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How to select THE BEST Carry on Luggage

Traveling with only carry on luggage will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars over a lifetime of travel. Unlike checked in baggage, carry on luggage is in most cases complimentary! That means all you have to pay for is the base price of the airline ticket, allowing you to select any budget carrier you wish #winning. The art is in choosing the best carry on bag so that you no longer need to pay for checked in luggage.

Carry On Luggage Rules

What to consider when purchasing a carry on bag:

Carry On Luggage Size

While it would be extremely convenient for there to be uniform carry on luggage size rules, unfortunately, the carry on luggage size rules differs from airline to airline. Therefore, it is important to check your airlines policy before selecting a carry on bag that is right for you. Travel Made Simple has created a super helpful list of carry on luggage policies of over 150 Airlines.

When purchasing a carry on bag, ask yourself, are you loyal to a particular carrier or do you travel with a lot of different airlines. If you are generally carrier loyal, it is best to buy a carry on bag within their size restrictions. If you are not, we suggest a carry on size of around 22 inches high x 9 inches deep x 14 inches wide. Most American Airlines use these dimensions for their carry on luggage rules.

In saying this, despite all airlines formally having different carry on size rules, no-one is going to get out a ruler and measure to see if your bag is exactly to specification. If it looks like a carry on bag, you will most likely be okay. In all our years traveling, we have also never been made to place our carry on bag into the airline holder to see if it fits. However, we have seen people testing their carry on bag right in front of the check in counter!!! If you think there is even a slim possibility your bag does not fit the holder, do not check your bag in the holder at the airport, you will just attract unwanted attention and you may potentially be required to test your bag in front of airline staff.

Carry On Luggage Weight

The most important part of a carry on is actually the weight, not the size (so long as it looks like a carry on bag!). It is therefore, very important to select a carry on bag that is lightweight to maximise your carry on weight. Again, annoyingly, the weight of carry on bags vary from airline to airline. As a rule of thumb, most airlines offer at least 15 lbs (7 kg) in a carry on bag. Skyscanner, our preferred flight comparison tool, has realised a Cabin Baggage Guide which contains a list of a number of carriers weight policies.

If you are in a gambling mood, more often than not, airlines do not weigh your carry on luggage and you can get away with more than the allocated weight. This is particularly true in places where you are able to print your boarding pass before arrival and proceed straight to security, bypassing the check in desk. However, this is risky business and you need to ensure that you know your carrier well before executing this strategy as low cost carriers including Jetstar in Asia do not allow you to print your boarding pass before arrival and weigh your carry on bags at the counter.

Unless you like to live dangerously, we highly recommend purchasing a baggage weigher. They have literally saved us a lot of agony at last minute at the check in desk. There is nothing more embarrassing/inconvenient than trying to rearrange overweight baggage last minute at the check in desk, trying to figure out if you can really wear another jacket to get your bags down to the specified weight. These godsend devices have saved our lives on numerous occasions. They have also saved us worrying the night before a flight about how much our bags might weigh at the check in counter.

Duffel Bags as carry on luggage

We are particular fans of using the Duffel Bag as carry on luggage. Why? We generally find that you can fit a lot more luggage in a duffel bag than a regular carry on suitcase. They also can be manipulated to fit pretty much any carry on luggage dimension requirement with enough pushing and shoving. Duffel bags without wheels are definitely the most weight effective. However, 15 lbs (7 kg) on your shoulder can take a toll and this option is definitely only for the true clothes horse (or their boyfriend or husband hehe).

Positives of Duffel Bags as Carry on Luggage
  • We find that you can squeeze a lot more into a duffel bag than a regular carry on suitcase.
  • Usually, duffel bags weigh less than a carry on suitcase.
  • As they are soft, you can usually manipulate them to fit any carry on requirements with enough pushing & shoving.
Negatives of Duffel Bags as Carry on Luggage
  • They can be more effort to carry around as usually the wheels (if any) are not as good quality as a carry on suitcase.
  • The contents of the bag have more chance of being damaged due to soft nature of bag.

