Complete guide to best carry-on luggage 2021

Carry-on luggage, also known as cabin baggage is essentially a type of luggage that you’re allowed to carry along in a passenger cabin of a plane instead of putting it in the cargo compartment. Travellers are usually allowed to carry a limited number and size of smaller bags with them into the plane. These often contain items they will use during the journey.

Click here to see the Best Carry-On Luggage now.

In recent years, the airline industry has been challenging travellers to travel light. They are encouraging travellers to reduce their baggage to a simple carry-on luggage. A carry-on luggage bag can easily fit in the overhead compartment of the plane or under the seat in front you.

There are no standard dimensions to define how small or big a carry-on luggage should be since each airline has different airplanes with different restrictions. But an average carry-on luggage can measure 55cm (22in) x 35cm (14in) x 23cm (9in) with a maximum weight of 10kg (22lbs) in some airlines.

In this guide, we will talk about the things to look for when buying the best carry on Luggage. Including the benefits of using a carry-on luggage.

Best Carry On Luggage

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Comparison chart for the best carry-on luggage 2021

Finding the carry on bag to suit your needs can be difficult. Whether your looking for the top lightweight carry-on luggage, or all round affordable carry-on luggage, there is a carry-on bag to suit all situations.

To help you choose, we’ve listed the best carry-on luggage of 2021 available for easy comparison along with the main features they provide.

JULY Carry OnHard5.0SEE
JULY Carry On LightHard5.0SEE
Delsey Paris MontmartreSoft4.5SEE
Antler JunoHard4.5SEE
QANTAS LondonHard4.5SEE
Hynes EagleSoft4.1SEE
Rockland Wheeled Soft4.1SEE
Samsonite Solyte Soft4.0SEE
Samsonite Carry OnSoft4.2SEE

Benefits of using a carry-on luggage

1.    Save on fees

Checking-in luggage is charged for by most airlines and the fee will range from anywhere between $20 and $45. If you ask me, that $45 will look better in your pocket or spent on something cooler that fees. Carry-on luggage is not charged, which makes them a great companion for light travelling and skipping the luggage fee.

2.    No lost luggage

The number of luggage being lost on airlines these days can surprise you. It’s estimated that an average of 6-8 luggage are reported lost for every 1000 passengers. Well, that might not sound like much, until you calculate how many passengers transit through an average busy commercial airport each day. With carry-on luggage an arm-stretch away, you can always keep an eye on your belongings for a peace of mind. Additionally, the carry on will minimise cases of missing or damaged items in the luggage due to poor handling. 

3.    Instant access to your gear

Many times, you might find yourself looking for an item that is in your luggage, especially during long flights. This could be an iPad, book, toiletries, a snack, anything. Carry-on luggage will afford you the flexibility of having all the items you need within reach. This can save the day on those flights when you have a long layover at the airport.

4.    No wasting time waiting for your luggage

After a long flight, no one wants to spend an extra 30 minutes waiting for each luggage to arrive and sorting it through. With a carry-on luggage, you simply pick it from the foot or overheat compartment and you’re on your way.

5.    Easier international connections

Most international connections require that you pick your checked-in luggage after your first flight and re-check it in for your next flight. If you had delays on your previous flight or have a tight layover, you might not have enough time to re-check your luggage. Using a carry-on bag will make your international connections much faster and easier.

6.    Agility and flexibility

Walking around without having to drag so much dead load is so refreshing. Light carry-on luggage whether it’s a side bag, a backpack or a small luggage case with wheels allows you to wander around freely and effortlessly. After walking for some distance, you will be grateful you choose a light carry on bag.

Overall, as you can see, carrying less baggage during your travel gives you a lot of freedom and flexibility which translates to more time and money, and fewer limitations and stress. We travel the world constantly and downsizing to carry on luggage was the best decision we ever made.

Best carry on luggage Australia reviews 2021

The benefits of a top quality carry on suitcase is indisputable. Good quality carry on luggage can make travelling so much easier. Especially if you are able to travel without additional luggage.

Today, we will be looking at a range of Australian top selling carry on luggage based on quality, portability, size, durability, price and many other factors. We talk about in our guide on how to choose the best carry-on luggage. Australia suppliers are featured in the reviews together with overseas manufactures. So whatever you’re headed to, you can be sure to find the best all round carry-on luggage that will fit within your budget.

