If your teen is getting ready to travel on an airplane, this guide will help you choose the best carry-on suitcase for your teen.
The Case for Carry-On Only Travel
The debate of whether or not to travel with checked luggage or carry on only luggage is very personal. You want to send your teen on an airplane with anything they might need while traveling or on vacation- but traveling with checked luggage isn’t always possible.
Even if checking luggage is a possibility, it’s not always the best idea. Moving through the airport with heavy, awkward bags isn’t easy. Neither is getting to your lodging overburdened with stuff.
If your teen is traveling on her own, not having to deal with the stress of baggage claim is so helpful.
Plus, we all know delayed, or worse, lost luggage can ruin a vacation!
Now that we’ve come to the conclusion that carry-on only travel is best for teens whenever possible, let’s choose the best carry-on luggage for your teen.
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How to choose the best carry-on suitcase for your teen.
If your teen wants to travel with just carry on luggage for her next plane trip these are the very best carry ons for teens. Below I’m sharing all the best luggage options for hard side, soft side, backpack and more.
To choose the best carry-on luggage for your teen, you’ll want to consider the type of travel she’s planning, the frequency of travel, her packing needs, budget, and her personal style.
Before choosing your suitcase, be sure to double check it against the dimensions allowed for carry on luggage for the airline you are likely to fly.
Best Hard Side Suitcase Options
Why choose a hard side carry on? If you are the kind of person who prefers compartmentalized packing, hard sided luggage is often sectioned into halves. If you pack fragile items or electronics hard sided luggage can provide more peace of mind for your packed items. Hard sided luggage is also the most weather resistant packing option.
Away Carry On (or the Away Bigger Carry On)
This is the splurge worthy hard sided carry on luggage option. This lightweight Away carry-on is built to last with spinner wheels and an internal compression system. It comes with an ejectable USB charger to keep your phone fully charged even on the longest travel days. With a 100 day money back guarantee, you have no risk in giving this super trendy and carry on a chance! Plus, Away luggage comes with a lifetime warranty that covers any damage to the shell, wheels, handles, zippers, and more.
If your teen will be traveling frequently, this carry-on will give you peace of mind knowing it will make it through every trip. AND thanks to the quality and life time warranty, this suitcase will last her through adulthood travel too!
If your teen is an overpacker, be sure to also check out the Away Bigger Carry On. It will give your teen a little extra packing room, and fits most domestic carry on requirements. (If you’re planning international travel stick with the regular Away Carry On.)
Fortis Pro 22″ USB Carry-On
Looking for a trendy suitcase on budget with all the best features? The Fortis Pro 22″ USB Carry-On is the perfect option. It’s lightweight (less than half a pound heavier than the Away Carry On) and also has an integrated USB charger. With integrated internal pockets, a compression strap, and an expandable zipper giving an extra 1.5 inches of space, you can’t go wrong with this hard sided carry-on!
If you your teen travels less frequently, or you feel her needs and style may change as she ages, this is a great hard sided suitcase that will meet all her needs without breaking the bank.
Best Soft Side Suitcase Options
Why choose a soft side carry on? They are often lighter weight than hard side luggage when weight limits are important. Soft side suitcase are often less expensive than hard sided. Should you be forced to gate check your carry on soft side luggage is better at taking on trauma- if you’ve ever seen a hard sided suitcase with the zipper split completely open on the baggage carousel, you know exactly how devastating that would be!
It’s easier to open and live out of in hotels and other tight spaces with a soft sided, top loading carry on suit case.
Many people find soft sided suitcases more packable. They often have several external pockets to make getting to essentials easier. Packing in one large space allows organization with packing cubes.
Travel Pro Maxlite 5 Spinner Carry- On
At just over 5 pounds, the Travel Pro Maxlite Spinner is one of the lightest carry on suitcases you’ll find. The 4 spinner wheels make it easy to maneuver through the airport and down the airplane aisle.
The expandable zipper allow for maximum packing space, while the two quick-access, exterior front pockets, full-length interior lid pocket, and side accessory pocket make organizing a cinch!
Travel Pro Maxlite 5 Rollerboard
The Travel Pro Maxlite Rollerboard is best for the over packer. Rollerboards have more packable space than spinners, though with only 2 wheels they are less maneuverable. Two wheeled carry on suitcases are what you see flight attendants rolling through the airport.
This Travel Pro Rollerboard has all the same features as the Travel Pro Spinner in a two wheel carry on style, with an extra 6 L of packable space.
Briggs & Riley Essential Carry On
If you are looking for a high quality, timeless, and versatile luggage choice backed with a life time guarantee, the Briggs and Riley Essential Carry On is a suitcase that will last your teen through adulthood.
This suitcase has all the bells and whistles with self healing zippers, strong ballistic nylon fabric to resist wear, and smooth gliding wheels. It is easy to expand and has lots of amazing organizational features too.