Backpacks as carry on luggage

Backpacks can also be a great option as carry on luggage. The main problem we find with backpacks is that they are usually not as expandable as a duffel bag and therefore, you can fit less items in them. One trick with backpacks is that often airlines let you also take a ‘personal bag’ onboard on top of your usual carry on luggage allowance. This is meant to be a small laptop bag, a handbag or a small backpack. In saying that, provided you don’t place too many items in your usual size backpack, we have never had an airline pull us up on having an extra backpack with our laptop in it. We prefer to travel with a backpack as well as a duffel bag or carry on suitcase for use on day trips once we arrive at our destination.

Positives of Backpacks as Carry on Luggage
  • Usually, backpacks weigh less than a carry on suitcase.
  • As they are soft, you can usually manipulate them to fit any carry on requirements with enough pushing & shoving.
Negatives of Backpacks as Carry on luggage
  • Generally, they provide less space for clothes than a duffel bag
  • Backpacks can be more effort to carry around as usually wheels (if any) are not of as good quality as a carry on suitcase.
  • The contents of the bag have more chance of being damaged due to soft nature of bag.

Suitcases as carry on luggage

Carry on suitcases are by far the best form of carry on luggage for ease of travel and for the protection of your belongings. Wheeling a carry on suitcase is far easier than even the best duffel bags or backpacks with wheels. The main negative of suitcases as carry on luggage is that they usually weigh more due to the protective casing & the wheels, meaning you can put less items in the bag to be within your airline weight requirement.

Positives of Suitcases as Carry on Luggage
  • Much easier to transport than a duffel bag or backpack due to the wheel function.
  • A lot better protection for your belonging than a duffel bag or backpack.
  • Great for luxury or business travel where keeping your belongings crease free is a necessity.
Negatives of Suitcases as Carry on Luggage
  • Generally less space than a duffel bag (and potentially a backpack) due to increased weight of the protective casing, handle and wheels.

The 10 Best Carry on Luggage on Amazon

We have poured through hundreds of Amazon reviews to find the 10 Best Carry on Bags currently listed on Amazon. We love Amazon because not only are purchases one click away but your purchase is safeguarded by the many reviews on the product which you will not find in a bricks & mortar luggage store. We also find that the prices on Amazon are pretty great too!

1. Shacke’s Carry On Duffel Bag ($)

19.5″ x 9″ x 13.5″ | 2.2 lbs | $29.95 

What we love about this bag: We love that it has an extra compartment for your shoes (so they don’t have to be in the same area as your clothes). For such a well reviewed bag, the price is also great at only $29.95.

Amazon Review: This bag is just what I needed, I was so tired of my small sports bag wrinkling all my cloths. I actually had researched bags for over 2 months I wanted a bag not to big but big enough to hold all my toiletries, cloths without wrinkling, and separate shoe holding location. I thought this bag would be to small but decided to take a chance, and this bag was IT fricken perfect.

Check out the latest reviews and buy it on Amazon here.

2. The Delsey Luggage Helium Aero Carry On Spinner Trolley ($)

21″ x 14.5″ x 10″ | 9.8 lbs | $99.24

What we love about this bag: We love that it is a very durable suitcase as it is made of 100% Polycarbonate, a material that is extremely resilient to cracking or breaking. We also love that the bag has good wheel function.

Amazon Review: Bought this trolly to replace my old 2-wheeled fabric roller board to reduce the strain of pulling it and carrying it down the airplane aisle. Just got back from a business trip with the Delsey and am very pleased. It rolls easily in the terminal and plane. It holds a lot of clothes without looking bulky as many of the fabric ones can be when stuffed (which gets attention from carry-on size checkers). You can expand it if more capacity is needed.

Check out the latest reviews and buy it on Amazon here.

3. Olympia Carry On Duffel Bag ($)

22″ x 12″ x 12″ | 4.8 lbs | $25.02

What we love about this bag: One of the best aspects of this bag is that it can fit A LOT in. It is also lightweight and rolls, meaning you can keep all the heavy weight off your shoulder. The price is pretty great too at only $25.02.

