It’s a rookie error that many of us have been guilty of – carry on luggage that’s too large, too heavy, or too uncomfortable to carry. I’m ashamed to admit that, despite having worked in travel for more than 10 years, I recently, and accidentally, overpacked my hand luggage on a flight from Australia to London. Much to the frustration of my fellow Qatar Airlines passengers, I had to do the embarrassing scramble of throwing what I could grab into our check-in suitcases. All that time spent organising was destroyed in a moment of panic.
“It’s an easy mistake to make,” says aviation expert Jordan Rozario. “Especially as there isn’t an industry standard hand baggage allowance, and this is where a lot of travellers get caught out.”
If like me, you’ve been caught out at check-in, you’ll know that the wrong carry on luggage can ruin a trip before it even begins. This is why thought and research are required when choosing the right cabin bag for your flight – even more so than for a check-in suitcase. To save you the admin, we’ve listed the best carry on luggage options in the UK plus our top tips for choosing the right style for your trip.
Which bag is best for cabin luggage?
As mentioned in our guide to the best suitcases in 2022, for carry on luggage we prefer soft-shell suitcases over hard cases, as they tend to be more giving in terms of space and feature outer storage pouches which can come in handy while in transit. There are some hard shell suitcases, like the best selling Clifton cabin case with pocket, that also feature an easy-to-access external pocket, offering the best of both worlds.
How much hand luggage can you take on easyJet?
According to the easyJet cabin bag guide, the maximum size for a carry on bag that fits under the seat is 45x36x20 cm (including any handles or wheels). If you book an Up Front or Extra Legroom seat or book a large cabin bag for your flight, you can also have an additional bag to be stored in the overhead compartment that is no more than 56x45x25cm in size. To maximise your luggage while fitting in with the allowance, try the Tripp Superlite Holdall for an under-seat bag. For the overhead compartment bag, Aerolite’s cabin bag fits those exact dimensions and is one of the lightest cases on the market.
How much hand luggage can you take on Ryanair?
According to the Ryanair bags policy, all passenger fare types can bring one small bag which must fit under the seat, measuring less than 40x25x20cm. If you purchase a ‘Priority and 2 Cabin Bags’ fare, passengers can bring one small bag to fit under the seat and a 10kg wheelie bag which must not exceed 55x40x20cm. This American Tourister case fits those exact dimensions and comes in a range of colours.
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These compact options feature clever pockets to help maximise and organise your space, while remaining within the strict cabin baggage allowances.
The best hard shell cabin suitcases
If you’re a regular traveller that’s more focussed on ease and speed rather than cramming every space and pocket, these rolling hard cases are a worthy investment.
The best carry on luggage for long-haul flights
Most long-haul flights have generous hand luggage allowances, so the dimensions of the bag are often less important. Instead, when your travel involves stopovers, timezone changes and multiple hours, having a flight bag that’s comfortable and well organised is the priority. Look for bags that are lightweight and with multiple pockets so it’s easy to grab what you need while in transit and throughout your flight. For more advice, see our guide to the carry-on essential items you should always pack on a long-haul flight.
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Sleek, organised and lightweight, these hand held cabin bags ensure a speedy departure from the plane and offer plenty of room and easy to access pockets.
Best carry on backpacks
If you prefer to travel hands-free, these spacious and comfortable rucksacks make for great travel bags. For more options, see our edit of the best travel backpacks.