If you often travel for business, then you need a really good carry on. Something that is durable, reliable and that can fit everything you need.
You can go for a small suitcase - there are plenty of bags that have excellent organizational features, as well as a sleek and professional exterior. Or you can go for an underseat tote bag, which will hold your laptop, accessories and all your files.
Which sounds better? In fact, it's not really important - you will find several options in each category in this detailed review of best carry on luggage for business travelers!
Helium Aero is one of the best-selling collections by Delsey Paris. Their suitcases are premium, but have affordable price tags. They are not exactly cheap, but definitely not as expensive as Tumi or Rimowa.
The suitcase I’m showing you here is the small carry on - be sure to get that size if you opt for this luggage, since it is the only one that has all the features I’m talking about here.
One of the things that makes this an amazing suitcase for business travelers is the large front compartment. That’s something you rarely get on hardside luggage, so it is really worth a shout out. The packing space is large enough to fit your laptop and its accessories, and any files you would want to keep safe.
It does take away from the capacity of the packing compartments, but you can still fit enough clothes for a short business trip. Especially since the capacity of the packing space is expandable. The only downside to this suitcase is that it doesn’t have a suiter section inside, so you would need to get a separate one.
The exterior of the Helium Aero carry on suitcase is made from polycarbonate, which is an incredibly durable and lightweight material. This hardside spinner suitcase also features four double wheels and a telescoping handle for easy manoeuvring around the airport.
And there is the TSA lock, which will keep most of your belongings safe. However, the front compartment cannot be locked, so not all of your belongings will be entirely safe.
The Crew 11 carry on suitcase is another really popular option. It is a very solid suitcase, with some amazing features. Its exterior is made from ballistic nylon with DuraGuard coating, which protects the suitcase from any scuffs, scratches and damage.
This suitcase features four double wheels that roll smoothly, as well as a multi-stage telescoping handle. That means that the handle is height adjustable, which is a very convenient feature.
The packing compartment is rather spacious, and it has expandable capacity. It has several pockets inside, as well as tie-down straps that will keep your clothes in place. And it comes with a removable suiter section, which is perfect for business.
There are also several external compartments on this suitcase, including one with a USB port for charging your phone. And the Crew 11 has two larger front compartments, which can fit your laptop, files and any other items you want to have handy.
One downside is that the suitcase is quite big, so it might not be accepted as a carry on every time. You should definitely check with the airline beforehand. Also, the Crew 11 does not have a lock. It does have lockable Supra zippers, but you would need to purchase a padlock separately.
In general, I think this is a really good option not just because of the quality, but also because of the design. The suitcase looks very professional, and the leather accents add some elegance to it.
The Winfield 3 by Samsonite is a lightweight carry on suitcase. It is made from pure polycarbonate, so it is going to be very durable. The outer shell is prone to scratches and scuffs, but it has excellent impact resistance. Plus, even if you do get a nasty scratch on the Winfield 3, it’s not going to be too visible, thanks to the patterned exterior of the luggage.
The suitcase features four single spinner wheels that roll smoothly. It also has an aluminium wheel handle that is height adjustable. You can lock the handle to the height that suits you best - all you need to do is push the button.
The interior of this suitcase is divided into two packing compartments. Both are fully lined and have expandable capacity. And both compartment feature elastic cross straps.
There is also a floating divider inside, with two zipper pockets on it, and you can choose which compartment you want it to be in.
Unfortunately, the suitcase doesn’t come with a suiter section. It also lacks any external compartments, so it might not be the best option if you like being organized. But, it is remarkably durable, lightweight and pretty affordable, so it is a good option is you just want a sturdy carry on bag.
It also comes with a TSA friendly lock, which ensures the safety of all your belongings. In addition to that, the Winfield 3 has two soft and sturdy grab handles - one on the top, and one on the side.
The Renegade suitcase by Kenneth Cole Reaction is a good affordable option. It is under $100, so it is one of the cheaper suitcases in this review. It features an ABS shell, which has excellent scratch resistance, but not the best impact resistance.
Which is why it is important to mention that this suitcase has reinforced corners. They significantly increase the impact resistance of the luggage, and help prolong its life. You can get the Renegade suitcase in a variety of different colors - great if you want to stand out a bit at the airport.
This suitcase features four double spinner wheels and a telescopic wheel handle, for easy manoeuvring. The wheel handle is not height adjustable, and that’s one downside. Another downside to this suitcase is that it does not have a lock.
