Keep calm and carry on: Our 13 favorite travel carry-ons

Apr 24, 2020

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If you’re a frequent flyer, choosing a carry-on bag can be a serious commitment. It is, after all, something you’re going to use for days — possibly even weeks — at a time during your travels.

Even if you’re not a regular road warrior, it’s important to have a carry-on bag that will support your travel goals.

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Whether you fly once a week or once a year, you’ll want a carry-on with room and versatility, so it can accommodate everything you’re packing. It’s important for it to be functional as well as eye-catching, so you can quickly identify your bag. Plus, it’s an expression of your personality and travel style.

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Before you press “confirm purchase,” though, do yourself a favor and check out our guides to airline shopping portals as well as the best credit cards for online shopping. That way, the gear you’re buying for your next trip is helping you actually get there, too.

Here are our favorite carry-on bags and suitcases right now:

  • Away Bigger Carry-On
  • Calpak Ambeur Carry-On
  • Rimowa Essential Cabin Carry-On
  • Tumi Alpha 3 Expandable International Carry-On
  • Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus
  • Briggs and Riley Domestic Carry-On Expandable Spinner
  • Samsonite Novaire Spinner
  • The North Face Base Camp Duffel – S
  • Omo Overnight Bag
  • Osprey Fairpoint Travel Pack 55
  • Target Open Story Weekender Bag
  • High Sierra Freewheel Wheeled Backpack
  • Eagle Creek Expanse Wheeled Tote Carry-On

Calpak Ambeur Carry-On

(Photo courtesy of Calpak)
(Photo courtesy of Calpak)

Why we love it: Calpak’s Ambeur carry-on is a favorite among TPG editors. It’s a four-wheel spinner that’s stylish and functional, with plenty of pockets to store and organize all your essentials. It’s also somewhat less expensive than the competitive Away suitcase — but more on that in a minute. Calpak bags also have a TSA-approved lock and an interior accessory pocket. It doesn’t have a portable charger, though, so keep that in mind if that feature is important to you. You can choose between rose gold, gold, black and silver.

Sizing: 22 inches by 14 inches by 8.5 inches

Pricing: The bag retails for $165, and you can get a 15% discount by signing up for emails with Calpak. Other retailers sell it as well, including Shopbop and Nordstrom — both of which frequently run sales on their merchandise.

Related: What your luggage brand says about you

Rimowa Essential Cabin Carry-on

(Photo courtesy of Rimowa)
(Photo courtesy of Rimowa)

Why we love it: You’ll no doubt be making a statement with your Rimowa bag, which is beloved by stylish jetsetters around the world. The essential cabin bag is made of polycarbonate material and has a removable and adjustable divider to keep all your belongings organized, in addition to a TSA-approved lock and four wheels that spin in every direction. This bag may not be cheap, but it’s guaranteed to withstand trip after trip. It’s very lightweight, too, so you’ll never feel like you’re lugging a piece of, well, luggage.

Sizing: 9.1 inches by 15.8 inches by 21.7 inches

Pricing: All of these fancy features come with a pretty hefty price tag: $640, to be exact.

The North Face Base Camp Duffel – S

(Photo courtesy of The North Face)
(Photo courtesy of The North Face)

Why we love it: This is the duffel you’re going to want to take with you no matter what type of trip you’re going on. It’s large enough to fit the bill for a long weekend getaway, but not so big that it’s cumbersome. Its key features are removable, adjustable straps (so you can wear it like a backpack); a surprising number of pockets and compartments; compression straps (for over-packers) and a rugged, water-resistant nylon that takes the worry out of your adventures. But, just in case, it comes with a lifetime warranty.

Sizing: This version fits 50 liters.

Pricing: You’ll find it on the North Face’s website for $120.

Tumi Alpha 3 Expandable International Carry-On

(Photo courtesy of Tumi)
(Photo courtesy of Tumi)

Why we love it: Tumi has established a stellar reputation for itself, and this four-wheel spinner carry-on lives up to expectations. It features a ton of pockets, including a large front U-zip pocket with security zipper, another front U-zip pocket and a front straight-zip pocket. There’s a built-in USB port and a TSA-combination lock, too. In the interior, you’ll find three more zip pockets, compression straps and large mesh zip pocket. It’s got all the bells and whistles.

