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Are you searching for the best carry-on luggage for women to avoid checking luggage on your next trip? Traveling carry-on only has so many benefits – I’ve been doing it for over five years!
Checking your luggage takes time and costs money, not to mention the stress over whether the airline will lose your case or damage it in transit.
And even if you aren’t traveling by plane, a carry-on case can also be handy for car or rail journeys. They’re so much more compact than larger cases and easy to fit into tight spaces in the trunk of your car or lift up into overhead storage on trains.
Whatever your reason for buying a carry-on, it’s essential to ensure that the case you buy has all the features you need, and it helps if it looks great too. But there are so many fantastic carry-on cases for women, so it can be hard to know where to start.
In this guide, I’ll share my top picks for the best carry-on luggage for women, with all the best luggage brands and the info you need to know before buying.
Best carry-on luggage for women
#1. Nomatic Carry-on Classic
Material: Polycarbonate | Item weight 7.5 lbs | Dimensions 22 x 14 x 9″
The Nomatic Carry-on Classic is the carry-on I use and the best option for carry-on luggage for digital nomads, designed with a nomadic lifestyle in mind.
It may look like a standard carry-on, but the highly durable Makrolon Polycarbonate shell, high-quality finish, and innovative features set it apart from the rest of the class.
The Hinomoto smooth-rolling wheels make slipping through busy airports a breeze, and the telescopic handle makes it easy to slide on extra bags.
Inside, the magnetic straps and folding compression panels work like magic to fit far more into this case than a standard carry-on, especially if you use the Nomatic compression bags (sold separately).
The Nomatic Carry-on Classic is ideal for 3-6 day long trips, and with careful packing, you can even fit enough clothing in for 5-7 days. Honestly, I’ve been traveling the world full-time using just this suitcase and a backpack!
#2. Briggs & Riley Sympatico 21″
Material Polycarbonate | Item weight 8.6 lbs | Dimensions 14 x 9 x 21”
If you have the budget to pay a little extra for your case, this bag is certainly one of the best carry-on suitcases for women.
The adjustable ergonomic handle and four lightweight double spinner wheels give fantastic ease of use, and the adjustable interior compression system keeps your clothing wrinkle-free. And the expandable design offers 22% extra space, which is handy when you travel by train or road.
The Briggs & Riley Sympatico 21″ case has handy features like a hideaway ID tag, a built-in TSA-approved combination lock, and a power pocket to keep your cell phone secure while it charges (battery not included).
This hard-side case gets excellent reviews online and is built to last, with an unconditional lifetime warranty and no-questions-asked free repair service.
#3. Delsey Paris Chatelet Hard Spinner
Material Polycarbonate | Item weight 9.3 lbs | Dimensions 9.5 x 20.25 x 14.25”
If you’re looking for lightweight and durable hard-sided luggage with stylish looks, the Delsey Paris Chatelet Hard Spinner could be the ideal case for you. Its robust polycarbonate shell is designed with vintage-style vegan leather details that make it stand out from the crowd.
The four spinner wheels give stability and multi-directional rolling for lightweight maneuverability, and the case also has a recessed TSA-approved 3-dial combination lock for added security.
The unique brake system lets you lock two wheels so the case can’t drift away from you, but there’s also a version available without the brake. This version is a little lighter, which could be important if weight is a factor in your decision.
The deluxe Delsey Paris Chatelet Hard Spinner features two large interior compartments with web straps to keep your clothing secure and wrinkle-free. There’s a removable hanger plus bags for your shoes and dirty clothes.
#4. AmazonBasics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner
Material ABS | Item weight 9.3 lbs | Dimensions 14.96 x 10 x 21.65”
When it comes to affordable carry-on luggage for women, the AmazonBasics 21-inch Hardside Spinner gives you a lot of value for your money.
The AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner is a great budget carry-on case that’s ideal for weekends away or international travel. It has an extra-thick ABS shell with a rugged scratch-resistant finish to avoid some of the marks that can show up on ABS cases and can be expanded for 15% extra packing space when needed.
The sturdy telescopic main handle and four double-spinner wheels give the case stability and smooth maneuverability in any direction. There’s also a securely mounted side handle for when you need to stow your case up high.
The fully lined case has three zippered interior pockets for storing small items and a divider to help you organize your clothes.
#5. Delsey Softside Spinner Suitcase
Material Polyester | Item weight 6.7 lbs | Dimensions 14.25 x 10 x 23”
If you’ve struggled to lift hard-sided luggage into overhead bins before, a soft side carry-on might suit you better.
This lightweight Delsey Softside Spinner case weighs just 6.7 lbs, and its four Dual Density, double-spinner wheels make navigating the airport a breeze. It has a surprisingly durable polyester exterior, while the exterior pockets give quick access to your travel essentials.