JULY Carry On Review

JULY Carry On

The JULY Carry On hard shell luggage comes in a range of colours and features an ejectable power bank. Perfect for keeping smartphones charged on the go. The case features a 100% aerospace-grade German polycarbonate and is designed to withstand the hardest knocks. It is often referred to as the best quality carry on luggage, with Aluminium bumpers add extra protection and the SilentMoveTM wheels are engineered to provide a smooth glide. You can read our detailed review of the JULY Carry On here.

Key Features and Specs

•    Telescopic multi-stop handle 

•    4 double SilentMoveTM wheels that run smoothly and quietly.

•    TSA combination lock for maximum security

•    Internal zipped compartment

•    Removable power bank with USD and USB-C

•    Crush-proof German shell

•    lifetime warranty on manufacturing faults

•    100 day trial, and free shipping within Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore

Click here for current price and more information.

JULY Carry On Light Review

JULY Carry On Light

The JULY Carry On Light is the worlds lightest carry-on luggage. Weighing just 1.8kg and made from strong German polycarbonate this hard shell case comes in a range of stylish colours. The interior has stain-proof lining and is water-resistant. Check our detailed review of the JULY Carry On Light for more information of this best rated carry on luggage.

Key Features and Specs

Weight when empty 1.8kg

Storage capacity 38 litre

Integrated TSA lock and quality Japanese zipper

SilentMove™ Series 2 360° double spinner wheels

PVC hinges and trimmings

3-stop twin-bar telescopic handle

Click here for current price and more information.

Delsey Paris Montmartre Trolley Carry-On Review

Delsey Paris Montmartre Trolley Carry-On

The Delsey Montmartre Air 55cm Expandable carry-on luggage comes with a unique set of features such as the expandable function, double spinner wheels, and laptop compartment. The design and size are all about convenience with comfort handles and trolley to ensure it’s easy to move and lift. It also runs quietly and smoothly.

This 55cm cabin case will make the ideal luggage solution for travelling aboard most budget airlines. If you love travelling lightweight, you will be happy to note that this piece only weighs 2.3kg and offers an extremely generous carrying volume of 42L. So if you’re about style, functionality, and ease of use, then these might be your best option.

Key Features and Specs

•    Made from durable 840D Polyester

•    Weighs just 2.3kg

•    Top carry handle

•    Telescopic wheel handle for easy handling

•    Laptop Pocket carries an 11.6″ Notebook/Laptop

•    Large front pocket for ease of access

•    4 double Spinner wheels that run smoothly and quietly.

•    TSA combination lock for maximum security

•    Internal zipped compartment

•    Removable and washable lining

•    Packing ribbons

•    5 Year worldwide warranty

•    Expandable

Click here to check the current price and read more reviews

Antler Juno Cabin Roller Carry-On Review

Antler Juno Cabin Roller Carry-On

The Antler Juno 2 4 Wheels Cabin Roller Case has all you need in a carry-on luggage. This particular piece is white in color, but the Juno 2 collection comes with other bold color options –from color matched wheels and trolley handle to color match detailing on the inside of the case.

The Juno 4-wheeled suitcase is spacious, yet remains reasonably light for a large suitcase. The shell is as sturdy as it appears and it doesn’t easily become concaved, which translates to extended durability. Unlike other hard shell models, this case doesn’t allow water to enter through the zip. The Antler Juno 2 was designed to accompany you to your dream destination in style

Key features and specs

•    Lightweight locking trolley system

•    Tough and durable polypropylene shell

•    360 Degrees rotating wheels for effortless control

•    Inbuilt TSA lock

•    Dimensions: 56 x 35 x 23 – expandable up to 25 cm

•    Volume: 40 – 43 liters,

•    Weight: 2.5kg

•    10 year warranty

•    Handle: Duopole handle with push button release.

•    Locks: Built in TSA combination locks

•    Packing Structure: The Juno suitcase opens through the center with 50/50 packing in the base and lid.

 Click here to check the current price and read more reviews

QANTAS London Wheelaboard Carry-On Review

QANTAS London Wheelaboard Carry-On

Qantas 56 luggage is uniquely designed for the regular traveller, encompassing the latest technologies, ultra-light materials, and the highest quality components. Qantas collection of bags are generally designed for people who enjoy the journey no matter what the occasion.

This particular piece is sleek and modern with a contemporary design and high quality materials that make it the lightest in its line of bags. For strength and durability, this carry on features an outer shell that’s constructed from virtually indestructible polypropylene. The design is expandable and also features an integrated TSA combination locking system to secure your belongings throughout your trip. 

