Searching for the best piece of carry-on luggage? Our experts have tested 24 models over the past 6 years to bring you the 6 top carry-ons currently available. We tested them side-by-side and took them on planes, buses, and Uber rides, carting them across the country and across the world. From asphalt to gravel, we put some serious miles on these little wheels. Our team jammed them full of a week's worth of gear and lobbed them into overhead bins, tossed them in the trunk, and dropped them on concrete (just to see what would happen). We rocketed over curbs and bounced down stairs to bring you the best luggage for whatever your needs - and your budget - may be.
The Best Carry-On Luggage
Best Overall Carry-On Luggage
Travelpro Platinum Elite 21" Expandable Spinner
For the second time in a row, the Platinum Elite is our Editors' Choice award winner. This bag really has it all. A plethora of outer pockets keep your belongings stowed, organized, and accessible. The interior pockets offer great organization for those who like options without cramping the style of packers who crave one big space. A removable toiletry case and suit/dress organizer and a hidden ID tag make for fewer extras left to purchase before vacation. Compression straps with mesh panels and integrated pockets help keep everything solidly covered and securely in place no matter how bumpy the ride. Sturdy, gliding zippers and a sleek exterior make it a joy to use and still look professional even after years of scuffs and TSA handling. Four options of handle height and four smooth sets of wheels with quiet performance and solid clearance means you can roll over just about anything with ease. Magnets help lock the wheels into alignment for near-effortless rolling through the terminal. And if you're fond of charging your electronics on the go, a secret side pocket allows you to insert your own battery pack and plug a USB cord directly into the back of the bag.
Though we appreciate the expandable zipper option for those overpacked trips, along with the numerous front pockets, it does make the bag quite thick for carry-on size restrictions. But if you can avoid putting so much all in front, it fits in a standard overhead bin with ease. For those looking for a suitcase in your favorite neon shade or wild print, the Platinum Elite is sure to be a let down with its limited color options. But if you're on the hunt for the one carry-on luggage to rule them all - from business trips to international vacations - this is it.
Read review: Travelpro Platinum Elite 21" Expandable Spinner
Best Bang for the Buck
Travelpro Crew 11 21" Expandable Spinner Suiter
We've come to expect a lot from the varied line of Travelpro bags, and the Crew 11 is no exception. This four-wheeled suitcase boasts smooth, quiet wheels that magnetically align to keep you moving forward and sturdy gliding zippers for easy access to all your packed goods. Though it's not as chalked full of pockets and options as the Platinum Elite model, it still offers some solid organization, including a non-removable toiletry bag, removable suit/dress organizer, and a hidden ID tag. Despite its small appearance, it still boasts an impressive capacity with simple compression straps and a zipper expandable main compartment to help accommodate as many extra outfits or memorable souvenirs as you can fit while still meeting carry-on size requirements. Its fabric exterior is both durable and professional, making this a bag you can confidently roll through a professional conference and to your beachside bungalow.
Though not quite as streamlined or conveniently organized as its more expensive cousin, the Platinum Elite, the Crew is still more versatile and nicer to use than most of the competition. We don't love that its toiletry bag is integrated into the interior, or that it's an odd tapered shape with a heavier bottom. But in the face of so many less-pleasant-to-use bags, those are mere trifles. Considering many bags cost two or three times what the Crew does, we think it's very well-worth what you pay and is sure to last you through many adventures far from home.
Read review: Travelpro Crew 11 21" Expandable Spinner Suiter
TBest for Serious Space
Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic
Though it appears simple on the outside, we love the impressive capacity and durability of the Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic. It features a unique expansion/compression system on the inside of the bag that allows a much larger amount of items to be packed inside than any other bag we tested, despite being the same size on the outside. Its compression straps have large mesh panels that help lock down and downsize your load. The internal expansion system lets you compress your contents after you zip the bag closed, bringing it back to a neat, TSA carry-on approved rectangle, without the typical bulge of an overstuffed bag. We're seriously impressed with just how much we're able to fit into this bag and still be able to fit it in an overhead compartment with ease. It's also smooth and easy to roll and features a professional look and some key features - like a suit or dress organizer and hidden ID tag - that make it a great choice for any type of travel.
