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Best cabin bags: upgrade your hand luggage with a top carry-on suitcase or backpack

Save on extra baggage costs with our roundup of the best cabin-friendly backpacks and suitcases, as recommended by well travelled and very well organised parents on the Mumsnet forums. 

By Poppy O'Neill | Last updated Apr 24, 2023

Best cabin bags

Whether you’re planning a short getaway or want to maximise your carry-on allowance, a great piece of hand luggage is a must. 

Every airline has slightly different hand luggage restrictions, so it’s essential to check ahead in order to avoid unexpected costs at the airport. Once again we’ve turned to Mumsnetters for their recommendations, and they haven’t disappointed. With recommendations from seasoned travellers and unbiased parents, all the cabin bags on our list is designed to be used as hand luggage. 

From super-tough suitcases to bung-it-all-in backpacks, here are the best carry-on bags to buy for your 2023 family holiday.

For on-the-go organisation, we've got handy guides to the best suitcases, the best kids' luggage, the best packing cubes, the best toiletry bags, the best beach bags, the best tote bags, and the best bum bags, all featuring top product recommendations from Mumsnetters. 

Best cabin bags at a glance

  • Best overall cabin bag: Cabin Max Metz Travel Backpack | Buy now 
  • Best budget cabin bag: 5 Cities Cabin Approved Trolley | Buy now 
  • Best backpack cabin bag: Osprey Transporter Global | Buy now 
  • Best lightweight cabin bag: it World’s Lightest 2 Wheel Cabin Bag | Buy now
  • Best two-wheel cabin bag: Briggs & Riley Verb Cabin Suitcase | Buy now 
  • Best four-wheel cabin bag: American Tourister Cabin Case | Buy now 
  • Best space-saving cabin bag: Kono Hardcase Suitcase Set | Buy now
  • Best cabin bag for organisation: Mia Tui Jennie | Buy now 
  • Best soft sided cabin bag: Eastpak Tranverz S Suitcase | Buy now 
  • Best heavy duty cabin bag: Samsonite S’Cure Spinner | Buy now 

1. Best overall cabin bag: Cabin Max Metz Travel Backpack

Cabin Max Metz backpack

Price on writing: £35 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Dimensions: 55 x 40 x 20cm | Capacity: 44 litres | Weight: 0.7kg

What we like

  • Plenty of space for all the essentials
  • Durable
  • Available in a range of colours
  • Affordable price

What we don't like

  • Doesn't fit all airlines' luggage restrictions - check before flying

What Mumsnet users say

“We use the cabinmax backpacks approx £30 from Amazon. Whilst I also have a wheelie case, my backpack provides more space and is more flexible. Last flight I took everyone had wheelie cases and there was no space in the overhead lockers, I can fit my backpack under the seat in front of me.” - Landlubber2019 

“We got the Cabin Max backpacks last year and can highly recommend. They unzip on 3 sides so it is really easy to see everything. I reckon if you were going on a short city break type of holiday, you could get away with just this bag - very spacious.” Recommended by Mumsnetter BrandNewBicep

Our verdict

When travelling with kids, you’re going to want as many free hands as possible, making a rucksack the wise choice for Mumsnetters on the move. The Metz backpack from Cabin Max is made for air travel, and fits 94% of airlines’ hand luggage restrictions. It’s ultra light, with a massive main compartment in which you can fit everything you might need for the journey. And it features well-padded ergonomic straps and back support with a breathable panel. There are 30 different colours to choose from, all made from an eco-friendly polyester made from plastic bottles. 

