We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.
Many people are just starting to travel again after what feels like (or quite literally has been) years. If you’re like us, you’ve used that time at home to reorganize, redesign, and take stock of everything you’ve got. Maybe you’ve noticed just how old your hand-me-down duffel is. Perhaps, whether in an existential crisis or simply to declutter, you tossed anything that didn’t have to do with working from home. Regardless of why you’re looking to upgrade your carry-on luggage, we’re here for it — and we’re here to help.
As a former military kid and travel writer myself, I’ve had the privilege (and, at times, task) of trying nearly every travel bag brand there is. Without a doubt, the secret to seamless TSA experiences, preventing unpacking procrastination, or living comfortably out of a carry-on begins and ends with the carry-on itself. At Apartment Therapy, we’re experts at all things home, but we’re also versed in taking home on the road when need be. Since bad travel bags can really put a damper on an otherwise good trip, we’ve done the research and compiled this list of the best carry-on luggage to take with you on your next adventure.
The Best Carry-on Luggage
What to Consider Before Buying a Carry-on
The first thing to consider is your travel habits or aspirations. How often do you travel? Are you typically in planes, trains, cars, or all three? Do you travel to the same places routinely or somewhere new almost every time? Do you prefer to keep everything with you at all times or are you willing to gate check your carry-on? For business travelers, utility and organization is key. Leisure travelers may benefit from the trackability of smart luggage or the option to overpack. Below are all the common types of carry-on luggage, along with who they suit best. If you’re seasoned and already know what you like, more power to you, but getting to know your options could present you with a better solution to any packing woes or travel tribulations.
Hardside: One of the most ubiquitous suitcase styles today, hardside carry-ons are most of what you’ll see from direct-to-consumer travel brands. Their construction is usually inflexible, but their hard shell exteriors offer more protection. They often come in a variety of colors, are designed to be attractive, and can even be customizable.
Softside: Soft suitcases are somewhat flexible and may allow you to pack more than you’d be able to in a hard shell suitcase with the same dimensions. The exterior is less protective, so breakable belongings inside may benefit from additional padding. We suggest packing soft shell suitcases sandwich-style: put in half your clothes first; place waterproof-packaged toiletries, accessories, and hard items in the middle; add the rest of your clothes on top.
Duffel: Ideal for those traveling with mostly soft items, duffels are for travelers who don’t mind or even prefer carrying their luggage. They can be low maintenance with a totally open interior or include pockets and additional storage.
Backpack: If you prefer to stay hands-free while en route, backpacks are your best bet. They offer support via weight distribution and often include a multitude of pockets, so everything down to your pens can be organized.
Tote: Also referred to as carry-alls, totes have a wide open interior with limited pocket storage. They are usually open at the top, but can be found with zipper tops or small fastener closures. They work well for travelers who prefer having easy access to their belonging. We recommend totes for carrying on grab-and-go items like books, sweaters, and water bottles or separate storage bags of small items like toiletries and medication.
The TSA now defaults to the regulations enforced by the specific airline you’re traveling with. That said, there usually isn’t a weight limit for carry-ons as long as you can get yours into any provided storage space yourself. Most major airlines, such as JetBlue, Delta, United, Virgin, American, and Alaska, approve carry-ons that are max 22″ in height, 14″ in length, and 9″ in width for overhead storage. If you’re flying on a small aircraft, regardless of the airline, the measurements can down to around 16″ x 12″ x 6″. Other airlines like Southwest allow overhead carry-ons up to 24″ x 16″ x 10″. Under-seat storage should be reserved for bags 17″ x 13″ x 8″ or smaller, depending on your flight. Prevent the inconvenience that comes with not realizing your carry-on is too large until it’s too late and check with your airline to confirm size and weight specifics.
