Today just happens to be your mildly lucky day because I’m here to help you find some of the best carry on bags for women, or best purses for travel, as the case may be.
Because real talk?
Scouring the internet, searching for the best carry on bags for women is not an easy feat.
There are just WAY too many bags, and things, to consider! I mean, do you go with the hard top or soft top luggage? A rolling bag or a backpack? Big luggage or small luggage?
Too many possibilities that make me want to curl up in the fetal position while ravenously sucking my thumb, since all this adulting is just WAY too hard.
So how the heck do you choose the perfect women’s carry on bag?
Never fear because your friendly, neighborhood, travel luggage addict is here to give you the scoop on some of the best carry on luggage out there.
I’ve bought almost every travel bag for women out there.
Possibly because bags are pretty and never ever make me feel like I’m a glorified beached whale, but I’ll save those ramblings for my therapist.
Regardless of my own emotional imbalance:
My penchant for purchasing luggage means that I know exactly what characteristics to look for in a bag and how to separate the good carry on bags from the not so good carry on bags.
So continue on, if you dare (and if my lame jokes haven’t scared you away yet):
Because I’m not just gonna share my picks for the best carry on bags for women.
Oh no no no. This post is so much more.
I’m going to discuss exactly how to find the perfect carry on bag for you, whether you’re looking for the best luggage for international travel, the best carry on luggage for business travel, or for the best lightweight carry on luggage out there
So get ready because there’s a lot to discuss and so very little time since people nowadays (me included) have the attention span of a goldfish.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
Things to Consider When Purchasing Carry on Bags for Women
1. Size and Weight
So in America:
Bigger is pretty much always better. And while that adage does hold true for many things in life, carry on luggage is not amongthem.
You want a carry on bag that is big enough to hold all your stuff.
You also want something that you can actually carry around without developing a hernia or damaging your back (hunchback = no bueno).
I always encourage people to purchase luggage that they can carry comfortably, by themselves, when filled to capacity.
Because honestly? Travel can get real, real quick.
Like that time I went to Germany and brought the largest suitcase known to man.
In my defense though:
It was my very first international trip. So I was basically this crazy, travel virgin who packed for any and every situation imaginable.
I mean, obviously, you need a good pair of nunchucks just in case there is a zombie apocalypse while you’re away.
I then had to drag this behemoth bag up and down an innumerable number of subway stairs, after an eight-hour flight, as I tried to make my way to my hotel.
To say I deeply regretted my luggage choice is an understatement.
So don’t be like me and be sure to get a bag that you can actually carry.
Try and choose a sturdy bag that doesn’t weigh a ton either.
I mean, with discount airlines now charging you a fee for basically everything possible (soon they’ll be charging you to breath “premium” air that has been “pre-filtered”), you don’t want to walk up to the check-in counter and get slammed with a ton of baggage fees because your carry on is overweight.
I would purchase a lighter carry on bag that won’t take up any of your coveted baggage allowance.
Because trust me:
It’s never fun to be “that guy” who has to impromptu check his bag.
Well, because you have about five seconds to frantically rifle through your belongings and pull out any essential electronic devices before your bag is engulfed into the fury of the conveyor belt.
So yeah, lighter is usually better when it comes to the best carry on bags for women.
***FYI: The maximum dimensions of a carry-on bag are 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels.***
2. Wheeled Suitcase vs Backpack
When it comes to deciding between a rolling suitcase and a backpack:
I am not gonna lie, I am totally, 110% biased and would choose a backpack (added bonus if it comes with wheels) every single time.
Well, I’ve been burned by rolling bags way too many times.
Wheels on my rolling bag have gone rogue and, whoops, fallen off. Or, I’ve had my back go into spasms because I tried to schlepp my rolling bag up six flights of stairs.
So while yes:
Backpacks can get heavy to carry, and yes, they can make it almost impossible to find things, since you’re forced to squash all your belongings into a ting bag, I still believe that the benefits of a backpack far outweigh the negatives.