This is a no-frills case, so there’s no built-in USB port, but it’s roomy enough to carry everything you need for short trips. Shoe pockets, a wet pocket, and small zippered internal pockets keep your belongings organized, while webbing straps keep your clothing securely in place.
And the removable, machine-washable lining is a unique and practical feature on this Delsey case, which is covered by a 10-year limited warranty.
#6. Travelpro Platinum Elite Softside Expandable Spinner
Material Nylon | Item weight 7.8 lbs | Dimensions 9 x 14.5 x 23.5”
Business travelers tend to be tough on their luggage, so the Travelpro Platinum Elite Softside model is ideal if you need a durable case for frequent travel.
Its strong nylon fabric comes in seven different colors, and the leather detailing and chrome zippers give it a luxe look. It has an adjustable handle and 360-degree spinner wheels but also glides easily when tilted back on two wheels.
This softside carry-on has some impressive features that are ideal for regular business travel. Its nylon outer is tough enough to resist abrasion damage, and the chrome zippers are water-resistant to help keep your belongings dry.
There are plenty of interior compartments and a garment bag to keep your clothing organized, a TSA-approved case for liquids, and built-in USB port (battery not included).
Lightweight, durable, and packed with features, the Travelpro Platinum Elite could be the best luggage for women frequently traveling on business trips.
#7. Away Bigger Carry-On
Material Polycarbonate | Item weight 8.1 lbs | Dimensions 9 x 13.7 x 21.7”
Spacious, lightweight, and available in an array of gorgeous colors, the stylish Away Bigger Carry On is a great option if you’re shopping for carry-on luggage for women.
There’s a lot of chatter online about this stylish bag, but it lives up to the hype. The sturdy polycarbonate shell is exceptionally durable, and 360-degree spinner wheels make negotiating your way around the airport simple.
The Away Bigger Carry-on is secured with a built-in TSA-approved lock, and inside the bag, you’ll find features like a hidden laundry bag and compression straps to maximize the space for your clothes.
You can select options to personalize your bag or add a removable charger with a battery pack. And you can return your Away carry-on after the 100-day trial period, even if you’ve already used it.
#8. Vera Bradley Hardside Rolling Suitcase
Material Polycarbonate | Item weight 9.23 lbs | Dimensions 10 x 14 x 22”
If you’re tired of traveling with a carry-on that looks the same as everyone else’s, the Vera Bradley Hardside Rolling Suitcase is the perfect carry-on luggage for you.
It comes in a range of eye-catching designs that will stand out from all the others at the airport. That’s really handy if space in the cabin runs out and you have to retrieve your checked bag from all the black suitcases in baggage reclaim!
But the Vera Bradley Hardside Rolling Suitcase doesn’t just look good. The polycarbonate shell is durable, 360-degree spinner wheels give easy maneuverability, and it has plenty of useful features like adjustable compression straps and a TSA-approved combination lock.
#9. Travelpro Maxlite Underseat 16”
Material Polyester | Item weight 6 lbs | Dimensions 8.5 x 16.25 x 15.5”
An underseat carry-on bag is a great way to avoid the rush for overhead luggage space when flying. The compact design of this sleek case makes it small enough to be a personal item on many airlines, but it still has enough space to pack for short trips.
The smooth wheels and sturdy PowerScope Lite handle ensure an easy roll, and the roomy interior has built-in pockets to keep your belongings organized and accessible.
If space becomes available in the overhead bins, lifting this compact and lightweight case will be easy. The stain-resistant, and water-repellent polyester fabric is durable enough to give years of use, and the case comes with a limited warranty.
#10. Open Story Hardside Carry-On Suitcase
Material Polycarbonate | Item weight 7.9 lbs | Dimensions 21.5 x 14 x 9.75″
This sleek and practical hardside carry-on case shows that a great case doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and in this instance, you can pick one up at Target!
The polycarbonate case has an aluminum telescopic handle, four Hinomoto spinner wheels for excellent maneuverability, and a USB port for charging on the move (battery not included). Inside the zip-open case, you’ll find generously-sized interior compartments and a separate dirty laundry bag.
The Open Story Hardside Carry-On Suitcase is available in standard black and four other eye-catching colors and has a 10-year limited warranty.
How to choose carry-on luggage
There are several important factors to consider when you are choosing carry-on luggage. You’re unlikely to find a case that exactly matches everything on your wishlist, so try to identify which of these features is most important to you and prioritize those:
Weight and Dimensions
Size is the most critical factor when choosing a piece of carry-on luggage. Every airline has its own size limit for carry-on bags, which they will enforce particularly strictly on international flights. The dimensions usually include wheels and side carry handles, so it’s important to check that your luggage will fit.
The standard carry-on size for domestic flights on major US carriers is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. This means a 20-inch or 21-inch carry-on case will be allowed in the cabin on these flights, but it’s always best to double-check before your flight, as the rules can change at any time.
