What’s The Best Lightweight Cabin Luggage?

When traveling within Europe, we do our best to travel with lightweight cabin luggage only.  This allows us to use some of the low-cost flights we find using Skyscanner, which typically charge extra for any checked bags.  Most airlines allow you one carry on item and one personal item.  Of course those sizes can vary slightly depending on the airline.  After our 1 year of nomadic travel and homeschool, we are pretty much experts at packing lightly.

So What Is The Best Lightweight Cabin Luggage For You? We share our thoughts on the top reviewed carry on luggage and suitcases - read more on WagonersAbroad.com

We can easily use a carry on bag only for a few weeks of travel.  We have found we wear the same things over and over, as well as packing items for mix and match.  We also find it useful when we book an apartment rather than a hotel, as they often have facilities to wash our clothes.  We usually can find great deals on holiday rentals via TripAdvisor as well as other searching sites.

Carry On Bag Size

There are a few factors to look at when shopping for the best carry on luggage and for this size does matter.  We typically use Ryanair as our gauge, as they are a common carrier around Europe.  Please check with your most commonly used airline for their specifications.

Here is what Ryanair allows for their carry on luggage:

  • 1 carry on bag measuring no more than 55 x 40 x 20 cm
    (21.6 x 15.7 x 7.9 inches) –  weighing no more than 10 kg (22 lbs)
  • 1 small personal bag measuring no more than 35 x 20 x 20 cm
    (13.8 x 7.9 x 7.9 inches)

Notice they not only specify the luggage size, but also the weight.  You will want to consider how much your suitcase weighs empty, so you can determine how many belongings you can bring.  It is great to have a fancy suitcase, but if it is heavy empty, you aren’t getting much value.

In the table below we have compiled a matrix of information based on some of the best carry on luggage available.  These tend to have some of the best luggage reviews and reasonable prices too.

Of course prices vary depending where you make your purchase, but you can find some great luggage sale prices if you do some hunting.  We have created a general guide for the prices based on the $ symbol.

Pricing for the lightweight cabin luggage in the Matrix
$ = under $50, $$ = $50 – $100,  $$$ = $100 +

Item Size Cost Weight *****
eBags eTech 3.0 Weekender Convertible9 x 21 x 14 inches$$3.9 lbs 4.9
Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 Softside 21 Inch Spinner8.5 x 23 x 15 inches$$$? lbs 4.4
Travelpro Maxlite3 International Carry-On Spinner21.5 x 9 x 14 inches$$$6 lbs 4.5
Samsonite Luggage Fiero HS Spinner 2016.5 x 13.75 x 9 inches$$7 lbs 4.4
https://amzn.to/2AWqxdH9.75x 19 x 13 inches$$8 lbs 4.2
Travelpro Maxlite3 Expandable Spinner (21")21 x 9 x 14 inches$$$7.8 lbs 4.5
Travelpro Luggage Maxlite3 22 Inch Expandable Rollaboard22 x 9 x 14 inches$$6.3 lbs 4.1
Rockland 2 Piece Luggage Set13 x 7,5 x 19 inches$7 lbs 4.3
US Traveler Rio Two Piece Expandable Carry-On Luggage Set21 x 13 x 7.5 inches$6.6 lbs 4.2
Samsonite Luggage 22 Inch Andante Wheeled Duffel12 x 22 x 12.5 inches$7 lbs 4.1

If you’ll notice a couple of these are actually luggage sets, which will provide you with 2 different luggage sizes to use.  You may find that to be a better value for money when making your luggage purchase.

What lightweight luggage do we use?

We personally own the Samsonite Wheeled Duffel and it has been wonderful.  It is very lightweight luggage bag to begin with and allows for a little expansion, if you really want to pack things in there.  Keep in mind it is a duffel, so packing fragile things isn’t such a great idea.  Lars has used this as his main suitcase for well over a year and it has held up well.  He has traveled to 14 countries with it, so you can see it has received some mileage.  This lightweight luggage is ideal for the kids to manage too!  We also have a few inexpensive non-brand name carry on bags.

Cambodia to Thailand January 2015 Taxi, Bus and Train Travel Day - The kids use carry on luggage as their main bags.When we were traveling in Southeast Asia and moving from place to place for a year, we did have more than just carry on luggage.  The kids used carry on bags in addition to a small backpack for their computers.  Us adults each had one full-sized backpack as well as a small day pack for our electronics.  We preferred to have our hands free and allowed the kids to have a wheeled bag for ease.  This was best for all forms of transportation via trains, planes, ferries, buses and more.  Of course in the photo above Gma Bev, just had one large suitcase!

Koh Chang Ferry taking cover from the rain awaiting the ferry - luggage

If you are looking for some new luggage think about only using carry on luggage.  Sometimes that just won’t fit the bill and it is best to also check a piece of luggage for long-haul flights or international travel.  We will soon provide a shopping guide for a standard suitcase as well.

If you would like to view more options or read detailed reviews of the best carry on luggage deals, check them out on Amazon and look for free shipping!

What carry on luggage do you use?  What do you think about it?


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14 thoughts on “What’s The Best Lightweight Cabin Luggage?