Not only are backpacks easier to carry, especially when you’re traveling through crowds, up stairs, or over cobblestones, but the bag itself tends to be lighte.
You can pack more into your bag without exceeding any particular airline’s carry on weight limit.
The only time I’d purchase a rolling bag is if I was staying at a single hotel throughout my trip and if I wasn’t going to use public transportation to get to and from the airport.
Meaning that business travelers will benefit the most from wheeled carry on luggage.
So if this sounds like you:
Then the next major decision you’ll want to make is if you want a roller with two wheels or a spinner with four wheels.
Spinners are better at maneuvering through narrow spaces and around tight corners, making it easier to use more than one spinner at a time.
They won’t fall over when you leave them unattended, which is ridiculously helpful for someone who is as easily distracted as me (oh look, shiny object!).
Rollers do have their benefits. These two-wheeled suitcases are easier to pull behind you and are better at rolling over uneven surfaces, like cobblestone streets.
However, I still think I’d go with a spinner.
Their superior maneuverability and increased standing capability make them a more practical and better all-around suitcase, at least in my humble opinion.
3. Hard vs Soft Case Luggage
Like with most things in life, I am totally biased.
I prefer a hard cased spinner. Not only does it better protect your expensive belongings (cough…like my ridiculously expensive apple laptop…cough), but it also isn’t as easily damaged, or scuffed, by everyday wear and tear.
And extra bonus?
Many hard case spinners now come with expandable pockets that can add space to your luggage when you need it.
Soft case spinners are more flexible and accordingly, easier to fit into the overhead compartment; an essential advantage when airplane cabins are stuffed with luggage as passengers scramble to save time, and money, by doing carry on only.
Overall, these bags tend to be lighter, making it easier for you to stay within your bag’s allotted weight allowance.
The choice is totally up to you. Really think about how you travel and choose the bag that’s right for you!
4. Handles and Straps
Always try to purchase carry on luggage with durable, top and side handles; handles that can help you lift your luggage up and into the overhead compartment.
Something that a vertically challenged individual, such as myslef, desperately needs.
Now, if you’re looking for a rolling bag:
Make sure that the handle is easy to use, can quickly extend and retract, and that is it long enough for you to comfortably pull your bag behind you.
Because trust me:
When you’re boarding a plane, you have about 10 seconds to place your luggage in the overhead bin.
Angry passengers will trample you as they make a mad dash for their seats.
Which makes absolutely no sense since the plane can’t take off until everyone is seated.
But whatever. What do I know? (insert bewildered emoji here)
If you’re in the market for a backpack, you’ll want to make sure that above all else, the backpack is comfortable to carry.
To ensure maximum comfort:
All of the top carry on backpacks out there have a wide array of straps that help evenly distribute the bag’s weight across your back.
This extensive strap network will include a handy dandy hip belt (Some even have pockets. Kind of like a wicked awesome fanny pack), as well as a shoulder and chest strap for extra support.
Because of the insane number of straps everywhere:
I actually had a pro fit me for my first backpack.
And while you don’t have to go that far, I would definitely try on any backpack of interest before buying it.
You can feel it out and make sure that the straps have ample padding, are easy to adjust, and that the fabric is breathable.
5. Water Resistance
Although I doubt that you’ll need a bag that can withstand the onslaught of a tidal wave, you may want a bag that can repel a bit of water.
You know, in case the heavens open up and it downpours all over you.
Talk about good times.
And even though water resistants bags aren’t 100% waterproof, they will help protect your belongings while you struggle to whip out your rain cover.
Whoever invented the rain cover is a genius of epic proportions who has forever earned my undying love and devotion.
Unless you have a money tree in your backyard, price will clearly be an issue when purchasing your carry on bag.
I’m broke like a joke and can’t afford to spend $350 on a high-quality roller or an enormous, uber professional backpack.