But it does have expandable capacity. The interior is divided into two packing compartments, both of which feature some sort of divider. The top compartment has a full panel divider with slip and zippered pockets, and the bottom one has a detachable divider with one large zippered pocket.
The divider in the bottom compartment can’t be entirely removed, since it is sewn into the lining on one side. But it will do an excellent job at keeping all your clothes in place, and you shouldn’t remove it anyway.
The Renegade suitcase is not the most durable or high quality luggage you can buy. But, it is excellent for organization, small enough to be accepted as an international carry-on bag always, and it has a very attractive price tag. So, you should definitely consider it if you are on a tight budget.
The Thule suitcase is a remarkably durable softside. Its exterior is made from nylon, which has pretty good water resistance without any additional coating. This luggage also features crushproof SafeZone compartments that are great for all of your smaller fragile items.
The interior of this suitcase has expandable capacity and it is divided into two packing compartments, which is a bit unusual for a softshell. The top compartment has a full panel divider with two big zippered pockets, while the bottom compartment features tie-down straps that keep your clothes in place. And the suitcase comes with a suiter section, which is removable.
I am disappointed that this is an upright suitcase, especially considering the high price tag. However, there is an advantage to those in-line skate wheels - they make the suitcase shorter overall, and it’s more likely that it will be accepted as international carry-on. But, they do mean you need to tilt the suitcase to get the wheels rolling, which is not my favorite thing.
There is also the telescopic wheel handle, which makes it pretty easy to wheel this bag around. And the handle is actually on the outside of the suitcase, which is pretty great - it makes it a lot easier to repair if anything goes wrong, and it doesn’t take as much from the internal capacity of the luggage.
The Thule suitcase has a total of three external compartments. Two of those are rather small, and they are great for your phone, sunglasses, and any smaller items you would like to have handy. One compartment is fairly large, and it could fit your laptops and A4 papers.
However, this compartment is not padded throughout, so keep that in mind if you’re going to keep your laptop in it.
The Leverage LTE softside suitcase is another excellent option for business travel. And not just because of its sleek and professional exterior - the shell of this bag is actually made from very durable nylon with water-resistant coating.
In addition to that, this suitcase also features corner guards, for superb impact resistance. And it comes with four double spinner wheels and a retractable wheel handle, for effortless manoeuvring of your luggage.
The best thing about this suitcase is that it is currently on sale, and you can get it for under $100, which is about half its regular price. That is amazing value for money, especially considering all of the accessories you are getting with this suitcase.
Those include a removable suiter section, as well as a WetPak - a waterproof zippered compartment designed for toiletries or wet clothes.
There is one spacious packing compartment inside this suitcase, and it has a pocket and elastic compression straps. It also has expandable capacity, so you should never run out of space with this bag. But that’s not what makes it excellent for business travel - that would be the smaller compartment on the cover of the bag.
The suiter section (or your laptop) fits perfectly inside that compartment, which is covered with a full panel zippered divider. And that divider feature several slip pockets, and a large zippered one.
Then there are also the two external compartments on this Samsonite, which will fit all your other gear. If you want something affordable, professional and highly functional, I think this is the best carry on for you.
The Briggs & Riley Domestic carry on is another great option. This is actually one of the few high end suitcases I’ve showed you, so it’s not going to be for everyone’s budget. In fact, the price is pretty much the only downside to this amazing bag - if you can afford it, then there’s no need to look for anything else.
The wheel handle is attached to the exterior of the suitcase, and it doesn’t protrude into the packing compartment at all. This is pretty amazing, and a feature that you will see on very few suitcases. The internal packing case is entirely flat, and can fit quite a lot of items thanks to expandable capacity.
In fact, you can see both the normal and the expanded capacity in the box below. And that is due to their patented CX compression system, which works wonders. Here’s a video so you can see exactly how the compression system works, and just how much space you can gain with it:
The packing compartment features a floating divider, which has several pockets on it for easy organization. And the top cover of the suitcase is actually a fixed suiter section, with an external pocket. You can remove one panel of the suiter section (the one with padded roll bars), and use this compartment for your other gear.
In addition to all that, you also have four double spinner wheels on this suitcase. They roll smoothly, and are very durable. Plus, there are two external compartments on this bag, which are perfect for your laptop, tablet, files, folders and anything else you would like to have easily accessible.