Amazon Review: Words can not describe how much I was able to fit inside here WITH ROOM TO SPARE!! Look at the pictures! I highly recommend this to everyone! I used all the pockets on the side for, 1 pocket was black socks (7 pairs), 1 pocket was white socks(7 pairs), 1 pocket was for extra chargers, cords and random accessories, the other was for razor, shaving cream, 2 sticks of deodorant, tooth brush and paste. Front pockets held my tablet, phone (while i was on the plane, yes this was a carry on!) with plenty of room to spare, documents in the front top pocket for quick access. The bonus pocket by the handle i has no idea what to even put in there!

Check out the latest reviews and buy it on Amazon here.

4. Hynes 40L Carry on Backpack ($)

20.1″ x 13.4″ x 9.8″ | 2.42 lbs | $64.99

What we love about this bag: This is a great option for a backpack carry on that can be doubled up as a day bag when you reach your final destination. We love that it has a lot of space (40 L) and that it is made with high quality materials so it will last a long time. A few points deducted for not having wheels but the backpack style of the bag means that weight is evenly distributed on your back in any event.

Amazon Review: I love this pack. It’s lightweight, soft shell makes it easy to cram into the last overhead spot on the plane. Though I packed extremely light , this bag was able to fit everything I needed in it for a 9-day international trip except for my spare change of shoes. In it, I packed 3 pairs of jeans, 2 slacks, 9 boxer briefs, 9 pairs of socks, 5 tee shirts, 3 sweaters, 1 button-up shirt, and 2 pull-over fleeces. The front compartments are good for my itinerary and documents. The laptop pouch is a little tight, but it helps to keep my laptop stationary.

Check out the latest reviews and buy it on Amazon here.

5. Chester Minima Carry-On Spinner Suitcase ($$)

21.5” x 13.5” x 8.5 | 7 lbs | $195

What we love about this bag: For an “unbreakable” bag it is still super light weight at only 7 pounds. The TSA approved sizing is important to us as we fly with many different airlines who have different bag size limits. Having a carry-on bag with multi-directional wheels helps me keep rolling (when I’m running for a flight). And – it comes in a super cute pink colour which I own.

Amazon Review: After losing my expensive hair straightener and having all my belongings soaked due to having to wait outside in the pouring rain for my friends to secure a car rental in Puerto Rico, I decided to invest in a quality and water proof suitcase. I am happy to find that not only will I not have to worry about all my belongings becoming completely soaked! The suitcase also glides smoothly on the ground. The spinner wheels are so smooth and completely soundless. No more dragging around a heavy suitcase. I’m also happy with the lock system that comes with it. I can comfortably leave my new hair straightener, makeup and laptop locked inside the suitcase in the hotel without worrying that it might disappear from my room. I am super happy with this stylish product and the peace of mind that comes with it.

Check out the latest reviews and buy it on Amazon here.

6.  Samsonite HS Spinner 20, Carry on Luggage ($)

20″ x 13.5″ x 9.5″ | 8 lbs | $96.75

What we love about this bag: We love that this carry on is made with high quality materials. The Samsonite Spinner’s high quality casing provides great protection for your belongings. We also love that it meets the carry on requirements of even the toughest low cost airline carriers.

Amazon Review: Perfect fit for JetBlue’s 22x14x9 and other baggage sizers! Love it

Check out the latest reviews and buy it on Amazon here.

7.  Travelpro Maxlite 4 Rolling Carry On Bag ($)

13″ x 15.5″ x 8.5″ | 7.6 lbs | $79.99

What we love about this bag: If you have ever wondered where flight attendant’s buy their luggage then look no further. Flight attendant’s swear by this bag as it fits up to 4 days worth of clothes. We also love that the wheels on the bag have been reviewed as very high quality as there is nothing worse than wheels breaking after only one use.

Amazon Review: Love this product! We fly at least 2 to 3 times a month. I don’t like to pay for carry on or checked baggage. This bag is perfect. It fits directly under the seat in front of you. Holds so much. Unzips just like a carry on or large suitcase. You can roll this baggage in the aisle perfectly. Love, Love, Love this bag!

