Best Carry-On Bags
As more airlines start to charge for checked luggage and fuller planes try to make ever tighter connections, the popularity of taking bags onboard has seen a big increase among travelers. Should you decide to pack it all into an overhead compartment or under your seat, know that there are no hard and fast rules on the size of luggage you can bring along.
Since guidelines are set by individual airlines, it’s best to check directly with your carrier for size and weight limitations. Most domestic airlines allow a bag that measures a total of 45 inches (length + width + depth) and weighs no more than 40 pounds. But when it comes to international travel, those dimensions shrink drastically—weight is sometimes limited to as little as 11 pounds or 5 kilos.
1. Sleek and chic
By Rimowa, $850, rimowa.com
The polycarbonates and aluminum-magnesium alloys used to create this 22-inch-high Limbo Cabin Multiwheel® IATA bag make it extremely strong yet lightweight. Designed with TSA-approved combination locks and ball- bearing Multiwheel technology, this piece is ready to take on any terrain.
Shop smart: When choosing a roller bag, make sure the handle extends to a tall enough height for you to comfortably pull the bag, and check that the wheels are sturdy and roll easily.
2. On the label
By Coach, $648, coach.com
If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to wear your brand loud and proud, this op-art coated canvas piece with leather trim might fit your lofty desires. Measuring 20 inches high, it comes with two inside zip pockets and a pullout handle for easy maneuvering.
Shop smart: Pockets on the bag’s exterior offer convenience, but overstuffing them can make your bag difficult to store in an overhead. Reserve those spaces for flat, flexible items that won’t be damaged when squeezed.
3. Fashion forward
By Tumi, $495, tumi.com
The Alpha Bravo McConnell International Carry-On is a style-conscious bag that plays on this spring’s military trend. Made of soft yet durable ballistic nylon, this 21.25-inch, compact, wheeled number features top and side carrying handles for versatile transport.
Shop smart: Always carry important documents, credit cards, passports, IDs and cash on your person to avoid any confusion, should you need to check your carry-on at the last minute because of space limitations.
4. Heavy-duty flier
By Victorinox, $299, coloradobaggage.com
Shop smart: To select the right carry-on, be sure to assess its portability.
The Mobilizer NXT 5.0 Standard Issue is designed to handle almost any travel demand with its ballistic nylon exterior and sturdy construction. This 21.7-inch-tall bag converts to a convenient backpack and includes a removable trifold garment bag.
5. Easily converted
By Victorinox, $499, coloradobaggage.com
The Mobilizer NXT 5.0 Sentinel garment bag features a clever organization divider that holds a ventilated pocket for shoes, multiple zippered mesh storage areas, and a detachable J-hook for hanging—all stashed away in its 20-inch-tall, rolling construction.
Shop smart: When packing your carry-on, place items such as undergarments at the bottom in order to avoid embarrassment if your bag is chosen for a hand-check at security.
6. Cool and colorful
By Mandarina Duck, $250, at Venture New York, 212-288-7235
ISI offers a distinctive option for the stylish traveler who’s always on the move. Equipped with a front-zippered pocket full of compartments for quick access to necessities, this 21-inch, full-of-function bag has an aluminum retractable handle with a rubber grip.
Shop smart: A duffel bag or backpack with less construction will always be lighter and more pilable, albeit less of a fashion statement.
STAN WILLIAMS is a lifestyle writer and the author of The Find (Clarkson Potter, 2009).