Best Backpack Carry On Luggage Options
A backpack carry on is a great option for teens. They are easy to pack, with lots of organizational pockets. You can really stuff a lot into a backpack.
Backpacks are easy to maneuver with going down the aisle of the plane.
If your teen plans to travel to places that aren’t suitcase friendly, such as locations with cobblestone streets or lots of stairs a backpack is much easier to deal with.
Some backpacks have the best of both worlds, they can be carried on your back but they also come with wheels for rolling when convenient.
Osprey Fairview 40L
The Osprey Fairview 40L is a great travel backpack that meets most airline carry-on sizing specifications. While it has the convenience of a backpack, it opens and packs more like a suitcase. No more trying to dig all the way to the bottom of a deep dark backpack to find something you need. It has a quick access, padded laptop/table pocket.
The backpack is made specifically for a woman’s body, and will fit most teen girls comfortably. The Farpoint 40 is the men’s version of this backpack.
Should your teen need to check her backpack the straps and waist built stowaway easily.
You can add an Osprey daypack to the backpack for even more packing space. Attach the daypack to the backpack for ease of carrying. Detach the daypack to separate the Osprey into a carry-on and a personal item when getting on an airplane. Then, your teen can use the daypack as a day bag once she reaches her destination.
Cotopaxi Allpa 35
The Cotopaxi Allpa 35 is another great backpack carry-on choice. It’s very trendy and comes in a variety of unique color schemes to match your teens vibe.
This backpack also opens like a suitcase, which we feel is a must for convenient travel! It also has a padded laptop sleeve and many functional organizational zippers.
Mother Lode Travel Backpack
If you are looking for a carry-on compliant backpack on a budge that opens like a suitcase the Mother Lode Travel Backpack is the perfect choice. I actually have one of these myself and use it often when I need maneuverability in my travel plans.
With tons of strategically placed pockets your teen will stay organized with traveling. It’s expandable and has inner compression straps for maximum packing potential.
Rolling Backpack Luggage Options
Choosing a rolling suitcase makes travel very versatile, but you will be giving up some packing room due to the space required for wheels and a handle. Wheeled backpacks can also be less comfortable to carry on your back.
But, if you want a rolling backpack here are a few options to check out:
Mother Lode Rolling Backpack – Switch from a backpack to a wheeled piece of luggage in seconds, wheel it or wear it, whatever works best for your situation at the time.
Osprey Ozone – Lightweight and sturdy. It’s hard to go wrong with an Osprey bag!
Best International Carry On Options
If your teen is going to travel internationally, you might want to invest in a smaller carry on, as many international airlines require smaller luggage.
Many people say the Away Carry-On will fit in international baggage sizers and overhead bins, though the listed measurements are close.
Personally, my family chooses to invest in the perfect carry-on for domestic travel, while investing less in an international carry-on choice, since my teens rarely leave the country and would likely check luggage if they did travel to Europe or overseas.
If your teen needs an International compliant carry-on I suggest looking at the following options.
*Remember to always double check the luggage measurements against the airline requirements!
Delsey Paris Helium Aero 19 – This is a great international sized hard sided suitcase.
Maxlite® 5 International Carry-On Spinner – If you prefer a soft sided suitcase, this is the one I would choose for international travel.
Best Personal Item Only Carry On Options
These days many of us are traveling budget airlines, which only allow one personal item free with your flight’s ticket. If your teen is going to fly personal item only on a budget airline, check out these great personal item size bags that will hold the maximum amount of stuff.
This inexpensive duffle from Amazon is a great choice for personal item only travel.
If your teen prefers a backpack style carry-on this adorable backpack is a great choice!
What Carry On Suitcases My Family Chose
I have 4 teens at home and each one prefers and uses a different carry on depending on their personal style, their packing needs, travel preferences, and travel frequency.
One child uses the Fortis Pro because it’s cute and having a fully charged phone at all times is very important to her. She prefers to unpack into the lodging’s drawers when she travels and doesn’t mind the clamshell opening of the hard sided luggage
One uses the Travel Pro Spinner because she prefers living out of her suitcase while on vacation, and the Travel Pro sits nicely opened on a hotel luggage rack.
Another uses the Osprey Fairview backpack since she dreams of more rugged adventures, multi-destination travel, and the need to walk where a suitcase couldn’t easily be rolled to get to her lodging.
And the oldest teen uses one of my ancient suitcases while she’s saving for an Away Bigger Carry On.
My family also owns a Mother Lode Backpack that many of us in the family use when our trip calls for lots of walking with luggage in tow. I also often pack my younger kids in this bag since they can carry it themselves without running a wheeled suitcase into strangers as we try to get from place to place.
Now that you know all the pros and cons of the best possible carry-on luggage for teens, you are ready to help your teen choose the perfect carry-on suitcase!