What We Look for in a Carry-on
We tested a wide range of carry-on luggage for our list, judging them on the following criteria:
The Best Carry-on Luggage
The best overall carry-on has to be reliable, durable, sturdy without being bulky, spacious without being heavy, and something you’d be proud to pluck from the baggage carousel. Meet the Platinum Elite Hardside Spinner from Travelpro, the founding brand behind rollaboard luggage. It includes portable USB charging, lets you pack more while somehow staying in regulation (it fits more than any other hardside carry-on we tried), and glides smoothly and quietly. The handle and zippers never get stuck (no matter what we put it through), and its appearance is classic — not too youthful, not too antiquated. Stickers peel off without residue, and scuffs buff away with just a cloth and some water. We’ve even used this carry-on as a step stool during pandemic lockdowns when we rearranged our apartments (okay, that was me), and now it’s zipping and rolling as smoothly as ever. Travelpro has our trust and we couldn’t recommend it more.
Who It’s Best For: Those who travel frequently and want a single carry-on to last years; those who want utility and style.
Good to Know: Usually around $650 to $750, this Travelpro suitcase is worth catching when it goes on sale, so keep your eyes on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
Like most Amazon brand products, this Amazon Basics 21-inch carry-on hits all the marks: it’s expandable, has excellent rolling mobility, includes zipped pockets, and has the love and loyalty of over 25,000 Amazon reviewers. Its interior is made of 150D polyester, the same stuff used to make some of the highest quality, waterproof hammocks and tents on the market. The carry-on is available in a range of colors, so you can choose from a sleek black or an easily identifiable orange. Regardless, none of the exterior colors shows scuffing or discoloration easily, and after testing for over a year of travel, we can assure you this carry-on’s more functional parts show just as little wear and tear.
Who It’s Best For: Those who need a good carry-on fast; those who want to spend under $100.
Good to Know: You can get the whole Amazon Basics hardside luggage set, either 2- or 3-piece, and save even more.
If you’ve got the cash to spend and want something of undeniable quality, RIMOWA’s Original Cabin carry-on is the way to go. Designed from anodized aluminum, its exterior is virtually corrosion-proof, so it’ll stay shiny and new through a lifetime of travel wear and tear. Its patented flex dividers keep your belongings secure and are optimized to compress everything safely and efficiently, removing excess air and revealing more packing space. Oftentimes, a higher price tag doesn’t necessarily mean a better product, but if you value highly considered design, extreme durability, and want to invest in luggage that will last generations, this carry-on will deliver. Be prepared to be taken seriously when rolling this RIMOWA suitcase from place to place, as this is the carry-on for travel pros.
Who It’s Best For: Those looking to invest in their carry-on luggage; those who want something virtually indestructible.
Good to Know: Nordstrom makes it easy to gift this carry-on by offering DIY gift kits, Nordstrom packaging services, gift messaging, and delivery and in-store pickup.
Wider than they are long, duffels are a traditional handheld or shoulder-strapped travel bag built for low-maintenance packing and easy access. Whether you prefer to travel just with a duffel or accompany your rolling suitcase with extra storage, our winner is perfect for both. The Monos Metro Duffel has all the bells and whistles of a good soft carry-on bag: a trolley sleeve that allows it to slip over your spinner for easy transport, easily cleanable interior and exterior materials, and lots of storage space or pockets. What makes this duffel unique is the magnetic Metro Classic Kit it comes with, which allows you to choose exactly how much storage you want for each trip. The kit includes two separate packing cubes of sorts, the insides of which have a clear toiletry bag and device and notebook storage, respectively. These simply (yet securely) snap onto the back of the Metro duffel, keeping liquids and devices easily accessible for you and the TSA, and completely separate from your clothing and other belongings. We’re suckers for organization, and this duffel helps to keep track of everything while still accommodating the classic toss-in-and-go style of duffel packing.
Who It’s Best For: Those who want a spacious, easy-to-pack, and easy-to-access travel bag; those who pack differently for each trip.
Good to Know: The Monos QuickSnap modular storage system that comes with the duffel also works on other Monos travel bags, including the backpack.