Sorry but I’d rather eat than play with a bunch of straps.
That’s why most of the bags on this list are around $100 or less.
Others are significantly more expensive, so if you can afford to spend that kind of money on a bag then go for it.
I’ve purchased high-quality bags in the past and they are worth the investment since they’re durable, basically never beak, and probably last longer than a Twinkie.
I’m lame and either get sick of my bag or inadvertently destroy it since I’m a walking catastrophie like that.
Rather than have a nervous breakdown because I ruined my $400 piece of luggage, I just buy a cheaper carry on bag that I can easily replace.
Because humanity is just so joyful and merry:
You can now buy carry on bags with a variety of anti-theft mechanisms that help deter any would-be robbers.
You know, nifty things like secret pockets, metal mesh lined straps (to prevent slashing), and RFID pockets to prevent thieves from scanning your personal information.
I don’t go crazy and carry around a triple reinforced, tank-like bag.
Being the accident-prone, walking travel mishap that I am, I do take certain precautions since I have had my wallet stolen in the past.
I prefer carry on bags with hidden compartments that can help keep valuables, like my passport and wallet, safe.
I also try to use an RFID wallet and reinforce my bag closures with a lock or caribiner, just so that someone can’t reach in my bag and take whatever they want..
And while not a total must:
A detachable strap is helpful since you can tie it around something sttationary, like a table leg, to help keep your bag safe.
Look, I know this sounds like the most frivolous consideration ever, but hear me out.
I stay away from light-colored luggage since it gets super dirty super quickly.
Buy white luggage, use it once, and you’ll see nothing but dirt and scuff marks all over your brand new bag, especially if you were forced to check it.
To prevent your luggage from looking like a very non-chic, hobo bag, darker colors are typically better.
I sometimes see travelers who opt for vibrantly colored luggage that can be easily spotted within the bowels of baggage claim.
And that’s fantastic… until you realize that your colorful luggage makes you stand out and look like a total tourist to anyone who might want to separate you from your money (they see your orange bag and think, “fresh meat”).
When I buy a carry-on, I usually go for dark, neutral colored bags that won’t show the dirt and that will help me blend in with the locals, at least a little bit.
Unless of course there’s no way you can blend in.
Like when I was living in Korea. No bag on Earth could have helped me look more like. a local (In case you didn’t know, I have blonde hair and green eyes. So not very Korean).
And Now…Drumroll Please…10 Awesome Carry On Bags for Women!
I have now had this bag for a solid three years and have nothing negative to say.
Besides minor wear and tear:
This bag is still in great condition, fully functional, and has survived a three week trip with me through Europe.
Throughout that trip, this bag was my only piece of luggage, minus a small day bag that I used daily.
Designed with light weight, durable (no tears in my bag yet), water-resistant material:
This carry on bag for women has a whopping 44 L capacity the dimensions, 21″X 14″ X 9″, are the maximum allowed on any IATA (International Air Transport Association) flight.
Truly the perfect bag this bag for anyone doing international carry on travel.
It’s big enough to fit everything you need, including my outrageously large, 60′ tripod, but small enough for you to carry around without slipping a disk.
I was even able to convince the security guards at the Duomo in Milan that this bag was small enough for me to bring into the church (it really wasn’t but girl power for the win).
This carry on is made of relatively flexible material that makes it easier to squeeze your bag into an overhead compartment chock full of luggage.:
For better backpack organization, a task that is impossible at best:
There are three main zippered compartments and two internal zippered compartments that are a great place to store valuables like your wallet, keys, electronics, etc. Just don’t mention that to any potential thieves (insert lame winky emoi here).
Looking for a bit of added comfort?
While this carry on bag can’t give you on-the-go massages while you’re hopelessly lost and frantically searching for a hostel that you’re not sure exists, there is a lovely padded back for a bit of added awesomeness.
There are also adjustable shoulder and side straps, as well as durable carrying handles that make it easy to lift this bag into the overhead compartment.
