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10 Best Cabin Bags for 2021

Best cabin bags for a hassle-free weekend away

Best Cabin Carry On Hand Luggage
  • Whether you’re travelling light or need some extra space, cabin bags are there to be made use of
  • But every airline has its own restrictions in size and weight which can make it difficult
  • You’ll have to think about these, as well as where the luggage can be kept in-flight
  • Also consider things such as material for protection, and colour and fastenings

Our Top Picks

The Best Carry On Hand Luggage

Travelling light definitely has its pros – you don’t have to worry about baggage reclaim, damaged goods or losing your luggage altogether. Even if you need a check-in bag, the right carry-on luggage can keep your e-reader safe and give you a spare outfit ‘just in case’.

The most important thing to remember is that you will likely be limited to the size of the cabin bag you can take on board with you. Budget airlines have the tightest restrictions, often going as small as 40 x 20 x 25cm.

Below, we have a cabin bag for all restrictions, whether you’re flying with Ryanair or have the freedom of Jet2 or British Airways’ more generous limitations. As fans of weekends away ourselves, we know that quality, style and protection are three other things to look out for.

We chose IT Luggage Worlds Lightest Cabin Size Lightweight Suitcase as our top pick – it is lightweight so you can keep to restrictions, and is spacious, perfect for the airlines with more generous limits

To take the stress out of your decision making, we have chosen the best cabin bags out of dozens available to buy online. When you’re ready to get into the air again, they will have you breezing through the airport in style.

The Essential Cabin Luggage Buying Guide


As mentioned, you will be restricted to a certain size of cabin luggage. This can be anywhere from a generous 56 x 45 x 25cm, to 40 x 20 x 25cm, depending on your airline. It will include the handle and the wheels.

Check with your airline before you fly. Some will also limit you to one cabin bag, and others will allow a separate handbag or laptop bag. Also, check whether they will allow you on with a separate duty-free bag – most do, but a few class this as one item of hand luggage.

If you will be shopping at the airport, it could be worth leaving some room in your cabin bag to squeeze that bottle of aftershave/set of novelty fridge magnets in, too.

It is best to try not to push the dimensions, which is why most suitcases will give you a few centimetres leeway. You may not be checked, but if you are, you may have to pay a big fee.

Hand Luggage Restrictions

The cabin bag restrictions for the most popular airlines in the UK are as follows (subject to change so always check directly before you fly):

  • Aer Lingus

55 x 40 x 24cm at 10kg as well as personal item at 25 x 33 x 20cm. Regional allowance flights allow 48 x 33 x 20cm

  • British Airways

56 x 45 x 25cm at 23kg. Can also take one 40 x 30 x 15cm handbag. Can depend on where you are flying to

  • easyJet

56 x 45 x 25cm. No weight restriction but must be able to be lifted into the overhead locker unaided

  • Emirates

55 x 38 x 20cm for Economy. First Class and Business Class passengers are allowed an extra briefcase or garment bag

  • Etihad

50 x 40 x 25cm at 7kg. Can depend on where you are flying

  • Jet2

56 x 45 x 25cm at 10kg, plus one extra small bag such as a handbag

  • KLM

55 x 35 x 25 cm plus one small item at 40 x 30 x 15 cm

  • Norwegian Air

38 x 20 x 30cm underseat bag at 10kg. LowFare+ can have additional 55 x 40 x 23cm overhead at 10kg combined. Flex, Premium, PremiumFlex can have this too, but the combined weight of 15kg

  • Qantas

56 x 36 x 23cm at 10kg. Can depend on country and class

  • Ryanair

40 x 20 x 25cm. No weight restrictions. A check-in bag at 40 x 55 x 20cm can be bought for extra

  • TUI

55 x 40 x 20cm at 10kg for both package and flight-only trips

  • Virgin Atlantic

56 x 36 x 23cm at 10kg. You must be able to place it into overhead lockers unaided. Upper-Class passengers can also take another small bag

  • Wizz Air

40 x 30 x 20cm at 10kg. Does not include handles or wheels. Must fit under the seat in front of you. Can also take an additional bag 55 x 40 x 23cm with WIZZ Priority Boarding


Always lock your hand luggage, even if you know it won’t leave your side.

This can be with a padlock and separate key, or with a combination lock. You should ideally look for a lock which is TSA approved (read more about this below).

Most cabin suitcases will come with some form of lock. Those with a lock attached to the case (such as a keypad) are probably the most secure, as the padlock then can’t be cut off or broken and you don’t have to worry about carrying keys.


Suitcases (both large and hand-luggage) can have 2 or 4 wheels. Those with 4 wheels are sometimes called spinner cases and are the easiest to move around, as you can keep them upright and to the side of you. This also protects anything in your case.

Suitcases with 2 wheels usually have to be pulled at a tilt, and behind you, which can be harder when it comes to rushing through busy airports. But they do tend to be cheaper and are easier to pull up kerbs and other levels as opposed to lifting them.

Extra Pockets

Inside your cabin case, look for additional pockets which are great for keeping smaller items safe and separate from everything else, whether this is dirty washing, underwear or your essential documents.

Most cabin luggage pieces will have a couple of different pockets, such as a large mesh section in the lid and extra small pockets for more fragile items. Soft-shelled hand suitcases will usually also have outer pockets, which can be good for keeping your passport and boarding pass to hand.

Your Common Questions

What is a TSA lock?

A TSA Approved Lock is any lock that has the Travel Sentry logo on it.

Travel Sentry was created in 2003. They are in charge of making and approving luggage locks that can be opened by aviation security agencies like the Transportation Security Administration in the USA.

A TSA lock can be a combination, key and padlock or cable tie. It isn’t essential to have a TSA lock, but the idea is that if security services have to get into your bag, they will have a key which works with the lock so it will prevent it having to be cut off.

This security system is used in 30 countries and over 650 airports worldwide, so chances are it will be in place wherever you are going.

Can I expand a cabin suitcase?

It isn’t a common feature, unlike with larger full-size suitcases. If your hand luggage bag just about fits in the limitations for your airline, expanding it would not be a good idea.

But some do have this feature. They’re hard to find, but could be good for anyone who has a generous dimension limit and an urge to buy the whole of duty-free.

Soft-shelled carry-on cases will usually be the ones to have it – you may want to invest in straps to keep it all as tight as possible, though. This won’t only cut down a few millimetres of size but will stop your case from snagging and catching on things.

How large can my Ryanair hand luggage be?

This is one of the more complicated rules when it comes to flying.

For free, you get 40 x 20 x 25cm of hand luggage. The carry bag must fit under the seat in front of you and can include a handbag, laptop bag or small backpack.

Your cabin bag can usually include wheels, but they must fit into the overall dimensions. This can make it hard to find a perfect bag which fits the dimensions and is still easy to transport.

An additional 40 x 55 x 20cm bag can be purchased for an extra £10-£25 depending on your route. This is the size which many brands advertise their ‘Ryanair-friendly’ bag as – so don’t be fooled if you don’t want to pay.

Always check before you fly, however – changes can be made at short notice and based on the route you’re taking.

Can I take a wheeled suitcase to Venice?

It is a popular destination, and this is a popular question about The Floating City.

There is nothing to stop you taking a wheeled luggage case to Venice, but the roads are narrow and it is packed with tourists, so the more experienced Venetian travellers will tell you to stick to a large backpack or rucksack which won’t get in the way of other people.