If you're out for a four-wheeled bag, unfortunately, this isn't one. However, its two wheels are quiet and smooth and about as painless to use as a suitcase of this type can be. And while we love the features it does have, it's fairly sparse when it comes to included organizational options and requires you to instead be independently organized. It's also one of the most expensive bags we tested. But if you're a chronic over-packer, a souvenir-collector, or a gifts-for-everyone kind of person, this carry-on luggage is a champion at holding far more than a typical carry-on.
Read review: Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic
Why You Should Trust Us
We put together a team of travel bugs, headed by lead tester, Maggie Brandenburg, to test these bags in every possible way. Maggie is always traveling to places near and far, racking up some serious frequent flyer miles. From ski trips in the Canadian Rockies and summer holidays in Italy to road trips to the Pacific Northwest and business trips around the US, she's a practiced packer who values a great piece of luggage. She also lent these bags out to a veritable army of friends over holidays and for vacations to truly test what everyone loves - or hates - about their luggage.
These bags flew all over, as both carry-on and checked baggage. We packed them to the gills to see how much they can hold and how well they handle fully loaded. We rolled them over soft carpet and loose gravel, bumped them up and down curbs and stairs, and actually threw them on the ground to see how well they held up. Over years of testing, we've identified which bags are best for whatever your packing style, and which ones just aren't worth your money. As always, we buy all our gear at retail price and test it rigorously, side-by-side for a truly unbiased and comprehensive review.
Analysis and Test Results
There are many important factors when searching for the perfect piece of carry-on luggage. We divided our testing and evaluations into four mutually-exclusive metrics that make up everything we look for in a bag. We then weighed each metric appropriately, according to how important it is to each piece of luggage's overall score. First on the list is a bag's Ease of Use, quickly followed by its Storage & Features. These two metrics combined make up 65% of the score. We also considered each model's Versatility and Durability to adequately examine the overall picture of each suitcase. Here we'll break down each metric into which bags performed best - and which fell short - to help you identify your ideal travel companion.Related: Buying Advice for Carry-on Luggages
Though the price of any piece of gear never factors into our ratings of it, we realize it's an important factor for most people choosing their gear - after all, we're not all billionaires. After testing each model, we evaluate how its performance compares to its price.
Some options are on the expensive side, but perform very well and are a great investment. Others, like our Best Buy award winner, the Travelpro Crew 11, perform quite well and come with a lower price tag, making them a great value. You know your budget and needs best, and we hope that our honest evaluation of each model's value makes your decision that much simpler.
Ease of Use
One of the most important characteristics of a suitcase is how easy it is to use. This metric covers everything from rolling ability and handle functionality to zipper maneuverability, weight, and accessibility. We rolled bags over all kinds of uncomfortable terrain (like stairs and gravel) and packed the weirdest gear in them (like ski boots and homemade cookies) to really test each one to its limits. We considered telescoping handles and yanked on top and side handles, took laptops through TSA security checkpoints, and weighed each bag in all its various stages of packed and unpacked. Some stand out while others fall short.
When it comes to wheels and rolling performance, we tested both two-wheeled and four-wheeled models. The two-wheeled models all rolled along rather predictably, transitioning well from polished floors to cracked pavement. The Briggs & Riley Baseline has very smooth, smaller wheels, yet glides easily over bumps and cracks. While bumpy, tractioned wheels performed better over loose and rocky surfaces, smooth wheels are much quieter, helping you to navigate the terminal without noisily drawing stares.
