Looking for the best carry-on luggage? You've come to the right place; our guide has all the information you need to make an informed purchase.
We're long time proponents of travelling light, and think if you’re going on a short or a long trip there's little reason you need to check-in luggage – all you need to do is pack carefully.
However, good intentions go nowhere unless you have the best carry on luggage.
- Best travel stroller: lightweight buggies for a hassle-free holiday
- Looking for something larger? Check out the best suitcases
- These are the best travel bags
- Also check out the best backpack
With a small cabin-sized suitcase, you can keep everything you need with you, bypassing both the bag drop queue and the luggage carousel in your destination... and get to the taxi rank before everyone else on your flight.
How to choose the best carry-on luggage
Most airlines these days have the same rules and regulations about carry-on luggage. Common airlines at British airports, such as EasyJet and British Airways, allow you to bring on board a cabin bag with dimensions up to 56x45x25cm.
However, be sure to check with the specific airline you are travelling with, as they may vary.
- Read T3's guide to the most popular airline's baggage allowance: luggage limits, excess charges, and how to avoid them
It is also important to be aware that the budget airlines including EasyJet, Ryanair and Flybe sometimes operate a one-bag policy, which means you cannot have your carry-on luggage and your handbag, as this would count as two pieces (although you can always just shove it inside your case while boarding and take it out again once seated like everyone else).
So what’s the best carry-on luggage? That depends on what kind of traveller you are, but know that they come with 2 wheels, 4 wheels or even 8 wheels, so you barely have to make any effort to carry your bag at all. So if you struggle to pack light, at least you won’t struggle through the airport. However, a carry-on size backpack can also be a great option.
If you do plan on cramming in as much stuff as possible, opt for feather-light luggage. They can weigh as little as 2kg and will make your life a whole lot easier when you’re lifting your bag into the overhead compartment. What determines their weight is what they’re made of, but bags made of light fabrics do tend to have more built-in pockets.
We’ve picked out some of the best carry-on luggage for all types of travel, styles and budgets. So take a look at our list and get booking that next flight!
- Never lose your luggage with the best luggage labels
The best carry-on luggage you can buy today
If you’re a frequent flyer, whether it is for business or please, you need to have a Samsonite. Customers who use this Samsonite are impressed with the amount of space inside, and say they are definitely worth the cost as they are built to last. Some think the handle feels a little flimsy, but with this cabin case being super lightweight, the 4 wheels make it really easy to get around the airport with no fuss.
It also has a TSA lock which is perfect for those who travel to the states, and the hard casing means you’ll have peace of mind if you’re ever asked to put your bag in the hold. A highly recommended choice for anyone who travels on a regular basis.
Available in a sleek Graphite grey, the Tumi Tegra-Lite Max is the perfect carry-on case for a short trip away. It comes with four double wheels for stability, a telescopic aluminium handle, and is made from tough polycarbonate so should be able to clock up as many air miles as you do.
The Tumi contains three zipped compartments for safely stowing all your belongings, as well as straps for keeping clothes in place. The case is secured with a zip fastening too, with TSA-compatible combination locks for security.
Unfortunately, this carry-on case isn’t perfect — it's heavier than the other carry-on suitcases on this list, weighing in at 4.99kg. That's by no means uncomfortable to carry around, but it's not quite as impressive as the featherlight cases we've also reviewed.
This compact hard shell case from British company, Antler, has been designed to be both lightweight and cabin-friendly, weighing in at 2.5kg (empty, obviously) and measuring 56 x 35.5 x 23cm. This means you can board on 27 different airlines and stow the bag in an overhead locker or under your seat — making it ideal for quick getaways at the airport or short stays away.
Although it’s compact and lightweight, the Antler Juro 56cm comes with four bottom-mounted wheels and a telescopic handle for easy manoeuvrability. It also comes with 3-digit combi lock which is TSA ready for when you travel to the States.
The Antler Juro 56cm should stand out on the baggage carousel thanks to its unique ridged design. Best of all, it comes with a generous 10 year guarantee.
This case from Aerolite is extremely light, and extremely affordable, two things we think are very important. It features four robust wheels and a double-tube retractable trolley grip handle, which make it simple to glide around the airport in any direction. It all feels very well made, despite its affordable price.
The outer casing is made from durable but lightweight anti-scratch ABS hard shell plastic to protect against the rigours of travelling, with chunky zippers on the main body. The interior features packing straps and an internal zipped divider with elasticated pockets (perfect for shoes), to keep the contents in place during transit.
The case includes a free three-digit combination barrel padlock for extra security, plus a five year guarantee for ultimate peace of mind.
This suitcase fits exactly to the maximum possible allowance for Ryanair (one of Europe’s most of the UK’s most popular airlines with the strictest ), as well as fitting within the maximum restrictions for Easyjet, and British Airways, etc.
We love Samsonite's entry-level 'Flux' carry-on suitcase, it combines the brand's expert material knowledge with a secure and flexible double zipper closure. Flux was the very first Samsonite hard-side range offering (hidden) expandability on all sizes, assuring even greater packing volume in times of extra packing needs.