Or easy-ish for someone like me who has literally not been to the gym in years.
But it gets better!
This backpack only costs $44.95! Crazy right?
It comes in a variety of colors and patterns that will appeal to just about anyone, even though I always go with the ever predictable color… black.
One word of caution though:
Before purchasing this bag on Amazon, please note that not all the bags in this listing are the same size.
Some are bigger than others.
So if you’re planning to do some carry on only travel, I’d definitely go with the larger of the two bags.
Not gonna lie:
I kind of wish I had seen this bag before I bought my Cabin Max Metz.
This bag will just have to be my next carry on purchase.
My friend has this bag and absolutely loves it.
It has all the perks of a typical, carry on backpack. You know, things like a top handle, a side handle, and adjustable, air mesh padded shoulder straps.
It also has a 38 L capacity, can convert into a duffle bag, and is designed to fit either in the overhead compartment or under your seat.
Even though this backpack is a bit smaller than the one above, it is just $62.99, is made in a variety of colors, comes with a set of three packing cubes, and has compression buckle straps that you can adjust based on your height.
Yup, backpack dreams really can come true.
I mean, there’s even a front-loading zipper and an interior slot in the front pocket to help you find all of your essentials more quickly.
Now if only mermaids were real. Sigh.
To say that I’m not an outdoorsy person is the understatement of the century.
Sorry, but my idea of a good time is not coughing up a lung while sweating to death and getting eaten alive by a pack of voracious mosquitos as I not so gracefully fall down the side of a mountain.
I am not the target audience for this particular backpack.
That doesn’t mean that this backpack isn’t the shizzle (me trying too hard to find some street cred somewhere).
Back in the day, when I was trying too hard to be a “real backpacker”, whatever that means, I had one of these and loved it.
This backpack doesn’t have the same level of suspension comfort as an Osprey, but it does have a hex mesh back panel, a venitilating back, a sternum strap, and a load lifter strap; all components that make it incredibly easy to fit this backpack to your frame.
This carry on is durable, versatile, Marie Kwondo level easy to organize since the zippers open up all the way, and is reasonably priced at $140 per bag.
It even has a 50 capacity, pockets literally everywhere (two external side pockets, a top pocket, a front pocket, and two bottom side pockets with hidden pockets underneath) and comes in an assortment of colors like black, red, green, and blue (feel free to oh and ah at any moment).
Be aware that the dimensions of this bag do NOT meet the carry on requirements of all airlines.
Definitely, check with your airline carrier and make sure that you can use this bag as a carry on.
As you probably already guessed:
I constantly recommend a backpack, instead of a rolling bag, to all of my readers.
Some of my readers have said that this is impossible since they have back problems and just can’t carry a cumbersome backpack everywhere they go.
And while I don’t have any back problems myself (thank goodness), I do have a friend who does.
I reached out to her and asked her what she uses as a carry on.
Without hesitation, she immediately blurted out, ” the Osprey Meridian wheeled luggage!”
I was a bit skeptical at first since this bag costs $350! And I don’t know about you, but that is a lot for me to spend on luggage.
She reassured me that this carry on bag was worth every penny since she’s been using it for over four years and it’s still in great shape (she also mentioned some great duffle bags with wheels as well).
Like with all Osprey backpacks, this bag comes with a lifetime warranty.
If anything happens to it, the company will either replace or fix the bag, at no cost to you.
And rest assured:
This isn’t just some rinky-dink duffel bag thrown on wheels.
This is a proper backpack, with a torso harness that can be adjusted for added comfort.
It even has a see-through, rear window, ID panel that can help you spot your luggage more quickly.
But the best feature?
This bag has an additional daypack, with a 15″ padded laptop sleeve, that you can attach to your main backpack to help you easily wheel your bag through the airport.
The only drawback?
