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The 5 best carry-on luggage: Never check your baggage again

What is the best carry-on luggage? The Away Carry-On is ZDNET's top choice because of its value. We researched and compared features, as well as performance, durability, and cost to determine our No. 1 pick and other honorable mentions.
Written by Lena Borrelli, Contributing Writer
Away Carry On | Best carry-on luggage overall
Away Carry On suitcase review | Best carry-on luggage for travel
Away Carry On
Best carry-on luggage overall
View now View at Away
AmazonBasics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner | Best budget carry-on
AmazonBasics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner suitcase review | Best carry-on luggage for travel
AmazonBasics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner
Best budget carry-on
View now View at Amazon
Briggs & Riley Baseline Carry On Spinner | Best splurge carry-on
Briggs & Riley Baseline Carry On Spinner suitcase review | Best carry-on luggage for travel
Briggs & Riley Baseline Carry On Spinner
Best splurge carry-on
View now View at Briggs-Riley
Monos Carry-On Plus | Best large carry-on
Monos Carry-On Plus suitcase review | Best carry-on luggage for travel
Monos Carry-On Plus
Best large carry-on
View now View at Monos
Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Spinner | Best soft-side carry-on
Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Spinner suitcase review | Best carry-on luggage for travel
Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Spinner
Best soft-side carry-on
View now View at Travelpro

When my brother announced an Italian wedding, I knew it was time to get serious and find the right luggage. But first, I needed a carry-on to get me to his engagement party in Cape Cod. But not just any carry-on would do. I wanted a carry-on that would meet airline requirements and simplify my life during travel. I wanted the best carry-on today. This is what I found. 

Features:

  • Overall dimensions: 21.7" x 13.7" x 9"
  • Weight: 8.1 lbs
  • Capacity: 39.8 L
  • TSA-approved: Yes
  • Type of shell: Hard

The Away Carry On wins our pick for the best overall carry-on luggage with its lightweight build and affordability. Measuring about eight pounds, the Away Carry On is made of polycarbonate with a hard shell that delivers extra durability. The TSA-approved carry-on features 360-degree spinner wheels for easy movement, and at less than 22 inches, this carry-on meets requirements for most airlines, including JetBlue. There is a smaller capacity than others on our list, but an interior compression system and dual compartments ensure all of your luggage will fit and even includes a water-resistant laundry bag for your laundry. An extra-special feature is a built-in charger you will enjoy with those model. Included is an ejectable USB charger that will charge your phone up to four times before requiring a charge. You also get a TSA-approved lock to secure your belongings.

Pros

Cons

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Several color options
  • Battery takes up space
  • Durability concerns

Features:

  • Overall dimensions: 21.65" x 10.04" x 14.96"
  • Weight: 7.34 lbs
  • Interior dimensions: 18.5" x 13.3" x 9.6"
  • TSA-approved: No
  • Type of shell: Hard

The AmazonBasics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner is meant to be a versatile, budget-friendly pick that can work for a variety of travel, both personal and professional. It incorporates an extra-thick ABS hard shell and a scratch-resistant finish. There are four double spinner wheels with a telescoping handle that is excellent for maneuvering and a mounted short handle for when it comes time to lift. Inside, you will find a fully-lined interior that helps make packing easier with a divider and three different zippered pockets. When you use the expandable feature, you get up to 15% more space for last-minute items. 

Pros

Cons

  • Smooth movement
  • Expandable by 15%
  • Very affordable
  • TSA lock not included
  • No external compartments

Features:

  • Overall dimensions: 22" x 14" x 9"
  • Weight: 10 lbs
  • Capacity: 48 L
  • TSA-approved: Yes
  • Type of shell: Soft

The Briggs & Riley Baseline Carry On Spinner is not for those on a budget, as it costs about $700 to buy. However, it takes carry-on luggage to the next level with a series of features. For example, to expand your suitcase, you simply use the one-touch CX expansion to add more space. There are also multiple pockets on the exterior, like a SpeedThru™ pocket for security items and a PowerPocket™ for battery packs. It also includes a built-in tri-fold garment folder that will secure up to two suits while reducing wrinkling, plus garment panels and cinching straps to minimize creasing. An additional two mesh pockets are available for smaller items and accessories. Aluminum telescoping handles go the extra mile by incorporating impact resistance, plus there are shock-absorbing 360-degree wheels for easier navigation. 

Pros

Cons

  • TSA lock included
  • Large capacity
  • Several extra conveniences
  • Expensive
  • Limited features

Features:

  • Overall dimensions: 23" × 15" × 9.5"
  • Weight: 7.38 lbs
  • Capacity: 48 L
  • TSA-approved: Yes
  • Type of shell: Hard

The Monos Carry-On Plus is one of the larger carry-ons on our list but still fits many airline requirements. Constructed from strong German polycarbonate, its materials are both aerospace-grade and water-resistant for further durability. The design also incorporates Hinomoto Lisof Silent Run 360° wheels with an adjustable telescopic handle that gives four different height settings. A TSA-approved lock is included. Inside is a built-in compression pad to help with capacity, which is already expansive compared to other models. Monos uses antimicrobial fabric for both interior and bag supply, which includes a laundry bag and two shoe bags. Plus, there is a 100-day free trial with a limited lifetime warranty to secure your purchase, giving you extra peace of mind. 