  1. Read this one with some interest. I’ve traveled a LOT over the past 15 years or so, and even was able to use airline employee travel benefits for a while.

    For a good amount of time I used a Kirkland Signature (Costco’s house brand) rollaboard; it was their first version of that, and built incredibly well.

    Unfortunately, it was fairly heavy, and as I started doing more trips on discount carriers (particularly in Europe and Asia) I started running into weight problems. The heavy case meant less ability to carry stuff.

    I wound up going to an Osprey brand rollaboard. They don’t make my particular bag anymore, but the closest would be their Meridian 22.

    It’s great. It doesn’t have hard sides, but since the vast majority of the time I’m carrying clothes, if I have stuff that needs protecting I can pack it into the middle of the clothes and keep it safe. It’s incredibly lightweight, so most of what I’m carrying is stuff, not the bag itself.

    It’s also got a separate little pocket that opens from the outside for my liquids/gels. Super convenient, when you get into security screening you can just unzip that one little pocket and pull out the stuff that has to be separate.

    It’s not a “spinner” type, but I prefer that anyway (the four wheels drive me nuts and often they’re small wheels that don’t handle cobblestones well) and the handle has held up well over many trips.

    If I was doing business-ish trips where I needed to pack a suit, I might opt for a more traditionally styled rollaboard with hard sides (the newer Kirkland Signature bags are much lighter) but one other big thing with my Osprey- it’s genuinely only about 21 inches.

    Given the wide variety of airline size requirements, I wouldn’t get a 22 inch long bag at this point. 20 or 21 inches, max; then I always know it’ll fit, whether it’s Ryanair or Nok Air or Southwest.

    • I agree with you completely Paul. Going with 20-21 max and then you are safe. We also have one that is ever so slightly bigger and it causes stress when we use it on those low cost carriers. You never know when they will do the “measure at the gate” stunt, as you are boarding. Then it is a huge fee to check the bag. We have seen it happen, but luckily not to us. You know, I think I am the only one in the family who doesn’t really care for the spinner type either. Anya loves it and walks like a crazy person spinning it around and it drives me nuts. Just FYI, if you come to Spain the grocery carts in the supermarket are kind of like those spinner suitcases, they go all over the place too! ha! Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  2. Hello Heidi, I enjoy reading your blogs! While traveling, do find that your children tend to spend their free time or (boring time) on their computers or do they like to explore/observe/talk? We will be traveling to Spain from California soon, and I am debating whether or not to provide my two teens ages 13 and 15l with a gadget (tablet, laptop, etc.) to entertain themselves while traveling. So far I haven’t even bought them cell phones! Any suggestions?

    • Hey Rita, thanks so much. How exciting for you! Are you moving to Spain or just visiting? Where are you planning to spend your time?

      Well, we moved to Spain when the kids were 7 and 10 and we purchased them each an inexpensive laptop prior to our move. It was a bit younger than we wanted, but we were so happy to have it for them. We have always used their electronics for education and entertainment. In the beginning we had some limitations on screen time and blocked access to certain sites. We can remote manage their laptops anytime we like, though we never have had the need.

      They have both learned to type, watch educational videos and can’t imaigine how limited they may have been without them. They both have blossomed with tech skills, video production and more. Check out our 1 year of homeschool and you will see much of it was with use of the laptop and still is. I can’t say it would be perfect for all children, but you would need to know their personalities and if they can keep balance.

      There were times when a little bit of “home” from watching a show or being able to video chat with a friend, was what they needed. I think it has worked out extremely well for us and has provided the kids with an avenue of communication. They each used email and chat to keep in touch with friends and family in the USA and Spain. They are now 11 and 13 and we still find a great deal of value with them having their own devices. We feel it is important they have some independence and trust, which also comes with rules. So far so good.

      I with you the best.

      • Wow, thanks for your prompt reply Heidi! I really appreciate your input! We’ve been on vacation to Alicante before, and that’s where we’re planning to relocate for now. Our family has a different situation than yours, my husband and children have Spanish citizenship, so I think that would help. Nonetheless, the dynamics of the moving oversees seems daunting to say the least! In regards to electronics and gadgets, we’re trying to postpone providing our children with cell phones for as long as we can. In our city where we live teens communicate with each other through all kids of social media mainly using their cell phones. I wonder how it is like in Spain. In your opinion and since your kids are older, do you find that this method of communication is common/popular among their friends?

        • yes, cell phones are widely used and whatsapp seems to be the popular chat. We just got Lars a very inexpensive phone (wifi use only) last year (he is 13). Anya can chat with her friends using my phone (not ideal). I would wait to purchase a phone over here, as US phones are typically locked. You would want a libre (open or free) phone, so you could use any SIM and network. They have great no contract deals. We were looking into a data plan for Lars for his 14th bday. You can find plans for about 10-15 euros a month. Alan and I use Orange network and pay 15 euors a month each for our phone plan, that is with 1gb data.

          • Very well, thanks Heidi! By the way, my children and I enjoyed watching Lars’ videos on your “1 year of homeschooling” blog. The videos were well made, entertaining, educational and funny! Congrats to Lars!

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