The 10 Best Carry-Ons for Every Type of Traveler

From hardside spinners to duffels, backpacks and ride-ons for kids, we've found the perfect carry-on for your next trip.

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Updated on October 26, 2023

Our Top Carry-On Picks

After many cross-country trips and a few treks across Europe, I've learned that packing light just makes sense. You'll breeze right through security, you'll never have to wait at Baggage Claim (or worry that your bag got lost along the way) and you can keep all your essentials within arm's reach during your flight. So, for me, it's a carry-on bag every time.

And, over the years, I've come to know exactly which carry-on bags are worth their salt. Here are the 10 best carry-ons for every type of traveler, including those who need a little extra room, plus some helpful details and tips to consider when buying a carry-on.

What to Consider When Buying a Carry-On

COST: Although carry-on bags can certainly be expensive, you don't need to spend $500 or more to get a quality product. In fact, we'd argue that the best carry-ons cost just $100-$300. Case in point? Almost everything on our list is less than $350.

SIZE: Dimensions matter a lot, especially if you're flying internationally. We suggest sticking to the standard 22" x 14" x 9" for domestic flights and sizing down to 21" for international flights, just to ensure that your carry-on will fit in the overhead compartment. If you know which airline you're flying with ahead of time, you can always double-check their size restrictions online. And P.S.: Every bag on our list meets that 22" or under standard.

HARDSIDE VS SOFTSIDE: Ah, the great debate. If you're torn between finishes, consider the following information. Thanks to their sturdy outer shells, hardside carry-ons are better at protecting more fragile personal items in transit. That said, they also tend to be bulkier and might only fit in the overhead compartment. Softside carry-ons, on the other hand, are more flexible so you can easily slip them under the seat in front of you but they're also a little harder to clean.

EXTRAS: On that note, it's important to consider which details best suit your lifestyle. Do you like the idea of rolling your bag to the gate? Look for a carry-on with spinner wheels. Do you frequently travel with larger electronics, like a laptop? Choose a carry-on that has a TSA lock and an easy-to-reach tech compartment, since they'll need to scan your device at security.

How We Picked the Best Carry-Ons

Carry-on bags are definitely an investment, so it's important to us that you're spending money on a quality product. To that end, we examined hundreds of suitcases, read the reviews, weighed the pros and cons, and factored in our own firsthand travel experience to come up with our list of the best carry-ons. We also took price, materials and airline size restrictions into consideration.

Best Overall Carry-On

$108.99

We take the title "Best Overall" very seriously around here. So when it came to crowning the best carry-on, we considered size, material, ease of use, special features, warranties and price. The result? SwissGear's Energie USB Hardside Carry-On. With overall dimensions of 22.75" x 13.5" x 8.5," this suitcase falls on the slender side, making it ideal for both domestic and international travel. The polycarbonate shell is durable and scratch-resistant and capped off with eight spinner wheels for a smooth glide through the airport. The Swissgear also boasts a TSA lock, a USB port and a 10-year warranty — all for $108.99.

Buy It

Best Value Carry-On

$88 $73.04

More than 42,000 positive reviews and a 4.6-star rating say everything. With its extra-thick hard shell, four sets of spinner wheels, fully lined interior and expandable design, the Amazon Basics Hardside Spinner Carry-On is the total package and proof that you really can have it all for less than $100. It's also available in four different colors, ranging from black to orange, so you can easily locate your bag in the overhead bin.

Buy It

Best Large Carry-On

From $295

Sometimes, you need a little more room — and when that time comes, you should opt for Away's Bigger Carry-On. This suitcase is sized to fit in the overhead bin of most major airlines and uses an internal compression system to help you make the most of the space available. The Bigger also comes with a TSA-approved lock and can be purchased with a battery if you'd like to charge your phone on the go. But take note: Lighter colors will show more wear and tear, so you might want to stick with deeper hues like Black, Navy or Olive.

Buy It

Best Smart Carry-On

$62.08

Whether you're at the airport, in your hotel or wandering around with your suitcase in tow, it's extremely convenient to have a USB charger built right into your bag. What separates the Wrangler Smart Carry-On from other suitcases, though, is that this baby actually includes a phone holder, so you can be totally hands-free on your journey. And as if that's not enough, the Wrangler also boasts an integrated cupholder for your coffee. The suitcase comes in seven colors as well.

Buy It

Best Duffel Bag Carry-On

$35.99

If you're looking for a duffel bag that's roomy and built to last, the Wohlbege Canvas Duffel Carry-On is it. Crafted from high-density canvas fabric with silver hardware, this handsome bag is exceptionally durable. It can hold five to seven days' worth of clothes (depending on whether you fold or roll yours) and boasts multiple zippered pockets for your accessories, an adjustable shoulder strap and innovative rubber squares that elevate the base just in case of spills.

Buy It

Best Duffel Bag With Shoe Compartment

$59.99 $35.99

There's nothing worse than packing for a trip and promptly having to nix a favorite shirt or dress to make room for your shoes (or having to store your dirty shoes in the same compartment as your clean clothes). Luckily, you can avoid both issues with the Gonex Canvas Duffel Carry-On. Unlike most duffels, which offer small side pockets for shoes, this bag gives you an entire lower compartment for about three pairs. This stylish duffel bag is also made from water-repellent canvas, has a removable shoulder strap and features an innovative back "sleeve" so you can slide it over the handle of a checked bag.

Buy It

Best Backpack Carry-On

$44.99

If you're the backpack-or-bust type, then you should know that we swear by the Hynes Eagle 38L Backpack Carry-On. Though it looks like a typical backpack, the Hynes Eagle actually opens like a suitcase — and it has the capacity of one, too, with space for about a week's worth of clothes. (You can fit more than that by using the included packing cubes.) And thanks to compression straps inside and out, you can trust that your gear will fit in the overhead bin or beneath the seat every time. The backpack also includes padded shoulder straps that you can tuck out of the way in transit. All in all, it's a steal for $52.99.

Buy It

Best Underseat Carry-On

$165

Underseat carry-on bags can be pretty hit or miss; either they're too big to fit under an airline seat or they're too expensive. So we searched high and low until we found one that's the right size and the right price point: the Calpak Hue Mini Carry-On. With its compact, no-fuss design, it easily slides under domestic and international seats alike and gives you all the bells and whistles (smooth-gliding spinner wheels, a telescoping handle, multiple pockets, a TSA lock, etc.) in a completely reasonable package.

Buy It

Best Carry-On for Laptops & Tablets

$265

If you're planning to do some work while you're away, you'll need a carry-on bag that's designed with your electronics in mind. And our top pick is the Calpak Hue Carry-On for a few reasons. Not only is the suitcase made from durable polycarbonate (a must for protecting your tech), but it also features an integrated laptop sleeve for extra cushioning. Best of all, that laptop sleeve is conveniently located in a pull-down front pocket, so you can access your computer without having to unload your entire suitcase. A TSA-approved lock completes the design and ensures that your items stay secure.

Buy It

Best Carry-On for Kids

The secret to traveling with small children? Having the right gear — specifically the Bedbox Ride-On Carry-On. Parents swear by this special suitcase because it essentially takes the work out of toting multiple bags and keeping up with a curious little one. You can stash their toys, snacks and other in-flight essentials in the carry-on and pull them atop the suitcase towards your gate and even down the airplane aisle. The Bedbox Ride-On also comes in a variety of colors, includes a pack of stickers so they can customize their new wheels and converts into a bed in just five simple steps.

Buy It

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