It’s (practically) May, peeps, which means we’re in prime time travel season. Hopping on a plane to jet off into the sunset speaks to our hearts, but we first have to face a mortal enemy: the airport. There’s nothing that kills the vibe more on a trip than getting stopped at a bag-check station. We personally try to never check a bag at all costs. Unfortunately, being a big bad adult means making grown-up purchases, so before we cop a fresh pair of shades for our next beach vacay, let’s get you the best carry-on luggage that our tight budgets can buy.
We scouted out some bangin’ options so you can effortlessly sail through security and enjoy a pre-flight cocktail before heading to your gate. Without further ado, here are the best carry-on suitcases and travel bags that will prevent unsolicited, airport-stress-induced tears.
Béis Carry-On Roller
Anything that glides across the airport on wheels is an A+ in our books, whether that’s a pair of Heelys or this glossy suitcase from Béis. Fly through the TSA line with the Carry-On Roller’s 360-degree, smooth-rolling wheels and trolley handle—sizing starts at 21” for easy, overhead storage. Even more exciting? Beis just launched a neon-rave-colored collection in time for festival season.
Travelpro Maxlite 5 Expandable Carry-On Spinner
This big guy has padding in all the right places, and the cushioned body also has two front pockets so you can store your latest lineup of snacks and hair care products, worry-free. We also tend to be guilty of being fashionably late, so the Travelpro’s patented, contoured grip and four-wheel, 360-degree rotating spinners will allow you to glide across the terminal while you sprint to catch that flight. It’s also available in more than a dozen colors.
Away The Carry-On
Away, the big daddy brand of suitcases, is one of our favorite travel gear slingers in the game. We especially love The Carry-On’s durable, hidden, hard-shell laundry bag, which lets you keep your sweat-drenched summer clothes separate from your fresh, unsoiled garb while on the go. It also features a combination lock for extra protection, because no one is stealing our (not-so-precious) timepieces. For an extra $20, equip it with a built-in USB charger to keep your phone juiced while you wait for security.
Amazon Basics Hardside Spinner
We all love a bargain option, and this 21-inch Hardside Spinner is certainly a steal. The body has a scratch-resistant finish and a protective, extra-thick ABS hard shell (we adore a swole lad), along with four double spinner wheels and an interior organizer. Innovation at a great price.
Herschel Supply Co. Tech Novel Duffle
Duffels are the perfect option for short weekend trips or an impromptu rendezvous. This Herschel Supply Co. duffle has a nifty shoe compartment to easily store an extra pair of kicks, and internal organizers to store tech and travel essentials. You can also attach it to your rolling luggage for smooth movin’ through the airport.
Yeti Crossroads 22L Backpack
This Yeti backpack is for minimalist peeps who like to pack light… but are forced to bring a laptop and periodically check Slack during their travels. We love that there’s a special, padded laptop vault to protect your precious MacBook at all costs. (Yeti really thinks of everything, which explains the brand’s cult-like following.) Don’t worry, there's also plenty of room for other things, including your 15 pairs of vintage swim trunks.
The Monos Carry-On is described as having an award-winning design, telescopic handle, and “whisper-quiet wheels,” which is almost enough to seal the deal for us. With its five-star rating, polycarbonate shell, TSA-approved lock, and built-in compression pad, we couldn’t resist popping this into our shopping cart.
Calpak Compakt Duffel Bag
Stuff this Calpak nylon fabric duffle to the brim with souvenirs from your latest getaway (or just fill it with sex toys). It’s also water-resistant, collapses into itself for compact storage, has exterior and interior pockets, and is lightweight. (Calpak also makes compression packing cubes for chronic over-packers).
Samsonite Freeform Carry-On Spinner
Samsonite is a classic when it comes to luggage—and for good reason. The brand’s Freeform Carry-On Spinner has a cross ribbon and divider to hold all your essentials for an epic excursion, along with plenty of pockets and a built-in ID tag if you do need to ever check bags—god forbid.
ROAM The Jaunt Custom Carry-On
So you don’t want your suitcase getting confused with anybody else’s on the conveyer belt? No prob—customize your own hardshell suitcase from ROAM. Pick the colors for everything—including the hardshell, to the zippers, or the side handle—and enjoy an interior with a special compression packing system that allows you to maximize space.
Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus
Paravel makes handsome, durable suitcases using carbon-neutral materials and practices, and its suitcases have quickly become status luggage. The Carry-On Plus fits up to a week’s worth of clothes as well as two to four pairs of shoes and glides on 360-degree double spinner wheels with carbon steel bearings. It also comes equipped with an interior compression board, a textured finish designed to hide scuffs, and a removable laundry bag, as well as a plethora of pockets.
So you’re worried about international travel?
Don’t sweat it—you should be safe with any of the carry-ons on the list, but if you’re feeling really nervous after a particular traumatizing lost bag situation, opt for a slightly smaller carry-on that will definitely pass every airlines restrictions, no matter how teeny-tiny. You can always check your specific airline here, but under 21 inches, and you’re pretty much in the clear, dog.
Wrangler Smart Luggage Set
Yep, denim brand Wrangler makes suitcases, and its Smart Luggage line integrates a patented 3-in-1 cup holder, as well as a USB port, and phone holder, so you can sip your macchiato airport Starbucks in high-tech comfort while you wait for your delayed flight for hours! It also comes in three sizes (with the smallest being only 20 inches high), as well as in burnt orange, olive green, and a slick navy. “I purchased this item as an early Christmas gift for my kids since they were visiting family for Thanksgiving,” reads one of the many great reviews on Amazon. “They said they loved the smoothness in rolling the luggage through the airport. They loved the beverage holder as well.”
Calpak Trnk Carry-On Luggage
This dignified-looking trunk is only 20.5 inches tall and even comes in a 16.5-inch mini version. The sophisticated faux croc exterior will last much longer than an actual leather bag (you’ve seen them toss those bags), and compress everything you need.
Gate check? I don’t know her.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.