Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!).
It has happened. I’ve finally gotten to the point in my life where a backpack is not my preferred way to pack my belongings when traveling and may not be the best carry on luggage option out there.
Eventually, I guess we all get to that stage of the game.
I’m not saying that there won’t come a day when I will deem a backpack more appropriate for certain destinations. I am considering going back to Southeast Asia at the end of this year or early next and for that region, I think a backpack may always be preferable. The roads suck, you’re constantly thrown on the back of a moped and the only reasonable place for your bag to be is on your back, or with shuttles, songteaws etc. they just throw your backpack onto the roof and pray for the best. I think in this situation a rolling bag would probably get destroyed.
As I was hunting around hoping to upgrade the crappy carry on luggage I currently have, I figured many of you may also be looking for the best carry on luggage, so I figured I’d share my experiences and considerations with you!
Deciding between a backpack, rolling backpack, hardside luggage, or soft side luggage will be your first challenge.
Here are some things to consider when choosing the Best Carry On Luggage for you:
I spent many years traveling out of a backpack, after awhile your backpack becomes a piece of you, you may even name it! They are heavy as fuck but there’s something very convenient to being able to sling it over your back and just go. A consideration to keep in mind if you choose to go the backpack route, is that some airlines may have strict or smaller requirements for carry on luggage that some backpacks won’t fit into.
Like I said above, I think a backpack would be the best option for those traveling to off the beaten path places, or places with not so great streets or sidewalks like Southeast Asia, Central Asia, some parts of South America, etc. I think they also work well if you are a hiker, then you don’t need a separate bag for through or overnight hikes, you can just leave your non-hiking gear somewhere and use the same bag to go!
If you have back problems or a tendency to drastically overpack or want to look more polished, a backpack may not be the right solution for you. Carting around a 65L backpack a small human, is just not going to work.
This brings me to my next option, the rolling backpack! Albeit, I think most that purchase these rarely if ever end up using them as backpacks at all. I would assume that the wheels add a decent amount of weight and discomfort when used as a backpack, but you do have that option if you need to run from one end of the airport to the other in 1.43 minutes.
A convenience with a rolling backpack is that you still get to keep all the perks of have a flexible packing space like with a backpack. Where rectangular carry on luggage is difficult to stretch or contort to fit in extra stuff or uniquely sized or shaped items, a rolling backpack gives you a bit more flexibility with its shape.
Carry On Luggage:
I have to admit, I’ve never owned a hard sided suitcase so this may be biased, but I think the soft sided luggage is the better option for carry on. First, it shouldn’t weigh as much as hard side luggage. Never want to end up at a check in desk to have them weigh your carry on and having it be overweight by the same actual weight that your suitcase is!
Every plane’s overhead compartment is slightly different. I’ve been in quite a few situations where it took a bit of extra elbow grease to shove my carry on luggage into the overhead bin. I’d assume with a hard top luggage it would be next to impossible to do so!
Hard side luggage will, potentially, keep your belongings slightly more safe from bangs, bumps and bruises along the travel route and may last a bit longer than soft sided luggage.
Either way, something I am lusting over that I’m deeming absolutely necessary is 4 wheels. I’ve been plagued with two wheeled luggage for FAR too long! Being able to use a suitcase both ways seems like heaven! I always end up carrying a stupid amount of miscellaneous things with me in airports and having a few extra options for how to pull or push a suitcase makes a huge difference.
Some important considerations no matter what type of bag you decide to go with! Reputable brands will end up being worth it in the end! Brands like Osprey, Eddie Bauer, etc. have lifetime warranties, which means if anything becomes damaged on the bag, it can be fixed or replaced free of charge!
Also, finding something with reviews that don’t mention anything going wrong with handles or straps is essential. If you’ve never had a handle or a strap or a zipper break on your luggage, you’re lucky. It’s a pain in the butt, and often ends up with you spending oodles in an overpriced shop trying to quickly and painlessly replace it!
Every person will have different preferences on what the best carry on luggage is for them, but here are some of my top picks in each of these categories! I’d love to hear any feedback or other recommendations in the comments!
Best Carry On Luggage : Backpack
I’ve written a post about my picks for the Best Travel Backpacks out there, so check there for more recommendations, although be warned I definitely haven’t double checked all of those backpacks to ensure they are carry on size appropriate!
Here are some of my favorite backpacks for carry on luggage:
I will forever be an Osprey lover until the day I die. This was my first backpack in 2013 and it’s still going strong, albeit I haven’t been using it quite at much! The size is great, even for long term travel. Packing it to the brim still makes it manageable even for smaller ladies. My only qualm with this bag is that it’s not great for hiking or lugging far. The straps aren’t really made for that kind of use!
