Carry on Luggage Guide [2021]

The History of Carry-On Luggage

Originally adopted by flight crew, this wheeled suitcase style has now come to dominate the type of carry-on luggage most people use. The good news is that they can hold more than earlier bags.

The bad news is that, although airlines have massively increased their overhead bin storage space, there’s no way every passenger could stow a maximum sized carry-on suitcase in any plane’s cabin.

How do I know what a carry on is?

International Carry On Luggage Size...
International Carry On Luggage Size Chart [2022 Update]

Many luggage stores sell suitcases described as ‘carry-on’, but these suitcases are sometimes larger than the size most airlines will accept.

Not only do luggage stores and manufacturers not always tell you if their bag is legally sized or not, but they also frequently mis-measure their bag. Their measurements generally are for the inside of the main compartment, and assume that any external pockets are of zero thickness, rather than stuffed full of things (which can easily add another inch or more) and ignore any external framing such as wheels and carry handle (which can also add another couple of inches). One company, Samsonite, has guaranteed that their carry on luggage will meet carry on regulations for domestic USA flights.

If you should be very unlucky and find yourself forced to try and squeeze your carry-on into an unforgiving luggage template by the gate, even one extra inch – if your bag is already at the maximum – will be enough to mean it doesn’t fit and you have to check the bag.

The safe maximum size is 45″, in the form of a 22″ x 14″ x 9″ bag. Some airlines allow up to as much as 55″, but most do not.

Further Size Concerns

It seems that the space under the seat in front of you is getting smaller and smaller, particularly with some airlines (most notably on international flights) adding bulky electronic boxes under each seat to control the at-seat video entertainment systems, and with more closely spaced seats that are, themselves, thinner than before.

Although your carry on item might be within the size guidelines issued by the airline, that does not guarantee it will fit under the seat in front of you! So you get on board with your large but legal sized carry on item. However, what happens if there is no space remaining in any of the overhead bins, and you’re forced to place it under the seat in front of you? To be sure you will not have problems, look at Atlantic luggage they do their best to make their luggage to fit under the seat or in the overhead.

Even if there isn’t a blocking box, due to the design of the seat frame and supports, you’ll find there might be the least amount of space under the aisle seat, a bit more space under the wing seat, and most space underneath the center seat. At last – something good to say about getting stuck in a middle seat!

There are standard sets of dimensions that go to make up these totals (for example, 22 x 14 x 9 is the standard for 45″) and if you have a bag that is an unusual shape but still within the total number of inches, you may find it being rejected. Note that when maximum size measurements are shown as a total number of inches (eg 45″) this is the total of the length, width and height of the piece.

Carry On Suitcase Policy

All airlines place limits on the number, the size, and the weight of what you can carry on to a flight with you. You will be allowed one carry-on item and one personal item. If you are looking for a carry on or a personal item to take aboard, we would like to suggest Hartmann luggage products as a good option.

Personal Items

The standard allowance typically provides for a bag of up to a certain size plus one ‘personal item’.

What is a personal item? Some airlines give examples, and suggest that a personal item may be :

  • Briefcase
  • Camera
  • Handbag/Purse
  • Laptop (in carry bag)
  • Other items not exceeding 36″ in total dimension
  • Reading Matter
  • Small book-bag style backpack
  • UmbrellaIn addition to generally allowing you to carry on one bag plus one personal item, many airlines may also allow you to carry on other items such as coats, hats and other ‘outer clothing’ items, medical aids such as crutches/canes and wheelchairs, diaper bags and approved child safety seats. Be cautious or be finedIf the airline enforces its carry-on rules, then your only option is to have the disallowed items checked. Unlike checked luggage, where you can pay extra to carry heavier or bigger or more items, with carry on, there are no extra charges.Lightweight Carry on Options

    One problem with a lot of carry on luggage is the weight, and if you not 6�6� and two hundred and fifty pounds of per muscle, getting you suitcase into and out of the overhead compartment can be difficult. Swiss Army luggage, which is made by Victorinox, has many lightweight options is their Victorinox Swiss Werks Traveler collection.