Four-wheeled bags are much more variable in their performance. All the Travelpro bags we tested do a great job of rolling in a straight line, as their wheels snap into alignment magnetically to make your life easier. The Eagle Creek Tarmac AWD aren't magnetically aligned but still do a pretty good job of rolling fairly straight. On the other side of the coin, the Rockland Melbourne 20 and AmazonBasics Oxford both pull heavily to one side and are much more difficult to navigate with. In addition, the Oxford has such a loose and wiggly telescoping handle that contributes even more to the challenge of getting this suitcase anywhere. These bags were actually such a pain to keep rolling straight that we frequently found ourselves dragging them behind us as if they only had two wheels, just to make the job easier!
Part of wheeling a bag and getting in and out of the trunk or overhead compartment comes down to the usability of the handles. Every bag we tested has a telescoping handle and at least one side or top handle for maneuvering in close quarters. The Travelpro Platinum Elite and Crew 11 as well as the Briggs & Riley Baseline all have four possible heights of the telescoping handle, which allows you to have a "custom fit" for your height and preference. All of the bags we tested have fewer multiple handle height options.
Ease of access to your belongings is another really important part of this metric. The zippers and exterior pockets are hugely important in this regard. The TravelPro Platinum Elite and Briggs & Riley Baseline both have exceptionally smooth gliding zippers that seem to never get stuck on anything. The Eagle Creek Tarmac has a very robust zipper that we were excited about from a durability standpoint, but quickly became a horrible headache when we discovered how challenging it is to maneuver around the bag's four corners. However, it does have excellent exterior pocket organization, which helps eliminate the need for an extra bag to keep your pens, wallet, and passport organized. It also has a dedicated laptop sleeve - though this is inside the bag, which is only convenient if you have TSA Pre-Check and don't have to remove your computer through security.
True to form, the Platinum Elite has four exterior pockets that range from small enough to find coins and pens easily to large enough to hold your laptop or winter jacket. We enjoy all the options for staying hands-free through the airport, but they do tend to make the bag extraordinarily bulky when packed full. On the flip side, the Baseline Domestic offers a configuration of exterior pockets that are extremely useful and versatile but prevent you from being able to easily overstuff the whole thing to the point that you can no longer fit it in an overhead bin. It also has a handy pocket on the back that's perfect for sticking small objects you might want to keep separate - like keys, a phone, or even a small wallet.
Storage & Features
Nearly as key as a bag's Ease of Use is its ability to store, accommodate, and organize your belongings. We measured each bag's capacity and tested all pockets and organizational features. We pushed the limits of their expansion systems and asked our friends with a variety of packing strategies and needs to test them out. The ability to expand isn't enough if it's difficult to do or makes your bag larger than carry-on restrictions. Having tons of pockets doesn't automatically make a bag great if those organizing features force you to pack a certain way, no matter your preference.
The way a piece of luggage opens also has fairly large implications for how you can pack it and how accommodating it is to various strategies of travelers. A suitcase-style bag opens either by splitting in half, leaving each side with half of the main compartment's capacity or by the top flipping up to access the entire compartment as just one space. By splitting belongings in half - like the Eagle Creek Tarmac and AmazonBasics Oxford do - you must be able to pack at least one side securely enough to flip it upside down to close the luggage. While these "half-shell" models put a zippered flap across one side to allow you to do just that, this style of packing greatly limits the bulk, size, and shape of possible contents. For trips where you need larger items, like a winter jacket or two pairs of size 13 shoes, this configuration is challenging to use. Even with a suitcase full of small, summer clothes, fitting everything and staying organized in a half shell case is much more challenging. For this reason, we prefer the ease and openness of top flip suitcases.
No matter how they open or what organizational scheme the bags did or didn't have, we put them all through our capacity-testing "pack for a week" test. In this test, we crammed everything required for a week's worth of temperate-weather travel into each bag. The Travelpro Platinum Elite has a deceptively large capacity inside. It's five interior pockets are very useful for those who love features and are very helpful for keeping you organized even if you're place-hopping to a different spot every night. At the same time, the internal pockets are flat enough to be out of the way if multitudes of pockets aren't your thing and you'd prefer just one large cavity. We love the huge variety of packing styles - and the sheer amount of stuff - that this bag can accommodate. It also has one of our favorite sets of compression straps. By incorporating mesh panel pockets between the straps, this system provides much better coverage of your belongings, making it easier to cinch down everything you've packed, not just what fits under two thin straps.