If you’ve already got your carry-on suitcase but want to optimize your personal item to fit everything you need at the ready and still slide under the seat in front of you, a zipped tote is a great option. If you want one compact bag to carry everything for an overnight stay or a brief business trip, a tote’s good for that, too. The Lo & Sons O.G. 2 tote is the chic, extremely durable (without looking utilitarian) travel bag to consider whether you need a carry-all for a quick trip or additional easy-access storage. I’ve tested it for over three years and have brought it on every trip I’ve taken. I’m consistently impressed with how much I can pack in it, how it always fits under the seat in front of me, how organized its compartments keep me (there’s even a corded key clip!), how easy it is to clean (and how little I actually have to clean it), how durable the closures are, and how comfortable the straps stay. No wonder I often get asked where it’s from! The tote’s laptop compartment is soft but protective and makes going through TSA checkpoints a breeze. It has a sleeve that lets it slip right over the handles of your rolling luggage, which brings actually carrying your carry-on to a minimum. Personally, I had no idea that I’d use my O.G. 2 as much as I have, but after all this time I might as well give it a name since it’s my No. 1 travel companion and even comes with me to the gym and to work.
Who It’s Best For: Those who want a personal item-sized carry-on; those who love organization.
Good to Know: It’s got a zipped shoe compartment on its side, so you can even throw a change of attire in there and keep it separate from your toiletries and other belongings.
Twelve-hour flights. Twenty-four-hour train rides. Back-to-back-to-back transportation. Whatever your long-haul trips look like, the same few things are essential: dependable device charging, easy access to essentials, and consolidation. Away’s Carry-on with a pocket includes a removable portable charger, so we can recharge while still keeping our phones on our person at all times. Its slim front pocket fits all our travel documents, our laptop, and even a book, which basically removes the need for any additional personal items. If you’re like us, though, and like to bring stuff home with you when you travel, there are also easily accessed interior pockets that are perfect for phones, passports, and sanitizer. While I can’t condone the consistent overstuffing of luggage (even the best stuff wears fast when mistreated), I’ve somehow managed to squeeze an entire sample-sized skin-care routine into these convenient spots.
Who It’s Best For: Those who want one roller carry-on to hold everything; those who need constant easy access to documents or devices; those who need to charge devices on the go.
Good to Know: Away offers a 100-day limited trial as well as free shipping.
There’s a certain *chef’s kiss* je ne sais quoi to the feeling that comes from getting to customize anything. ROAM, our winning brand for this category, allows you to customize your luggage’s hues down to the zipper, which is not only fun to do but also helpful for identifying and tracking your luggage. The Jaunt carry-on, which comes in a larger carry-on size as well, is a hard shell suitcase made of thin and lightweight virgin polycarbonate, so it’s got the protective benefits of a hard exterior without being unnecessarily bulky. The colors of the front and back panels as well as the trim are up to you, making it our winner of the best customizable carry-on. You can also add a monogrammed ID patch in your chosen color on the back. We can attest that the Jaunt makes an awesome gift, whether you customize it yourself or give your recipient the chance to design their own. My partner customized the Jaunt he was given in a shameless few hours of unadulterated giddiness, so I naturally asked him to customize mine the following year. I still think of him when I catch sight of my hot pink Jaunt rounding the corner of the baggage carousel.
Who It’s Best For: Those who want to express their personal style through their travel gear; those shopping for a carry-on to give as a gift.
Good to Know: You can also choose a pre-made design from ROAM’s gallery.
Samsara, the winning brand behind our best smart carry-on, designed its Aluminum Smart Carry-on to be a problem-solver on wheels. Its highly considered construction begins with the bag itself, being of quality aluminum with a flat desktop surface, and extends to its most identifying feature: its smart tracking unit. More specifically, its removable, multiple device-charging, app-controlled, GPS-tracking smart unit. This is the carry-on you want when you’re traveling with valuables or are just looking to impress whomever you’re headed to see, but it’s surprisingly competitively priced for what it does (and how it looks). In testing the Samsara carry-on, we were able to put the tracker and its paired app to work…and we were impressed, to say the least. For those times when your first flight is delayed or a layover lands you in a wonderland of duty-free shopping and you miss your connecting flight, you’ll thank yourself for being so prepared with your trackable Samsara.
