The 8 Best Carry-On Business Luggage Pieces of 2020
Effortlessly pack and transport all your work clothes
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For the frequent business traveler, the ideal carry-on suitcase can make all the difference between effortlessly gliding through security and onto the plane and enduring the 1,001 hassles of modern-day air travel. Today’s designs include everything from traditional two-wheel tilt models to eight-wheel spinners to smart suitcases equipped with USB charging stations.
In evaluating the best carry-on luggage for business travelers, we leaned heavily toward models with wheels, simply because you can’t beat their convenience, though we did include one without wheels if you prefer that style. Beyond that, consider how you travel — what you carry, what terrain you typically navigate, whether or not you take smaller “shuttle” flights that often have smaller overhead storage. Some suitcases are the luggage equivalent of a Hummer, rugged and ready to protect your kit from everything, while others are more streamlined, ideal for a three-night jaunt where all you need to carry is a few changes of clothes and an extra pair of shoes. Keep reading to see the best carry-on luggage to take on your next business trip.
Best Overall: Travelpro Platinum Magna Spinner Suiter
Travelpro employs their proprietary “MagnaTrac” technology — which uses magnets to align the suitcase’s eight wheels so that they’re always moving in the desired direction — to assure that the Platinum Magna Spinner moves fluidly 360 degrees through the terminal and over pavement. Made of ballistic nylon coated with DuraGuard, reinforced with leather accents and SUPRA zipper heads, and buoyed by Travelpro’s comprehensive warranty, the case will stand up against the endless rigors of the road. Inside, you get ample storage for four- to five-day trips, along with the option to expand the case another two inches. You also get a removable garment sleeve designed to keep clothes free of wrinkles, a tie-down compression system with twin mesh zippered pockets, a separate accessories pocket, one additional zippered section on the front panel, as well as two outer zipper pockets for quick-grab documents or to stash a rain jacket.
Best Value: Dakine Carry-On Roller Bag
The Dakine Carry-On Roller Bag keeps things simple, offering 40 liters of space. Made of durable polyester and reinforced with several hard plastic guidelines on the back, it’s not the burliest bag on the market, but it glides smoothly on twin 8-centimeter urethane wheels. Compression straps on the inside help synch down your kit, with a mesh pocket on the front panel for smaller items, plus one zippered pocket on the outside of the bag. And, unlike most models on this list, it also comes with a dedicated pocket for 15-inch laptops, freeing your computer from the confines of your “personal item.”
Best for Rugged Travel: Eagle Creek Gear Warrior AWD International Carry-On
Business taking you off the beaten path? The Gear Warrior AWD International Carry-On eschews the notion that a spinner model can’t be tough. Its four treaded oversized wheels were designed for easy mobility across a variety of terrain, from cobblestones to dirt paths, and its exo-skeleton wraps around the edges and front panels of the pack for added strength. Then they double-down on the durability with rip-resistant, water-repellent fabrics. Inside storage leans on the simple side, with a large main section that can expand to offer an additional three liters of carrying capacity, and a zippered pocket running the length of the lid. The front of the bag also has two additional pockets, one that runs the length of the panel and a smaller that goes half-way. Other details — glove-friendly reflective zipper pulls and lockable zippers, external compression straps, multiple grab handles, and their Equipment Keeper, which holds bulkier gear by lashing it onto the top of the bag — continues Eagle Creek’s Swiss Army Knife-like invention, and it’s backed by their No Matter What guarantee.
Best for Long Weekends: Thule Subterra Carry-On
This sleek two-wheel roller model proffers 36 liters of storage in a semi-hard package that offers enough room for extra pairs of shoes, three days of clothes and all the other items you’d need for a low-on-gear three- to four-night jaunt. It’s unique removable compression panel, which covers the main part of the bag, rides on two plastic guiders, makes it easy to pack things down tight, secure, and wrinkle-free — and to separate dirty clothes from clean, with a flat zippered mesh pocket on top to store magazines or charging cables.