Similarly, the Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic has an excellent compression system. It lacks the pockets between straps and instead has just two large mesh panels that cover a huge amount of your bag's contents to really press a lot of clothes down into a little package. This piece of luggage is hands-down our favorite for over-packing, and is our Top Pick for Serious Space. By attaching the telescoping handle to the outside of the bag, the inside remains a clean rectangular box, without that standard awkward handle shape to pack around.
It also has one of the coolest, most unique compression systems we've ever seen. Instead of the traditional zipper expansion that tends to make your bag poofy and front heavy, the Baseline incorporates an interior system that lifts the top section of the bag to create an extra several inches of depth as you pack. Once you've put everything in and cinched down your load, the bag zips closed and by pressing on the top and bottom sides, the entire package compresses, leaving you with a clean rectangular piece of luggage that doesn't resemble an overstuffed duffel bag as most others do. If that's not enough, a small exterior pocket on top reveals two straps that help you clip a second and third bag to the front and top of the suitcase. Doing this does make it difficult to let go of the bag, as it will tip forward with such a front-heavy load, but for long walks through distant terminals, it's a relief to wheel everything and save your shoulders the ache.
Also noteworthy is the Travelpro Crew 11. Though it lacks the compression panels and removable toiletry bag of the Platinum Elite, it still has a hidden ID tag and removable suit/dress organizer. It also has three internal pockets that can help keep you organized if you prefer a bag with pockets. Though it appears small, we found this little suitcase can still hold a good amount of stuff and is a great choice for a long weekend. It also has a simple zippered expansion section that lets you come home with more than you left with.
Though it's not our favorite bag, due to a difficult zipper and loud, clunky wheels, the Eagle Creek Tarmac AWD Carry-On is notable for having an extremely handy set of extra bag attachment straps. The strap designed to hold another bag on top of the suitcase is a dual elastic strap that easily stretches over another bag and hooks to the telescoping handle to hold it in place. It works just as well over laptop bags as it does large, overstuffed totes, and even standard backpacks. A small hook-and-strap lets you hang an additional small bag or a bulky coat or sweater on the front of the suitcase. For truly hands-free travel that's very accommodating to whatever other bags you travel with, this one is hard to beat.
Considering the cost of most of these bags on top of the cost of travel itself, it's nice to have a bag that can really do everything. We evaluated many aspects of versatility, including additional features and add-ons - and their actual usefulness. Though style is subjective, our entire team of testers investigated the look of each model and gave their input as to its place in professional, adventure, casual, and fast-paced travel settings. After using these pieces of luggage for months on end, we've determined the best use for each one as well.
Once again the TravelPro stands out from the crowd for having actually usable add-ons. The removable toiletry bag is not only convenient to use, but it's also transparent for easier passage through security checkpoints. It, along with the Crew 11 and Briggs & Riley, also has a removable suit or dress keeper as well as an integrated, hidden ID tag on the back of all three bags. The Platinum Elite is also, in our opinions, the most professional-looking bag we tested. It looks just as natural being rolled while you wear a three-piece suit or a pencil skirt and heels as it does in sweatpants and flip flops. Though it doesn't come with a cupholder or seat cushion (we wish!) considering the whole package all together, this is the most versatile carry-on luggage we tested.
The Briggs & Riley Baseline and Travelpro Crew 11 are also both fairly versatile. In addition to their commonalities with the Platinum Elite, they're also both fairly professional-looking and include convenient extra features. The Crew 11 (along with the Platinum Elite) has a dedicated power bank pocket and USB port on the back for charging your phone as you hoof it to your next gate. The Baseline Domestic remains versatile in its sleek and simple design that's extremely functional. It, along with the Eagle Creek Tarmac both come with TSA-approved locks. Travelpro has those available as a mail-in offer, but they're not included with the bag.