The bag itself weighs about eight pounds and doesn’t come with a hip strap. So if you’re traveling via a discount airline, this might not be the bag for you since weight restrictions can be pretty limiting.
Generally speaking though:
This is the perfect backpack for anyone who has issues with their back.
Women’s Spinner Bags
5. Delsey Luggage Chatelet Hard (21 inch Carry on 4 Wheel Spinner)
Are you an uber fashionable woman on the go who is looking for a little bit of luxury in her life?
If so then this is the bag for you!
And side note, can I be you? My idea of luxury these days is a super-sized meal at McDonald’s.
Anyway, moving on.
This elegant but practical bag is easy to use and comes with a built-in brake system that can lock the wheeks of your bag when it’s not moving.
Oh la la! Fancy!
Therefore, no more awkward moments where you’re desperately clutching your bag, so that it won’t fall over, as your train makes a sharp turn to the left.
And if you need to move quickly?
No worries bacause this bag can still roll on it’s back two wheels when the brake is on.
On the interior:
You’ll find a soft, cotton-like, red lining with zippered pockets (the zippers glide smoothly without any pulling or tugging) and securing straps that keep your clothes organized and wrinkle-free.
There’s even a built-in, TSA approved lock that helps keep your belongings safe.
You’ll love the silent spinner wheels, for smooth and easy movement, as well as the polycarbonate finish which gives the bag significant temperature and impact resistance.
This bag definitely isn’t light since it weighs 9.3 pounds empty.
This carry on probably isn’t the best option if you’re traveling on a budget airline.
I would also stay away from the white since it tends to scratch and show scuff marks rather quickly.
I like the white better but I think the “chocolate” brown is more practical.
Similar to the Samsonite Omni PC Hardside (this one costs about $14 more):
This women’s carry on bag is one of the only spinners that I own and love.
Compared to my backpack:
This piece of carry on luggage has a more professional look that makes me feel a bit more snazzy and like I actually have my life somewhat together.
I use this carry on bag when I’m traveling and plan to stay at a single hotel throughout my trip.
But there’s a lot more to this carry on bag than just fashionable good looks!
The spinner wheels are utterly fantastic and spin in 360 degrees along the floor, making this bag a breeze to use.
The handle is also sturdy and easily extended or retracted into place.
No need to be, “strong to the finish because you ate your spinach” (Popeye anyone?) before taking this carry on for a spin (pun intended).
I also love that even though this handy piece of international carry on luggage has a strong, scratch resistant case, the bag is still incredibly light.
Dare I say it makes me feel almost hulk like?
Plus, even though this bag has a hard outer case, you can still extend the width of the bag if you need more room to pack all those “essential” that you swore you wouldn’t bring.
There’s even a side-mounted, TSA lock that I don’t really use since I never check my bag and only lose sight of it when I place it in the overhead compartment.
So the lock definitely isn’t essential but handy just in case, making this one of the best carry on bags for a plane.
I’m gonna be honest because well, I don’t really know how to be any other way.
I think this carry on suitcase is kind of ugly and I would never get it for myself.
It’s less than a $100 and a ton of my friends swear by this bag and use it ALL the time as a women’s weekend bag of sorts.
My friend dragged this beast of burden, I mean bag, along a ton of cobbled roads in Europe and even managed to store about two weeks of clothes in it; which is impressive when you realize that this carry on is just 21″ tall.
So clearly this bag isn’t ALL bad.
The Travelpro Maxlite 4 also has a soft case that makes it expandable and easy to smoosh into a packed, overhead compartment.
Traveler for the overhead compartment win!!!!
This bag is also easy to lift, since it weighs just under six pounds, and easy on the eyes since it comes in fab colors like purple, black, and blue.
The blue is darker than it appears online.
And unlike all of the other bags on this list:
This suitcase has a water repellent coating throughout the interior, and exterior, which will help keep your valuables dry if you unexpectedly get caught dancing in the rain.
The handle is also stellar, like me, since it’s a sturdy, telescopic handle that extends to lengths of 38 and 42.5 inches.