Check out the latest reviews and buy it on Amazon here.

8. Osprey Wheeled Luggage Carry on Bag ($$$) 

22″ x 14″ x 9″ | 4.37 lbs | $230.00

What we love about this bag:  We love how you can fit a lot into this bag but it still fits within the carry on baggage restrictions. It is also lightweight & has good roll function.

Amazon Review: When I first opened it, although I loved the color and the weight, I thought it was going to be way too small for my trip. But this truly is one of the most amazing pieces of luggage I have ever managed to find. My well travelled and heavy to start with, though still wonderful, Hartmann’s are going to have to wait in line before they make another trip. The Osprey carry-on is styling, functional, extremely well made, and super light, with very cool color choices; this vibrant aqua has a starling yellow green knterierior that nothing can hide or get lost in. There is a zippered nook and cranny for anything you can imagine you might need. I am an excellent packer and managed, without any effort, to get almost 30 lbs of clothing (including City clothes and rain forest clothes), my pillow, a small blanket, hiking shoes, rain gear, and presents into this bag for a little over a two week trip. Every time I thought I couldn’t pack another thing in it, I found another cool hidden “sleeve” to store something in. I cannot recommend this roller more highly and wish I could give it a solid 10. Perfect for the overhead that’s crammed with way huge suitcases!

Check out the latest reviews and buy it on Amazon here.

9.  Samsonite Omni PC Carry on ($) 

19″ x 14.5″ x 9.8″ | 7.7 lbs | $92.14

What we love about this bag: Similarly to the Samsonite HS Spinner, we love that this is a high quality carry on option from a strong brand name. It is also a good price point for a high quality hard case bag.

Amazon Review: Use this product on a bi-weekly basis. When unzipped for extra space, it meets overhead requirements for the JetBlue, United, and Spirit (these are the only flights I have been on so far with it. Also sat directly on this bag during a 45 minute subway ride because there weren’t any seats. Very reliable travel companion!

Check out the latest reviews and buy it on Amazon here.

10. Delsey Luggage Paris Carry On ($$)

20.25″ x 14.25″ x 9.5″ | 10.9 lbs | $189.98

What we love about this bag: This bag is so stylish and is perfect for luxury getaways while still being a very high quality, durable bag.

Amazon Review: This suitcase. My heart swoons. Gorgeous exterior/interior. Holds a weeks worth of clothing if you pack it right. Rolls better than any suitcase I’ve ever owned. This is a must for any weekend traveler.

Check out the latest reviews and buy it on Amazon here.

***2019 Update – We recently came across the Chester Carry on Spinner & provided a separate travel bag review on this. This carry on is a great addition to the list & a carry on we particularly love!

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  • MC Miller

    MC Miller is a travel blogger and writer who has travelled America extensively and abroad to over 80 countries. He founded Couple Travel The World in 2017. Since then, he has spent over 6 years on the road as a full time travel couple. When he not traveling he likes to spend quality time with his partner Bett, planning our their next date or romantic getaway!


Thursday 15th of March 2018

That bag looks lovely! I’m obsessed with bags made in the UK. I have a Hawkesmill Regent Street. I highly recommend it. A beautiful bag. Slightly pricey, but well worth it. But I’ll look at Fig bags now too!


Wednesday 25th of October 2017

I am going to Italy in September and plan to be walking A LOT! I really need some shoes that will be comfortable wearing all day and are also cute! Do you have any recommendations? I plan on taking some casual dresses and will try to stick to clothes that would match black shoes. I would love some suggestions!


Sunday 17th of September 2017

Thanks for this post. Most people think low price equals poor quality. Yes, in most cases it does but with a little homework, you can get great stuff at low prices. I am sure most people trying to test the backpacking waters will find this post useful. Cheers!.

Nadia & Mike

Monday 18th of September 2017

Totally agree Isaac, you can get great stuff at low prices with the right homework.