Read next: How to pack for a family holiday using only cabin baggage

2. Best budget cabin bag: 5 Cities Cabin Approved Trolley

5 Cities Carry On Bag

Price on writing: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Dimensions: 55 x 35 x 20cm | Capacity: 42 litres | Weight: 1.45kg

What we like

  • Cheap and functional

What we don't like

  • Limited colour choice

What Mumsnet users say

"I just bought 4 cheap carry-on wheelie cases from Amazon. They are a brand called '5 cities'." Vetted by Mumsnet user Eolian

Our verdict

For a cheap pull-along that’ll get your holiday gear from A to B, this bargain case from 5 Cities is just the ticket. Available in a range of colours (brights, patterns, classic dark shades), it’s got a tough back panel and a soft-shell main - meaning it takes up minimal space while empty. It may not last for years and years like more expensive models, but as a cheap way to beat the baggage charges, it’s a winner. 

3. Best cabin bag: Osprey Transporter Global

Osprey Transporter Carry On Bag

Price on writing: £120 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Dimensions: 50 x 35 x 27cm | Capacity: 36 litres | Weight: 1.26kg

What we like

  • Lightweight but durable
  • Comes with handy packing cube to keep everything in place

What we don't like

  • A little on the pricey side compared to similar bags

What Mumsnet users say

"I bought one of these Osprey carry-ons recently and it's awesome. It's really light, apparently indestructible, all the straps come off if it needs to go through the hold, it's got internal straps and comes with a packing cube so things don't move around too much, if you don't overfill it it would go under a Ryanair seat, and it unzips fully like a suitcase" Recommended by Mumsnetter lekkerkroketje

Our verdict

A practical choice for travelling with kids in tow, this Global Carry-On from Osprey has compartments galore and a clever, suitcase-like design. Boasting backpack straps, a side handle and a removable shoulder strap, it has a padded laptop sleeve, a toiletry pocket and a handy sleeve for slipping over a wheelie suitcase handle. The inner compartments are made from a water-resistant fabric, protecting your belongings from any in-flight mishaps. 

Read next: How to keep kids entertained on a flight

Best cabin bags and hand luggage: Editor's picks

Cabin Max Metz backpack
Best overall

Cabin Max Metz Travel Backpack

Buy now
5 Cities Carry On Bag
Best budget

5 Cities Cabin Approved Trolley

Buy now

4. Best lightweight cabin bag: it World’s Lightest 2 Wheel Soft Cabin Suitcase

IT World's Lightest Luggage

Price on writing: £45 | Buy now from Argos

Key specs

Dimensions: 55 x 39.5 x 19cm | Capacity: 35 litres | Weight: 1.58kg

What we like

  • Very lightweight
  • Easy to manoeuvre

What we don't like

  • Smaller capacity than other bags on our list

What Mumsnet users say

"We have the World's Lightest Luggage RyanAir size cabin bags, they're fantastic" Recommended by Mumsnet user AlpacaLypse

"IT brand luggage (at Argos and elsewhere) is Ryanair compatible and one of the lightest cabin bags out there. Very user-friendly" Tried and tested by Mumsnet user EssentialHummus

Our verdict

The name says it all - these are brilliant, lightweight pull-along suitcases that most airlines will accept as hand luggage. Inside there’s a tough fibreglass structure made from a high tensile fabric, providing toughness and durability without heaviness. The two-wheel design also makes it easy enough for bigger kids to pull along. 

5. Best two-wheel cabin bag: Briggs & Riley Verb Cabin Suitcase

Briggs and Riley Carry On Suitcase

Price on writing: £349 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key specs

Dimensions: 54.6 x 35.6 x 22.7cm | Capacity: 44 litres | Weight: 3.76kg

What we like

  • Built to last
  • Comes with a life-time guarantee

What we don't like

  • Expensive - best for those who travel frequently for business or pleasure

Our verdict

For a high quality, professional looking cabin case, Briggs & Riley is a great bet. At £349 this is a real investment, and to soften the blow, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. It has a lockable, padded compartment to keep your laptop safe and easily accessible, and a suit-and-shirt section designed to hold one suit or three shirts. It’s not the lightest case on our list, but that’s thanks to the sturdy, high-quality construction of this case. 

