storage, and the four spinner wheels give you maximum maneuverability. And in addition to the retractable telescopic handle, you’ll also like the two fixed handles (on the top and side) to make lifting your luggage easier. You may also want to see if scooter luggage is right for you.

#4 Rockland Melbourne Hardside Expandable Spinner Wheel Luggage

Award: Best Expanding Hardside

WHY WE LIKE IT: A hard-sided carry on luggage with the most expansion of any of our hardside recommendations that comes in 25 unique designs to best match your personality.

Read Full Review: Rockland Melbourne Luggage

  • Largest hard shell expansion
  • 25 color designs
  • Double spinner wheels
  • Inconsistent warranty support

When you’re traveling, you’re always limited by the size of your luggage. Pick a bag that’s too small, and you’ll regret it halfway through your trip. The Rockland Melbourne Hardside Expandable Spinner Wheel Luggage is a great option for the frequent over-packer. We’ve selected it as our best expanding hardside carry on luggage. While most hardside models only expand by 1.5 inches, Rockland’s model can expand up to two inches.

Another big feature here is that they offer the most color and design choices of any of the other brands on our list. While most brands max out at 12 or 15 color options, Rockland has an astounding 25 colors to choose from. Aside from expandability and color choice, this 20-inch carry on luggage comes with other standard features you would expect from hardsided luggage. This includes double spinner wheels, a sturdy ABS exterior to withstand aggressive baggage handlers, and a telescoping handle with two additional fixed handles on the top and side. The best messenger bags are another great way to travel.

#5 Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Expandable Carry On Luggage

Award: Best Quality

WHY WE LIKE IT: A time tested and trusted brand known for quality construction and value-added features makes this recommendation the best carry-on luggage option for frequent travelers.

Read Full Review: Samsonite Omni Expandable Hardside Luggage

  • Most durable
  • Lightweight (6.81lbs)
  • TSA-approved combination lock
  • Expensive

If you’re a frequent flyer, you know that there are a few brands that are specifically known for making long-lasting, quality luggage. We’ve featured two of those brands in our guide. Hands down, Samsonite is a recognizable brand that’s synonymous with premium construction, making it the best carry-on luggage choice for people always on the go and our Best Quality recommendation. The micro-diamond polycarbonate texture is designed to be scratch resistant while the feather-light 6.81-pound weight makes this easy to use whether you’re racing to catch a flight or heading off on a road trip.

Another nice feature is that this is the only carry on luggage in our guide that features a TSA compliant combination lock to help keep your items secure if you do decide to check this bag. You can also expect to enjoy other standard hardside features such as a book-style opening with a zippered divider, spinner wheels, and a telescopic collapsible handle with two additional fixed handles on the top and side of the luggage. We also like the best backpacking backpacks for travel.

#6 Travelpro Maxlite 5-Softside Expandable Spinner Carry On Luggage

Award: Best Lightweight

WHY WE LIKE IT: A 5.4-pound carry on luggage that’s expandable with sturdy fixed handles, plenty of exterior storage pockets, and a waterproof and stain-resistant fabric exterior to protect your luggage contents.

  • Waterproof & stain resistant exterior
  • Rubberized grips for better handling
  • 2” expandable storage exterior compartments
  • Expensive

Not everyone wants a hardside carry-on. One of the biggest benefits of opting for soft-sided carry on luggage is that these types of bags tend to be more forgiving if you’ve just got to pack one more additional item. We like that this model features a waterproof and stain-resistant exterior coating, which means your packed items are protected and that this bag won’t show wear and tear as quickly as some hardside bags may do.

Another major advantage of this soft-sided bag is that you get additional exterior pockets. This bag comes with a side pocket as well as a large exterior pocket. You’ll also like that you can expand this bag’s storage by two additional inches. Plus this is the lightest bag in our roundup, weighing in at 5.4 pounds. The interior features a large zip pocket in the lid flap. And as with the majority of the luggage in our guide, this model also features a telescopic adjustable handle along with two fixed handles (on the top and side) and four spinner wheels. Some prefer the best backpacks, but this is a great piece of luggage.

#7 U.S. Traveler Rio Carry-on Lightweight Expandable Rolling Luggage Suitcase Set

Award: Best Budget

WHY WE LIKE IT: We believe this is the best affordable carry-on luggage for occasional air travelers since it’s a two-piece set with expandable storage on the upright luggage.

Read Full Review: U.S. Traveler Rio Carry-on Lightweight Review

  • 2-piece set
  • Expandable design
  • Piggy bag strap on 21” bag
  • Only 2 wheels

If you’re an infrequent air traveler, you might not need the most rugged piece of carry on luggage on the market. We’ve selected the U.S. Traveler Rio Carry-On Lightweight Expandable Rolling Luggage Suitcase Set as our Best Budget nomination because we believe it’s the best affordable carry-on luggage for people who don’t typically travel by plane. While it lacks spinner wheels, we do like that this model is a two-piece set that features a 21-inch upright bag and an accompanying tote bag that could potentially double as your personal item if you choose to use this luggage set to fly.

The 21-inch upright bag features two inline skates which make this easy to pull behind you. You’ll like that the bag can also expand to accommodate more items. And more importantly, you can use the piggy bag strap to attach the matching tote bag to your luggage for easier transport. You’ll also like the two roomy exterior pockets on the upright bag, large zippered compartment on the interior lid, and the telescopic adjustable handle with two fixed handles on the top and side of this bag. We still recommend that you keep your laptop in one of the best laptop bags though. Always use the best bags for the proper job.

