A sturdy, well-designed carry-on bag is one of the most important products any traveler can buy -- especially if you're looking to pack light and avoid checking a suitcase. But while there are plenty of pricey carry-ons on the market ($2,900 Gucci, anyone?), you don't need to spend a fortune to find a solid carry-on that can serve you well all over the globe.
In our search for the best affordable carry-on luggage, we looked for bags that cost less than $150 and fit within the major U.S. airlines' current size restrictions, which are smaller than they used to be at 22 x 14 x 9 inches. (Southwest is one exception, with a more roomy 24 x 16 x 10 maximum size.) We also scoped out a variety of bag types, from hardside spinners to rolling duffels. Finally, we chose only bags that were well reviewed by customers on Amazon. Check out our roundup of the best carry-on luggage.
Hardside Spinner Suitcases
Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion Hardside Spinner 20": We love the brushed look on the exterior of this suitcase, which appears stylish but also helps hide scuff marks. Inside is a main compartment with compression straps, with a zippered section and two mesh pockets on the other side. There's a built-in TSA combination lock, but unfortunately no side handle. The bag measures 21.5 x 13.5 x 9.64 inches, according to the Samsonite website, and weighs 6.7 pounds. Price: $79.99 and up.
Rockland Melbourne 20-Inch Expandable Abs Carry On Luggage: This affordable Amazon bestseller comes in nearly two dozen different colors including lime, turquoise and magenta (of course, basic black is an option too). Inside are a main compartment with compression straps and a zippered section, and there are handles on both the top and the side. Its size when expanded is a smidge over most U.S. airlines' limits (22.1 x 14.4 x 9.2 inches), but it's close enough that most travelers shouldn't have an issue. Price: $49.99 and up.
Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 4-Wheel, 20-Inch Upright Suitcase: This seven-pound carry-on is sleek and attractive, available in nearly a dozen colors. With the wheels it comes in right around the airline size limit for carry-ons (21.75 x 15.25 x 9 inches), and it includes handles on the top and side for easy hoisting. There's a large zippered compartment inside, as well as a smaller zippered pocket for odds and ends, and a main compartment with compression straps. Price: $55.99 and up.
Softside Spinner Suitcases
Travelpro Maxlite 4 21-Inch Expandable Spinner: If you're looking for a lightweight bag from a reputable brand, consider this Travelpro offering, which weighs just 5.9 pounds. Nice touches include a water-repellent coating amd a telescoping handle that locks at two different lengths. The bag is expandable, but the tapered design helps the weight stay balanced. There's a large pocket on the exterior of the bag, as well as a mesh compartment inside, plus a zippered pouch for incidentals. Price: $105 and up.
Samsonite Mightlight 2 19-Inch Spinner: Samsonite offers a slightly larger version of this bag, but that one might run afoul of your airline's carry-on size restrictions. Err on the side of caution with this 19-inch spinner, which weighs a mere 5.8 pounds and measures 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 inches with wheels, according to the Samsonite website. This bag is handy for travelers who like to stay organized, with multiple pockets inside and out. Alas, it only comes in one color (black). Price: $125.99 on sale.
Global Traveler Shannon Falls Collection 19" Spinner: This basic, affordable carry-on -- which comes only in teal -- will keep you organized with multiple front pouches as well as an internal mesh zippered pocket. The bag expands up to 1.5 inches for a little extra space and has a side handle for easy carrying. At 20 x 14 x 8.5 inches, the bag will fit in most overhead bins. Price: $69.99.
Lucas Wheeled Under-the-Seat Cabin Bag: If you want a bag small enough to go under the seat in front of you on the plane, consider this compact offering, which measures 15.7 x 15.7 x 9.8 inches. The bag includes multiple interior and exterior pockets, as well as some fun extras: a hanging cosmetic satchel, travel slippers and a document holder. It comes in red, black or blue. Price: $49.99 on sale.
Samsonite Wheeled Underseater: An even more compact option is this Samsonite bag, which measures 13 x 13 x 9 inches. Despite its small size, it's stuffed with handy zippered pockets for easy organization, including side pockets that can hold water bottles and a removable pouch for travel-size liquids and gels. This bag is currently available only in black. Price: $68.75.
Travelon 18-Inch Wheeled Underseat Bag: At 18 x 14 x 9 inches, this bag is right on the line between an under-seat bag and a full-size rolling carry-on. It's got a padded pouch inside the main compartment for a laptop, along with a single exterior pocket that will hold a tablet, book and/or clear bag of liquids and gels. The roomy main compartment has a couple of compression straps to keep clothes in place. Price: $65.63.
Rolling Duffel Bags
World Traveler Black White Damask Rolling Wheeled Duffel Bag: This pretty black and white bag can be carried over your shoulder, held by the hand straps or rolled along behind you. Exterior and interior pockets help keep travelers organized, and the bag packs mostly flat when it's empty for easy storage at home or hotel. The bag measures 21 x 11 x 11 inches, so you won't have to worry about fitting it into an overhead bin. Price: $49.99 on sale.
Kattee Luggage Rolling Duffel Bag Leather Trim Canvas Wheeled Travel Bag: This attractive bag features leather trim, a roomy main compartment, and plenty of pockets inside and out. There's a retractable trolley handle, as well as shoulder and hand straps, so you can carry it three different ways. We saw conflicting reports on this bag's size (the Kattee official site confusingly lists it at both 20.87 x 16.53 x 9.05 inches and 21.7 x 14.8 x 10.2 inches), but the fact that it's a duffel means that you can squish it into most overhead bins and airport bag sizers. Price: $79.99 on sale.
What type of carry-on bag do you use? Share your pick in the comments.
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-- written by Sarah Schlichter