Who It’s Best For: Those who never want to risk losing their luggage; those who work on the go.
Good to Know: Samsara also has a smart duffel for those who want something softer or more compact.
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.
I wish I had the kind of disposable income that allowed me to walk into my favorite galleries and buy the work that I love right off the walls, but let’s be real, that’s just not gonna happen anytime soon. So instead I will rely on the next best (read: affordable) thing: The internet.
Buying art online has really improved in recent years. You can now find quality work from great unknown artists who you may not have found otherwise, as well as prints of well-known established faves. Even better, many sites have frequent sales. So go grab a cup of joe, take a seat, and start browsing.
Society6, which offers artists a platform for creating products and selling their work, has lots of unusual, quirky, and interesting choices. Besides prints, they also offer framed prints, wall tapestries, printed canvases, and a host of other products.
Looking for affordable prints of pieces by well-known artists like Picasso or Rothko? Art.com has you covered. From canvas to framed art, you can find virtually every type of piece your heart desires. Plus, you get to enjoy free shipping and returns with your purchase.
Urban Outfitters may not be the first place you think of when you’re buying art, but recently they’ve begun stocking a very well-curated collection of prints, all of which come in a variety of sizes — up to 40″x60″ — to suit any space.
Minted, which offers prints from a selection of independent artists, has a lovely aesthetic, so you won’t have to sort through as many duds as you would on other art sites. All of their prints can be ordered in a variety of sizes, from 7″x5″ to 54″x40″.
If you’re willing to hunt through a lot of different options, Etsy can actually be a great source for affordable, original art. Plus, you’re buying directly from the artists, so there’s no middle man.
Our online marketplace is full of vintage art in a wide range of styles, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and much more. Right now, you can find art for as low as $10, and new stuff is added every day.
The Secret To Buying Thrift Store Art
Artfinder allows you to buy art directly from artists all over the world, with many selections under $500. Shop original art and get your hands on pieces you won’t find elsewhere.
Every Tuesday, Tiny Showcase releases a new limited edition print of a work by an independent artist. The prints are on the smaller side — most are sized to fit an 11″x14″ frame or smaller — but the prices are very reasonable, starting at only $15.
20×200 commissions artists — some well-known, some emerging — to create limited-edition prints exclusively for their site. Each print comes in a variety of sizes, with the smallest ones starting at just $24.
You may know Deviant Art as an online hub for creators, but you can also purchase prints there. Styles tend towards the fantastic and the surreal, and prices are quite reasonable — for example, you can buy a 12″x18″ framed print for $50.
This art site allows you to sort by price — and a quick search reveals that there are quite a few good options for under $500.
With charts on everything from the universe to coffee to rapper names, these prints are as exhaustive as they are beautiful. (Since this is Apartment Therapy, we also have to mention their American architecture one, too.) Framing options are included, too.
Tappan offers a curated selection of art by emerging artists from around the world. That doesn’t mean everything is pricey though — they have a whole selection of under $300 pieces.
This site sources the best in modern art from art fairs, galleries, and artists’ studios, so the selection is always top of the line.
1stDibs is a designer-favorite art source, gathering pieces from artists big and small (yes, you can get your hands on an original Warhol or Picasso here) around the globe. It also lets you filter by style, artist, and price so you can find the perfect option within your range.
Known for their custom letterpress work and original limited-editions, The Aesthetic Union carries everything from cards to prints, ranging in prices from $6 to $300. Founder James Lewis Tucker creates some of the pieces himself — color lovers should check out his graphic, bold work ‘A Vast Expanse’. It was inspired by the macro and micro of the universe, or as he puts it, ” [the] cosmic dance of life and death play.”
If you fell in love with Anna Bond’s folksy-modern planners, stationery, and home goods back when Rifle Paper Co. launched in 2009, you’ll be happy to know art prints are still a big part of their offerings. You’ll find florals, whimsical quotes, travel-inspired city prints, and even a few animal-themed options among their pretty vast collection.
