The best carry-on luggage for international travel, according to frequent flyers

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If you've ever traveled abroad, then you know that airline restrictions are often much more stringent than they are for domestic flights. The best international carry-on luggage will help ensure you meet the sizing guidelines so that you don't have to check a nice suit or an expensive camera at the gate.

The first and foremost consideration for a carry-on is size. Restrictions vary widely by airline. While many domestic carriers allow up to 22 inches in length, international airlines often limit you to 18 inches — and that's with the wheels and handles. For this reason, it’s wise to keep your bag dimensions well within the international carry on luggage size limit, even if it means you can’t pack quite as much. To play it safe, you should always look up the specific restrictions for the airline you'll be flying with.

Related to this is your choice of wheels (that is, if you do prefer a bag with wheels). Spinner wheels rotate a full 360-degrees and often feel smoother in the airport. However, they also take up more room and eat into your packable space. Roller wheels, on the other hand, only move forward and backward, but they’re smoother on bumpy surfaces, like sidewalks, and they aren't as bulky.

Beyond sizing and wheels, think about the material (you want tough, durable fabrics) and interior features (such as pockets, zippers, and pouches). It’s also nice to have a sturdy handle (aluminum telescoping styles are generally the best) and an extra pocket on the outside for quick access.

With these considerations in mind, check out the best international carry-on luggage below. I’ve included standard roller suitcases, as well as smaller, wheel-free options.


The Best Overall

Dimensions: 18 by 13.4 by 9 inches (including wheels)

Weight: 5.5 pounds

With a flexible yet strong soft-shell design and sturdy, 360-degree spinner wheels, this international carry-on luggage is a great choice even before you look at the price tag. When you add that it only costs 50 bucks, it becomes a truly exceptional option. The 18-inch height measurement includes the wheels, so it should comply with many of the stricter international airlines. The tough, telescoping handle helps guide the wheels, which reviewers say roll smoothly, and the 150-denier, snag-proof polyester lining protects the interior from unwieldy personal items. On top of that, it's expandable, so you can take advantage of extra packing space for longer trips — just make sure you check the width restrictions when using this feature.

Fans say: "I love this little suitcase. I took it to Europe recently and the wheels did just fine on cobble stone streets w/ a lot of travel. So great for the price."


The Most Durable Luggage

Dimensions: 21.75 by 13.75 by 9 inches (including wheels)

Weight: 5.75 pounds

If what you're after is durability, this tough suitcase is one of the best rolling carry-on luggage pieces out there — and it's especially great for more rugged destinations. Designed specifically for adventurous travel, the suitcase is made with a material called Bi-Tech Armor Lite that's both heavy-duty and lightweight. The roller-style wheels help to maximize your packing space and do a great job of traversing bumpy surfaces like cobblestoned European streets or rocky nature resort paths. On top of all that, the exterior is abrasion-resistant and equipped with lash points to attach gear and accessories. One thing to note: This suitcase is the biggest option on my list, and it may not work for some of the strictest international airlines (however, it's well within the limits for most domestic airlines).

Fans say: "Great durable brand...I travel 200+ days out of the year and I run through luggage all the time, this shows no signs of breakage or wear that would cause concern for a shorter life span."


The Best Backpack For Travel

Dimensions: 19.7 by 13 by 7.9 inches

Weight: 1.76 pounds

This versatile carry-on backpack features comfortable padding and a sleek, stylish design. When traveling internationally, it can work as a companion piece to your checked luggage or as an all-in-one option for folks who travel light. Plus, when you're back home, it makes a great weekend bag for short domestic trips. The soft straps wont don't dig into your shoulders, and you can tuck them away when you don't need them. With 11 color options to choose from, this backpack comes at a strikingly affordable price given what you're getting. As a huge bonus, it comes with a convenient set of packing cubes, too.

Fans say: "Used this bag last month and flew to Dublin, Brussels and Budapest. I flew using American Airlines to Dublin and the bag fit under the seat! Then I flew using Air Lingus from Dublin to Brussels and the bag fit under that seat too ... Finally, I used Ryanair from Brussels to Budapest and the bag also passed Ryanair's strict baggage policy without any trouble."


The Best Personal Item

Dimensions: 16 by 10 by 8 inches

Weight: 1.1 pounds

Constructed with strong fabric and sturdy, snag-free zippers, this duffle-style carry-on bag is both durable and convenient. It has an adjustable shoulder strap with soft, no-chafe padding, plus a convenient sleeve that allows you to slide it over the handle of your roller luggage. It weighs just a little over 1 pound, so it won't wear out your shoulder, and the front panel has a mini-pocket for passports and other important items that you might need to keep handy. Even better: it comes with a key padlock that can be secured to the interlocking zippers.

Fans say: "Super light. Fits easily under the seat on a plane. It's just the right size for carrying some travel essentials ... The camera bag fits right in and I was able to pack several other travel essentials in it, too. I used it in Africa when I was on a Safari. It is the perfect size for carrying things you want to have with you during the day."

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