What are the best carry-on suitcases?
If you are like us and have been looking around to buy new carry on luggage, this post is for you!
I know how time-consuming and confusing it can be when researching luggage brands.
So to help you out I’ve been digesting endless Amazon reviews and best seller lists for carry on bags and researching via Google and Pinterest.
Now that we have relocated to the USA from Australia, we envision taking lots of domestic flights and are planning on traveling carry-on as much as possible.
However, we have published a post on the 11 best suitcases (checked-in luggage) so you can read that as well.
As a family, we’re looking forward to carrying around a small suitcase with less stuff and not having the hassle of checking in bags and worrying about airlines losing our luggage, or having to pay fees for checked bags!
And since arriving in the US we are loving Amazon Prime (we still don’t have Amazon in Australia!!) and have been going crazy buying things for our apartment.
As for carry-on luggage, we’ve decided to buy these Delsey Spinner Suitcases which seemed to be the best carry on luggage with laptop compartment for our budget – brick red for the girls and blue for me!
Down below is my list of other suggested suitcases, but lets go over a few important features of choosing your carry-on.
Sizes for Carry-On Suitcases
First off, let’s talk about carry on bag size.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one standard carry on suitcase size instead of the confusion of every airline having their own limits.
And I don’t need to tell you how tough airlines are these days when it comes to carry-on suitcase sizes, we can all do without more baggage fees, so it’s important you buy a bag that’s fits within the criteria.
Most U.S. airlines have carry-on restrictions of 22 inches (22”x 14″ x 9″) and must not exceed 45 linear inches.
That means combined length + width + height (including any handles and wheels) e.g. 22” + 14” + 9” = 45 linear (or 115 centimeters: 23 x 36 x 56 cm).
To be clear, we’re talking about the actual size of your bag, not the weight! Please refer to each individual airline for their own cabin size suitcase limits.
Does your favorite airline allow 22 inch carry on luggage? Or do you need 20 inch carry on luggage?
Our friend Ali can help you with this, she created this super helpful carry-on size chart that shows luggage restrictions for 150+ airlines.
Important Features of a Carry-On Suitcase
After size, the next thing to consider when researching the best carry-on suitcases are what specific features are best for your traveling style.
Two-wheels vs. Four-wheel suitcases
This is a topic everyone seems to have an opinion on.
Again it comes down to your travel style and what features work best for you and your family.
Because we have two young kids and travel with a lot of tech and photography gear, I’m typically pulling a carry on suitcase and a camera bag on my back, I prefer carry on luggage with spinner wheels that is easier to manage for me, and them!
The last thing I want to do is have to drag my 5 year olds carry-on around the airport or through hotels as well. That’s why we’ve been looking for the best spinner luggage.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each:
Four wheel suitcases (spinners)
- Easier to maneuver in tight spaces such as down aisles of planes, on trains, in elevators. And I can easily nudge it along with my foot when inching through a security line or at check-in (keeping me hands free).
- Spinner suitcases are more ergonomic and don’t put as much stress on your shoulders or back like rollers. You are able to put all the weight on the luggage!
- If you are like us, and our kids, we like to attach other items to our carry on bag such as camera bag or toys and the weight of the luggage and plus the extra backpack attached to the handle adds up!
- Because the wheels are externally mounted they’re more vulnerable to snapping off.
- External wheels steal some of your valuable packing space as the length of the wheels is included in the overall allowable dimensions.
- Your bag won’t remain stationary on an incline without laying it down or bracing it.
Two Wheel suitcases (rollers)
- The wheels are recessed into the case which helps prevent from snapping off.
- For getting around town, two wheels are better than four wheels for clearing curbs and rolling on uneven surfaces.
- Two wheel suitcases utilize wheels like on skateboards meaning they only roll forward and backward, so you either pull or push the suitcase with the extended handle.
For us, a 4 wheel suitcase (spinner) is what works for our situation.