When Bed Bath & Beyond comes to mind, you probably don’t think of them for art. But at press time, this superstore had over 14,000 search results for “art print” online. They carry modern, trendy pieces by companies like Deny Designs, Oliver Gal, and Marmont Hill as well as their own exclusive offerings from in-house brands like Marmalade and Bee & Willow Home.
If one-of-a-kind, original works are what you’re after, Uprise Art is a good place to start your search. This online marketplace brings the gallery to you, carrying pieces that speak to different media, aesthetics, and price points. If you’re on a tighter budget, stick to the “Art Under $800” category, where offerings starting at just $80.
What are your favorite online sources for art?
Sarah M. Vazquez also contributed to reporting.
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.
Name: Rachel Edmonds, husband, three kids, and Buster the dog
Location: Devon, UK
Size: 1800 square feet
Type of Home: Detached Victorian house built in 1894
Years Lived In: Owned for almost 25 years
“From the moment I set my foot through the threshold I knew it was the one,” explains Rachel Edmonds, an interior blogger, Instagrammer, and former furniture designer who lives in Devon with her husband Tony and their three sons in a quirky, detached Victorian house built in 1894. “During the 1920s the house was owned by a veterinarian who looked after the horses in the Boer War and the First World War as an officer in the Veterinary Corps. He then came home to set up a practice here in this house. I met a lovely lady in her 80s recently who remembers bringing her pet rabbit here as a child,” Rachel reveals about the fascinating history behind her home.
Rachel’s Dark, Gothic Glam Home in Devon | House Tours
Rachel and her family has been living in this home for almost 25 years, and over the years she’s transformed this former vet practice into a cool, dark, “gothic glam” home. The space where the actual vet practice was has now been turned into an uber chic Italian-inspired “she-shed,” complete with mosaic style floor that Rachel painted and gilded by hand herself. “I’ve always from a tot been creative and started designing (tentatively) at the age of 12,” she explains. “Thank you, dad, for allowing me to create an eye-wateringly/amazing bedroom. Who knew white carpet for a 12-year-old discovering makeup was a no-no! But here I am now, having learned from that mistake and loving my creative journey.”
Her childhood has clearly shaped Rach’s interior design journey, and she spent 15 years designing furniture in her own company. “My bed and bedroom furniture are my designs as well as my dining room table,” Rachel says, “but all good things come to an end and so did this. The company closed and that’s when I set up my blog, which is my creative outlet along with my Instagram account.”
What is so lovely about this home is that it’s not just a cool trendy space, but a family home through and through. “As a mum of two autistic sons, I feel so passionately about how our homes can affect our mood that I want us all to take a moment to think about what makes us smile. And then incorporate this into our homes. It’s not about trends, it’s about what makes you happy, or calm when you’ve had a bad day. Or gives you energy when you thought you were all out of it.” Indeed, Rachel has built a wonderful home for her family, and they have reaped the rewards, especially during the pandemic in the past year, spending much more time at home together with lockdown and homeschooling. “Now more than ever our homes are our sanctuary and life is way too short for vanilla,” Rachel adds.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: How would I describe my style? I’m really not sure. It’s a melting pot of inspiration but I love one description someone gave it as dark, gothic glam. It sums up my love of dark colors, a nod to history and my home, and the odd (okay maybe more) addition of gold leaf.
Inspiration: What inspires me? That’s a tricky one, I’m inspired by so many things. I love Italy; in fact missing it so much over the last two years it inspired the design of my “she-shed.” It’s an homage to the busy café culture and its wonderful architecture. I love Italian food, architecture, and visiting Roman ruins (again inspiring the mosaic style of the floor in the she-shed, which I painted and gilded by hand). I love to bring emotions to life too, evoking happy memories of happy times we have spent together as a family.
History plays an important role too, as does nature and how it puts colors and texture together. The blind and stool in my sitting room for instance immediately made me think of dark summer skies in our garden when the evenings are warm, there’s laughter around the table and bats circling overhead. Which brings me to animals, another inspiration and a nod to the house’s former use. I also love surprises in interiors, something to raise an eyebrow or create a conversation and I love words too, so what better way to meet both requirements than with my “Bollocks” art, which I created myself. It was such a hit on Instagram that I now make them to order too.