On the other side, you get another zippered storage compartment. Another smaller zippered compartment rests on the outside of the pack, a solid place for quick-grab items like computer chords. It also has a smaller mesh zippered pocket inside, along with a key clip. Oversized wheels and a hard plastic kickstand let it glide 360 degrees, much like four-wheel models, though you still tilt it to start rolling. Made of 800D nylon strengthened by a molded polycarbonate back panel and a durable exoskeleton, it’s pretty bomber, and the V-shaped tubes on the telescoping handle glide effortlessly with the press of a button on either side. The only potential drawback? The detachable piggyback strap hangs fairly low on the pack, and doesn’t work well if you’re other bag is a backpack. At seven pounds, it’s easy to heft into the overhead, and it fits well in smaller shuttle planes.
Most Compact: Arc’Teryx Covert Case
On crowded flights — and really, are there any other kind these days? — rollers are the first to get gate checked. The Covert Case will save your bag from this fate. The suitcase has no wheels and appears to be much smaller than its 40-liter capacity. Since it’s configured to carry as a briefcase, backpack or across the body (depending on how you configure the hidden straps), it’s easy to slip past the gate attendant’s watchful eyes, and its padded soft sides make it easy to shove into that narrow spot left in the overhead.
Better still, its streamlined construction doesn’t sacrifice key features, including a thin zippered pocket on the front panel with a key clip; a second, smaller pocket at the top and a whole mess of grab handles. Inside, the bright lining makes it easy to find what you need, along with another zippered pocket on the flap and two compression straps bridging the main storage space. The fabric — a mix of EV 50 foam padding and PU-treated nylon — can stand up against the elements, with double-weaved construction to bolster durability.
Best Hardshell: Victorinox Hardside Global Carry-On
It’s fairly straightforward to make a hard-walled suitcase that protects everything from any sort of impact. But Victorinox has managed to it without turning the pack into a rolling albatross. It weighs less than seven pounds and is constructed from virgin polycarbonate, made with a new molding technology that recesses its eight wheels and a telescoping handle to maximize storage. The bag interior is divided into a zippered upper section and a lower section anchored with an X-shaped compression strap perfect for keeping dress shirts tidy, along with two additional zippered pockets that hug the spine, ideal for keys, chargers and other quick-grab items. You also get two TSA-friendly locking options: by key or combo. And — as is apt for the company that mastered the Swiss Army Knife — the hidden ID tray in the handle bezel slides up to reveal a pen, SIM card replacement tool, and a USB port; just attach the integrated USB cable that threads inside the pack to one of their portable battery packs (sold separately), and you’ve got easy-access recharging opportunities if you're looking to squeeze in some business on your computer or phone while traveling.
Best for the Wired Traveler: Away the Bigger Carry-On
If you’ve flown recently, you already know that “smart’ suitcases with integrated batteries are now a thing, and Away’s line of rolling suitcases may be the best of the bunch. Their Bigger Carry-On is (surprise) the slightly larger carry-on in their line, suitable to fit the overhead bins of most U.S. airlines. The removable battery charger (essential if you have to gate check) is nestled under the telescoping handle and will breathe life into your phone five times over. The carry-on is made of an unbreakable polycarbonate hard shell exterior that swivels on four Hinomoto wheels. It comes with a hidden laundry bag inside, along with internal compression straps and a network of zippered mesh pockets. You also get a TSA-friendly lock and a variety of colors, from traditional black or navy to a host of brighter options. And if 47.9 liters of storage feels like overkill, you can downgrade to the “Carry-On,” which gives you just less than 40 liters.
Best Splurge: Tumi Alpha 2 Continental Carry-On
It may not look it, but the Alpha 2 Continental Carry-On is the most expensive suitcase in the round-up, and while it may not flash its price tag with lots of glitz and glitter, you do get what you pay for, especially if work travel involves hauling your suit. The evenly-split interior includes Tumi’s clever “suiter component section,” a dedicated suit compartment with a hanger bracket integrated into the lid to keep your shirt, jacket and pants clean and wrinkle-free for that big client meeting. Other internal organization features include two side zip pockets, a large mesh zipper pocket, compression straps and places for your passport and airline ticket. On the outside, you’ll find a U-shaped zip pocket on the front, as well as two straight zipper pockets with two internal organizers. At 11.5 pounds, it tips the scales a bit when compared to other products, but the four wheels let things glide smoothly, guided by a three-stage telescoping handle.