    International Carry on regulations

    International flights often have much stricter carry-on policies, particularly with regard to the weight of carry-on bags.

    A good option for an international carry on piece that will not get rejected is a wheeled tote from Briggs & Riley. These totes are lightweight and provide ample packing space.

    If your flight is on a really small plane, you might find that your luggage allowances for both checked and carry-on items are substantially reduced. For example, some light aircraft operators limit passengers to 20lbs of luggage (both carry on and checked).

    You need to be aware of these rules, or else the next time you see someone desperately unpacking and repacking their luggage on the floor by the checking counter, that person might be you!

    International airlines may have smaller size limits on your carry on bags, too. If you want a bag that is always accepted on both domestic and international flights, you’ll need to choose a size or two smaller than the maximum allowable domestic sizes.

Carry on Laggage Factors

Finding the perfect carry-on bag with the right carry-on Sizes and Regulations can be quite the hurdle.

In the past, airlines used to measure the size of the luggage you were bringing from the bottom to the top of the bag. This measurement never included the added height of wheels and handles, this made purchasing a bag easy.

However, in recent times, airlines have changed over their overall measuring procedures to now measure the bag from the ground to the top of the bag. This shift in the procedure as well as all airlines having different size restrictions has turned the world of luggage upside down and has changed how many companies design and brand their bags

What to look for when purchasing carry-on luggage

When looking for a brand new piece of luggage, there are several questions you need to ask before a purchase. Our carry on luggage reviews have done their best to include all of the following information:

  • Will the size of the carry-on meet airline requirements?
  • Can I move this carry-on easily with lots of items?
  • Does it include quick access storage for items like passports and tickets
  • How much space is on the inside?
  • How durable is the bag made?
  • Is it good for business travel?
  • Is it water resistant? Can dirt be cleaned easily?
  • Does it include self-mending zippers?
  • Can the wheels move in multiple directions with ease?
  • How much do I want to pay for a carry-on?

When looking for a Carry-On, there are 4 Criteria you must look for. 

1. The weight of the Bag.

The weight restrictions changes from airline to airline.

weight-carry-on-luggage
What is the weight of my carry on luggage?

2. Size of the Carry-On

The Size of the Carry-Ons is listed on a chart below.

carry-on-sizes
Different carry on sizes?

Carry-on luggage is an essential part of travelling. Most airline companies have specific dimensions for carry-on luggage. Hence it is necessary to buy the carry-on luggage carefully if you want to avoid trouble during air-travel. Picking the right carry-on bag is not as simple as you think. If you have the right sized hand luggage you may not have to go through the security check. According to the purpose of the travel, the contents in the carry-on bag will be different, making it even more complicated to select the right bag.

Most airline companies have the dimensions for the carry-on limited to 22 inches in length, 14 inches in width and 9 inches in height. However, some air buses have more generous rules for the cabin bags. Carry-on bags should contain only necessary items so that you will be able to move it easily. If you do not get the right sized bags, then it will not sit properly in the luggage space provided on board. Here are some other things to note:

  • When you are buying the best carry on luggage available make sure that the dimensions are within the limit of the airline company you are planning to travel with
  • Check whether the dimensions provided by the travel bag company is inclusive of the external protrusions like handle, wheels or if it is of only the compartment of the bag
  • You can also use expandable and compression bags as carry-on bags so that you can adjust the size. The bags with zippers around them allow you to add or reduce a few more inches in depth.

3. Style of the Bag

Choose Between a two-wheeler or a four-wheel, hardside or softside. among other factors.

soft-vs-hard-shell-luggage
soft vs hard shell luggage

4. Regulations For Carry-Ons

Most people love to travel. But, there are many who are not aware of the regulations involved with the carry-on luggage. This can lead to stress, embarrassment, and a waste of time should you not comply and hence why we created this carry on luggage reviews website. To make travelling easier it is necessary to know the rules and regulations for carrying bags in airline companies and planning to pack the luggage accordingly. When you are travelling with children or with pets, your carry-on needs will change. When you have a medical equipment or musical instrument to carry the regulations will be different. So, before you pack your bags go through the regulation for carry-on suggested by the airline company or by the government.