North Face is my second favorite brand when it comes to backpacks and travel gear. Their stuff holds up well, and I genuinely like the look of it!
Another Eddie Bauer original, this bag is great for those that actually prefer to hike when they travel! It’s small and compact but with plenty of places to keep the things you need!
Best Carry On Luggage : Rolling Backpack or Wheeled Duffel
This thing gives my OCD a lot of the feels. I love pockets on bags, and judging from the reviews, this one has plentyyyy.
This bag continuously gets rave reviews from anyone who has purchased it. I’m eyeballing it if I ever were to go the route of purchasing a convertible backpack.
Best Carry On Luggage : Softside Luggage
I love me a sexy Delsey bag. Built for durability without losing its style, the Delsey Luggage Aero Soft has the 4 wheels, extra pockets and sleek design you’re looking for! And for under $100 you can’t beat it!
“Great little suitcase. I looked long and hard when I decided I needed to replace my old carry-on with one that has swivel wheels because I retired and doing a lot more traveling. This little case packs a LOT of clothes (I went for a week with JUST this suitcase to Iceland!). It’s sturdy and lightweight. The “expansion” feature offers a little more packing room and the front pocket is great for magazine etc.” ~ Amazon Customer Review
Travelpro Luggage Maxlite3 Rolling Tote
If you are looking for a weekend getaway roller bag, this one is adorable and definitely still has plenty of room for 3-4 day trip!
“I love this bag! I’m a flight attendant and use it 4 days a week. It fits so much that I hardly use a full size suit case. Really, people always ask where all my different outfits are coming from when I bring this bag–it’s seemingly bottomless. When packed without bulging, it fits on even the smallest of commercial jets, such as the CRJ 200 (which are almost unavoidable when flying regularly), with ease. It feels almost weightless when rolling with the handle fully extended. As with any TravelPro, the design is pleasant, durable, and efficient.” ~ Amazon Customer Review
I love a good 4-wheeled suitcase. This one is super flexible and can easily let you squeeze in one more sweater, which for all of our last minute travelers is essential 😉 It even comes with a 5 year manufacturers warranty which is another essential for any traveler who regularly busts out their favorite suitcase for an adventure!
For those that want their luggage to look as sexy as them, this is a clear winner. At nearly $500 it’s certainly not cheap, but its durability and lifetime warranty makes it worth the price.
“It is easy to pack. The suiter is roomy and does a good job preventing wrinkles; most trips I just pull my shirts out and I am ready to go, no ironing needed. The ratchet system is a space saver; I have managed two suits plus weekend gear in it with no problems.” ~ Amazon Customer Review
Best Carry On Luggage : Hardside Luggage
With an iconic design, this hardside Delsey carry on will have you looking extremely stylish while sprinting from gate to gate! With extra packing compartments on the inside, you can keep your belongings extra secure and wrinkly free.
“The interior of these bags is so nice. Even my son noticed; now THAT is a compliment! Both sides are zippered and the fabric is a soft brushed cotton-like fabric. There are a lot of pockets for a hard-sided case.” ~ Amazon Customer Review
This suitcase is under $50 and comes in a variety of bright colors so you’ll never have to worry about someone grabbing the wrong suitcase, from bright pink to burnt orange, the choice is yours!
“Great carry on for an amazing price. I might even pick up another one. Highly recommend.” ~Amazon Customer Review
I love the sleek design of this suitcase. This one comes in a TON of colors, so you can really find one that suits you. Again, under $50, you really can’t beat that price! Although the bag is a hardside, it’s actually still extremely light weight yet durable. Where would you go with this suitcase?
If you’re an on the go techy monster, aka you’re always attached to your phone and therefore you find your phone is always dead, this may be the suitcase for you! With a built in battery charger this suitcase can help you recharge on the go! It also has a GPS system so you’ll never not know where your bag is!
I’m a big fan of Samsonite, they have a stigma for being for stuffy older businessmen but this bag is sexy and comes in a variety of colors so you can personalize your suitcase a tad! I have a Samsonite laptop bag that I adore and has been with me for over 3 years with no signs of showing wear so I’d expect a similar outcome for this suitcase!
“Great all around carry on bag. I’ve taken it on several trips which have included pushing or pulling it far distances on concrete sidewalks since purchasing and the handle and wheels are still in great working condition.” ~Amazon Customer Review
Do you have a favorite carry on suitcase not mentioned here? Leave it in the comments, I’d love to expand this post!
*****Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, if you purchase something through one of these links Steph + I make a small commission, which helps to keep WhyWaitToSeeTheWorld.com running smoothly 🙂 Thanks!