On our recent flight from Sydney to Hawaii, and then from Hawaii to LA and then onto North Carolina, our 5 year old daughter was able to easily maneuver her 4 wheel carry on spinner luggage around numerous airports and hotels.
If we all had a two wheel carry-ons, I have no doubt I would have been dragging her bag as well as mine all over the place meaning more stress!
Another important feature on your cabin baggage is the handle.
I suggest getting one with an adjustable length and one that is long enough for your height, is sturdy, and retracts completely inside the bag!
And get one with two posts!
Our current carry-on suitcase has a two-post handle and we always use it to support either our laptop bag, camera bag, and our kids love using theirs to sit their dolls against, lol.
Two-posts provide more balance and support for this!
Also, a suitcase with top and side handles will make lifting your suitcase into the overhead bins easier.
Hard shell vs. Soft shell carry-on suitcases
Should you get hard carry on luggage or soft carry on luggage?
If you travel a lot like us, it can take its toll on your gear so the build of your carry on is important for longevity.
When it comes down to the best carry-on suitcases you have a choice between a hard or soft external shell suitcase.
What are the pros and cons of each?
Hard shell suitcases
- Can act as a seat while you wait.
- Better for protecting your contents from breakage.
- Stack easily on top of each other.
- Typically waterproof.
- Not all are expandable like a soft shell, so if you tend to overpack this can prevent you from stuffing more in.
- Not all can compress or expand
- Can scratch easily and cheap hard cases can crack.
- Can’t squeeze into tight storage spaces at home or in your car.
- Few have outside pockets.
Soft shell suitcases
- Typically lighter in weight and can conform to tight spaces such as the back of your car.
- They enable you to squeeze in just one more item of clothing (a con if you tend to overpack).
- Can absorb shock better than hard shells.
- Not as protective as hard-shell.
- Are vulnerable to ripping if the material is not of high quality.
- Not waterproof.
How much to spend on a carry-on suitcase?
Like everything in life you get what you pay for, so if you want a carry-on bag that’s durable you’re going to have to spend a few dollars, not a ton of money but more than 50 bucks!
You certainly don’t have to go for expensive designer luggage which can be more about fashion and looks than quality construction!
But most of us have budget constraints and you should only get what you can afford – we want to keep as much money as possible for experiences when we travel right!
Best Carry-On Suitcases
I’ve searched around the web looking for the best cabin luggage and to see which ones have the best reviews on Amazon.
I’ve also looked at other websites and blogs to hopefully save you some time.
From my research, here are the most popular and top selling cabin size suitcases on Amazon, in no particular order!
- 100% Polycarbonate
- Expandable up to 2 inches for additional packing space
4 wheel cabin luggage
- Large easy access front compartment with an integrated padded sleeve for a 15.6 inch laptop
- 2 zippered mesh pockets for computer accessories, toiletries, tickets, passport or books.
- Double spinner wheels
Read the reviews for the Delsey Helium Aero and buy it on Amazon
- 100% Polycarbonate
- Side mounted TSA lock
- Expands for added packing capacity
- Full-zip interior divider with organization pockets
- 100% Polyester
- 360-degree spinners roll effortlessly in any direction
- Telescoping handle adds length and strength
- Limited lifetime warranty
- 100% Polycarbonate
- Global 10-year limited warranty
- Meets IATA carry-on regulations
Another popular samsonite cabin luggage
- Micro-diamond texture is extremely scratch-resistant
- Stylish and innovative design that’s cheap
- Top and side handles allows for easy lifting
- Four wheel spinners
- 210D Nylon Shadow Box Main Body
- Easy access top pocket
- Handles on three sides
- Lockable zippers with TSA approved locks
- Carry on luggage with wheels (2)
Ok, here’s a fun one for the kids which is very popular on Amazon!
- 100% Abs Plastic
- Spinner wheels
- Star wars branded
Do you own any of these carry-ons?
What do you think is the best carry on luggage?
Can you suggest other carry ons that we should add to this list?
Let us know in the comments down below!
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