Perfect for un-short people that are not me.
There’s also a nice exterior pocket that can store travel essentials, like your passport and boarding pass, so that you don’t have to rummage through your bag and dash to the boarding gate like an insanely mad woman.
Women’s Day Bags
I’ll admit it. This carry on certainly isn’t the poshest bag on this list.
But that’s not surprising since it costs less than $20.
It’s also not designed to be your primary carry on since it has zero structural integrity.
This is one of the great women’s travel totes out there. That’s why it make a fantastic day bag, or back-up bag, just in case you need some extra space to store some souvenirs.
Available in a variety of colors and sizes (16″/20 L – 32″/100L):
This bag is incredibly versatile and perfect for travel, sports, the gym, outdoor activties, and basically anything else you can dream up.
I own the black bag and it comes with an adjustable crossbody strap as well as a fantastic, separate compartment for your shoes; an added bonus that helps keep your clothes clean.
Some of the bags in other colors do not appear to come with this feature so be aware of that if you decide to purchase this bag.
The two top handles are also adjustable and can easily slip over the handle of your roller bag while walking through the airport.
Made of tear-resistant, water-resistant, durable, nylon material, this bag can withstand just about any travel disaster that comes your way.
And when you’re not using it?
No worries! Just fold it up into itself and it becomes 1/20 the size of a normal carry on.
However when fully packed:
This bag easily slides beneath the seat in front of you and makes the perfect travel companion.
There’s a 100% money back guarantee. So if you’re not happy for any reason, just send it back and no harm done.
Not only is this bag sleek and stylish (I got a ton of compliments on it), but it’s a smallish bag that can still comfortably hold a 14-inch laptop.
And we all know that I NEVER go anywhere without my laptop, being the technology-addicted woman that I am.
It even has two handles at the top so that I can carry it as a tote when my old-lady back gets sore.
And added bonus?
This carry on bag for women has a wide mouth opening so that you can see everything at once and accordingly, find anything you need
No scavenger hunts, a la Carmen Sandiego, as you rifle through your bag, frantically searching for your passport and boarding pass.
Definitely one of the best carry on bags for wmen that I’ve owned.
It’s reasonably priced, at $42.99 per bag, so that you can still afford to go on vacation after buying it.
It’s also comfortable to carry when full, even if it’s a bit snug underneath the seat of an airplane.
The water bottle holder is pretty tiny so not super effective at holding an actual water bottle.
But hey, nothing in life is perfect.
Just remember that when you’re carrying this backpack, ou won’t be able to see behind you.
Anyone could steal your stuff and you’d probably have no idea.
I always put a lock on my bag and only bring enough cash with me for the day.
If my bag does get stolen, at least I still have some cash and credit cards back at the hotel that I can use.
This backpack is the trifecta of awesome.
Not only is it way more stylish than I’ll ever be, but it’s useful too!
All the practical backpacks I find are hideous AF. But this thin slice of awesome is the exception.
Not only can you choose between two lovely color options, but this backpack is big enough to hold a 10″ Macbook, among other things!
So, roomy enough for all your day trip essentials, but small enough to avoid whacking people in the face every time you turn around.
It’s waterproof AND has an antitheft design that fuses nylon and leather to make the fabric extra durable against slashing.
There’s even a fantastic back zipper, which accesses the main compartment, that rests up against you while you’re wearing this bag.
Say goodbye to theft-related anxiety and hello to serenity since there’s no way that anyone could open the zipper and steal all your belongings while you’re walking around.
There are also two adjustable shoulder straps, one detachable crossbody strap (use this at a museum when a backpack isn’t allowed), and a slew of interior and exterior pockets to keep you uber-organized while looking fly like a G-6.
And all this for just $26, which I personally think is a total steal.
The sellers put a packet of green tea in one of the interior pockets so that when the bag is delivered and you open it, it smells lovely.