Key features and specs

•    Bag Dimensions: 40 x 21 x 56 cm

•    Spinner wheels for stability and maneuverability

•    Expansion zipper allows for extra packing space

•    TSA three dial combination lock

•    Telescopic locking trolley handle

•    Polypropylene eco-friendly 100% recyclable, durable flexible shell

•    Top carry handle

•    Fully lined interior

Click here to check the current price and read more reviews

Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack Review

Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack

Hynes Eagle is a leading practical fashion-forward bag brand whose aim is to ensure a better journey for every traveller. At least as far as securing your valuables is concerned. They have been committed for the longest time in designing functional and long lasting products to kick off your worldwide adventure.

Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack is one of the best air travel carry-on bags you can use today. The bag is designed to perfectly fit within the maximum size allowed by most airlines as a carry-on luggage. It easily fits in the overhead compartment as well as the under-seat storage in the plane.

The bag offers various carrying options where you can carry it as a backpack or duffle bag. It comes with hideaway straps that are well-padded and contoured with an additional mesh.

Key Features and Specs

•    Dimensions: L34 x W25 x H51 cm / L13.4 x W9.8 x H20.0 inch;

•    Weight: 1.11 kg;

•    Volume: 40 Litters

•    Material: high quality and water repellent Polyester with PVC coating for better performance and durability

•    1 spacious main compartment with interior mesh zip pockets

•    2 front compact zip compartments for gadgets, laptop, passport, tickets, and other stuff

•    Multiple carrying positions thanks to the Hide-away contoured shoulder straps, side handle, and thick top handle

•    Multiple exterior compression buckle straps

Click here to check the current price and read more reviews

Rockland Wheeled Underseat Carry-On Review

Rockland Wheeled Underseat Carry-On

The Rockland Wheeled Underseat Carry-On luggage allows you to travel in style and comfort while securing all your valuables. The luggage features a stylish quilted polyester fabric exterior with two large main compartments for clothes and shoes, and two slip and zippered pockets for easy organisation.

The bag comes with a retractable handle that stores away easy and hand-held handles allow for quickly grabbing the bag from the overhead bin or underneath the seat. The two handles also offer multiple carrying options. The strap on the back side allows you to attach it to your wheeled carry on piece.

The fact that this carry-on fits in the overhead compartment, as well as under-seat storage, makes it a perfect carry-on for overnight trips. And if you’ve ever shopped around for Rockland travel products, you might already know that the company doesn’t skimp on quality.

Key features and specs

•    Dimensions are15 inches (H) x 14 inches (W) x 9 inches (D)

•    Large Main compartment

•    Fits in underneath Airplane seat and overhead

•    Slip pockets and zippered clear pocket interior

•    Side mesh pockets for water bottle.

•    Weighs 5 pounds and can hold up to 17.6 pounds.

•    Adjustable handle

•    Made from polyester –soft-sided.

•    5 year limited warranty

Click here to check the current price and read more reviews

Samsonite Solyte Carry On Review

Samsonite Solyte Carry On

Samsonite Solyte Softside Carry-on Luggage is an adaptive and sophisticated bag that comes with a quick change pocket. The quick change pocket will make you spontaneous and ready for anything and everything. You can easily step off the plane and onto the beach without having to dig for swimwear.

And your phone will never run out of charge, thanks to a built-in USB port to keep your phone fully charged, even on the go. Flexis packs everything you need into a bend-but-don’t-break parabolic frame –making this a great companion for any frequent light traveller.

Key features and specs

•    7.5 x 13.5 x 19.5

•    A built-in USB port lets you power up your phone, tablet or any other accessory

•    Parabolic Frame design for versatility, roominess and a streamlined aesthetic

•    Quick Change Pocket that provides easy access to necessities, outfit changes, tech gadgets and more

•    YKK Strong Grip Zip which is sleek and has 15x more abrasion strength.

•    The dual-adjust grip gives you the ability to adjust the Right Height handle system effortlessly

•    Radii Wheel System: engineered to reduce drag, pivot instantly and provide a smooth roll.

Click here to check the current price and read more reviews

Samsonite Ascella Carry On Review

Samsonite Ascella Carry On

The Samsonite Ascella is one of the top-rated carry-on bags on Amazon—and for good reason. The bag has in-line skate wheels and a retractable handle, a removable 3-1-1 pouch, internal packing compartments, a hanging organiser pouch, and a side water bottle pocket. Reviews both on amazon and other platforms say it complies with all major domestic carriers for underseat luggage requirements.

Constructed of durable polyester and reinforced with lightweight, flexible steel wire, this enduring piece will be your companion on countless adventures across the globe. The aluminium upright handle and smooth rolling wheels ensure easy arrivals. Most users love the organisation inside that makes packing a snap.