Sizing: This carry-on is only available in one size: 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches.

Pricing: Tumi’s products don’t come cheap, and this bag is no exception. It’ll cost you $750. The good news, though, is Tumi is sold at Saks Fifth Avenue — so if you haven’t used your $50 biannual credit (up to $100 every year), courtesy of The Platinum Card® from American Express, this is a great way to knock down the price. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Related: How and why I travel the world with only a Tumi backpack

Osprey Fairpoint Travel Pack 55

(Photo courtesy of Osperey)
(Photo courtesy of Osprey)

Why we love it: Say goodbye to your checked bag forever. This Osprey pack is like a backpack, suitcase and carry-on all rolled into one. It can even carry loads up to a whopping 50 pounds, and is equipped with a detachable daypack if you’re looking to travel a little lighter throughout your trip. It comes in a small/medium size as well as a medium/large size and is available in both black and red.

Sizing: The small/medium size measures 24 inches by 13 inches by 12 inches. The medium/large measures 25 inches by 13 inches by 12 inches.

Pricing: Both sizes are currently on sale for $133.95 on Osprey’s website.

Paravel Aviator Carry-on Plus

(Photo courtesy of Paravel)
(Photo courtesy of Paravel)

Why we love it: Paravel’s vintage-inspired luggage looks like it came straight from the TWA Hotel. Better yet, it’s made with a recycled nylon lining, a lightweight exterior and an aircraft-grade aluminum handle. Its four, frictionless carbon steel wheels ensure an effortless trip from the airport to the hotel, and it also boasts an interior compression board and TSA-approved lock to make sure all your valuables stay safe and secure in transit. It comes in a handful of colors, each with a highlight color that accentuates the bag’s design.

Sizing: 22.7 inches 14.7 inches by 9.6 inches

Pricing: Paravel’s carry-on can be purchase directly on its site for $275.00.

Related: How to tell if your backpack counts as a personal or carry-on item

High Sierra Freewheel Wheeled Backpack

(Photo courtesy of High Sierra)
(Photo courtesy of High Sierra)

Why we love it: If you want all the perks of a backpack but don’t want to give up your wheels just yet, you’re in the right place. This backpack has enough storage to keep your item organized for the entirety of your trip, and it easily fits up to a 15-inch laptop. More traditional travelers will probably opt for this bag in black, but there’s also a purple smoke shade and a “razzmatazz” color that caught our eye. It has two wheels if you’d rather use those during your journey instead of wearing it on your back.

Sizing: 19.5 inches by 13.5 inches by 8 inches

Pricing: You can buy it for $82.99 on High Sierra’s website and get an additional 20% off your first order by signing up for emails.

Away Bigger Carry-on

(Photo courtesy of Away)
(Photo courtesy of Away)

Why we love it: The Away carry-on is a fan favorite for a reason. Not only is it stylish and durable, but we’re big fans of the TSA-approved lock, four 360-degree wheels and portable charger. You don’t know how badly you need a charger in the airport until all of the seats at the lounge are occupied and you’re on 9% battery. There’s also a hidden compression system that can expand (or contract) your bag as needed, as well as a hidden laundry bag. Away’s carry-on bags come in a multitude of colors, and keep an eye out for various limited-edition shades, too.

Sizing: The Carry-On is 21.7 inches by 13.7 inches by 9 inches. The Bigger Carry-On is 22.7 inches by 14.7 inches by 9.6 inches.

Pricing: Away charges $225 for The Carry-On and $245 for The Bigger Carry-On.

Target Open Story Weekender Bag

(Photo courtesy of Target)
(Photo courtesy of Target)

Why we love it: Target’s new luggage line, Open Story, made a splash when it launched earlier this year, and the Weekender Bag is affordable, sturdy and stylish. Really, it looks more expensive than it is! You’ll love all the compartments to keep your items organized for your next trip.

Sizing: 12.5 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches, and can hold up to 45 liters

Pricing: It’s $79.99 on Target’s website.