Favorite Element: It changes almost everyday but I come back every time to the chairs in my dining room. My husband surprised me with them shortly after we moved in together. I love them now as much as the day he surprised me with them. They were found in an old cupboard at work they were free (work was very glad to get rid of them) and yet here they still are with us. Very much loved and many times reupholstered!
Biggest Challenge: My biggest challenge has always been creating what’s in my head without breaking the bank. A case of champagne taste on a lemonade budget. The solution though is really rather simple: you can achieve so much yourself if you choose to believe in the possibility that you can do it yourself (DIY). Not only can you get a great result doing it yourself but the feeling of achievement when the job is finished is second to none. Go for it!
Another challenge was our roof when we first moved in. Re-roofing was definitely a big challenge but then it leaked like a sieve the first time it rained after we moved in, so boy was it worth it! Every time we had more than a shower I’d be running around with buckets and saucepans! To make matters worse, I was pregnant with my middle son when the scaffolding went up in April and the weather was so bad that year. It was finally finished, and the scaffolding was taken down in November just before I came home from the hospital with him.
Proudest DIY: It has to be my youngest son’s bedroom. It’s basically a box room and started out as the family nursery room but with no more bedrooms to spread out to it became my youngest’s room to grow up in. Only to find at six-feet tall that he didn’t really fit in it anymore. And so, thinking outside the box (because the room really is that small) I moved the bed up. Inspired by the New York loft aesthetic I created a zoned space with a work area, chill-out corner, and sleeping arrangement all packaged neatly within what the UK estate agents used to call compact. Everything in the room was made by me from plywood and small gauge scaffolding (used for handrails). I made the bed, the wardrobe, and the desk. My favorite part are the steps to the bed; each step has a cut out so that you don’t bang your knees as you climb to the top.
Biggest Indulgence: I’m not sure it’s my biggest indulgence as it was a gift for my husband and so technically not mine but I love the 1970s Rockola juke box that I bought for him as a surprise birthday gift around 15 years ago. An eBay find (love shopping there and Facebook Marketplace, too), it was too far away for me to collect and so I asked the distribution company that delivered our furniture to be in on the secret. They collected it and stored it for me until his birthday. A complete music fanatic he absolutely loved it as he still does today.
It’s filled with such an eclectic mix of genres and on full blast literally makes the stone walls of the house shake! We had it fully serviced and restored not long after it arrived with us but sadly it’s developed a problem picking up the records and so it’s time to find someone to fix it again. Thankfully there is a mobile company that comes to your house now rather than having to send it away but what with lockdowns and Covid the waiting list is extremely long so we will have to wait a while longer until we can have a boogie in the sitting room again.
Is something unique about your home or the way you use it? Other than its history, we still use the rooms as they were intended. Having said that, the sitting room is now split (not by us) and one end was the original Victorian kitchen. The outhouses built onto the back of the house were also originally the waiting room and consulting rooms for the vet that used to live here. One is now my she-shed and the other two are workrooms. One for myself and one for my husband.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? I have to be honest it changes all the time but my ultimate purchase has to be my cooker, I love it. Not only because it’s still going strong after 21 years (fabulous quality) but it looks just as good as it cooks too.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Think outside the box. Small should not always be light, darker colors can open up a space. And use the walls too. If you cannot go out, go up. Move a bed up the wall and raise furniture off the floor to give the feeling of space. Think about zoning the space too; giving distinct areas for uses creates a feeling of openness.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Do not be afraid to follow your gut! In fact, just do not be afraid at all when it comes to decorating your home. Life is too short to conform to the norm. Your home should be a happy place. Embrace you, your style and go for it.
This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.
So to help getting dressed — and your mornings — go more smoothly, we rounded up a bunch of tips, tricks, and hacks for removing lint and keeping it away. From dryer sheets to drawer liners, here are 10 well-kept secrets that’ll make sure you never, ever have to walk out the door covered in fuzz.