Key features and specs

•    Large u-shaped opening for easy access to contents

•    The carry-on size fits under the seat or in the overhead so no luggage fees or wasted time

•    Dimensions; 9.3 x 13.8 x 16.5

•    Multiple carrying options thanks to the aluminium upright handle and top carry-handle.

•    SmartSleeve slides over upright case handle for easy mobility

•    Weight Weight 5.6 lbs

•    Warranty: 10 Year Warranty

•    Material Polyester

Click here to check the current price and read more reviews

What to look for in carry on luggage

The best carry on luggage for you has a lot to do with your travelling habits, preferences, budget, the type of items you’re transporting and your airline requirements. Below are some of the primary consideration you should put in mind when shopping for lightweight carry on luggage.

Types of carry-ons

The carry on companies have come up with numerous models and designs for carry-on luggage throughout the years. All types of travellers can now get the bag that perfectly fits their trip and situation. Some of the most popular designs and models include wheeled carry-ons, spinner carry-ons, duffle bags, rolling carry-ons, under seat carry bags, carry on travel backpacks, and carry-on luggage for suits.

Size of the carry-on luggage

As earlier mentioned, there is no standard size for carry-on luggage. However, the best average size for a carry-on luggage is 56 x 36 x 23cm, and this meets most of the Australian airlines and international carry-on requirements. But it’s always good to check with your favourite airline for their recommended dimensions for carry-on luggage. Here are the sizing breakdowns for popular Australian, US and European airlines.

Qantas Airlines size requirements: 56 x 36 x 23cm

Virgin Australia size requirements: 56 x 36 x 23cm

Jetstar Airlines: 56 x 36 x 23cm

Tigerair Airlines size requirements 58 x 34 x 23cm

British Airways size requirements: 22 x 18 x 10 inches

United Airlines size requirements: 22 x 14 x 9 inches

Delta Airlines size requirements: 22 x 14 x 9 inches

Southwest airlines size requirements:  24 x 16 x 10 inches

Virgin America size requirements: 24 x 16 x 10 inches

American Airlines (AA) size requirements: 22 x 14 x 9 inches

JetBlue Airlines size requirements: 22 x 14 x 9 inches

Alaska Airlines size requirements: 22 x 14 x 9 inches

Frontier Airlines size requirements: 24x 16 x 10

Al Italia size requirements: 22 x 14 x 10

Finair Airlines size requirements: 56 x 45 x 25cm

Soft shell vs hard shell carry-on suitcase

Choosing between soft and hard shell is a matter of personal preference. Softshell carry-on luggage allows you to maximise the storage and squeeze in up to the last extra inch of room. It typically has outer pockets for storing items that require quick access. Soft-sided luggage generally tends to be more flexible, last longer and age better.

Pros and cons of soft shell carry-on luggage

FlexibleNot easy to clean exterior
ExtendableMay crush easier than hard case
Offers more space
Often recessed wheels
Typically has more pockets

Hard-sided carry-on luggage is sleeker and has a distinctive, luxurious look. It features a shiny exterior design and often weighs a little more than soft shell carry-on bags of the same size. The shiny exterior, however, tends to wear off easily, which means they look old pretty quickly compared to their softshell counterparts.

They are also less flexible which oftentimes causes the zipper to break when there is pressure on them or when they’re dropped. If it has a plastic casing, it might also be susceptible to breaking. Here is a summary of the pros and cons.

Pros and cons of hard shell carry-on luggage

Shiny exteriorCan age quickly
Easy to cleanLess packing space due to the rounded corner
LightweightNot flexible so may be difficult to squeeze into overhead compartment

Wheeled luggage vs spinner luggage

Wheeled luggage are typically carry-on bags with two wheels, and they tend to offer extra space for your items. 2-wheeled pieces also come with more durable and stronger wheels and they’re easier to move around –but you can only pull them behind you. Additionally, if you’re walking in a crowded space with little room to walk, you cannot drag wheeled luggage sideways.

Dual-wheeled carry-on luggage pros and cons

Extra spaceYou can’t push them in front of you or sideways
Easier to move on a rough surface
Wheel durability
More affordable

Spinner carry-on luggage, also referred to as four-wheel cases tend to be more comfortable compared to the two-wheeled version, but that comfort comes at a price.  You can drag them sideways, in front you or at the back, both on two wheels or four wheels with minimum effort. 

