Carry-On Bags That'll Actually Fit

Illustrated by Sydney Haas.
Prepping for a weekend getaway or long-anticipated vacation is a series of checklists. Boarding pass? Check. Quart-sized bag with all your 3.4-ounce liquids? Check. In-flight podcast entertainment? Check. But before you head to the airport, the crippling panic sets in: Is your carry-on the right size?

As a standard, most airlines will allow a carry-on that's 45 linear inches in combined length, width, and height. What varies is how each individual carrier breaks down those dimensions: At American Airlines, United, JetBlue, and U.S. Airways, any luggage you bring with you onboard should be 22 inches long by 14 wide and 9 tall, max. Delta offers those approximate measurements as a guideline, but doesn't specify dimensions for its 45-inch cap. An International Air Transport Association (IATA) initiative trims those numbers even further, identifying 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches as the sweet spot for carry-ons. Numbers are everything.

As if you didn't spend enough time obsessing over prices and dates and other numerals during the trip-planning process, now you need to pore over inches and centimeters to decide whether or not your weekender will make the cut. We know the struggle — and more than anything, understand how frustrating the search for a go-anywhere travel bag can be. So we did the obsessing for you. Ahead, we round up backpacks, duffels, and other gear that's within these tight numeric margins, so you can shrug off your worries at the airport terminal.
Advertisement
1 of 20
Illustrated by Sydney Haas.
Your personal item (which, as a rule, should be similar or smaller in size than your "official" carry-on) works hard storing all the in-flight must-haves that haven't been cast off to the overhead bin. An ideal travel backpack, however, is a tad larger: It has all the pockets you will ever need, is spacious enough to store your laptop and all the magazines you picked up at the newsstand, and can be used as a makeshift pillow in case of unexpected delays.

United offers the following measurements as a guideline for under-seat storage: 17" (height) x 10" (width) x 9" (depth). Give or take an inch, we found four travel-ready backpacks that not only will meet your refusal to check a bag, but also make for lovely travel companions at your destination. (These are by no means your typical tourist packs.) If worse comes to worst, they go in the overhead bin.
2 of 20
This convertible backpack is larger in length than what is technically allowed, but its soft denim makeup allows it to be folded over to accommodate tighter spaces. Plus, it can be also be worn as a tote, so you don't even need to pack a second handbag for the trip. Way to economize on luggage space!

Measurements: 16.25" (height) x 15.75" (length/width) x 5" (depth).
Advertisement
3 of 20
You may be flying economy, but your carry-on game is first class: This ultra-luxe, burgundy leather stunner is all looks on the outside, but its black canvas interior is equipped with a padded laptop sleeve as well as one zipped and two slip pockets. It even has a lock and key for an added layer of security (you know, in case you're a gate snoozer). It's an inch and a half larger in width than is suggested, but there's wiggle room in the height and depth, so you'll likely be in the clear for under-seat storage.

Measurements: 14.5" (height) x 11.5" (width) x 5.5" (depth).
4 of 20
Don't be fooled by the sleek exterior: This textured black backpack has all the fixings: a laptop pocket, zip pocket, and other clever storage winks in the design that make it quite the sophisticated travel companion. Plus, a padded back and shoulder straps make hours-long layovers less of a pain. It's off by 3" in width for the under-the-seat dimensions, but the slender shell (more than five inches below the maximum) should make up for it.

Measurements: 17" (height) x 13" (width) x 3.5" (depth).
5 of 20
A backpack so good, it'll hurt you to store it in the overhead bin: Herschel amped up its classic Heritage style with additional pockets and compartments that lend themselves to a frequent-flyer lifestyle. There's a space for both a 15" laptop and an iPad; there's a place for your shoes; and, there's room to spare for the rest of your media. It's a couple inches bigger than suggested for storage under the seat, so you can try squeezing it in if you're feeling daring. But it fits squarely within the carry-on dimensions, so you're cleared to board.

Measurements: 18" (height) x 12" (width) x 5.5" (depth).
6 of 20
Illustrated by Sydney Haas.
Managed to sneak a last-minute summer getaway into the books? Lucky you. If you're jetting off for a couple of days, you'll want to edit down your wardrobe to the absolute essentials — ain't nobody got time for checked luggage.

The 45" limit may seem daunting — nay, unfathomable — when staring into the abyss of your closet. But these four throw-and-go bags will make you a believer (or make packing less of a chore, at least). In fact, the 22-14-9 breakdown might even feel spacious — maybe.
7 of 20
This cotton-twill bag was made for weekend getaways and designed with carry-on conventions in mind. Made from a sturdy, water-resistant material that knows no seasons and featuring a contrast stripe and leather straps, it feels much more expensive than its under-$100 price tag — it's luxe and accessible.

Measurements: 22” (length) x 12” (height) x 8.5” (width).
Advertisement
8 of 20
Consider this the incognito weekender: Its shape and dimensions resemble the oversized tote you schlep to work every day, only it's a bit larger, so your coworkers won't suspect anything when you sneak your getaway bag to work on Friday. The inside is roomy, but no-nonsense — all space, with little interior embellishment. Once you land, you can empty out your essentials and take this lovely out on the town. Again, double-duty luggage can streamline your vacation accessories game.

