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The 8 Best International Carry

Aug 19, 2023

Here is everything you need to know about carry-on size restrictions for international flights.

Anna Popp is a Commerce Writer at Travel + Leisure where she tests, researches, and writes about travel products. Since living overseas in 2018, Anna has been a travel writer and began reviewing products in 2021.

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Travel + Leisure / Tamara Staples

Dealing with luggage can be one of the most frustrating parts of traveling, especially when each airline has different rules and regulations when it comes to carry-on bags. Since domestic carry-on suitcases won’t meet the stricter limitations of 21.7 x 15.9 x 9 inches set by most international airlines, we sifted through all of our tested luggage to recommend the best carry-ons that fit these requirements.

Whether you’re backpacking through Asia or river-cruising through Europe, we selected backpacks, suitcases, and duffel bags that fit any adventure that requires an international flight. All of the bags we recommend below have been thoroughly tested and evaluated based on design, capacity, durability, and maneuverability so you can feel confident in your luggage pick for upcoming trips abroad.


The suitcase has extra features like a detachable laptop pocket and a USB port.

The material scuffs a bit with rough handling.

July’s Carry-on Pro suitcase has plenty of helpful features for ensuring a smooth packing and traveling experience. We love the sleek design and earth-toned color options, but our favorite part of the carry-on is the detachable front pocket for seamlessly traveling with a laptop. The padded pocket can be removed and used as a laptop case which is particularly useful for business travelers. Plus, the suitcase is outfitted with smart features, including USB and USB-C charging ports, a removable battery, and TSA-approved locks.

The interior of the carry-on is a breeze to pack thanks to the two spacious clamshell-style compartments, built-in compression system, and hidden laundry bag for keeping dirty clothes organized. And, even when the suitcase is packed full, we had no issues wheeling it over all types of surfaces with the help of the four 360-degree spinning wheels and adjustable handles. If you’re planning on gifting this suitcase or just want to add an extra special touch, the bag can be personalized with a name or initials for an extra fee.

Price at time of publish: $345

The Details: 21.5 x 15 x 8.5 inches | 8.6 pounds | Polycarbonate | Front pocket | Personalization option

Travel + Leisure / Tamara Staples

Saks Fifth Avenue

The hardside material doesn’t scratch or dent easily.

It can be tricky to adjust the handle.

Small but mighty, we recommend this Bric’s carry-on if you’re in search of a suitcase that can handle everything from rough handling at the airport to the cobblestone streets of Paris. Made with a hardy polycarbonate shell and water-resistant zippers, this bag is equipped with all the necessary features to be used for a lifetime of travels. In testing, we didn’t hold back on our durability test with the baseball bat by whacking it from all angles (wheels included) and tossing it off of a table to see if the exterior would hold up. We were thrilled to see that the bag didn’t scratch, dent, or crack under the pressure and there was just a tiny scuff that could be rubbed off easily.

Apart from the superb durability, this suitcase has solid organization features on the interior with two main zippered compartments and pockets for smaller items. While the handle feels plenty sturdy, we had some slight issues with it sticking but we’re chalking that up to a slight inconvenience instead of a deal breaker.

Price at time of publish: $665

The Details: 21.7 x 15 x 7.9 inches | 7.1 pounds | Polycarbonate

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Travel + Leisure / Tamara Staples

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson


The hardside material is extremely durable when it comes to rough handling.

The suitcase is fairly basic and doesn’t come with extra features.

If you realize your suitcase is too large with days to spare before an international trip, Amazon Basics has you covered with fast shipping for Prime members. The 21-inch hardside spinner is made with a heavy-duty ABS material that proved to be exceptionally durable when we whacked the case with a baseball and tossed it off of a ladder. True to name, the interior of the suitcase has a minimalist design with two clamshell compartments, several zippered pockets, and compression straps. There could be a few more organizational features, but the suitcase was still very easy to pack and fill with clothing items, shoes, and a toiletry case. The spinner wheels rolled smoothly and the handle felt just as sturdy as the rest of the suitcase so we think the bag has excellent value, especially for under $100.

Price at time of publish: $88

The Details: 21.46 x 14.76 x 9.45 inches | 7.34 pounds | ABS | Expandable

Travel + Leisure / Vicky Wasik

Travel + Leisure / Vicky Wasik

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson


The compression system on either side of the suitcase is a game-changer for saving space.

