Best Carry-on Luggage of 2019

U.S. News rated the best carry-on luggage, considering recommendations from experts and consumers.

U.S. News & World Report

Best Carry-on Luggage of 2019

Samsonite Freeform, Delsey Chatelet, Away Carry-On

The Samsonite Freeform, Delsey Chatelet and The Carry-On from Away are among the top-rated carry-on luggage options.(Courtesy of Samsonite, Delsey Luggage and Away)

U.S. News takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.

What to Look For When Shopping for Carry-on Luggage

When it comes to carry-on bags, the right choice looks different depending on the traveler and the type of trip. Wendy Perrin, travel expert and editor of travel planning site wendyperrin.com, says your carry-on bag should reflect what you need. “It makes a big difference whether you need to take dressy clothing like business suits or it’s just a trip to the beach where it’s T-shirt and shorts,” she says.

If you’re traveling with kids, that also makes a difference in the types of features you’ll want in your bag. Easy access to items is one consideration. “A family traveler might need carry-on bags with a couple extra zippers or pockets, so you can get anything you might need on short notice out of your bag,” says Rudy Maxa, host of the TV series “Rudy Maxa’s World,” who now runs his own tour company, Maxa Tours. But if you’re just using it to carry clothes, you may not require any side pockets or extra sections, he says.

Maxa also suggests considering the security of the bag and whether it comes with a lock. “I have certainly heard of people having things stolen out of bags on long flights,” he says.

Deciding whether you’d like a hard- or soft-sided bag is another consideration and largely a personal preference. Travel expert Samantha Brown, host of PBS’ hit series “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love,” says she recently made the switch to hard-sided bags because they won’t expand beyond airline carry-on size requirements and they provide additional protection.

Both style and durability are important features for Brown when it comes to carry-ons as well. “Having nice luggage really does make a statement,” she says. She also advises consumers to consider the wheels. “A lot of time manufacturers, to make it lightweight, will give you lighter-weight features, and the wheels will be tiny,” she explains, suggesting you find at least a 2-inch wheel, since it must carry the weight of all your luggage and navigate everything from escalators to cobblestone streets.

A great way to check a bag’s durability is to read what others have to say about it. “Reviews are a perfect way to see how a bag measures up,” Brown says.

Whether your travel involves business or a family vacation, or you’re looking for a suitcase that is simply lightweight and affordable, here are the top-rated picks for carry-on luggage from U.S. News.

Note: U.S. News evaluated and scored all luggage within each product line. However, prices and products linked below match the carry-on suitcase that most closely measures 21 inches in height within that product line.

What Is the Best Carry-on Luggage?

The Delsey Chatelet stands out for its durability and stylish design.(Courtesy of Delsey Luggage)

Best overall carry-on luggage: Delsey Chatelet

For the best overall carry-on luggage, the Delsey Chatelet is our top-rated item due to many quality features, including style, durability and thoughtful design. A handy feature for consumers is the spinner bag’s unique braking system. With the press of a button, the front wheels will lock, ensuring the bag stays in place while upright and allowing travelers to still pull it using the back wheels.

The interior has a variety of options for packing with separate compartments and a zippered divider, as well as bags for shoes and dirty clothes, and a removable hanger. The Delsey Chatelet also features an elegant faux leather design for the most discriminating travelers, ensuring they arrive at their destination in style. Consumers say the amount of clothing they can fit in the Delsey Chatelet and its overall look are impressive. It’s also our top-rated stylish carry-on suitcase.

[Delsey Chatelet: $600 or less. View Deal.]

Other carry-ons to consider:

Victorinox Lexicon: Key features of the Victorinox Lexicon carry-ons include everything from compression straps to laptop padding and a fold-out compartment for clothing to reduce wrinkling in select models. The Lexicon line offers both a hard- and soft-sided option and each suitcase also comes with a tracking system to help you quickly find a lost or stolen bag.

[Victorinox Lexicon: $460 or less. View Deal.]

eBags TLS: The eBags TLS is designed with many different compartments and options to organize your items and clothes for travel, including a movable shelf, mesh pockets and a compartment for travel documents.

[eBags TLS: $219.99 or less. View Deal.]

Away The Carry-On: Away The Carry-On has a sleek, minimalistic design. Its primary feature is a removable battery that can charge mobile devices. It comes with four spinner wheels and multiple compartments with a laundry bag inside.

[Away The Carry-On: $225 or less. View Deal.]

