Last year, I booked my first international trip since 2017. Because I was going to be away for a week, I decided to forego carry on luggage and went with the best and biggest bag possible, which I had to check. Then, that big bag became the biggest hassle.
So, I swore that the next time I needed to travel internationally, I would pack a carry-on only. Thankfully, my writer friend Lisa MarcAurele of Little Bit Recipes put together this handpicked selection of the best carry-on luggage (which originally appeared on Food Drink Life).
Now I feel confident that I could say goodbye to hassle and hello to stress-free journeys. If you want to feel the same way, read on.
Best carry-on luggage for international travel
Are you tired of lugging around heavy, inconvenient suitcases during your travels to must-see places around the world? It’s time to upgrade to smaller, lightweight options to make your journey a breeze.
Investing in high-quality luggage that fits an overhead compartment has numerous benefits beyond convenience. With ample packing space, organized compartments and durable materials, these carry-on bags are designed to withstand the rigors of travel while keeping your belongings safe.
Get ready to discover the ultimate travel companion for your next trip that will revolutionize how you pack and move around effortlessly. Say goodbye to bulky carry-on backpacks and duffel bags and hello to stress-free travel adventures with the best carry-on luggage available.
Best carry-on luggage
I selected these choices based on their durability, functionality and design. The list includes my favorite lightweight spinner and expandable hardside cases.
Each is an ideal travel companion that will make packing a breeze. Let’s take a look at my favorite carry-on luggage options.
Samsonite Omni PC 20-Inch Hardside Spinner — Best Overall
The durable hard shell of the Samsonite Omni PC 20-Inch Spinner has a lightweight design with a spacious interior. Its 360-degree spinner wheels also make navigating busy airports a breeze.
- Durability: The polycarbonate shell construction provides excellent durability and resistance against rough handling during travel.
- Lightweight: Overall weight is under seven pounds (6.8 lbs), making it easy to lift and carry.
- Ample Space: The luggage has plenty of space to pack and organize items efficiently without excessive travel packing hacks.
- TSA-Approved Locks: I like having this added security during travel.
- 10-Year Limited Warranty: This gives me peace of mind against material defects and manufacturing issues. It’s why Samsonite is one of the brands included in this article about luggage with a warranty.
- Interior Organization: While the luggage provides decent packing space, the interior organization could be improved for more efficient packing and easy access.
- Size: The overall dimensions are 22″ x 15″ x 9.5″, which may exceed some overhead bin requirements, so it’s not the best compact luggage choice. But I haven’t had an issue with any domestic flights.
Whether you’re a frequent flyer or take occasional trips to the best beaches in the USA, the Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Spinner is an ideal choice. This luggage is durable and lightweight, with plenty of packing space.
Amazon Basics 21-Inch Spinner Luggage — Best Budget
This Amazon Basics 21-Inch Spinner Luggage is an excellent choice for those looking for a budget-friendly carry-on suitcase. It offers sturdy construction and ample storage space at an affordable price point.
The lightweight design of this carry-on makes it easy to handle and maneuver through crowded airports. The spinner wheels provide smooth mobility, allowing for effortless navigation. With well-designed interior compartments and organization features, the AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner Luggage ensures efficient packing and easy access to your items.
- Affordability: The luggage is budget-friendly and offers good value for the price.
- Durable Exterior: The thick ABS hard-shell exterior provides durability and protection against rough handling during travel.
- Interior Organization: The luggage includes compartments, pockets and straps to help keep your belongings organized and secure during transit. It’s also expandable to get up to 15% more space.
- Lightweight: Weight is a little over seven pounds (7.34 lbs), making it easy to lift and carry.
- Overall Durability: Since it’s a lower-cost option, there is a higher potential of issues with the telescoping handle, zipper, and wheels breaking over time.
- Interior Space: The luggage may not offer as much packing capacity as other models due to the zipper pockets, potentially limiting the number of items you can pack.
- Size: Overall dimensions (21.46” x 14.76” x 9.45”) can exceed some airlines, but it hasn’t been an issue for me.
This luggage is my best choice for family travel on a budget. It combines durability, functionality and affordability, which makes it perfect for everyone in the family.
This luggage from Delsey Paris offers a winning combination of style, durability and functionality. I love the sleek design of its exterior hardside and its efficient interior organization. Plus, the spinner wheels glide effortlessly through airports.
- Expandable Capacity: The luggage expands up to 2 inches, allowing you to increase the packing space when needed.
- Durable Materials: The luggage is made of 100% polycarbonate, which can withstand the rigors of frequent traveling and includes self-repairing zippers.
- Secure Organization: It features well-designed compartments, pockets and tie-down straps to keep things organized and secure during transit.
- Laptop Sleeve: The 19-Inch version offers a large zippered compartment with easy access in front that has a padded laptop sleeve and zippered mesh pockets for accessories. It can fit up to a 15.6-inch laptop.
- Size: Both sizes (21.25 x 14 x 9 for the 19-inch and 21 x 14.5 x 10 inches for the 21-inch) should fit most overhead bin compartments.
- TSA locks: It has an integrated 3 dial TSA accepted combination lock.