The AmazonBasics Oxford Expandable 20" is worth discussing here as a bit of a letdown. We were initially excited to see what looks like an all-inclusive package for an absurdly low price. It has an integrated TSA-approved lock that snaps the zippers right into the edge of the suitcase, four wheels, internal holding straps, and a hardshell design. However, upon inspection and actual use, each one of these features let us down. We've already mentioned the tendency of the wheels to pull hard to one side and the extremely loose telescoping handle that makes controlling it a difficult task. The holding straps inside this suitcase aren't compression straps at all, and instead are very loose elastic that does nearly nothing to keep your possessions organized, let alone compressed. The integrated lock is more annoying to use than we'd anticipated, as you have to line up the zippers just right to fit them in. And of course, the hard shell design lacks any external pockets for organization or a laptop sleeve anywhere in the bag. The lock, along with several other elements of this bag also proved to have significant durability issues, which we will discuss in the next section.
After throwing down potentially several hundred dollars for your new luggage, you'll want it to last a while. Ideally, this piece on wheels should last for years and through all kinds of adventures. We checked out the material each bag is made of, how well they're constructed, and their overall sturdiness. We did this through tons of travel over months of use, and also by purposely being hard on our luggage ("accidently" dropping it and running into things).
Both the Briggs & Riley Baseline and Travelpro Platinum Elite are well-built of durable, sturdy materials. From basically bombproof wheels and smooth, consistent zippers to solid handles and strong structural integrities, these two bags are impressively durable. No matter how we threw them onto the cement or tumbled them down the stairs (all while packed full), they refused to be damaged. They're also designed so that the minor scuffs and scrapes they pick up along the way are concealed and don't detract from the bags' overall aesthetic.
The Travelpro Crew 11 is also pretty darn durable. It's noticeably of lower quality materials and construction than the Platinum Elite, but still holds up very well to abuse. The sturdily designed handles of the Eagle Creek Tarmac encouraged confidence in the bag's durability.
While we like to focus on gear that performs well, two bags demonstrated such a lack of durability that we'd be remiss if we didn't mention them. The Rockland Melbourne 20 has an extremely rickety telescoping handle that makes this bag both difficult to control and inspires no confidence in its longevity. Additionally, its top handle broke during regular use, even before we performed the more rigorous durability testing on it.
The AmazonBasics Oxford is similarly flawed. It too has an extremely wobbly handle that makes it much harder to use and control. It also broke during our durability testing. A "hubcap" for one of the wheels flew off when we dropped it, and enough tabs were broken off of it that we could barely reattach it. Additionally, after dropping it on the ground, the integrated lock stopped working. We couldn't get it to open up again no matter what we tried. In order to get to our belongings, we had to break into our own luggage with a pair of pliers - and it was disappointingly easy. While a higher price doesn't always guarantee better performance, these two are the least expensive we tested and by far the least impressive when it comes to durability.
One final consideration when it comes to gear durability is the warranty offered alongside your new (expensive) bag. Most of the bags we tested come with some kind of warranty, though many of them only guarantee materials and workmanship - so if you check your bag and get it back missing a few pieces, you're out of luck. If you tend to be hard on your gear, you might consider one that includes wear and tear. Both Briggs & Riley and Eagle Creek claim they'll cover a lifetime of repairs no matter the cause. On the other hand, the ultra-cheap AmazonBasics Oxford doesn't come with any kind of warranty.
Any cursory glance around the web reveals that choices of carry-on luggage go on for days. Sifting through seemingly identical bags and finding the right suitcase for you is a challenging task. Whether you like to have a separate pocket for everything or you prefer one giant cavern that can handle anything you put in it, there are options for you. We rigorously tested each model to find which ones are best for personal and professional trips, and we hope our findings help you narrow down which one is the right fit for your travel.
— Maggie Brandenburg, Cassandra Marin, Cam McKenzie Ring