  • Check-In Bags And Personal Items – Usually, airline companies will allow a check-in bag or carry-on along with a personal item. Things which are included in the personal item list include laptops, musical instruments, briefcases, and handbags. Most airline companies will let you to carry your jacket, pillow, and blanket as well. Unusually the personal item should be below 36” in overall dimension.
  • The Size Of The Carry-On Bag – The carry-on bag that you have should fit comfortably into the sizer and the overall dimension should not exceed 45 inches. The length should not exceed 22” and width should not exceed 14”. The maximum height of the bag should be 9”. The carry–on should be within the weight limit suggested by the airline company. Horizontal rolling bags and hanging garment bags will also be considered as the carry-on bag and should fit comfortably in the size. If the weight of the carry-on bags exceeds the limit you will have to pay excess baggage fees.
  • Regulations For Packing – When travelling by air, you can put limited quantities of aerosols, liquids and gels in your carry-on bags. You can carry spare batteries with the original retail packing in carry-on baggage. With the new TSA rule you will be allowed to carry duty free liquids in carry-on baggage if packed properly. There is a restriction on carrying animal products, dry ice, cutting instruments, gasoline powered tools, lighters/matches, pressurized containers, firearms/ammunitions, flammable liquids, and scissors in your carry on luggage.

Additional Carry on Factors

  • Bag scanner
  • RFID bag tags
  • Faster claim belts
  • Luggage Tracking

There have also been strides made in personal bag tracking, where you can accurately locate your luggage.

Carry-On-Tracking
Carry On Tracking

These trackers are connected to the internet to view real-time information about the status of your bag. Also, some airlines even allow customers to track their luggage like a parcel, throughout the journey from their websites or mobile app. So next time you book a trip you can feel relief in knowing that measures have been taken to get you and your bags to the same destination at the same time.

Spinning-Luggage
Spinning Luggage

One of the new and exciting features that you’ve most likely seen in recent years is the popularity of what is known as “spinner” bags. These bags have 4 wheels as opposed to 2 and have the ability to spin 360 degrees while being rolled around. This eliminates having to drag your bag behind you and keeps the strain off your arm. This is especially helpful for people with back and issues walking. However, since the airlines measure the bags now from the ground up, a 21″ spinner may not be 21″ tall after all.

Most companies when measuring their bags measure the interior packing space. When a bag with 4 wheels lists it is 20″ x 13″ x 9.5″, this measurement in most cases does not include the wheels and handle. To include the wheels and handle, these dimensions might end up being 21.5″ x 13″ x 9.5″. The issue that some people have is that the bag they bought doesn’t list the larger size with the wheels, so they end up having to check the bag or pay an oversize fee. While this issue isn’t frequent with 2 wheel bags, some bag designs end up being taller with the wheels and handle as well. It’s always important to find out the size of the bag from the ground up.

Carry on Issues

Losing luggage is no way to start or end a trip.

Fortunately for the modern traveller, the amount of mishandled bags has been steadily declining. North America has seen a four-point drop in mishandled bags since 2007. For every thousand passengers, 7.05 bags were mistreated. This success is a result of the billions of dollars spent on creating new technology to more properly handle luggage.


Summaries of our Carry On Luggage Reviews

Want a brief overview of what we feel are the best carry on’s this year? Below we provide a quick overview of our top 10.