Measurements: 17.75" (length) x 13.5" (height) x 5.5" (depth).
9 of 20
The tough, leather shell keeps its shape, so you can maximize the space in the roomy interior. Inside, you'll find specialized pockets for all your odds and ends: undergarments, cell phone, footwear...and a couple of additional zipped and slip pockets to check off the rest of your packing list.

Measurements: 20.75" (width) x 11.5" (height) x 8.75" (depth).
10 of 20
If you've got nothing to hide, take this grommet-detailed weekender out for a spin. The peekaboo effect gives your fellow travelers a little glimpse of where you're going (if they can take a guess based on the contents of your bag). But it's just a trick of the eye: Your belongings will be safe and sound — and well within the overhead storage guidelines — in this faux-leather weekender.

Measurements: 17.25" (length) x 13" (height) x 9.5" (depth).
11 of 20
Illustrated by Sydney Haas.
Duffels are great for summer camp, camping trips, and spontaneous getaways booked at the last second. When you don't have time to dwell over which bathing suit to pack, which going-out ensemble is most appropriate for your destination, or which pair of sandals will hurt your feet the least, this is your most effective vessel: It's literal throw-and-go luggage. And the soft fabric makes it amenable for overhead storage, since it can be folded, bent, or bumped around to accommodate other luggage.

But just because it's purely practical doesn't mean its boring: We found four that'll make it seem like you totally didn't procrastinate on planning or packing for this trip.
12 of 20
This duffel is tough, but not heavy; trendy, but not cursory. The printed cotton exterior will not only endure many, many trips; it'll actually make you excited to be on a two-layover journey to wherever. It fits within the 45" size limit, but pushes the boundaries a bit with how the measurements are divvied up.

Measurements: 22"(width) x 11" (height) x 11" (depth).
Advertisement
13 of 20
Didn't think duffels could be chic? This olive-hued leather number proves you wrong. From European brand PB 0110, this duffel takes a no-fuss silhouette, luxe materials, and sophisticated coloring.

Measurements: 20.5" (width) x 9" (height) 8.85" (depth).
14 of 20
How much do you love denim? Seriously, how committed are you to indigo? Matching your carry-on to your in-flight Canadian tuxedo status? If so, we salute you. The easiest type of luggage meets the easiest fabric in this duffel, available in three different shades of vintage-inspired denim.

Measurements: 20" (width) x 9" (height).
15 of 20
A print that just won't quit: The retro-inspired pattern on the polyester shell of this duffel will certainly lighten the mood during a long travel day. Plus, it's lightweight and packable, so you can bring it as a spare in your big suitcase on the way to your destination and fill it with souvenirs and bring it back as a carry-on.

Measurements: 18" (width) x 13.5" (height) x 7" (depth).
16 of 20
Illustrated by Sydney Haas.
You thought you were through with rolling bags in middle school. But like all fond memories from your youth, they'll come back and help you grown into adulthood. The compact rolling suitcase can not only save you money from not having to check a bag, but it forces you to be more thoughtful during the packing process — although, they hold a lot more than you'd think can fit in 45 linear inches.
17 of 20
Diane von Furstenberg brings old-school travel luxury to the present day (and into the overhead bin) with this hard-shell rolling bag. It has 360º spinner mobility for when you're running across terminals to make your connection as well as all the fixings you want out of a full-sized suitcase, miniaturized to meet the more limited cabin space.

Measurements: 18" (height) x 12.25" width x 8" (depth).
Advertisement
18 of 20
Every complaint you've ever had about a carry-on is answered with this Traveliq case. Feel slowed down by a carry handle? It comes with additional handles on the top and side, so you don't have to roll everywhere. Annoyed by the fact that you need to open up your entire bag to retrieve your laptop? There are two specialized outer compartments for your tech gadgets — one for a computer, and one for a tablet. Not enough room to bring back souvenirs for your friends/coworkers/cats? It has an extended zip that ups the volume of the main compartment. (Although once you open that up, you may need to check the bag.) All your travel concerns, hacked.

Measurements: 21" (length) x 13" (width) x 9" (height).
19 of 20
You'll zoom past your travel mates with this sleek rolling carry-on. The double-woven nylon can take anything your itinerary throws at it — all while fitting cooly within the airline's on-board luggage restrictions.

Measurements: 20.9" (height) x 13.8" (width) x 9.0" (depth).
20 of 20
This suitcase may be an investment, but it's certainly worthwhile. On top of the sophisticated leather shell, well-thought-out interior design, and old-fashioned look, its measurements are perfect — at least what most airlines consider perfect. That oh-so-rare, but oh-so-sought-after 22-14-9 breakdown — found.

Measurements: 22" (height) x 14" (width) x 9" (depth).
Advertisement

More from Shopping

Watch

R29 Original Series