If you will only use your case occasionally, durability will be less critical than if you were a frequent traveler. Longevity varies between cases, but generally, you will have to pay more for longer-lasting luggage.
Hardshell vs Softside
Choosing between hardshell and softside luggage is really a matter of personal preference.
Hardshell luggage gives your belongings more protection and can look more stylish.
However, they could crack if handled too roughly, although modern polycarbonate cases are very durable and cracks are rare. And if you’re prone to over-packing, it’s difficult to squeeze a few extra pieces of clothing into hard shell luggage.
Hardshell cases are generally made from one of the following:
Light and durable against impact damage, but scratches show up easily. This is the most popular option for hard-side cases. It’s what my Nomatic carry-on classic suitcase is made of, and I’ve found it extremely durable despite being mishandled on some adventures!
The most common material for lower-cost hardshell cases. This plastic is lighter than polycarbonate but is also less durable and scratches easily.
Some cases combine the two previous materials, usually featuring an ABS shell coated with a polycarbonate layer. This will give you some of the benefits of each, but it still won’t be as robust as a 100% polycarbonate shell.
Softshell luggage can allow overpackers to squash a little extra clothing in and won’t show signs of damage so quickly. The only downside is a soft-sided bag won’t protect any delicate belongings you may be carrying.
Softshell cases are usually made from one of these materials:
This synthetic fiber is the most commonly used material for softshell cases. It’s durable and will easily cope with frequent usage or rough handling.
This synthetic fiber is cheaper and lighter than nylon, but it is also less durable. This means it may show signs of damage if you’re a frequent traveler.
Choosing a case with four 360-degree spinner wheels will give you easy maneuverability. It allows you to push or pull your luggage, and you can also tilt the case back and use just two wheels if you prefer.
Two-wheeled cases are more difficult to steer and will only roll when you tilt the case.
Check if the case has an adjustable handle, how easy it is to open and close the main handle, and how comfortable it feels in your hand. Top and side handles make lifting and lowering the case easier from high surfaces like an overhead compartment or luggage rack.
Carry-on case interiors vary significantly, so it’s important to consider whether you prefer smaller compartments or a single main compartment. A front pocket can be handy for quick access to essentials when traveling.
Check how easy it is to open and close the zipper, and it’s a good idea to drip a little water on the zipper to see if any seeps through. Some cases also come with a TSA lock fitted, which might be important if you have to check your case.
Some cases have USB ports where you can attach a battery for charging devices as you travel. Others may also include a battery pack, but be sure to check it meets FAA and TSA regulations.
It’s always best to check the return period and refund policy in case of any problems with your purchase. This is particularly important if you buy online without seeing the luggage first.
Choosing the best suitcase for women can be tricky because there are so many factors you need to bear in mind.
Once you’ve checked your airline’s size limit, you need to choose between hardside and softside luggage and consider whether you need features like a laptop sleeve or TSA-approved combination lock.
Any of the options in this guide could be the best carry-on luggage for a woman; it really depends on what features are most important to you. But the perfect carry-on bag can be a great investment piece that will last for years, so be sure to take your time and consider the options available so that you can find the best carry-on for your next trip.
FAQ: Carry-on luggage for women
Is hard or soft luggage better for carry-on?
When it comes to deciding between hard and soft luggage for carry-on, there are a few key things to consider. For starters, hard luggage usually offers more protection for your items. It can also be more difficult to fit in the overhead bin due to its rigid construction. Soft luggage is often more lightweight and easier to store. It also tends to be more flexible, allowing you to squeeze it into tighter spots.
When it comes to carry-on bags, there is no one size fits all option. The best carry-on bag for you depends on the type of traveler you are and the kind of trips you take. This post has ten highly-rated options for carry-on bags for women to help you decide.
Generally, the maximum size for a carry-on bag is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. If you’re packing a lot of items, it’s best to go with a larger bag that meets the standard measurements. If you’re only packing a few items, you can opt for a smaller bag that meets the standard measurements. It’s also important to check the airline regulations before flying, as not all airlines may have the same size restriction.
Generally, any kind of liquid, gel, or aerosol must be in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less. Additionally, you are not allowed to bring any type of weapon on board the plane. Knives, scissors, toy replicas of firearms, and other items that can be used as weapons are all prohibited. Hazardous materials, such as flammable items, such as lighter fluid and fireworks, and corrosive materials, like bleach, cannot be in your carry-on. Check the TSA requirements if flying within the U.S.
Traveling with a carry-on and a backpack can be a great way to save time and money. Most airlines allow passengers to bring one personal item and one carry-on bag for free. This can help you avoid paying for checked baggage. However, it’s important to know the size and weight restrictions for your personal item and carry-on bag so you can make sure they meet the airline’s requirements.