How We Decided

Everyone has different needs when it comes to finding the perfect carry-on luggage. Some people are only worried about fitting their luggage into overhead compartments, while others need expandable options to accommodate vacation shopping sprees. To create our carry on luggage buying guide, we prioritized the following features — size, soft-sided versus hard shell (also known as hardside), additional storage, wheels, handles, accessories, and price.

To qualify as carry on luggage, bags must be no more than 24 inches tall. However, you should keep in mind that airline carry on restrictions can vary with some domestic airlines limiting you to 22 inches and others being more generous with 24-inch allowances. In our guide, none of our bags are taller than 22 inches. Next, we looked at exteriors. Except for our #6 and Best Budget recommendations, the rest of our nominations are all hardside carry on luggage. Yet, you’ll note that only our Honorable Mention is the only option that lacks expansion capabilities.

Every bag in our guide offers additional storage, but hardside bags are limited to internal pockets while the soft-side options (#6 and Best Budget) provide internal and external pockets. Even though the choice between hard and soft luggage is personal if you want the most storage flexibility the soft-side options are your best bet.

All of the models in our guide feature telescopic handles with additional fixed handles that are usually located on the top and side of the bag. This makes it easier to lift your luggage. And while all of our recommendations feature wheels, the only option that came in short in this category is our Best Budget. While the remaining six options feature spinner wheels, the Best Budget only has two fixed inline skate wheels.

Although accessories aren’t a standard feature, we did like that our Best Quality and Best Budget offered nice value-added inclusions. Our Best Quality nomination is from Samsonite and included TSA-approved locks, while the Best Budget features an attachable matching tote bag that can double as your personal item for a complete carry on travel set.

And finally, we made sure to include a wide range of price points to accommodate a range of budgets. While some models are more expensive like the #5 from Samsonite and #6 from Travelpro, most are within the median range and should be very affordable for most travel shoppers.

Another popular option that just missed our list is Briggs Riley and their range of Carry-On cases. They offer a wide range of both domestic and international carry-on luggage solutions. For a carry-on bag design, the Two Wheel Rolling Cabin Bag (13.5” x 15.5” x 9.5”) is a solid choice and comes in three colors. For an elegant carry-on that rolls or spins on four wheels, have a look at the Domestic Carry-On Expandable Spinner (22” x 14” x 9”), also available in three colors. If you’d prefer a hard case design, check out the International Carry-On Expandable Spinner (21” x 14 x 9”).

Best Carry On Luggage Buyer’s Guide

The Most Important Factors to Consider

  1. Size
    While many luggage pieces are promoted as carry-on styles, you’ll want to confirm that the dimensions of your luggage are compatible with your airline’s guidelines. The last thing you want is to find that you need to pay to check your bag before you go through security at the airport. Specific size allowances can vary greatly between airlines, even for domestic carriers. Some airlines like Frontier and Southwest are more generous (24 by 16 by 10 inches) while most limit you to 22 by 14 by 9 inches with a few exceptions for garment bags.
  2. Soft-sided vs. Hardshell
    This is going to be a personal choice based on your preferences. But there are good cases to be made for each option. Anyone who’s watched baggage handlers move luggage from the plane to the tow trucks knows no one treats your luggage as nicely as you do. Hardshell carry on luggage (also known as hardside) can protect your items from bad weather and is less likely to be ripped apart from aggressive handling. However, soft-sided carry on luggage often provides additional features such as exterior pockets, the ability to be expanded, and an overall product that’s more forgiving if you’re a chronic over-packer.
  3. Additional storage
    When it comes to storage, soft-sided carry on luggage tends to be a better choice over hard shell models. Soft-sided carry-ons usually feature one main compartment and a zipped lid with additional interior and exterior compartments. But you may also want to prioritize models that feature straps to help keep belongings in place while your luggage is closed.
  4. Wheels
    These days, few people would opt for the old school luggage that lacked any kind of wheels in the design. But you have a few choices when it comes to wheeled luggage. Some models only feature two rear wheels, others offer four wheels, and for the most versatile, four 360-degree rotating wheels (also known as spinner wheels). While the choice you pick is entirely up to you, we would always recommend spinner wheels as this will be the best option if you find yourself running through an airport to catch your flight.
  5. Handles
    Most carry on luggage features an adjustable main handle, which is ideal for pushing or pulling your luggage while you’re on the go. But you should also look for additional sewn on handles that make it easier to lift or reposition your luggage. While you want a fixed handle on the top of your suitcase, you should also look for models that feature a fixed side handle. The more handles on your carry on luggage, the more control you’ll have when lifting or moving it.
  6. Accessories
    These days, it’s not uncommon to find luggage that offers additional features such as separate garment bags, travel cubes, TSA-approved locks, or even removable battery packs. These can all come in handy for a range of reasons. Garment bags can keep more important pieces of clothing wrinkle-free, travel cubes can help you maximize space, locks give you a sense of security, and a battery pack can keep your devices charged — even on long layovers.
  7. Price
    Carry on luggage comes in a range of price points. But you don’t necessarily need to spend top dollar to find affordable carry-on luggage that not only protects your items but provides plenty of storage and is designed to last.

The best luggage and travel gear is an investment and should last a long time, while looking great. You may also want to check out the scooter luggage.

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