Best carry-on suitcases and hand luggage 2024: We rate the top cabin bags in a range of categories

Cabin bags come in a lots of shapes and sizesCabin bags come in a lots of shapes and sizes
Cabin bags come in a lots of shapes and sizes | Getty Images

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Picking the right suitcase for your airline is a bit of a minefield, so here’s our guide of how to decide and some of the best cabin bags for a variety of budgets

Summer holiday season is right around the corner, and this means attention is turning to travel plans, booking flights, and compiling packing lists. We all have our own round-ups of holiday essentials that absolutely must come with us to sunnier climates, but choosing the right luggage to haul it all around in is very important.

Cabin cases, or carry-on cases, are designed to suit the size requirements of most airlines, and they should also add in some useful features. A set of wheels is always handy, of course, and internal straps and pockets can prove useful for packing smaller items in safely.

Other considerations could be external pockets, laptop storage, secure zips, and built-in locks, but often personal choice will come down to colours and aesthetics. The price and brand could also be a factor.

Choosing the right cabin case for your airline

Choosing the right size of case for your airline is importantChoosing the right size of case for your airline is important
Choosing the right size of case for your airline is important | bnenin -

It's really important to remember that the size requirements of airlines are not always consistent. While one company might allow you to take a relatively large bag in your carry-on luggage, another flight operator might deem it too big.

Ryanair, for example, are notorious for demanding much smaller hand luggage is brought on board - while airlines such as Virgin might be a tad more generous.

In reality, the differences could be just a few centimetres, so check your airline's restrictions before you invest in any luggage, and also pay close attention to weight. A good set of scales is a useful thing to have. Remember, the lighter the case, the more you can put in it.

Some brands market their cases for specific airlines, and these are worth looking out for, particularly if you mainly travel with one company. Ultimately, if you're buying a case and you want it to last, smaller is better, to ensure it will always fit in with the various restrictions.

Priced at £19.99, from Amazon

The Modernluxe Small Hard Shell case is the cheapest in our line-upThe Modernluxe Small Hard Shell case is the cheapest in our line-up
The Modernluxe Small Hard Shell case is the cheapest in our line-up | Amazon

Yes, it is possible, although not exactly easy, to find a cabin case for less than £20. We found this ModernLuxe Suitcase on Amazon at £19.99, and it looks as if it should satisfy most airline requirements, including Ryanair. If only just.

Plus points are that it's made of ABS plastic, which should give it some decent strength, and it has four wheels, which will make it easier to manoeuvre through the terminals.

The coded lock doesn't look like it would stand up to much abuse, and the seller doesn't mention anything about its weight, which is an important consideration.

Amazon's reviewers have been very positive about this case, though, mentioning that it's obviously made of cheaper quality materials, but happy that it's serving them well and not falling apart. It looks like a really strong option for those on a tight budget.

Priced at £46.99, from Aerolite

The Aerolite Ryanair Priority Hard Shell caseThe Aerolite Ryanair Priority Hard Shell case
The Aerolite Ryanair Priority Hard Shell case | Aerolite

A sale price brings this nice little Ryanair-approved hard shell case down comfortably below £50, and it looks like a really good choice as an all-rounder.

A good selection of pockets and compartments inside is good to see, and the lock looks really robust given the price. It weighs 2.75kg, which is a little on the heavy side, but if you buy it directly through Aerolite, they're offering a free luggage scale, which is a nice touch.

Perhaps it's a shame it only has two wheels, although that won't bother everyone, and the wheels themselves do look pretty decent. Fundamentally, this is designed specifically for Ryanair, and if it's good enough for them, it should be good enough for all airlines.

Priced at £97.30, from John Lewis

The American Tourister Starvibe The American Tourister Starvibe
The American Tourister Starvibe | John Lewis

Upping the budget brings lots of benefits, and we find ourselves turning to John Lewis to take advantage of a limited-time 30% discount on this nice-looking American Tourister case. It's expandable, it has four wheels with suspension, and the inside compartment looks very sensibly laid out.

At 2.3kg, it's not exactly super-light, but there's still room for lots of luggage without popping the 10kg weight restrictions you're likely to find.

It looks like the only colour option available at the moment is black, which will bother some more than others, but at least its design, with those swooshy lines, makes it look a bit more distinctive.

Priced at £200, from Antler

The Antler Stamford 2.0The Antler Stamford 2.0
The Antler Stamford 2.0 | Antler

Sending the budget skyward even further, to £200, lets us hop up to perhaps the biggest name in the luggage business - Antler. And we've found the range-topping Stamford collection on sale at £200 exactly. If you really must slip in below the £200 mark, check out the Icon range, because it's still a superb collection of cases, but available for £185.

The colours available aren't exactly exciting, but in every other way, the Stamford 2.0 is a case for the traveller who wants it all. Legendary build quality, four "whisper quiet" wheels, and one of the best locks in the business make this one of the ultimate carry-on bags.

The internal storage pockets are about the best you'll find and, if you're still baulking at the price, bear in mind you get a lifetime warranty with Antler, so this might be the last case you ever buy.

Priced at £2,490, from Rimowa

The Rimowa DistinctThe Rimowa Distinct
The Rimowa Distinct | Rimowa

Fancy pushing the boat out a bit? How does a £2,500 case suit you? Rimowa is a brand known for genuinely high-end luggage, and this flagship carry-on case is made of high-quality leather and aluminium to ensure it's going to be just about the most durable case on the market.

Inside, it has an adjustable divider, and a patented compression system, with a flat surface to ensure you can squeeze things into every corner.

The only downside, apart from the price, is the weight. At nearly 4kg, it might major on strength and durability, but some airline restrictions will mean the number of Faberge eggs you can carry is quite severely compromised. Shame.