Pros

Cons

  • TSA-approved
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Large capacity
  • Too large for some airlines
  • Slightly bulky design

Features:

  • Overall dimensions: 23.5" x 14.5" x 9"
  • Weight: 7.72 lbs
  • Capacity: 46 L 
  • TSA-approved: Yes
  • Type of shell: Soft

The Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Spinner boasts a PrecisionGlide™ system with eight different MagnaTrac® self-aligning spinner wheels and an adjustable PowerScope extension handle that features a patented Contour Grip. The interior includes a deluxe tie-down system with added accessory pockets. When expanded, you have an extra 2" more of an already impressive packing capacity. This includes the drop-in, fold-out suiter that helps prevent wrinkling for your hanging clothes - especially those work clothes that need to look sharp. For greater convenience, there is a quart-size wet pocket that is both removable and TSA-compliant for security. It is also equipped with not only a built-in USB but also a dedicated power bank pocket so you can easily charge your phone on the go. The Platinum Elite is secured by a lifetime limited warranty. 

Pros

Cons

  • Smooth operation
  • Excellent organization
  • Lifetime warranty
  • May not fulfill airline requirements when expanded
  • No powerbank included

What is the best carry-on luggage?

The Away Carry On is our pick for the best carry-on luggage due to its lightweight, durable design and overall value. It is one of the more affordable pieces of carry-on luggage while refusing to sacrifice quality with its polycarbonate build and built-in USB charger.

Here is a guide to compare the Away Carry On against other picks for the best carry-on luggage.

Best carry-on luggage

Cost

Overall dimensions

Weight

Away Carry On

$295.00

21.7" x 13.7" x 9"

8.1 lbs

AmazonBasics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner

$86.54

21.65" x 10.04" x 14.96"

7.34 lbs

Briggs & Riley Baseline Carry On Spinner

$699.00

20" x 14" x 7.88"

10 lbs

Monos Carry-On Plus

$255.00

23" × 15" × 9.5"

7.38 lbs

Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Spinner

$254.99

23.5" x 14.5" x 9"

7.72 lbs

Which is the right carry-on luggage for you?

There is no shortage of options to choose from when it comes to carry-on luggage, so we offer our expert suggestions based on our research to help you find the best carry-on luggage for travel. 

Choose this best carry-on luggage...

If you...

Away Carry On

Want customizable hard-shell luggage

AmazonBasics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner

Are on a budget

Briggs & Riley Baseline Carry On Spinner

Want the best business carry-on 

Monos Carry-On Plus

Want an oversized carry-on

Travelpro Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Spinner

Prefer soft-side luggage

How did we choose these carry-on luggage options?

There are several factors we kept in mind as we chose the best carry-on luggage.  

  • Size: Carry-on luggage is far from the same when it comes to size, and not all of them may meet airline requirements. We look for appropriately-sized carry-on luggage that will get to your seat that much faster.
  • Type: There are two main types of luggage: soft and hard shells. It is a matter of preference, but soft-sided luggage is often far more durable.
  • Wheels: There is a big difference between two wheels and four, with spinners a bit easier to navigate in busy airports and narrow aisles. However, carry-on luggage with two wheels tends to be more durable. 
  • Warranty: Many of the best carry-on luggage come with a warranty, whether it is ten years or for a lifetime. Be sure to check what requirements and limitations surround your warranty, so you understand what comes with your purchase.  

Before you settle on the best carry-on luggage for your travel needs, be sure to carefully review the specs so you can be sure they will work for you. 

What is carry-on luggage?

A carry-on bag is a smaller bag designed to accommodate onboard airline or train size restrictions. It typically has a handle and wheels for easy navigation, but the exact size and design can vary from one model to the next.

What is considered carry-on luggage?

A carry-on bag is generally around 20" to 22" and around 8 pounds. However, some of the best carry-on luggage strays from these sizes, offering more or less space. Be sure to check the airline requirements before you buy so you do not risk paying for checked luggage. 

How much does carry-on luggage cost?

The cost of carry-on luggage can vary significantly as seen on our list of best carry-on luggage. These picks range in price from less than $100 to more than $700, depending on which you choose.

Is there alternative carry-on luggage worth considering?

In our search, we found many different types of carry-on luggage that could also work for your next trip. 

Before you hit the road or fly the friendly skies, be sure to check out our picks for the best luggage brands, the best travel tech gadgets, and the best travel credit cards to simplify your trip. 

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