Samsonite Silhouette: With both hard- and soft-sided products, the Samsonite Silhouette line offers padded laptop compartments in many of its bags, cushioned adjustable handles, expandability and options for spinner or in-line fixed wheels.

[Samsonite Silhouette: $310 or less. View Deal.]

Best soft-sided carry-on luggage: Victorinox Lexicon

This Victorinox Lexicon carry-on includes plenty of storage options.(Courtesy of Victorinox)

Part of the Swiss Army family of travel gear, the Victorinox Lexicon product line is our pick for the best soft-sided carry-on luggage. These carry-ons include a built-in storage unit with dividers and individual compartments so travelers can easily separate clothes and other items. The soft-sided bags come in a sleek black design, with handles on the top and side making it easy to hoist into an overhead compartment.

The wheels are smooth and sturdy, travelers say. There’s also an interior padded pocket designed for securely holding a laptop or tablet.

[Victorinox Lexicon: $460 or less. View Deal.]

Other soft-sided carry-ons to consider:

eBags TLS: This line of carry-on bags is extremely versatile, so travelers can create a system of organization within the bag that fits their needs. Each comes with a movable shelf to make multiple compartments within the bag and a mesh divider panel that you can use or roll up and clip away if unneeded. The eBags TLS also has four compression straps to help squeeze everything in. The bag, available in several colors, also features many pockets, including a compartment for travel documents.

[eBags TLS: $219.99 or less. View Deal.]

Samsonite Silhouette: If you’re looking for a carry-on with two or four wheels, the Samsonite Silhouette product line gives you that option. Some bags include a padded laptop compartment while others feature a power hub with a USB port. Plus, all Samsonite Silhouette soft-sided carry-ons are fairly light, weighing less than 9 pounds.

[Samsonite Silhouette: $310 or less. View Deal.]

Best hard-sided carry-on luggage: Delsey Chatelet

The Delsey Chatelet comes in an angora (cream) or mocha shade and features a hard polycarbonate shell.(Courtesy of Delsey Luggage)

When it comes to the look of a bag, Brown says she likes a sleeker, more modern design, and reviewers say the Delsey Chatelet fits the bill not only in style, but also in functionality. The carry-on spinner has helpful features like a braking system that locks the two front wheels with the push of a button and prevents the bag from moving – for example, when traveling on a bus or train. You can still pull it, however, on the back two wheels.

Made of durable materials, the Delsey Chatelet also provides travelers with multiple compartments separated by a zippered fabric divider, as well as a laundry bag, shoe bag and removable hanger – extras that consumers find useful. Interior straps also help keep items in place.

[Delsey Chatelet: $600 or less. View Deal.]

Other hard-sided carry-ons to consider:

Victorinox Lexicon: This hard-sided version of the Victorinox Lexicon carry-on suitcase features a smooth-finished polycarbonate shell, recessed spinner wheels that allow for more interior packing space and a TSA-compliant lock. Additional details include a removable battery pack and a hidden toolkit with a USB port, a pen and a SIM card replacement tool.

[Victorinox Lexicon: $460 or less. View Deal.]

Away The Carry-On: For those who want to charge a mobile device while traveling, Away The Carry-On comes with a removable, TSA-approved battery that sits inside the carry-on bag. It also features a separate bag for dirty laundry and a lock for security.

[Away The Carry-On: $225 or less. View Deal.]

Best lightweight carry-on: Samsonite Freeform

The Samsonite Freeform is easy to maneuver, thanks to its light weight and spinner wheels.(Courtesy of Samsonite)

The Samsonite Freeform is a modern-looking, hard-sided carry-on that weighs just 6.5 pounds. Complete with four double spinner wheels and available in a variety of bold and neutral colors, this carry-on is popular with both business and leisure travelers. Consumers praise its features, calling out its light weight, durability and easy-to-roll wheels.

This carry-on suitcase also includes a TSA-compliant three-dial combination lock, two separate compartments for packing and a few interior zippered pockets for storage. Additionally, the suitcase is expandable if you need it to be.

[Samsonite Freeform: $310 or less. View Deal.]

Other lightweight carry-ons to consider:

Delsey Turenne: Maxa says he prefers a lightweight carry-on bag that’s no more than 5.5 pounds. The Delsey Turenne weighs just less than 5 pounds, yet is a hard-sided bag made of a durable polycarbonate. It also comes with four double spinner wheels for easy maneuvering, a TSA-approved lock for security and an interior with two compartments that zip to keep items separate, plus bags for shoes and dirty laundry.