Tumi Alpha International – Although slightly more expensive than the average carry-on, there is simply no other choice in 2016 like the Alpha International in the market. Being built with ballistic nylon allows for the carry-on to retain its shape and structure for many years to come. In fact, it is quite unlikely that you’ll ever need to purchase another carry-on ever again. With advanced features like a removable garment sleeve, telescoping handle, quick access external pockets, and easy U-Zip pockets, you’ll quickly fall for this one

TravelPro Maxlite 3 – If you like to travel light, then the Maxlite 2 might be the carry-on for you. Weighing at a light 6.9 pounds, you’ll have no trouble moving around from terminal to terminal with this piece. Despite its lightweight, it still features ample room to fit all of the things you’ll need beside you on your trip. With an interior that can be expanded an additional 1.5 inches, you’ll have no trouble fitting those extra items you pick up on your trip as well. Made from synthetic polymer fabric, you can expect this carry-on to last many years

TravelPro Crew 10 – The Crew series is one of the most popular of all time, and the Crew 10 is no different. Many travellers and travel crew personnel make use of the Crew 9 in their daily travels due to its great durability. Some of its greatest features include a suit system to keep your clothes wrinkle free, advanced framing system to take on more weight, a 2.5 inch expandable interior to fit even more items, and a powerscope handle that adjusts to the height of the person using it.

Samsonite Winfield 2 – One of the lighter carry-on’s that we review on this page, the Samsonite Winfield 2 features a nice combination of small size, efficiency and durability. The Winfield 2 is also great for business people as it features a design that screams success. Featuring a fully lined interior to keep your belongings secure from movement, and a TSA approved safety lock, you’ll be excited to pack this carry-on for your trips. One other great feature the Winfield 2 offers is the full 360 degree rotating wheels to allow for easier movement.

Samsonite Lift – The Samsonite brand is one of the best in the luggage business, and the Lift series is no different. Featuring an advanced construction, the exterior is protected from any weather elements that you may encounter in your trips. Snow or rain is no issue as your contents will remain as dry as you put them in. With a fully lined interior, integrated side and top handles for ease of use, and front pockets for quick storage, we feel that you’ll really enjoy all that the Samsonite Lift has to offer.

Samsonite Dkx – For business travellers, there may be no better choice than the Samsonite Dkx series. With a sturdy exterior, and a large interior, there is much to like about this carry-on approved piece of luggage. One of the more advanced features that have been added to the Dkx is the self-mending zippers. If you’ve ever travelled before, you’ve probably encountered broken zippers before while trying to close your bag. The repairs when this happens are not cheap! Do yourself a favor and make travel easier with the Dkx.

Samsonite Aspire Sport – If you like to travel light, then you may want to look closely at the Aspire Sport series made by Samsonite. Although a little bit smaller in overall size, there is still plenty of room to fit all of the items you’ll need on a plane with you. With self-mending zippers that fix any jams you can feel confident that you’ll be able to use this carry-on for many years. Another great feature included in the Aspire Sport is its mobility as it has four 360 degree rotating wheels to make carrying easy.

High Sierra Evolution – The lightest carry-on we review in our list, the High Sierra Evolution weighs in at less than 6 pounds! Despite its lightweight construction, there is still a crazy amount of packing room for anything you’ll need to take with you on whatever trip you are going on. One of the more noticeable items you’ll experience right away is the quality construction. Sierra, who specialize in outdoor gear, have created a carry-on that can withstand any dangerous elements you may encounter (mostly rain, and snow). With several easy to reach storage compartments, you’ll be organized in no time.

Delsey Helium Shadow – One of the more inexpensive carry-on’s on our list, there is still quite a bit to like about the Helium Shadow made by Delsey. For its price, there are many advanced features included such as the 360 degree rotational wheel system, TSA-approved combination lock, and full interior lining for better protection. However, what many really like is all of the different compartments included. With more packing compartments, many people find that packing and organizing your belongings is a much easier process.

Delsey Helium Aero – Although there are no storage compartments on the exterior of this carry on, there is still much to like for packing options. With mesh pockets and protective straps, you’ll be able to ensure that your clothes and important belongings are securely stored throughout your travel. With a nice glossy finish, the Delsey Helium Aero is a slick looking carry-on that is sure to get you noticed. With many different colors, you’ll without a doubt find one that fits your personality.

We hope that the reviews of the best carry-on luggage pieces on our page have helped you to answer all of these questions. No matter your situation, we hope that you are able to find the perfect piece of luggage to meet your 2016 travel needs. Should you need anything more from us however, please contact us and we will do our best to get back to you as soon as possible. Safe and happy travels!

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