The 10 Best Carry-Ons for Every Type of Traveler

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

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June 16, 2021

After many cross-country trips and a few treks across Europe, I've learned that packing light just makes sense. You'll breeze 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 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 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

First things first: Although some luxury carry-on bags can cost $500 or more, you really don't need to spend that much to get a quality one. In fact, we'd argue that the best carry-ons typically cost just $100-$300. Case in point? Almost everything on our list is less than $300.

Second: Dimensions matter a lot, especially if you're flying internationally. We suggest sticking to 22" x 14" x 9" for domestic flights and potentially sizing down to 21" for any international flights. Once you've booked your ticket, you can (and should) double-check your airline's size restrictions. And P.S.: Every bag on our list meets that 22"-or-under standard.

Finally, consider which details are important to you and/or best suit your lifestyle. Are you worried about stains or scuff marks? You might want to opt for a hardside carry-on over a soft one, as they're easier to clean. Do you like the idea of rolling your bag to the gate? Look for a carry-on with spinner wheels. And if 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.

Best Carry-On Overall

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 7272 Energie Hardside Spinner Carry-On. With overall dimensions of 22" x 13.5" x 8.5," this suitcase falls on the slender side, making it ideal for both domestic and international travel. The grooved polycarbonate shell is durable and scratch-resistant and capped off with eight spinner wheels for one smooth glide through the airport. The SWISSGEAR also boasts a TSA lock, a USB port and a 10-year warranty — all for $150.

Best Budget Carry-On

Nearly 24,000 reviews and a 4.7-star rating say everything. With its hard shell, four spinner wheels, fully-lined interior and expandable design, the Amazon Basics Hardside Carry-On is the total package — and proof that you 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.

Best Large Carry-On

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 Green.

Best Smart Carry-On

Whether you're at the airport, in your hotel or wandering with your suitcase in tow, it's extremely convenient to have a USB charger built into the design of your bag. What separates the Kabuto Smart Carry-On from other suitcases, though, is that the Kabuto includes a removable battery (most don't), multiple USB ports and a TSA-approved fingerprint sensor. So, not only can you charge your devices, but you can also protect them with a state-of-the-art biometric lock. And that lock can recognize up to 10 fingerprints, making this a great "communal" carry-on for families traveling together.

Best Duffel Bag Carry-On

If you're looking for a duffel bag that's roomy and built-to-last, the Plumbag Canvas Duffel is it. Crafted from high-density canvas fabric with bronze 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), boasts multiple zippered pockets for accessories, an adjustable shoulder strap and innovative rubber squares that elevate the base just in case of spills. It also has nearly 11,700 reviews and a 4.7-star rating on Amazon.

Best Duffel Bag With Shoe Compartment

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 problems with the Plambag Canvas Duffel Bag. Unlike most duffels, which offer small side pockets for shoes, the Plambag 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.

Best Backpack Carry-On

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 $50.

Best Underseat Carry-On

Underseat carry-ons can be pretty hit or miss — either they're too big to fit under an airline seat, they're too flimsy or they're too expensive. So, we searched high and low until we found the one that checked all the boxes: The Hartmann Metropolitan 2 Underseat Carry-On. With its compact, no-fuss design, the Hartmann Metropolitan easily slides under domestic and international seats alike and gives you all the bells and whistles (smooth-gliding spinner wheels, a contoured-grip handle, multiple pockets, a USB port, a TSA lock, etc.) in a completely reasonable package.

Best Carry-On for Laptops & Tablets

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.

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 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.

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