Travel has been off the table for a long time now. My 4-year-old has barely known a time when we could fly anywhere we wanted or use public transport without a mask. The necessary restrictions that were needed to keep us safe are being reduced now, though, as more people are vaccinated and measures are in place to mitigate the spread of the virus.
If you are looking to travel, especially on a plane, you may need new luggage -- three years in the attic is not good for luggage -- but you might not know where to look anymore. A lot of the CNET team are professional travelers, often flying to conventions, conferences and expos to bring you the latest news. These trips are not always weeklong affairs, so our team tends to travel light. A good carry-on or backpack is often all you need for a weekend.
We've pulled together some of our favorite carry-on luggage from across the teams at CNET to give you some idea of what might work for you. These are not the "tested in CNET Labs" products -- that list is coming soon -- but the ones that we use in our day-to-day lives.
OK, this isn't -- strictly speaking -- luggage, but it is a day pack that's big enough to handle overnight trips alone or as a clutch secondary bag to handle electronics and whatever wouldn't fit in your main suitcase. Though large, it fits under every airplane seat I've flown on, and is so durable I can throw it around or leave it in the rain without worrying. Most Peak Design fans recommend the smaller 20L, but I opted for the 30L so I could take it on trips. It has padding and Velcro-secured dividers for cameras and other fragile equipment, with plenty of pockets and space for phones, tablets and laptops.
The side zippers make it easy to grab items deep in the main compartment, while the abundance of outer handles make it easy to yank the bag out of car trunks and overhead bins. Lastly, there are little hook and anchor points to tie down even more luggage if you need. Truly versatile!
-- David Lumb
I'm not much of a traveler, but I do keep a pretty basic carry-on bag around for the times when I do need to pack a few things for a quick trip. I've been using this carry-on bag, the smallest piece of a larger set I purchased at Target for my last few trips, and I really couldn't ask for more from a bag. It has a fairly sturdy handle for wheeling the bag around to your destination and four wheels to help guide it along easily.
Inside, there's one big compartment with a zipped pouch at the top. There are straps at the bottom to secure your items, and the outside of the bag has two zipped areas as well. You can expand it by unzipping one of the sections, in case you are one of those who pack a lot of stuff and like to push the limits of your suitcases. It's not a hardshell suitcase, and it may not be designed to last forever, but at this price it's perfect for anyone who may not travel often or need something expensive.
-- Jared DiPane
This Kenneth Cole carry-on suitcase has lasted several years and many trips being shoved into the overhead bin or thrown in with other suitcases getting checked last-minute at the gate. It's lightweight with a hard shell, and its four wheels spin in any direction, making it easy to navigate the airport. It has a sleek design and comes in 14 different colors. I don't use its inner organization system often, but my husband loves the zipper panel and straps that can hold in your clothes.
The suitcase comes with a 10-year warranty, but it only covers craftsmanship and manufacturer defects. But based on my experience, it should hold up pretty well.
-- Alison DeNisco Rayome
When I'm going on a short trip, I don't want to tote around a large piece of luggage. This is where the Venture duffle bag from Bellroy comes in handy. It's not only long-lasting, but also fashionable and practical in its design, which is exactly what I need to keep my trips stress-free.
It features a huge main compartment that is capable of holding a week's worth of clothes (if you roll them up) and two pairs of shoes when you use the complementary stuff sack. This bag is water-resistant, leather-free, and has a minimalistic design. I thought that after stuffing everything in my bag that I would struggle to carry it around, but the padding on the strap made it a cinch to move it about. I can even fit a laptop and other necessary accessories safely. While I'd love a thicker strap all around, when I'm going on short trips, bringing this Venture duffle along just makes it easier to get up and go.
-- Robin Mosley
As an avid sneaker fan, I like having more than one pair of shoes with me on my trips. I usually have one comfortable pair to walk around with that is also what I wear to the airport, another pair that goes well with multiple outfits, and a third pair to show off a bit. That's why I bought the Sole Premise Commuter Bag earlier in the year.
The bag consists of two compartments for sneakers although you can fit clothes in there as well. Then it has the rest of the standard spacing for a laptop, tablets, other accessories and so on. On my last trip, I was able to pack three pairs of shoes and my multiple devices, including my Nintendo Switch, while still being able to fit it under the seat in front of me.
-- Oscar Gonzalez
I generally only buy name-brand luggage, so when my partner bought this suitcase off of Amazon, I shrugged at it and figured it might not hold up. However, it's been a great little carry-on that's served us well in the eight-plus months we've had it.
I just took it on a four-day trip and managed to fit more clothing in it than I thought it could ever hold. Not only that, but it was light and easy to lift into an overhead bin. The handle extends easily, the wheels work well. For the price, don't expect the highest quality, but I have no complaints.
It has all the basics you'd want -- zippered compartments, an interior strap to compress clothing and a built-in TSA lock.
-- Sarah Mitroff
If you want one backpack that'll work for your daily commute, a day trip or weekend away or as an airplane carry-on, this is it. I continue to be amazed at how well designed this bag is every time I use it, and it truly feels like the company thought of everything.
The main compartment gives you enough room for your lunch, a jacket, books and whatever else you might carry on including a hard case for sunglasses. Like many travel bags, though, there's a zipper around the outside (all the zippers are weather-sealed, by the way) that expands the size to give you space for shoes and clothes for a day or two. What's unique is that when you expand the bag, it reveals another zipper that opens the backpack like a clamshell for easy packing.
At nearly $300, it's expensive to be used as just a carry-on. But given the bag's design flexibility, it might be the only bag you need.
-- Josh Goldman