The Best Affordable Carry-On Luggage
Travel can be expensive. And while you might not be able to compromise on the cost of your hotel or flight, one area where you can definitely save is on your luggage. There’s no need to spend $500 on a rolling suitcase — especially considering the wear and tear it’ll face — because the best affordable carry-on luggage will get your things from point A to point B for less than $150.
But not all cheap bags are winners, and not all bags suit every person’s needs. So before you purchase a new carry-on suitcase, consider the following:
Types of luggage: There are a couple of different types of bags that can be used as a carry-on. The most obvious is a traditional suitcase, which allows you to roll your items with ease, rather than burdening your back or shoulders. Backpacks and duffel bags can be used as carry-on luggage, too. They can be convenient if you’re going somewhere with terrain that a wheeling bag can’t handle, but keep in mind that you’ll have to carry them throughout your travels, no matter how heavy they get.
Luggage size: Generally speaking, a carry-on bag that is intended for the overhead bin on a domestic flight usually has to be 22 by 14 by 9 inches or less, including the handle and wheels. While these are measurements to keep in mind while shopping, make sure to check your airline’s rules to find out what their size allowance is for carry-on bags (the region in which you are traveling can also impact this). There are usually no restrictions when it comes to the weight of a carry-on bag, so long as you are physically able to lift it overhead and put it in the bin (or ask a kind stranger to help you do so). If you would rather store your bag under the seat in front of you, your carry-on will have to be considerably smaller since this space is usually reserved for a “personal item,” like a purse or briefcase. Specifications vary, but think compact.
Soft- vs hard-sided suitcases: If you decide to go the traditional rolling suitcase route, one decision you’ll have to make is whether to purchase a soft or hard-sided bag. Most people use soft-sided luggage. Made from a variety of different fabrics, a soft-sided suitcase tends to be lightweight and flexible, meaning it is easier to squeeze in an overhead bin or overfill with souvenirs. Hard-sided luggage, which is often made of plastic, tends to offer more security for your items since it can’t be ripped open like fabric can. It can certainly get scratched and scuffed, though, so don’t expect it to look brand new forever. Plus, it tends to be a little heavier.
These five carry-ons are certainly low in price, but Amazon reviewers say they have lasted through countless trips.
1. The Best Soft-Sided Suitcase With Wheels
With a 31-liter capacity, this 5.5.-pound soft-sided luggage from AmazonBasics makes the perfect carry-on. The polyester interior has an organizer with three zippered pockets, so that you can easily stow all of your necessities, and four 360-degree spinner wheels allow you to roll through an airport without your bag slowing you down. This pick is also expandable, and since it's a soft-sided bag, you can really squeeze in any souvenirs you might obtain on your travels.
With more than 900 reviews for this line of luggage and a 4.3-star rating, reviewers say that these suitcases are not only functional, but also super sturdy.
"This is a terrific deal! I recently used this luggage for a ten day trip to Europe. It survived airports, trains, cobble stone roads, trunks of vans and fit nicely in the overhead bin for airplane carry-on. If your aim is light and efficient packing for travel, this is a great option," wrote one reviewer.
Choose from two colors, black or navy, and if you are going on a short trip or don’t have much to bring, this pick also comes in a smaller 18-inch size.
2. The Best Hard-Sided Suitcase With Wheels
This carry-on luggage from Kenneth Cole Reaction is serious about protecting your stuff, with a super-strong hardshell exterior so that you don’t have to worry about the bag accidentally tearing open. Inside the suitcase, you’ll find multiple features designed to help keep your items sorted. Two compartments allow for double-sided packing, an interior pocket can store smaller items, and straps hold it all in place. The four spinner wheels facilitate smooth, 360-degree movement, and the handle is made of a durable aluminum for long-lasting use.
Hardshell bags can weigh a ton, but this one comes in at just 6.25 pounds, and reviewers on Amazon say that it’s pretty perfect.
"I can't believe how light this hard case luggage is. It is impeccably crafted and the color is so eye-catching and beautiful. The wheels work perfectly and glides over almost any surface. I was most pleased with how roomy it is inside. The inside flap with the zipper REALLY makes a huge difference. [...] I would definitely recommend this suitcase if you're looking for something light, roomy, stylish, and perfect for carry-on," one reviewer explained.
Choose from a range of colors, from your basic black to a bright pink.
3. A Carry-on Duffel Bag With A Shoe Compartment
You’ll be shocked by how much you can tote around in this carry-on size duffel bag from MarsBro. Throw your clothing and larger necessities in the big interior compartment, tuck your keys and phone in the front zip pocket, and stow your valuables in the internal security pocket. The best part? There's also a ventilated shoe compartment so that you can store your shoes separately from the rest of your stuff. The compartment should get a lot of use, even if you have larger feet, as one reviewer wrote, “I'm a big guy with big size 17 shoes, and miraculously--the shoe compartment holds my big giant shoes! Great surprise high quality buy.”
The bag is made from a durable polyester and has a water-resistant artificial leather lining. The adjustable cushioned strap makes it comfortable to carry, though it weighs only 0.8 pounds on its own.
Choose from a variety of colors — and when you’re not traveling, this pick also makes a great gym bag.
4. A Comfortable Backpack That Keeps Your Items Organized
If you need to be super mobile where wheeled bags can't easily go (i.e. cobblestones, dirt roads, staircases), this backpack from eBags is a great way to stay organized at the same time.
The number of storage pockets in this pick is unbelievable; the backpack features two exterior quick-grab pockets, a side spot for a water bottle, an interior zip-around mesh panel pocket, a padded laptop sleeve, and more. But don’t be overwhelmed — it’s all super strategically placed and makes life so much easier.
Even if you load it up with heavy belongings, an adjustable sternum strap and breathable back panel keep you cool and comfortable. Bottom and side handles make it easy to grab the pack off an overhead compartment or from under-bus storage.
All of this certainly warrants the slightly higher price tag, but at just over $100, it's still cheaper than most other luggage options. And with more than 1,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.6-star rating overall, it’s safe to say that reviewers think it's worth the dough.
“This bag is amazing! My boyfriend and I got these bags for our two week trip to Europe. It was clearly designed by someone who travels often with the different pockets and easy accessibility,” one reviewer wrote.
This backpack comes in a rainbow of 10 different color options.
5. A Wheeled Carry-On That Will Fit Under Most Plane Seats
This super compact carry-on from Samsonite is small enough to fit under seats on many (but not all) planes, making it a great pick if you don’t have much to pack or you just don’t want to mess with putting your bag in the overhead compartment. It measures at just 12.5 inches-by-9 inches-by-14 inches in size, is made of a durable polyester and nylon blend, and has wheels for easy maneuvering. This pick also features some really nice compartments to keep your items organized.
With more than 2,400 reviews on Amazon and 4.4-star rating overall, people who fly super often have great things to say about this carry-on.
“I'm flight attendant so I use this small bag almost daily.[...] Its narrow frame rolls down even the narrowest aisles very easily and it fits under the seat, even when pretty fully packed! It has SO many compartments, even a removable compartment that can be used for bathroom toiletries. [...]. I've found that several of my fellow crewmates have this bag (some even more than one) and everyone loves it,” one reviewer wrote.
Choose from four different bag colors. If you like the bag but want to get a larger version to stow in the overhead compartment, Samsonite also makes this suitcase in a regular carry-on size.
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