Its cutting edge design gives a new blast of boldness, with every detail sculptured into the perfect travel companion to ensure maximum practicality. This collection was designed to make travel easier thanks to its smooth rolling double wheels, double tube wheel handle and fully lined practical interior to arrange your belongings.
Eastpak is one of the most recognisable luggage brands, and this distinctive spinner case from America’s most famous luggage label is the result of years of innovation. For one thing, the Eastpak Tranzshell is available in seven different colours to suit your style. Our favourite is this distinctive Camo print (which is now sold out). It also comes in three different sizes Small, Medium and Large, although we’ve chosen the smallest model here.
The Eastpak Tranzshell also promises to be tough and long-lasting with innovative foam and hybrid fabric, impressive 30-year warranty, and smooth-running wheels on its base. It also comes with a comfortable padded handle so it's easy to move around.
Inside it's just as smart, with two zipped pockets to keep your belongings in place during your travels.
This case is reasonably light at 2.9kg, so for a short holiday or business trip away it’s ideal, especially given the large 32-litre capacity.
It also includes a locking zip system with is TSA compatible.
Available in black with a bright `Blue Butterfly`pattern interior, Ted Baker's stylish carry-on suitcase is a real designer piece with a distinctive, elegant look. Made from lustrous 900 denier twill material with rose gold highlights, the Albany also includes two smooth-rolling wheels in its base, plus large handbag-like handles.
Inside the classy looks continue with a bright pattern, and plenty of room for your essentials.
Other goodies include a 3-digit combination lock with TSA, and contrasting saffiano envelope style front pocket. The Albany case is also available in range of other sizes – so whether you want a carry-on bag, or something larger for an extended trip away, Ted Baker has you covered.
Featuring an elegant pink floral design you'll have no problem spotting this on the luggage carousel. The affordable case is made from ultra-lightweight ABS, which is strong and flexible enough to stand up to the rigours of modern travel, although, we could see the glossy finish getting scratched quite easily.
The interior features packing straps and an internal zipped divider with elasticated pockets (perfect for shoes), to keep the contents in place during transit. The case is finished with rose-gold zippers and fixtures.
Here’s a carry-on with global importance. Although it’s technically within the 56x45x25cm limit, in practice this carry-on is – when packed (and definitely when expanded) – too wide for short-haul flights in the UK and Europe. However, long-haul routes tend to have far less restrictions (though always check before you travel). Able to take 42 litres in an expandable main section, this hybrid case/carry-on has double-spinner wheels for maximum mobility, an adjustable handle with three different heights, and vertical X-shaped compression straps for squeezing even more inside. It’s for those that want to travel far, and travel light… ish.
If you want something that’s built to last, you may not think a soft case is the best option. However, this carry on bag from Tumi is said to be incredibly well built and has protection on the corners which means this case can take a beating during transit. Those who travel frequently found this bag to really hold up well, and fit neatly into an overhead cabin without feeling like you’re compromising on packing space.
It has an expandable section which makes it ideal for when you end up coming back with what seems like twice as much as you went with, but no matter what you can always expect this bag to be within airline guidelines. Four wheels make it easier to get around, as this bag does come in as one of the heaviest on our list, but it is almost one of the smartest.
For those who want to look the part when travelling, then a Globe-Trotter bag is what you must have. this leather trimmed trolley case looks vintage and professional and has been handmade with polished detailing that really finishes off the look. It’s downside is it’s almost ten times heavier compared to other suitcases, but it also looks ten times cooler.
It looks like an old-fashioned suitcase, but is surprisingly spacious inside, and has two handles and wheels for easy maneuverability through the airport. To make it all the more unique, if not a little fiddly, it fastens with push locks that have individual keys.
Those who prefer hard shell cases will love this expandable carry on luggage bag from Victorinox. It’s super compact and is said to be durable for those who fly or travel frequently.
Some say it is a little smaller than they expected, but the case features dividers and pockets which really help maximise packing space inside. It comes with a lifetime guarantee should anything happen to your case in transit, but users have noted how well this case withstands travel, both in the cabin and in the hold. Probably not the best choice for those who have a tendency to overpack, but for short business trips, you can expect this case to serve you well.
You travel with a spare power-bank to recharge a smartphone, right? So place it in this case’s side-pocket and insert the bag’s USB cable, then charge your phone straight from an exterior USB slot beside this bag’s telescopic handle. In practice, that’s a bit of a gimmick, and this case’s 360° spinner wheels are what makes it great around airports. Unusual in also having zippered pockets on the outside, this 39 litres suitcase’s insides feature plenty or organiser pockets as well as compression straps.
This Samsonite suitcase is our best cheap lightweight suitcase. Why? Simply put, it offers unrivalled quality and reassurance, realistically everything you want from a suitcase.
With a TSA lock for stressless security fly-throughs and peace of mind at your destination, an expandable front pocket for stuffing with Duty Free Toblerones, and, according to reviewers, a light but incredibly strong construction, it looks to be a reliable and spacious option. The only thing keeping it from perfection is the two-wheeled design.