[Delsey Turenne: $500 or less. View Deal.]

Travelpro Maxlite 5: The Travelpro Maxlite 5 collection has a lifetime warranty and features bags weighing as little as 5.4 pounds, with the ability to expand up to 2 inches. On the interior, you’ll find an accessory pocket and fabric zippered separator, and you can grab it via handles on multiple sides.

[Travelpro Maxlite 5: $139.99 or less. View Deal.]

Best carry-on for business trips: Samsonite Silhouette

The Samsonite Silhouette carry-ons include many business traveler-friendly features.(Courtesy of Samsonite)

With options to prevent clothes from wrinkling, the Samsonite Silhouette collection is our top-rated selection for the best carry-on suitcase for business trips. Travelers can take advantage of the interior hanging organizer designed to keep suits, coats and other hanging clothes wrinkle-free, as well as the wet pack for damp or dirty items.

The hard- and soft-sided bags have a basic exterior design that looks professional if bringing luggage to a meeting, wheels designed for smooth rolling, a cushioned pull handle and some have the ability to expand if you’re bringing home additional items. What’s more, travelers cite the Samsonite Silhouette line as durable.

[Samsonite Silhouette: $310 or less. View Deal.]

Other business trip carry-ons to consider:

Travelpro Platinum Elite: With a USB port for charging devices while traveling, the Travelpro Platinum Elite bags feature padded sleeves to protect your laptop, easy-glide wheels and a professional leather trim. The zipper heads are also designed to last through frequent use.

[Travelpro Platinum Elite: $299.99 or less. View Deal.]

Briggs & Riley Baseline: The attractive Briggs & Riley Baseline carry-on line can compress to fit in overhead bins without wrinkling clothes or expand up to 34 percent to fit additional items. It also comes with a space for a hanger and a foldable area for clothes like suits and dresses to help reduce wrinkles.

[Briggs & Riley Baseline: $599 or less. View Deal.]

Best carry-on for vacation: Delsey Chatelet

The Delsey Chatelet features a TSA-approved lock and a tracking mechanism.(Courtesy of Delsey Luggage)

Losing your bag on vacation is never fun, and the Delsey Chatelet has a built-in feature to help in that worst-case scenario. The bag comes with a tracking mechanism that allows you to register your bag in case it’s lost or stolen. It also has a TSA-approved lock for security, spinner wheels with a built-in braking system for ease of mobility and a variety of compartments, as well as a laundry and shoe bag for convenience.

The hard-sided piece is also designed for durability and is made from a material that withstands extreme temperatures and severe impacts. Travelers also love its sleek and fashionable design.

[Delsey Chatelet: $600 or less. View Deal.]

Other vacation carry-ons to consider:

eBags TLS: Because of its flexible interior design, which includes many different pouches, pockets and arrangements, you can make the eBags TLS work for many types of trips. Its expandability allows you to bring home souvenirs without worry, and the line comes with options like a wheeled duffel bag and spinner carry-on to fit a variety of needs.

[eBags TLS: $219.99 or less. View Deal.]

Away The Carry-On: If you want the option to charge a device on the go, Away The Carry-On provides an in-suitcase easily removable battery for charging. The hard-sided carry-on also comes in a variety of colors, each with four spinner wheels, as well as a TSA-approved lock and separate bag for dirty laundry.

[Away The Carry-On: $225 or less. View Deal.]

Best cheap carry-on luggage: Travelpro Maxlite 5

The carry-ons in the Travelpro Maxlite 5 product line retail for $150 or less.(Courtesy of Travelpro)

Although it’s a more affordable bag, the top-rated Travelpro Maxlite 5 doesn’t skimp on functionality or style. Travelers appreciate the variety of colors available, such as azure blue and dusty rose, in addition to black, plus the bags weigh less than 6 pounds.

Many of the bags are designed to expand if needed and come with a variety of interior pockets and straps for packing organization. Perrin says she finds expandability to be a lifesaver on the flight home. “This type of carry-on gives you the ability to not check luggage at all, or when you do need extra space, you get it and you can check your bag,” she says.

The carry-on has handles on multiple sides to make it easy to lift. Travelpro offers a lifetime warranty on the Maxlite 5 collection, which comes in a variety of styles like backpacks, totes, spinners and underseat carry-ons.

