When the travel bug strikes, will you have what you need to pack for your flight? Or would you plan on using one suitcase for whatever adventure awaits? If you’re thinking the latter, think again. Using a basic suitcase for all your travel needs may seem economical at first, but it can make your trip miserable. Not every trip requires a big suitcase. And even the ones that do are easier if you have a carry-on with you for any essentials.
After all, checked luggage does get lost, so having your makeup and at least one spare outfit can be helpful in a bind. If you have a flight in your future, or if you simply want to be prepared for a quick weekend getaway, we’ve got you covered. Here are the results of our research on what bags you can use as carry-ons and why you should use them.
Before we delve into the best bags to use as carry-ons, it’s important to note that each airline has its own carry-on restrictions. Some let you take along a carry-on as well as a personal item, such as a purse, backpack, or diaper bag that can easily fit under the seat in front of you. The carry-on is separate and is intended to be stowed in the overhead bin. And since that bin has limited space that other passengers are fighting over, you need to make sure yours meets your airline’s requirements, or you’ll end up having to check it and possibly pay extra. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your carry-on is no larger than 9 x 14 x 22 inches, including any handles and wheels.
Some of the best trips are the unexpected short ones. Imagine saying to your friends or your significant other, “Let’s take a three-day weekend and fly to Vegas.” A women’s weekender bag works great for that purpose because it is big enough for a pair of shoes or two, a couple of outfits, pajamas, and toiletries. It’s typically a fancy name for a compact duffel bag that is easy to carry and transport, whether via plane, train, or automobile. But choose your weekender bag wisely. Zippers need to be sturdy and well-made, compartments need to offer easy organization, and shoulder straps must be comfortable.
While weekender bags certainly have their purpose, they can be a bit heavy. That’s fine when you’re only carrying them for short distances, but if you find yourself at an airport with gates that are football fields apart, you might prefer something with wheels that you can pull behind you. Remember that just because a bag has wheels doesn’t mean it will be accepted as a carry-on. Plenty of luggage options come with wheels, but unless they meet the dimensions that your airline requires, you can’t consider them as carry-ons.
Today’s women’s travel bags have come a long way. Smart retailers like Lands’ End know the unique needs of female travelers and have created carry-ons that are more user-friendly for people of all sizes. For example, some carry-ons easily convert from a duffel bag to a shoulder bag or from a shoulder bag to a backpack, making them multifunctional while freeing up your hands for your plane ticket or water bottle. Extra compartments are also always appreciated—especially if you’re carrying shoes and toiletries that need to be separated from the rest of your clothes. Just make sure your multifunctional travel bag meets most airlines’ requirements.
Following the “I’ve got my hands full” traveler is understandably the “I’m traveling with kids” traveler. Parents have enough to juggle on their own when flying, let alone adding kids to the equation. So purchasing carry-ons that your kids can handle themselves is a great way to simplify your journey while freeing up your hands. Kids will definitely appreciate a backpack with wheels since it acts as a backpack when they need it to, but they can drag it behind them when it feels too heavy. It’s worth considering a personalized backpack with wheels as well. Adding their initials or a cute emoji may make them more interested and excited to carry it.
If your job requires you to travel on occasion, you’ve likely become familiar with the types of items you need to pack. That makes packing easy because packing becomes second nature once you know what you need and what you don’t need. Your necessities are likely more minimal than they’d be for a vacation, and you can more easily fit everything into a carry-on. For those short trips, a laptop backpack is ideal because it’s roomy enough for a couple of changes of clothes and toiletries, and it protects your laptop as well. After all, you wouldn’t want to send a laptop through checked luggage, considering how it gets tossed around by baggage handlers.
Whichever traveler you are, choosing a carry-on that fits your needs, instead of adjusting your needs based on your carry-on can make your trip much more hassle-free and enjoyable.