When travelling for business on a regular basis, carrying a laptop can be a real pain. However, this Samsonite laptop carry-on is the best way to ensure your device is protected on your flight. It offers a generous padded compartment which can accommodate laptops up to 17.3 inches, and you get an additional tablet pocket, for screens up to 10.1 inches.
This carry-on luggage only has 2 wheels for rolling, but it certainly takes the stress out of carrying an additional laptop bag on your shoulder as well as a cabin bag. You’ll still have ample space to fit in your clothing for a short trip.
Berluti’s carry-on case may not come with a removable charger, but it’s definitely the smartest when it comes to looks and may even bag you an upgrade if you’re spotted carrying it. The ‘Formula 1004’ case is crafted from black polished Venezia leather (so you won’t want to put it in the hold for fear of scratches) and has a handy front zipped pocket for stashing your passport.
The interior is designed for easy organisation with multiple compartments and flexible straps to keep everything neat and tidy. It has wheels, but that’s where the extras stop as this case is all about its beauty. The big drawback? The case is a staggering price, making it more an heirloom than luggage.
So you’re travelling with a drone. Good luck checking that in. Many of the people you see on long-haul planes clutching large carry-on backpacks are photographers and videographers who don’t want to let their expensive equipment out of their sight. That includes wildlife photographers, which are the specific target of this outdoorsy backpack designed to take camera gear.
Easily fitting within even budget short-haul sizings, the Gitzo Adventury is able to carry pro DSLRs with telephoto lenses up to 600 mm, and mirrorless cameras, but the genius is an interchangeable divider that can be configured to fit either more lenses, or a DJI Phantom drone. As a bonus, there’s also a separate padded compartment for both a 15-inch laptop and a 12.9-inch tablet. As befits a bag intended for use in the wild, it’s got an unusual roll-top closure that gives your gear maximum protection in the rain.
Though many travellers try to travel light on short-haul flights to save money, most people check-in their luggage on a long-haul flight when they’re given 20kg of check-in luggage. Consequently, there are very few bags that meet the more generous carry-on criteria of long-haul flights for those who don’t want to hang about at carousels.
Thule’s Crossover Rolling is just that bag; it takes a lot of luggage, and is extra tough thanks to a hard-sided design and two wheels that can take it over all kinds of terrain. The telescopic handle is also tougher than on most. Inside it’s a pretty standard design – complete with waterproof pocket – but it has two strokes of genius.
The first is a hard-sided pocket on the outside of the bag for storing sunglasses, and the second is two straps that unfurl from the top to make the Crossover Rolling wearable as a backpack. It’s also got a pouch for a 15-inch laptop. It takes 38 litres of stuff.
This Aerolite hard shell carry on case is made from ABS, an ultra-light alternative to the already easy-to-lift polycarbonate most cases are made of. Approved for a whole host of British airlines, it’s automatically the best cabin bag on our list for sheer peace of mind against sneaky baggage levies. Incredibly inexpensive, it’s good in any colour for the price, but go for the ultra-trendy rose gold shade and you definitely won’t lose it on the carousel, good news for bleary-eyed late-night arrivals.
When it comes to the basics, its four swivel wheels and telescopic handle have left reviewers impressed, as well as its surprising sturdiness. Pretty much faultless for such a budget-friendly bag.
Reviewers have found this case to be quick, nimble and light as a feather, ideal for trips where you might find yourself dodging people on narrow pavements or sprinting across the airport for a last-minute gate change. While inexpensive, its design is surprisingly high-end.
The four wheels reportedly turn on a dime for easy manoeuvring; its two-handled exterior is sure to be appreciated by anyone who’s ever struggled to pull a packed suitcase off the baggage carousel by a single straining strap; and the roomy external pockets, two rather than the standard one, keep things separated for easy unpacking later on.
With its textured exterior, subtle branding and sculpted, decidedly un-boxy shell, this Tripp Lite cabin suitcase is mid-range luggage with a luxury look, and definitely the best-looking luggage on our list despite some admirable competition from Antler’s Amalfi case, below.
It packs quite a lot of functionality into a minimal looking design, with four wheels for navigating twists, turns and crowds, a top and side handle for lugging, and, most importantly, an integrated TSA lock.
Reviewers were impressed that these cases were, TARDIS-like, bigger than they appear on the outside, and we’re particularly taken with the idea of the removable interior pocket that could double up as a toiletry bag in a pinch.
If you’re in the habit of slinging your bags around all over the place, you’ll need a suitcase that can stand up to a bit of tough love – or, more realistically, to unrelenting punishment.
That suitcase looks to be the Eastpak Tranverz: small enough to act as a carry-on case, but by no means dainty. Some have found its 28L capacity a little unforgiving, but for a long weekend it seems to be ample, with reviewers particularly commending the split-level design for separating sundries, and of course, that robust construction. If you find yourself on and off trains a lot and don’t want something that you’ll have to be too precious about, this is a solid choice.
- Looking for something a little bigger? These are the best suitcases