- Limited warranty: Delsey Paris stands behind its products.
- Weight: The 19-inch weighs 8.2 pounds, and the 21-inch weighs 8.4 pounds, so it isn’t the best lightweight option.
- Design: The smaller 19-inch is a bit bulky due to the laptop compartment.
Overall, I find the Delsey Paris Helium Aero Expandable Spinner Trolley offers the perfect balance of durability, space and aesthetics.
I like the lightweight, compact design and efficient organization of this softsided luggage option. There’s also an expandable feature allowing additional packing space. It gives plenty of packing space yet fits within the carry-on size restrictions of most US domestic airlines.
- Ultra-Lightweight: 5.1 pounds, making it easier to lift and maneuver.
- Expandable: The zippered expansion allows up to 2 inches of added interior space.
- Efficient Organization: Features well-designed interior compartments, pockets and tie-down straps to keep your belongings organized and secure during transit.
- Size: The compact size (22 x 14 x 9 inches) meets most major domestic airline requirements.
- Guarantee and Warranty: Travelpro offers a product guarantee and lifetime warranty.
- Durability: The softside exterior isn’t as durable as a hardside option.
- Lack of Built-in Locks: No built-in locks for added security, requiring separate locks if desired.
- Design Aesthetics: The design and aesthetics of the luggage tend to be less visually appealing compared to hardside options.
Although I prefer hard-sided luggage, the Travelpro Maxlite 5 is my favorite softside carry-on bag. It comes with lightweight construction, efficient organization and durability.
The LEVEL8 Grace luggage offers a sleek and modern design that makes it really stand out in the airport. But what I really like about this one is the well-designed organization. It even comes with a front laptop sleeve — love this feature.
- Expandable: The expandable capacity feature allows additional packing space, accommodating extra items when needed.
- Well-Organized Interior: The luggage offers well-designed interior compartments and pockets, facilitating the efficient organization of packed items.
- TSA-Approved Locks: Includes built-in TSA-approved locks, enhancing security during travel.
- Front Laptop Compartment: A small laptop (15.6”) can be safely stored and quickly accessed separately from clothing. There’s even a padded sleeve for a tablet.
- Durability: The polycarbonate and ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) material of the exterior isn’t as durable as 100% polycarbonate.
- Space: Interior space is sacrificed for the laptop compartment. I prefer adding a large travel laptop backback as my personal item.
- Size: It may exceed certain airline guidelines for a carry-on because of the added laptop pocket.
- Weight: It weighs over ten pounds (10.34 lbs) which is heavy for its size.
With its well-organized compartments, pockets and TSA-approved locks, the LEVEL8 Grace EXT offers efficient packing and enhanced security.
I recommend this Kenneth Cole luggage if you want a lighter hardside carry-on. The ABS exterior protects against impacts, while the lightweight design allows easy maneuverability and weight restrictions adherence. There’s plenty of packing space too.
- Weight: It weighs just 6.25 pounds.
- Storage Space: The interior of the luggage offers generous packing capacity, allowing you to pack and organize your belongings efficiently.
- Organization: The luggage lacks advanced interior organization features like multiple compartments or built-in pockets, making it more challenging to keep items separated and organized. I recommend adding packing cubes.
- Expandability: Unlike some other models, it does not offer an expandable feature, which means you won’t have the option to increase the packing capacity if needed.
- Durability: The luggage is constructed with an ABS exterior, which provides good resistance against impacts and rough handling but isn’t as strong as polycarbonate.
The Kenneth Cole Reaction Out Of Bounds Luggage is a good choice if you want a hardside that won’t weigh you down. However, it doesn’t offer an expandable middle like other carry-ons. So, keep that in mind before buying.
This carry-on offers decent hardside protection yet is fairly lightweight. The interior pockets and straps also provide efficient organization for packed items.
- Price: This luggage is often available at a low cost.
- Weight: Weight is 7 pounds which is fairly light to handle.
- Expandable: The expandable capacity feature allows you to increase the packing space by an extra 2 inches.
- Interior Organization: It has an interior mesh zip pocket and elastic pocket.
- Size: Overall size (22″ X 13.5″ x 9″) meets most carry-on size requirements.
- Durability: The wheels and zippers don’t seem to be as well made as others and may not last long for frequent travelers.
- Limited durability: The ABS exterior offers a lighter weight, but isn’t as durable as a 100% polycarbonate exterior.
The Rockland Melbourne Hardside Expandable Luggage is a good carry-on bag for travelers searching for a lightweight compact hardside.
The Samsonite Omni PC 20-inch is my top pick for the best carry-on luggage. With its durable construction, ample storage space and versatile design, this carry-on luggage is a reliable companion for your adventures. But for thrifty traveling, I prefer the Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside, which offers a range of features at an affordable price.
I also like the Travelpro Maxlite 5 Lightweight 20-inch softside option. This luggage is super light and comes with pocket and compartment interior organization. And with its compact size, I never worry about it not fitting in an overhead bin.
When I’m in need of hardside luggage with a compact size to meet most carry-on luggage size restrictions, the Rockland Melbourne Hardside Expandable 20-inch is my top choice. It also comes with interior pockets to help organize packed items.