The aluminum material scuffs easily.

Rimowa is top of the line when it comes to suitcase brands and we think the Original Cabin carry-on is worth the investment. The exterior of this aluminum suitcase looks luxurious and the interior offers plenty of functional features that make both packing and traveling a breeze. We’re big fans of the compression dividers on each compartment that help condense clothing and keep packed items in place during transit and when the suitcase is opened up. The luggage itself weighs 9.5 pounds, which isn’t the lightest, but we’ve never had any issues lifting it overhead and the ball-bearing mounted wheels glide over cobblestone and pavement without any extra effort needed. One thing to note is that aluminum does scratch and dent easier than polycarbonate cases but rest assured that the sturdy material will be more resistant to cracks and will still keep your belongings safe.

Price at time of publish: $1,430

The Details: 21.7 x 15.8 x 9.1 inches | 9.5 pounds | Aluminum


It’s easy to maneuver through an airport with a sturdy handle and spinner wheels.

The carry-on can’t fit more than a few days’ worth of clothing.

This carry-on from Delsey comes in the brand’s most iconic design for looking effortlessly chic and elegant while traveling. While light-colored suitcases can be a dicey option, the suitcase is incredibly durable and we didn’t see any scuffs, scratches, or dents tarnish the cream bag we hit with a baseball bat and tossed off of a ladder. To complement a neutral suitcase exterior (which also comes in brown, blue, and blush), the interior is lined with a bolder orange color with several pockets and compression straps for packing. While the capacity is on the smaller end for a carry-on, we love that the compact size makes it incredibly easy to wheel the bag through the airport or lift it overhead for a smooth travel experience.

Price at time of publish: $300

The Details: 21 x 13 x 10 inches | 6.4 pounds | Polycarbonate | USB port

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson


The capacity is just as big as a regular carry-on.

It can feel a bit heavy when it’s packed.

The best part of Tortuga’s Travel Backpack is that it’s basically a suitcase without wheels. The 40-liter capacity rivals the volume of any carry-on and the backpack also has clamshell compartments for simple packing. Designed to fit a week’s worth of clothing, the bag can easily store enough clothing for a longer international trip and we were even able to fit a packed tent with other clothing for a camping trip. Although the bag can get a bit heavy when it’s packed full, the padded back panel, straps, and hip belt helps distribute the weight to help with comfort while traveling. Other helpful features include a padded laptop sleeve, small zippered pockets, and two water bottle pockets. We can’t forget to mention that the bag is made with recycled sailcloth and is fully waterproof to protect your belongings if the weather takes a turn.

Price at time of publish: $350

The Details: 21.7 x 13.8 x 7.9 inches | 4.5 pounds | Recycled sailcloth | 16-inch laptop pocket


The interior has excellent organizational features for clothing and technology.

The capacity could be too small for a longer trip.

Skip the stress of finding space in an overhead bin with Calpak’s Hue Mini underseater suitcase. To prove that it can fit under an airplane seat, we recreated that space in our lab and we had no issues sliding it into the spot. However, our favorite aspect of the suitcase is that the interior has superior organizational features for making the most out of the smaller capacity. There is a designated laptop pocket and several other mesh pockets for smaller items like undergarments, toiletries, or phone chargers. The other compartment is plenty spacious for clothing and a pair of shoes for a short trip. Due to the hardshell design, there aren’t any pockets on the exterior but we still think the interior pockets more than make up for the lack of outside organization.

Price at time of publish: $165

The Details: 16 x 14 x 8.5 inches | 6.4 pounds | Polycarbonate

Travel + Leisure / Conor Ralph

Travel + Leisure / Conor Ralph


It has a separate bottom compartment for keeping shoes and clothing separate.

The materials don’t feel as durable as other duffel bags we’ve tried.

This carry-on duffel bag from Vera Bradley has tons of hidden features that make it an excellent piece of luggage to add to your collection. It’s small and lightweight enough that it can be carried like a tote bag, or you can opt to use the wheels and discrete handle that pops out to convert the duffel into a traditional suitcase. During testing, we also loved that the duffel has a separate shoe compartment on the bottom of the bag for separating clothing from shoes or any other items you might not want to be packed in the main compartment. The suitcase has one large zippered mesh pocket on the inside of the opening flap and there is one exterior pocket. While the bag feels durable and long-lasting, the ripstop polyester material isn’t waterproof so you may not want to use this as a checked suitcase.

