Home Editors' Picks Which of these 3 suitcases is the best carry-on?

Which of these 3 suitcases is the best carry-on?

by Jan Schroder
three suitcases with best carryone question

Determined not to join the sad Lost Luggage Club whose membership is exploding in Europe, I vowed to pack for a six-week trip in a carryon. 

Have you seen those photos of literally thousands of suitcases lined up in some airports, 95% of them identical looking black bags? I think of the thousands of owners of those suitcases wearing drugstore underwear, forlorn expressions and socks they washed out in the sink.

I am not going to be one of those people. If we had direct flights, I’d consider it, but we were going to be traveling through Amsterdam where in June 16,000 suitcases were piled up in and outside the airport due to a staffing shortage.

But which suitcase should I take? I decided to try three suitcase to select the best one – one I already owned and two I purchased.

There was one clear winner and that suitcase will come with me as we travel through Portugal.

Follow me on Instagram @Jan Schroder for more travel tips.

What I’m Packing for a 6-Week Trip

Here are all the items I plan to pack in my suitcase.

The first step when trying to pack in a carryon only is to check the size requirement of baggage for your airlines. If you are traveling to and within Europe, weight restrictions can be an issue as well.

We will be flying on KLM with a weight allowance of 50 pounds so I didn’t have to worry about weight too much. I did have to convert the cm measurements given to inches. (Why, oh why can’t the U.S. convert to the way more logical metric system like the rest of the world?)

I love my packing cubes and use them for any trip longer than a long weekend. But because I’ll be packing sweaters and a down coat I’ll be using later in the trip, I decided to try some compression packing cubes and purchased these Cambond 4-pack compression cubes. You get four cubes in your choice of eight colors for less than $30.

I was surprised how much I could fit into these cubes and recommend them.

Here’s my list of items:

4 dresses
I pair pajamas
7 pairs underwear
Yoga pants 
7 pairs socks
Jeans jacket
Bathing suit
3 pairs jeans
Down coat
2 scarves
4 sweaters
6 shirts
Travelon anti-theft messenger bag
Foldable travel duffel bag
Rain Poncho
Curling iron/straightener *

* I highly recommend the curling iron/straightener. It’s compact, dual voltage and really works well.

I am taking three pairs of shoes. I’ll wear my Clark’s boots on the plane and packing my On Cloud tennis shoes and Skechers Cleo ballet flats.

I’ll carry my makeup, chargers, iPad, laptop, phone and other items I need on the plane in either a backpack or other bag I have.

The Contenders for Best Carryon

Amazon Basic, $65
An inside shot of my Amazon suitcase. I thought this one might be the one.

Although we have several suitcases, most of them were too small or too large for this trip. I had one contender, my trusty Amazon basic suitcase that I’ve had for three years. It has traveled with me on several trips and held up really well.

(My exact suitcase is temporarily out of stock, but here’s another one that comes in three colors for $60.98.)

I really like this suitcase, particularly the front pockets where I can store my laptop or a few pairs of shoes.

When it comes to choosing between two wheels and four, I will always opt for four wheels as I find them easier to navigate.

Ricardo, Costco, $69.99
The Ricardo is a nice suitcase and comes with a laundry bag and packing cube.

I tried a hard-sided suitcase once, and didn’t love that I had to have a large space to open it completely to access it. I also like having outside pockets to store items in, but then when I thought about it, I realized any items I need immediate access to will be in my personal item.

And I’ve been reading a lot of Facebook posts and people seem to love the hard-sided suitcases so I thought I’d give it a try. Plus, this is a really affordable price for a suitcase.

Away Bigger Carryon, $295
The Away suitcase has one side that zips up and can compress items.

Away suitcases seem to have a large and ardent fan base. So I began to research them because no way am I spending this much money on something I haven’t thoroughly checked out.

I read a New York Times article with the headline Are Away Carry-Ons Worth the Hype? That was my question exactly. I mean everyone has been crazy about Ugg boots for years and I still find them hideous so hype doesn’t carry a lot of sway with me.

The author agreed with my assessment of hard-sided suitcases – not a big fan – and claims they are not as durable as soft-sided ones. But they are typically lighter, sleeker looking and come in more colors and prints.

Their answer to the question raised in the headline was yes, they are worth the hype, mentioning the sturdy zippers and easy-rolling wheels.

That recommendation plus the 100-day trial period and lifetime warranty Away offers inspired me to pull out my American Express and order the bag.

The lifetime warranty covers things like fabric tears and wheels, handles or zippers that break. The company covers shipping costs to and from repair centers.

I immediately got a tracking number, received the suitcase in about five days, then got another email asking if I had any questions that included a link to a video instructing me how to set the lock.

I ordered the new teal color, which did not have the option for the built-in charger available with other colors for an additional $20. It came with a laundry bag and a white eraser to get rid of marks on the outside.

Which Suitcase Held the Most?

Sadly, my Amazon suitcase would not hold all the items I wanted to pack.

I gathered up my clothes in the packing cubes and added additional items I would be taking, then put them inside each suitcase.

As you can see, they did not fit into the Amazon suitcase, a disappointment as I’d hoped to take this one.

Even after expanding it, the Ricardo suitcase was not going to zip closed.

They also did not fit inside the Ricardo suitcase. I liked this suitcase and the price is great, but I returned it.

So, you’ve guessed it now. The winner is the Away suitcase. I was shocked how much more seemed to fit in it than the others, especially my Amazon suitcase that seemed about the same size. I put the largest packing cube, which has my down coat and sweaters, on the zippered side and that worked well.

I still have a few little pockets of space where I can stow a few other items. I’m not taking much jewelry and will be able to fit a few pieces in here easily.

My items fit in the Away suitcase. It’s the winner!

It is an expensive suitcase, but I’m hopeful I’ll be carrying it for years to come. But it won’t be this exact suitcase. My husband took the photo of me below and after checking out the suitcase, decided he wanted one too. And his favorite color is teal, so how could I say no?

So I’m grabbing my credit card to order another one.

Me with the winning suitcase that my husband will now be using.

@Jan Schroder, Editor-in-chief

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Suzy September 6, 2022 - 6:47 pm

I also have been traveling with the Away bag and really love how much I can fit in it. My bag did crack on the corner, and I got a swift replacement with an online transaction (not waiting on a phone call for hours), so they stay true to their promise.

Jan Schroder September 6, 2022 - 10:22 pm

That is really good to hear!

Mello September 7, 2022 - 7:07 am

Sadly most of the flying that I do is with Air Transat and they have a 20 inch (wheel to handle) policy…..Away’s smallest is bigger than 20 inches.

Jan Schroder September 7, 2022 - 9:28 am

That is a challenge! And some airlines are strict about the size of the personal item.

Marcia Bansley September 7, 2022 - 5:22 pm

Take less travel pants. Only two pair is enough.

Jan Schroder September 7, 2022 - 6:22 pm

Good tip!

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