The Tegra Lite is a high end suitcase with some truly innovative features. It is entirely made from Tegris - a polypropylene thermoplastic composite material that is frequently used in sports gear and NASCAR car components. Tumi is the only luggage brand with exclusive rights to use this material in their products.
The durability of Tegris is remarkable, and it helps that the suitcase also features corner guards, for even better impact resistance. There are also the four spinner wheels that glide very smoothly, and the retractable wheel handle, made from aircraft grade aluminum.
This suitcase also features an external compartment, which is a huge plus on a hardside. It is large enough to fit your laptop and files, and keep them all safe.
The interior of the Tumi Tegra is divided into two packing compartments with expandable capacity. The bottom compartment is equipped with mesh compression straps and a small zippered pocket.
And the top compartment is separated with a full panel zippered divider, which also features a pretty bug mesh pocket on it. This compartment also has a suiter section inside.
The Tegra suitcase is really expensive, there’s no point in denying that. But, it has some seriously unique features, which are almost worth all that money. The Tumi Tracer is one of those - each suitcase has a unique 20-digit code. You need to register your suitcase on their website, and in case your luggage is ever lost, it will be much easier to find.
There is also the Omega closure system - the pullers are designed to break away from the zipper if it ever gets stuck. Which means that you only need to replace the pullers, instead of replacing the entire zipper.
If your trips are usually just a day or two long, then a rolling tote might just be the perfect option for you. The Crew 11 tote is a really good carry=on bag, which fits in overhead bins everywhere and under most seats. It might not fit under your seat on a really small plane, but it will definitely fit in the overhead bin.
The exterior of this bag is made from ballistic nylon with DuraGuard coating, for excellent stain and abrasion resistance. And it has corner guards, which improve the impact resistance of this bag.
It is a rolling tote, so it comes with two wheels and a retractable wheel handle. The wheels are not spinner and that’s just one downside - since the bag is pretty wide, you might not be able to roll it through the aisle in all airplanes. The lack of spinner wheels means you will have to pick it up and carry it in your hands.
This bag features a luggage strap in the back, so you can mount it on a larger suitcase if you’re travelling with several pieces of luggage. Which makes it a good option for leisure travel, and not just business.
The interior of the Crew 11 tote is spacious enough to fit a change of clothes, and it features a padded laptop sleeve. However, it’s not going to fit all laptops - I doubt it will fit anything larger than 15” laptops, so be sure to check the actual dimensions of your laptop vs the dimensions of this bag.
The bag also has a front compartment with an organizer panel, which includes a padded tablet sleeve. And is large enough to fit most folders and files, in addition to pens, chargers, phone, keys etc.
The Kenneth Cole Reaction underseat tote is a great option for short business trips. It has spinner wheels and a retractable wheel handle, so it is pretty easy to move around the airport with this bag. Plus, the wheel handle stores into a zippered compartment, so it does not get in the way when you want to put this under your seat.
The bag has a zippered side pocket, a stretch side pocket that fits a water bottle, as well as a luggage strap in the back. And there’s a USB port on the bag, which allows you to charge your phone on the go, as long as you have a power bank.
This bag has a pretty spacious interior, which can fit enough clothes for a day or two. And it also has a laptop sleeve that acts as a divider, and keeps your clothes in place. The sleeve can fit laptops up to 14”, so keep that in mind.
In addition to that, this sleeve also has a pocket for your tablet, and is padded throughout. The bag has another large zippered pocket on the cover flap, which can hold your toiletries, chargers and similar accessories. And there is another external compartment on the front of the bag - perfect for any items you want to have easily accessible.
Another great thing about this bag is that it’s pretty affordable. It is under $100, and it is one of the cheapest bags in the entire review. It is also the only underseat tote with spinner wheels, which is a huge plus.
The Samsonite tote is a very versatile bag. It has several different compartments, which you can use however you like. Its exterior is made from 1680D Ballistic nylon, which is very durable and water resistant.
The bag has two polyurethane in-line skate wheels, and you need to tilt it to get them rolling. But, even though they are not spinner wheels, they do roll very smoothly. And are pretty durable. There’s also the retractable wheel handle, which stores into its own zippered compartment.
The bag has two very spacious compartments that you can use for clothes. One of those compartments has elastic compression straps, while the other one features a padded laptop sleeve.
The laptop sleeve is actually removable and TSA friendly. It can fit most 17” laptops, which is pretty amazing - if that’s what you were looking for, then this is probably the best bag for you.