Price at time of publish: $190

The Details: 21 x 13 x 10 inches | 5.6 pounds | Ripstop polyester

Travel + Leisure / Jessica Juliao

Travel + Leisure / Jessica Juliao

Travel + Leisure / Jessica Juliao

Travel + Leisure / Jessica Juliao

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

The suitcases highlighted below still scored highly during testing but we ran into some slight issues with maneuverability.

Coolife Carry-on with Pocket: The suitcase has some extra give which helps with packing but it didn’t maneuver as well around obstacles as the other cases we tried.

Steamline Luggage The Sweetheart Carry-on: This vintage-style trunk would be ideal for a honeymoon or a trip to Paris but it also only has two wheels which isn’t ideal for uneven terrain or crowded airports.

Samsonite Black Label Lite-shock Carry-on Spinner: Even with four wheels, this bag doesn’t turn very well but the durability of the materials blew us away during testing since there wasn’t a single scratch or dent after we hit the bag with a baseball bat several times.

Since luggage is one of our favorite categories to test at T+L, we’ve tested more than 150 pieces of luggage in both lab and real-world settings. We selected carry-ons from trusted brands like Away, Delsey, Tumi, Béis, and more to evaluate based on traits like capacity, design, maneuverability, and durability to recommend the best ones on the market. To put together our best recommendations for international carry-ons, we selected our top-performing bags that fit under the general 21.7-inch maximum luggage height for most international airlines.

Travel + Leisure / Vicky Wasik

First, we test each suitcase in our New York City lab by putting the bags through a series of tests that kick off with packing the luggage with various clothing items, shoes, a toiletry bag, and other travel necessities. Then, we roll the wheeled luggage around cones and over gravel, carpet, and stone to judge the maneuverability and smoothness of the wheels. The last (and possibly best) part of the test includes dropping the suitcases off of a ladder and hitting it with a baseball bat several times to gauge the durability. After lab testing is complete, we send out each suitcase for our editors to continue testing while traveling for up to six months.

Suitcases, backpacks, and duffel bags all count as carry-ons as long as the bag is under the size limitations set by the airline. For destinations that require bulkier clothing like Iceland, or most countries in the winter, you might want to plan on bringing a checked bag for clothes and one of the smaller carry-on suitcases. If you’re planning on backpacking during your international travels where lighter packing is required, we recommend traveling with a carry-on that has superb portability like a backpack or wheeled duffel.

Most international airlines have carry-on weight limits of 15 to 22 pounds so you might want to invest in a portable luggage scale to ensure your bag is under the weight limit. However, British Airways offers the least strict weight restrictions since they allow you to carry a bag up to 50 pounds. It’s important to double-check with your airline before you begin packing for your trip to confirm the size restrictions ahead of time.

Since international carry-ons have to be a bit smaller than usual, the amount of usable space also decreases. Organizational features can be a game-changer for making the most out of your carry-on so be sure to lookout for suitcases with compression straps to pack down clothing or exterior pockets for laptops or other last-minute items. If your suitcase doesn’t offer many pockets or a compression system, packing cubes can help with saving space and organization, too.

Generally, international carry-ons have to be smaller than the standard size carry-on for domestic flights which is about 22 x 14 x 9 inches. International carry-ons usually have to be under 21.7 inches in height, including the handle and wheels, and there are often stricter weight limits, too. The part that makes things slightly difficult is that size restrictions vary by carrier so you’ll need to check ahead of time to prevent any last-minute baggage fees or gate-checking your suitcase.

Just like dimensions, weight limitations are determined by each individual airline so it’s again essential to check with your carrier before arriving at the airport. Most international airlines require carry-ons to weigh less than 15 to 22 pounds with the exception of several larger carriers like British Airways, KLM, and Air France that have less strict limitations.

Anna Popp is a commerce writer at Travel + Leisure, where she reviews travel products and writes most of the team’s tested content. Anna participated in all of the luggage testing that has occurred in the last year and she combed through notes from various luggage tests completed by T+L to write about the best carry-ons that fit under the common size restrictions set by international airlines.

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