Spinner carry-on luggage pros and cons

Convenient in long queuesMay have less internal space depending on design
You can drag them in all directionsMay have weaker wheels
More convenient in crowded situations


Nowadays, you get two choices for carry on luggage interiors. Either a deep compartment with an outer flap, or a ‘sandwich’ construction where the suitcase is divided into 2 equal halves. The choice is purely your preference.

Space efficient

The best carry on luggage should be able to hold much more inside and a little outside. There are, however, some carry-on bags that hold little inside and much more outside. This makes them lose balance and collapse easily.

Zipper and lock

The best carry-on luggage in the industry features durable two-layer zips which are guaranteed to hold your belonging safely and stand the test of time. Look for a layer of zipping in the bottom and one layer on top featuring strong teeth. Top-rated carry-ons also have TSA approved locks to make sure no one can sneak items in your suitcase.


Good carry on luggage needs to have two carrying handles. One on the top of the bag and the other on the long side of the luggage to allow for suitcase style carrying. The two points of contact help you to easily sling it in the overhead compartment and car boots.  The handles should also be nicely cushioned and padded with thick extra wrapping.

Some pieces have optional backpack-style straps which you can either hide behind a zippered panel or detach and pack them. If you’re particularly tall, you will appreciate telescopic handles that come all the way up to your waist-height.

Appearance and quality

A great carry-on bag will look slim and professional, but some have a puffy and bulky exterior look, your choice. You also need to look for wear and water-resistant outer materials. If you choose to go with plastic, aluminium or polycarbonate carry-ons, make sure that they’re scratch resistant.

Built-in expansion

Not all but many high-quality carry-on bags feature built-in expansion/compression system that allows you to put all your clothes in and compress the bag at the end. These options are not always found in cheap carry on luggage.

Smart technology

How smart do you want your carry-on bag to be? Some high-end hard-shell bags feature built-in GPS, scale, and batteries to allow you to charge your devices and locate your luggage. These features are great, but they can sometimes they can create a headache at airports. If you take this route, make sure the lithium battery in your smart bag is removable.


Prices of carry-on luggage range from anywhere between $200 and $1000, and as you would expect, fancier, high-end and more expensive models tend to be high quality and more durable. You need to be careful though –not all highly priced carry-ons are the best, some might look fancy on the outside but won’t last long. 

Airline carry-on baggage policy

Most Airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal item per passenger for free. One to be stored in the overhead bin and one under the seat. However, some seats don’t have this storage option. So, you need to keep both carry-on pieces of baggage in the overhead compartment during take-off and landing. The carry on weight limit in the US for both of these bags varies from 18-lb to 22-lb depending on the airline.

The downside of carry-on luggage

While carry on luggage is great for travelling light, saving money and being convenient, they can be quite limiting. Travellers who are out on a longer vacation might find it harder to fit in everything that they will need for the trip. And many people become anxious when they feel like they are leaving behind something that they might need during the trip. 

This can be especially true if you’re planning a holiday full of outdoor activities such as camping and recreation. Supplies for such trips often don’t fit in a small carry-on bag. Leaving too many necessary items behind may mean more expensive purchases upon arrival.

If you love bringing back souvenirs for your friends and family, you may have a hard time fitting them in your carry-on luggage. The same goes for gifts. While we all love to give ourselves the challenge of minimal packing, travelling with kids and opting for hand luggage bags can be an challenge.

If you feel more comfortable also taking suitcases see here for our top recommendations.

Bottom line

Don’t let all those considerations intimidate you, buying the best carry on luggage is not really that complicated. All you need is to start with the basics and personal preferences, and the rest should just fall in place. I hope this guide helped to point you in the right direction when it comes to choosing carry-on luggage.

Well, those are our top favourite carry-on bags that are highly rated and loved across the entire travel and adventure industry. As usual, we’ve tried to mix up things a little when it comes to variety, brands, sizes, designs and price range. So we’re confident you won’t miss a piece here that will suit your exact travel needs.

Looking to update your backpack? You can read about the best backpack here or check our other buying guides.


Best carry on luggage buying guide

Complete guide to best carry-on luggage 2021

3 thoughts on “Complete guide to best carry-on luggage 2021”

  1. Years ago, I had a horrible experience with Antler suitcase. The handle got torn away even before I managed to take my new bag out of the house. Since then, I stick to Eagle Creek regardless of the type of luggage I am looking for. Perhaps, it’s unfair, but brand-name awareness matters.

  2. Rosalind Cuthbertson

    Thanks you for your comment Elena. I’m sorry to hear about your experience and I’m glad you found a brand that you like.

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