In addition to that, the Samsonite Mobile Office also has a compartment with an organizer panel. There is a slip pocket for your tablet here, as well as smaller ones for your phone, business cards, pens etc. And since this compartment opens up accordion style, there will be plenty of space for files and folders inside.
The only downside to this bag is that it is pretty large, and it will not fit under all seats, especially in smaller aircrafts. But, it will definitely fit in the overhead bins.
The two main luggage types I’ve showed you here are underseat totes and carry on suitcases. Suitcases are the better option if you don’t plan to bring a checked bag and need something that can fit all of your belongings. Most suitcases features in this review have a suiter attachment, which helps prevent any wrinkles in your suits.
But, if you are mostly looking for a carry on that will hold your tech, files and maybe a change of clothes, then get an underseat bag. They are small, lightweight and perfect for people that go on really short business trips.
If you need a carry-on suitcase in which you can pack your suits without them getting wrinkled, you don’t actually need to buy an entire suitcase. What you need is a suiter organizer, and you can get that for a lot less money than an entire suitcase.
Travelpro actually has a variety of these organizers - just get one that is the right size for your existing carry on. Even though they are designed to be compatible with Travelpro luggage specifically, they should fit most other suitcases.
The one I’m showing you here fits in suitcases that have a packing compartment of at least 18”, so it should fit most carry ons. Its dimensions are 1.75” x 17.5” x 14”.
This is always a tough decision. I generally recommend hardside suitcases for air travel, but that rule mostly applies to checked bags. Since we are only looking at carry ons here, we don’t have to take into consideration if the suitcase will be thrown around.
Softside suitcases are usually better for organization. They have external compartments, which is very rare for hardshells. And they have expandable capacity, a single packing compartment and lots of pockets both inside and out. But, they are not as durable as hardsides.
Hardshell luggage is more durable than softshell. Especially if you go for a suitcase that has a shell made from Polycarbonate - that material bends upon impact, and it is insanely sturdy and lightweight. However, hardsides are usually not the best option for people who like travelling organized.
An external compartment is a feature you will almost never see on hardshells, and you will rarely have more than 2-3 pockets inside. Therefore, if you like having certain items handy while you travel, a hardside suitcase is probably not the best option for you. But, if you prioritize durability and sturdiness, then it’s definitely the top choice.
Some of the suitcases I’ve showed you here are really expensive. But you are paying for premium quality and amazing features - in the long run, it will be worth it. And other suitcases I’ve showed you are pretty cheap - there is definitely something for everyone’s budget in this review.
The usual price range for carry on suitcases is some $100-250. Whenever a suitcase is cheaper than this, I’m going to list that it is affordable in the pro box. And if it costs more than $250, I will tell you that it’s pricey in the con boxes.
If you’re really on a tight budget, then an underseat tote might be the best option for you, since they are a lot cheaper than traditional suitcases.
Oh, and if you really want to have a wrinkle-free trip when you travel for business, you might also want to consider buying a travel steamer!
All of the bags you’ve seen in this review are rated very highly by hundreds and thousands of happy customers. But, there were a few bags that stood out, because they were just the best overall - best organization, value for money and durability. So, let’s talk about those.
The best softshell suitcase is definitely the Samsonite Leverage LTE. It is under $100, which is excellent value for money. The suitcase has expandable capacity, double spinner wheels and multiple external compartments. It also comes with a suiter section inside, as well as a waterproof ziplock bag for your toiletries or wet clothes. And, not to mention that this suitcase looks quite professional, and would be perfect for business trips.
The Delsey Paris Helium Aero would have to be my favorite hardshell carry on. It is one of the few hardside suitcases that has an external compartment, and I love that. It can fit your laptop, files, folders and any items you would like to have easily accessible. And it also has two packing compartments with expandable capacity, double spinner wheels, a telescoping wheel handle and a TSA lock. It doesn’t have a suiter section, but that’s something you can always buy separately.
If you want a good underseat bag, then I recommend the Travelpro Crew 11. It has a spacious internal compartment that can fit enough clothes for short trip, as well as a laptop (up to 15”) in the padded sleeve. The bag also features an organizer panel in the front compartment, with pockets or your tablet, smartphone, business cards and enough space for important documents.
Those are my top three carry ons for business travel. You can see their prices and color options on Amazon, so head over there.
And check out our related posts, for more great carry on bags!
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!