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Traveling with carry-on luggage

With the abundance of tasks on your to-do list when traveling, the last thing you want to worry about is your carry-on luggage. The endless options, styles and features can make choosing a quality carry-on bag near impossible. 

The Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Luggage is the top pick, thanks to its durability and organizational compartments. After learning more about what to look for in carry-on luggage, you’ll be able to find the best carry-on luggage that suits your lifestyle. 

What to know before you buy carry-on luggage

What is carry-on luggage?

When traveling on an airplane, you can check your luggage at the desk or carry it on with you. You store your carry-on luggage in the overhead bins, or if it’s small enough, underneath the seat in front of you. As of right now, most airlines allow a carry-on bag and a personal item like a purse or laptop bag. However, this differs from one airline to the next and from one year to another.

Two wheels vs. four wheels

Two wheels: Carry-on luggage with two wheels is only able to be pulled in one direction. They don’t stand up very well unaided. However, some people find two-wheel luggage more durable since the two wheels are usually inset further than four-wheel luggage.

Four wheels: Four-wheel spinners are convenient when traveling in airports or walking a lot because you can pull them behind you, push them in front of you or walk them alongside you. However, you can experience an occasional broken wheel.

Softside vs. hardside

Softside: Many people love softside carry-on luggage for its ability to cram into small spaces. You can stuff it much fuller than you can a hardside, as long as it zips up. While some are made of waterproof material, no softside is completely waterproof, as it could seep in through pockets or the zipper. 

Hardside: Hardside carry-on luggage tends to be much more durable and protective. The outside is water-resistant and easy to clean. Some even come with locks, making it difficult for someone to break into a hardside carry-on. They tend to take up more space and, depending on the material, can easily scratch.

What to look for in quality carry-on luggage


While a heavier bag might seem more durable or protective, remember that you’ll be carrying or rolling this bag around while traveling and lifting it into an overhead bin or car. Thanks to a variety of materials, you can find a quality hardshell bag that doesn’t weigh a lot.


You can find hardside carry-on luggage made from a few different materials, including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, polypropylene, polycarbonate and aluminum. 

  • While aluminum is durable and lightweight, it’s costly. 
  • ABS is an affordable light plastic. Even though it’s protective, it’s the least durable. 
  • Polypropylene is resilient, lightweight and affordable. 
  • Polycarbonate is affordable, as well as being one of the most durable materials. It’s lightweight, making it a popular choice for hardside luggage. 

Softside carry-on luggage is usually made of polyester, nylon blend, canvas or leather. 

  • Quality leather is the most expensive. It’s durable, strong and flexible.
  • Nylon blends are robust, but depending on the blend, can be expensive. 
  • Polyester is probably the cheapest softside carry-on luggage material. It can be great value for the money. 
  • Canvas can be expensive or affordable, depending on what it’s made of. It tends to be waterproof.

How much you can expect to spend on carry-on luggage

Carry-on luggage varies significantly in price and can cost $25-$500, depending on brand, features and material.

Carry-on luggage FAQ

What are the standard dimensions of carry-on luggage?

A. As of now, the standard dimensions are 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches. These dimensions include the handle and the wheels. However, rules are constantly changing, so be sure to check with your specific airline before traveling.

Will my carry-on luggage fit the specifications of all airlines? 

A. While most airlines follow the same carry-on luggage guidelines, it’s always best to check the specifications for your specific airline. Some international flights may even have a weight limit for carry-on luggage. 

What’s the best carry-on luggage to buy?

Top carry-on luggage

Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Luggage

Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Luggage

What you need to know: Durable and protective carry-on luggage with a traditional look from a trusted brand. 

What you’ll love: Expandable compartments allow for maximum organization. It’s backed by a 10-year warranty and features side-mounted TSA locks.

What you should consider: It’s on the expensive side and tends to scratch easily.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s

Top carry-on luggage for the money

Olympia 22-Inch 8-Pocket Rolling Duffel Bag

Olympia 22-Inch 8-Pocket Rolling Duffel Bag

What you need to know: This affordable carry-on bag is versatile and has a ton of zippered pockets. 

What you’ll love: Retractable handle and skate wheels are durable enough for airport travel. The soft outer shell and pockets can be filled to maximum capacity. 

What you should consider: It doesn’t always stay upright, and there are reports of seams bursting.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Kohl’s

Worth checking out

JanSport Driver 8 Rolling Backpack

JanSport Driver 8 Rolling Backpack

What you need to know: Converts from backpack to rolling bag by tucking away the shoulder straps, making it great for travel or using as a book bag.

What you’ll love: It comes with a lifetime warranty for peace of mind. It features a water bottle pocket, a padded 15-inch laptop sleeve and front zippered pockets. 

What you should consider: Contents can get wet since the material isn’t waterproof.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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