[Travelpro Maxlite 5: $139.99 or less. View Deal.]

Other cheap carry-ons to consider:

eBags Fortis: The eBags Fortis has many options for organizing the interior of your bag when packing, including a removable divider, laundry bag and multiple zippered pouches. The outside zippers insert into a TSA-approved lock for security, and a built-in USB charger is handy to power your devices.

[eBags Fortis: $199.99 or less. View Deal.]

eBags EXO: Extremely durable, the eBags EXO carry-on bags are made from a 100 percent polycarbonate shell, have a strong coil zipper and parts are attached with removable fasteners for easy repairs. The carry-ons weigh slightly more than 7 pounds and come with options to add packing cubes as well.

[eBags EXO: $179 or less. View Deal.]

Best tech-friendly carry-on: Away The Carry-On

Travelers love the modern look and tech-friendly features of The Carry-On from Away.(Courtesy of Away)

Sleek and sophisticated, Away The Carry-On comes in a selection of colors and is our top-rated tech-friendly carry-on suitcase. The bag comes with a removable battery to charge your mobile devices while on the go, which is compliant with all airlines and is TSA-approved. The battery is designed to charge a mobile phone up to five times and can be instantly ejected, if required.

Weighing 7.6 pounds, the luggage comes with a nylon laundry bag, as well as two interior compartments, one designed for clothing and the other for hard objects like shoes or toiletries. What’s more, for security, the bag has two zippers that slide into a TSA-approved combination lock, a feature travelers appreciate.

[Away The Carry-On: $225 or less. View Deal.]

Other tech-friendly carry-ons to consider:

Travelpro Platinum Elite: You can also charge mobile devices with the Travelpro Platinum Elite, which has a built-in USB port and TSA-approved pocket for your battery (the battery is not included). Other top features include a fold-out organizer to help reduce wrinkles on suits and other hanging clothes, along with a removable wet pocket and sturdy zipper heads.

[Travelpro Platinum Elite: $299.99 or less. View Deal.]

Travelpro Crew 11: Described as the “civilian version of the flight crew standard designed for pro travelers,” each of the Travelpro Crew 11 carry-ons also comes with a USB port and battery pocket, as well as quiet, sturdy wheels, handles on several sides and an extension handle made of airline-grade aluminum for maximum durability. All this plus these carry-on suitcases weigh less than 8 pounds.

[Travelpro Crew: $229.99 or less. View Deal.]

Best stylish carry-on: Delsey Chatelet

A stylish and functional pick, the Delsey Chatelet impresses travelers with its various features.(Courtesy of Delsey Luggage)

Luggage can certainly make a fashion statement, Brown says. “You’re always making a first impression when you travel, and you’re relying on the kindness of strangers,” she says. “When you look good, you do get better service.”

Our choice for the best stylish carry-on is the Delsey Chatelet, which has a sleek and elegant design featuring faux tan leather and a bright pop of red on the interior (a characteristic consumers say helps when looking for something specific in the bag). Choose from two exterior colors: mocha or angora. The double spinner wheels are designed to be silent, and the carry-on can easily be paired with its sister pieces in the collection, which includes two larger bags.

[Delsey Chatelet: $600 or less. View Deal.]

Other stylish carry-ons to consider:

Away The Carry-On: Available in a variety of fun colors like sky blue, blush pink and violet, Away The Carry-On has a simple and sleek exterior design and provides the on-the-go traveler with a way to charge his or her phone right within the bag. It weighs 7.6 pounds, has a hidden bag for dirty clothes and an interior compression system to help fit as much as possible.

[Away The Carry-On: $225 or less. View Deal.]

Samsonite Silhouette: Feel comfortable walking into a business meeting with a carry-on from the Samsonite Silhouette product line, which features basic, but elegant, bags that come in a variety of sizes and styles, including hard- and soft-sided spinners, boarding bags and garment bags. These carry-ons also offer a wider, cushioned handle, water-resistant material and some bags have an interior hanging organizer for clothes to help minimize wrinkles.

[Samsonite Silhouette: $310 or less. View Deal.]

How U.S. News Evaluated Carry-on Luggage

The following describes our 360 approach to researching and analyzing carry-on luggage to provide guidance to prospective buyers.

1. We researched the brands and products people care most about.

U.S. News analyzed and compared publicly available internet search data to determine which brands of carry-on luggage Americans are most interested in. We found 12 companies that stand out in terms of volume of searches and research among consumers. Once we identified these brands, we reviewed manufacturer data to determine every make and model of carry-on luggage made by the brand at the time of publication.