6. Best four-wheel cabin bag: American Tourister Summer Funk Cabin Case

American Tourister Summerfunk Suitcase

Price on writing: £109 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key specs

Dimensions: 55 x 23 x 40cm | Capacity: 43 litres | Weight: 2.2kg

What we like

  • Durable and reliable

What we don't like

  • Minimalist interior

What Mumsnet users say

"I bought an American Tourister Summer Funk cabin case and am very happy with it so far - I fly at least once a month. They have a range of bright colours and at least a few cases come in your specified size - most models have more than one size option. Well within your price range too" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, ScotinSpain

Our verdict

With four nimble, swivelly wheels, this American Tourister cabin case will have you flying through arrivals this summer. Its minimalist design makes for maximum packing space, and it’s made to fit most airlines’ hand luggage specifications. It’ll hold 43 litres of your holiday essentials, and Mumsnetters swear by its durability, reliability and great value for money. 

7. Best space-saving cabin bag: Kono Hardcase Suitcase Set

Kono Luggage Set

Price on writing: £170 (set of three cases) | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Dimensions: Carry-on suitcase 56 x 37 x 23cm | Capacity: 40 litres | Weight: 2.65kg

What we like

  • Easy to store
  • Great colour choice
  • Suitcase options for the whole family

What we don't like

  • If you only ever need one cabin bag, buying a set of three may seem like an overkill

What Mumsnet users say

"They’re brilliant - the children were all able to wheel their own (4 & 6 yo had a small one each, 8 & 9yo medium each leaving the 2 large for Dh & me & the 2yo). They were worth the price we paid so are definitely worth it now. They seem like they’ll last too & the added bonus that you only actually have to store the big one as the other 2 fit in it"  Rated by Mumsnet user BernardsarenotalwaysSaints

Our verdict

Nesting together like Russian Dolls until it’s holiday time, this suitcase set from Kono is great for those that like to pack the kitchen sink. While only one of the cases is designed as hand luggage, investing in a set that will fit together maximises your packing space and your storage space for the rest of the year. 

8. Best cabin bag for organisation: Mia Tui Jennie

Mia Tui Jennie travel bag in graphite

Price on writing: £63 | Buy now from Mia Tui

Key specs

Dimensions: 40 x 15 x 28 cm | Capacity: N/A | Weight: 1.6kg

What we like

  • Made from vegan-friendly faux leather
  • Beautiful range of colours to choose from
  • Comes with plenty of pockets and accessory bags

What we don't like

  • Some reviewers say the bag is a little on the heavy side

What Mumsnet users say

“I'm currently loving my Mia Tui Jennie as my cabin bag 4 trips in. So many pockets, nice one on the outside for passport, insulated internal pocket for water bottle, clip for keys so they are tucked away and safe, came with a small handbag and clear organiser. I can also get my laptop, kindle, cables, a small washbag and 2 days clothes in it if necessary.” Tried and tested by Mumanet user CMOTDibbler

“Mia tui is good for compartments/internal pockets.” Recommended by Mumsnetter greyinganddecaying

Our verdict

Proving that style doesn’t have to come at the expense of practicality is the Mia Tui Jennie. 

This pretty bag comes with a range of internal pockets that come with their own accessory bags, including clips for your keys, insulated bottle holders, and phone and pen pockets. These pockets are big enough to comfortably accommodate iPads, Kindles and tablets.

The Mia Tui Jennie also comes with a handy pocket on the bag to slip it over any standard-sized suitcase handles, keeping all your luggage together.

9. Best soft sided cabin bag: Eastpak Tranverz S Suitcase

Eastpack Transverz suitcase

Price on writing: £94 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Dimensions: 51 x 33.5 x 23cm | Capacity: 42 litres | Weight: 2.4kg

What we like

  • Good choice of colours
  • Sturdy, despite it's squishy exterior

What we don't like

  • Fabric cases and bags don't always offer the same protection against the elements as hard-shelled cases

What Mumsnet users say

"The Eastpak carry-on is nice, lots of different colours… We have the larger soft sided luggage and it's brilliant" Tried and tested by Mumsnet user fraxion

Our verdict

With all the convenience of a pull-along, and all the squishy practicality of a holdall, this duffle bag-style hand luggage from Eastpak is a great all-rounder. Available in 17 colours (we love the forest green), it’s got sturdy straps and enough space to fit a good amount of clothes, plus everything you could possibly need for a flight. 