Related: Say goodbye to checked bag fees with our 7 favorite travel backpacks

Briggs and Riley Domestic Carry-on Expandable Spinner

(Photo courtesy of Briggs and Riley)
(Photo courtesy of Briggs and Riley)

Why we love it: Briggs and Riley’s utilitarian four-wheel spinner carry-on is for the traveler who just wants to get this show on the road. It’s sleek yet functional with a deep interior for everything you need (and let’s be real, don’t need) to pack. It features self-repairing, durable YKK® Racquet coil zippers, and the fabric is water-repellent and abrasion-resistant. But best of all, this bag can expand up to 25% and compress down when less space is needed.

Sizing: 19.5 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches

Pricing: You’ll find Briggs and Riley’s domestic carry-on directly on their website. It costs $599.

Related: Target just unveiled its brand-new luggage line — and there’s something for every traveler

Parker Clay Omo Overnight Bag

(Photo courtesy of Parker Clay)
(Photo courtesy of Parker Clay)

Why we love it: We dare you to find a more sleek-looking duffel bag than this. Its style isn’t the only thing going for it — it will also fit all of your essentials (and then some) for weekend or overnight trips, usually with room to spare. It’s crafted from premium Ethiopian full-grain leather, and comes in black, bordeaux, dark brown and rust brown. You can blame it on us if people keep coming up to you at the airport asking where you got it.

Sizing: 19 inches by 11 inches by 11 inches, and weighs 2.5 pounds

Pricing: The duffel is $288 on Parker Clay’s website. It’s on sale for $202 in the bordeaux color.

Samsonite Novaire Spinner

(Photo courtesy of Samsonite)
(Photo courtesy of Samsonite)

Why we love it: Samsonite’s been a longtime favorite of frequent travelers, thanks to the brand’s innovative yet practical designs. The Noviare carry-on shows off a fully lined interior featuring multiple organizational pockets and a removable hanging organizer for toiletries, plus a TSA-approved lock and four 360-degree spinner wheels. You can choose from silver, rose gold, metallic green or black.

Sizing: 29.25 inches by 19.75 inches by 12 inches

Pricing: The bag retails for $390 on Samsonite’s website, but you can get it for 50% off with code “SAVE”.

Eagle Creek Expanse Wheeled Tote Carry-on

(Photo courtesy of Eagle Creek)
(Photo courtesy of Eagle Creek)

Why we love it: If you’re not the backpack type but still want something lightweight, this two-wheeled bag is going to be your new go-to. It’s made of abrasion-resistant materials to keep you moving no matter where you’re headed, and is just compact enough that you can easily take it with you everywhere. If you end up taking a more traditional carry-on or even a suitcase with you, you’ll love the trolley sleeve that slides easily over the handlebars. It comes in a handful of colors, including black, red, navy and gray.

Sizing: 13.75 inches by 14.5 inches by 8.5 inches

Pricing: It retails for $169 on Eagle Creek’s website, but you can find it for $119.95 on Sunny Sports.

Frequently asked questions

How to select the best carry-on

Selecting a carry-on comes down to your travel goals This is an item you’re going to get a lot of mileage out of, and it’s important that it fits and organizes all of your essentials while also expressing your personality and accommodating your travel style.

You’ll also want to make sure it’s an item you enjoy taking with you on trips. If you’re heading straight from the airport to a business meeting, you may want to stick with a slick spinner. If you need complete versatility, you may prefer a bag that can transition from a duffel or rollaboard into a backpack.

The last key component, of course, is your budget. Carry-ons range greatly in price, so decide what the maximum you’re willing to spend is, and go from there.

Benefits of traveling with a carry-on

Traveling with a carry-on instead of a large suitcase can make your journey so much more efficient. Gone are the days of waiting at baggage claim, or fretting during a flight that the airline lost your luggage during your connection.

By taking a carry-on with you, you’re in control of your time and belongings — and you can start your trip on your terms.

Traveling with a carry-on only can also help you avoid pesky checked-baggage fees. In fact, airlines collected $2.8 billion in bag fees in the first half of 2019 alone.

Featured photo by baona/Getty Images.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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