For carry-on luggage, we made a decision to feature product lines, which is a step deeper than brands, but a step above individual products. Carry-on luggage is a fragmented market, with several products considered part of each product line. Often, the difference among products varies slightly, whether it’s in size or with ancillary features. We felt that products within the same product line had enough in common that aggregating the collection was the most useful way to evaluate carry-on luggage. Further, featuring product lines allows us to aggregate more data points, including hundreds of consumer reviews, than if we were to investigate individual products.

Carry-on luggage is a fast-changing category, and product lines launch or discontinue often. U.S. News makes the best effort to review active and available product lines as of the time of publication.

2. We created objective 360 Overall Ratings based on analysis of third-party reviews.

U.S. News created the 360 Overall Ratings for carry-on luggage using an unbiased scoring methodology based on a composite analysis of the ratings and reviews published by credible third-party professional and consumer review sources. The ratings are not based on the personal opinions, tests or experiences of U.S. News.

Here is how the ratings are calculated:

U.S. News conducted extensive research on what types of carry-on luggage travelers are searching for most, and we break down the ratings into specific categories to help address consumers' interests. Note: To qualify for the Best Cheap Carry-on category, a product line’s bags must cost $200 or less. To qualify for the Best Lightweight Carry-on category, a product line’s bags must weigh 6.5 pounds or less.

(a) We compiled two types of third-party reviews and ratings:

  • Professional Ratings and Reviews. Many independent travel industry sources have published their assessments of carry-on luggage on the web. We consider several of these third-party reviews to be reputable and well-researched. However, professional reviewers often make recommendations that contradict one another. Rather than relying on a single source, U.S. News believes consumers benefit most when these opinions and recommendations are all considered and analyzed with an objective, consensus-based methodology.
  • Consumer Ratings and Reviews. U.S. News also reviewed published consumer ratings and reviews of carry-on luggage products. Sources with a sufficient number of quality consumer reviews ratings were included in our scoring model.

Please note that not all professional and consumer rating sources met our criteria for objectivity. Therefore, some sources were excluded from our model.

(b) We standardized the inputs to create a common scale.

  • The third-party review source data was collected in a variety of forms, including ratings, recommendations and accolades. Before including each third-party data point into our scoring equation, we had to standardize it so that it could be compared on an apples-to-apples basis with data points from other review sources. We used the scoring methodology described below to convert these systems to a comparable scale.
  • The 360 scoring process first converted each third-party rating into a common 0 to 5 scale. To balance the distribution of scores within each source’s scale, we used a standard deviation (or Z-Score) calculation to determine how each piece of carry-on luggage that a source rated was scored in comparison to the source’s mean score. We then used the Z-Score to create a standardized U.S. News score using the method outlined below:
  • Calculating the Z-Score: The Z-Score represents a data point's relation to the mean measurement of the data set. The Z-Score is negative when the data point is below the mean and positive when it's above the mean; a Z-Score of 0 means it's equal to the mean. To determine the Z-Score for each third-party rating of a piece of carry-on luggage, we calculated the mean of the ratings across all carry-on luggage evaluated by that third-party source. We then subtracted the system’s rating from the mean and divided it by the standard deviation to product the Z-Score.
  • Calculating the T-Score: We used a T-Score calculation to convert the Z-Score to a 0-100 scale by multiplying the Z-Score by 10. To ensure that the mean was equal across all data points, we added our desired scoring mean (between 0 and 10) to the T-Score to create an adjusted T-Score.
  • Calculating the common-scale rating: We divided the adjusted T-Score, which is on a 100-point scale, by 20 to convert the third-party rating to a common 0-5 point system.

(c) We calculated the 360 Overall Score based on a weighted-average model.

  • We assigned “source weights” to each source used in the consensus scoring model based on our assessment of how much the source is trusted and recognized by consumers and how much its published review process indicates that it is both comprehensive and editorially independent. The source weights are assigned on a 1-5 scale. Any source with an assigned weight less than 2 was excluded from the consensus scoring model.

Finally, we combined the converted third-party data points using a weighted average formula based on source weight. This formula calculated the consensus score for each carry-on luggage product line, which we call the 360 Overall Rating.

Lyn Mettler, Contributor

Lyn Mettler has written for U.S. News since 2014 covering a range of travel topics, including ...  Read more

Tags: travel

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