10. Best heavy duty cabin bag: Samsonite S’Cure Spinner

Samsonite S Cure Suitcase

Price on writing: From £170 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Dimensions: 40 x 20 x 55cm | Capacity: 34 litres | Weight: 2.9kg

What we like

  • The toughest suitcase on the block
  • Lining made out of recycled materials

What we don't like

  • A little bit pricey, but Samsonite cases come with a great reputation and are very hard-wearing

What Mumsnet users say

"Good strong locks and as its a spinner it’s very easy to manoeuvre about with one hand, with easy to grip handles to the side and top. I go between hard and soft sided cases, but prefer the hard. I have 4 sizes of this case and they are excellent, and don’t tip over. This is good for a week holiday" Vetted by Mumsnet user Whatisitlike

Our verdict

For maximum security and toughness, Samsonite S’Cure would win in a fight against any other suitcase on this list. Available in six muted shades, it’s lined with 100% recycled PET made from water bottles. With water-resistant technology, nothing gets through its tough exterior, and the four double wheels make for a really smooth glide through departures. 

Is a suitcase or a bag better as hand luggage?

If you’re off for a kid-free getaway, a wheelie suitcase is the most comfortable option. But if you’re likely to need both hands free for wrangling little ones, a backpack is the smart choice and can hold just as much stuff. 

What size luggage is best for carry on?

Airlines differ so always check ahead of time, Travel Supermarket has a handy guide to all the main airlines’ size restrictions. 

What’s the best under seat carry on luggage?

A rucksack can be easily shoved under the seat in front, as long as it’s not over-stuffed. While hard-case suitcases and anything with wheels and a pull-along handle will need to go in the overhead locker. 

What’s the best hand luggage to buy? 

The Cabin Max brand specialises in hand luggage, and we love the Metz Backpack for its huge capacity, practical details and great price. 

How we chose our recommendations

We’ve thoroughly researched the best cabin bags and hand luggage you can buy this season including tried-and-tested experiences from a wide range of honest, trusted sources. Here’s how we narrowed it down to our top picks.

Mumsnet community       

When it comes to quality cabin bags and hand luggage, Mumsnetters know a trusty carrier when they see (and use) one.

We first assessed all the recommendations from the Mumsnet community, getting feedback on the best cabin bags and hand luggage they have personally used, reviewed and rated, including their favourite models, and must-have additional features such as security locks and retractable handles. We also considered the reasons why Mumsnetters would avoid certain cabin bags and hand luggage.

Expert opinions

We know that choosing the right cabin bags and hand luggage takes a lot of thought and consideration, so we made sure our recommendations were well received within the bags and luggage industry, rated or recommended by travel experts and industry leaders.

Trusted consumer reviews

Finally, we scrutinised honest customer reviews on retailer sites such as Amazon, Argos and John Lewis to get wider consumer opinions on the products on our shortlist. Through this research, we were able to weigh up the top cabin bags and hand luggage for a variety of needs, from solo business trips to family holidays, and gain a greater understanding of the pros and cons of each.

Why you should trust us

Mumsnet has been helping parents make their lives easier since 2000 and, in those years, we’ve seen, tried and reviewed thousands of products in a wide variety of categories.

We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust and we spend hours scouring the Mumsnet forums and online bestseller lists to find products that real parents rate.

Transparency is important to us and that's why we're always upfront about the research we do, and where we find our recommendations. We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones that our users would recommend to their own friends and family and strive to offer impartial advice across the board.