Whenever I travel, I opt for my trusty JanSport backpack as my carry-on bag. While it may give me flashbacks to middle and high school, it somehow manages to fit everything I need. However, now that I’ve hit my mid-twenties, I’m thinking it’s time for an upgrade. I recently bought sleek hardshell rolling suitcases and should have a carry-on that’s equally as chic.
I don’t often like rolling a suitcase for my carry-on; they’re bulky, hard to lift into the overhead cabin and don’t always comply with every airline’s bag policy. To ensure a smooth traveling experience, weekender bags, large totes and backpacks are ideal.
You and I are both in luck because there are so many stylish options on the market that’ll complete an airport OOTD. Dagne Dover, Away and Béis are paving the way for modern, minimalistic, functional travel essentials that won’t fall apart after a couple of years. But you can always rely on Amazon and Target to come through with more affordable options that are just as cute.
When searching for the best carry-on bag, make sure you consider size, design, special features, material and color. Size is perhaps the most important factor because airlines have size limitations for all carry-on bags. It has to fit under the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartment. Pay attention to the design and style, as in shape, because some prefer weekender silhouettes, while others lean towards backpacks. It’s all up to your personal preference and what works for you!
Special features is my favorite part. Does the bag come with adjustable or detachable straps? Does it have a slot that allows you to slide your bag through your hardshell luggage? What kind of an organizational system does it have inside? Definitely think about the material, too, because some are less forgiving than others when it comes to weather and spills. And last but not least is color. Opt for a neutral if you want a bag that’ll look good with every kind of airport outfit. But go for a louder color if you want your bag to stand out among the crowd.
Now that you know what to look out for, find 13 of the best carry-on bags of 2023 below, so you can jet set in style.
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Dagne Dover is known for its ultra-chic bags that prioritize organization, and one of the brand’s bestsellers, the Landon Carryall Bag, is a must-have. It features a laptop sleeve, an exterior pocket, a crossbody strap, a mesh pouch, a detachable key leash, three interior pockets, a shoe bag and a trolley sleeve for slipping it over your rolling suitcase. Wherever you’re headed and whatever you’re packing, this carryall has got you covered. It comes in sizes XS through XL and in six sophisticated colors, so pick your player.
If you’re shopping on a budget, don’t fret, there are plenty of affordable carry-ons, like the Duffel Weekender Bag from Target. Though it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of its pricier counterparts, it does feature an interior zipped pocket, cell phone pockets and a detachable adjustable strap.
If you’re all about simplicity and saving money, shop this versatile duffle bag. Nobody will guess you got it for just $35 at Amazon. The quilted material adds an elevated flair, and there are several pockets and compartments so that you don’t lose your passport at the bottom of your bag.
There’s been a lot of hype over Shay Mitchell’s brand, Béis. The buzz is well-deserved because the bags are so functional and well-designed. Think of every travel essential you might have and there’s a distinct place for it in The Convertible Weekender. Check out the fully removable bottom compartment that also serves as a packing cube (perfect for your shoes that got dirty from all that sightseeing!). A removable, padded laptop sleeve, a key fob, organizational pockets and a trolley sleeve will have you headed out the door and through TSA in a flash.
Go from work to the gym and your apartment to the airport with this duffle bag from Lululemon. It features a trolley-compatible sleeve, an exterior padded pocket for a 16-inch laptop and even a separate compartment for your sweaty gym clothes or dirty laundry. Now that is practicality at its finest.
If you’re striving to look like a coastal grandma boarding her private jet, grab Cuyana’s Leather Triple Zipper Weekender. It’s made in Turkey with durable Italian leather. As its name would suggest, there are three separate zippered compartments, along with three large slip pockets that’ll excite any organization guru.
Speaking from personal experience, this puffy backpack is the perfect traveling companion. I love that it slides right onto my rolling suitcase but is also comfortable to wear on my shoulders for long periods of time. The Walker Backpack can fit a lot more than I expected and has so many compartments and pockets that organize my belongings. It’s also made from 35 percent recycled plastic bottles—a huge bonus! The bag comes in two sizes and four colors, and I don’t see myself swapping this bag for another one any time soon.
There have been a few times when I’ve flown home and brought a ton of things to leave at my family’s house for good (small apartment problems, am I right?). I never quite knew what to do with the duffels and totes I emptied out and wish I had Away’s Packable Carryall with me. Not a lot of carry-on bags can be folded into a tiny zipped pouch, but this one can. It’s also a godsend for those with limited storage space at home.
If you can’t be bothered with pockets and pouches, this Stoney Clover Lane duffle bag is as simple as it gets. It has only one main compartment. Plus, it’s made from 100 percent cotton that has a denim finish, topped off with gold-tone hardware. It’s the bag that can effortlessly level up any airport “groutfit.”
Hear me out: Diaper bags might be the way to go if you prefer to travel hands-free and with the most organized bag of the bunch. Shop the Indi Diaper Backpack in sizes S to L and in six of Dagne Dover’s signature colorways. It comes with so many compartments, pockets and add-ons that’ll have you prepared to face any travel SOS.
This travel bag screams “Do not disturb—I’m off to Europe.” It’s made from Paravel’s spill-proof EcoCraft Canvas and recycled vegan leather. Spill-proof is definitely something to look out for when buying a new carry-on, in case of accidental toiletry or snack leakages. According to the brand, it can fit four to five sweaters, four to five pants or dresses and a week’s worth of shirts, socks and underwear. What can’t you fit in this duffle? Even better, get your initials monogrammed in paint or embroidery—how chic!
Coming in vegan leather or nylon, the Metro Weekender is one of the classiest picks on this list. Both materials are water and scratch-resistant, and the trolley sleeve converts into a pocket when it’s not in use. What’s more: There’s a separate zippered compartment at the bottom for shoes and dirty clothes—drawstring bag included!
This is no ordinary duffle, and we say that because it expands and contracts to adjust the shape and size of the bag. Plus, you get Longchamp’s signature water-resistant nylon and leather trim combo—luxe indeed!