For a frequent traveler, having the right luggage is like a pro tennis player having the right racket or a hacker having the right computer—without it, everything is slower, harder, or just not possible. And I’d argue that there’s nothing more critical than a go-to carry-on suitcase.
I’ll do another post later on other types of carry-ons, particularly different ways to approach the “personal item,” because while I have several (for various types of trips/occasions), I’m not unreservedly in love with any of them yet and so want to keep testing. This post is really focused on my little black rollaboard, aka life partner.
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Does it really matter what brand my suitcase is??
Not necessarily, no. And it didn’t for me for a very long time.
When I knew my beloved no-name tiny carry-on suitcase was about to die (I had that sucker for 10 years, and probably paid $20 for it), I went to TJMaxx and bought a new one (IT brand due to super light weight). But it didn’t work out, would tip over anytime I put something in it. So I bought a different one. And another one. But my streak of bad suitcase luck continued…the handles broke, wheels broke, they overbalanced and tipped over.
Basically I couldn’t find a decent suitcase to save my life. I’ve also had several suitcases die on me mid-trip, like when I was studying abroad in Italy in college, and even last spring in Argentina. It super sucks, and makes everything from getting to a train station to getting up stairs crazy hard. So if you have a case that’s working great, ride that horse. But if you’re in the market for a new one and are doing your research, this article is for you.
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If you need something smaller, here is the tiny rolling suitcase I fell in love with!
My suitcase research process
So after just going to the store and buying 4 or 5 suitcases that didn’t work out, I decided that I needed to do some real research and get a dependable suitcase based on reviews. It was just time—I was traveling way more than I used to, both for work and for my own international travel, I’m a grown-ass adult with a real career, and I needed something I could count on (and not be embarrassed about).
So here’s what I did:
- Made a list of the things I cared about in a case—for instance, don’t care about a garment bag
- Asked friends who are constant travelers what they used
- Sorted through dozens of different blog posts about “the 10 best carry-ons”
- Read hundreds of Amazon reviews
- Compared prices and benefits
There were a few brands that stood out to me, like Briggs and Riley. But they are EXPENSIVE. I was tempted, they have a great warranty and tons of fans. But I wasn’t quite ready to pull the trigger on something like that when there were other great options available. I want to maybe test a B&R out sometime before buying.
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So without further ado, the best carry-on suitcase for all types of travel…
I am head-over-heels in love with this suitcase. It has put up with the abuse I heap on it, never let me down once, is easy to roll, and holds an obscene amount of stuff.
I have the Marquis but sometimes it’s sold out and the Maxlite 4 is almost identical and usually in stock. This is seriously the best carry-on suitcase I’ve found!
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Why do I love this particular TravelPro suitcase?
- It’s super sturdy and durable. Doesn’t over-balance and tip over, and can hold an immense amount.
- I personally prefer soft-sided cases, gives me a little more wiggle room for fitting things in, and I make use of the zippered pockets on the outside.
- The zippers are well-made, hold up to a lot (and trust me, I put it through a LOT).
- The size is very adaptable. It’s a bit big for an overnight (though I do it anyway for work travel), but I’ve used it for anything from a weekend trip to two and a half weeks in Europe last fall.
- To that point, it’s expandable—I’ve never had an issue carrying it on except on super tiny puddle jumpers (when they make everyone with a rolling case gate check), but I also expanded it and checked it on my way back from my long Europe last year because I had bought a lot of honeys and wine that I couldn’t carry on.
- This is fairly subjective, but the way it’s laid out inside gives me a ton of space to work with and really works for my packing style. Because I roll my clothes (or most of them) you have those grooves from the handle, which gives you little dividers, there’s space under the corners to tuck little items in, and then the straps are really helpful for holding the whole contents in place while in transit.
- The handle has a couple different levels, which gives me options for leverage when I’m dragging it, including if I’m wearing heels.
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As an FYI, I may make a small affiliate commission from any Amazon sales that come through clicks from my links (which I greatly appreciate, and at no extra cost to you). All opinions are, as always, completely my own!
I’m always on the lookout for a new suitcase, so if you have a tried & true model please hit me up in the comments and let me know!!