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

Save on extra bag 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 Mar 23, 2022

Best hand luggage

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

We’ve got our fingers crossed for an uneventful summer, and with many of us sticking to staycations for the past two years, an overseas break is well overdue. 

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 luggage 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 cabin bags to buy for your 2022 holiday.

1. Best overall hand luggage: Cabin Max Metz Travel Backpack

Cabin Max Metz backpack

Price: £35 | Buy now from Amazon

"We do a cabin max rucksack (dimensions just fit cabin size) with a smaller bag inside. Small one removed as soon as we get on board and stashed under seat in front, bigger one goes in over head locker with spare clothes and nappies etc. All back in big bag for exit. (When kids were small we had the sling in the cabin max- carrying a wriggler to the luggage carousel is no fun!)" - recommended by Mumsnet user, oneplus2is3

"We have had these Cabin Max ones for several years (at least five) and they have not fallen apart. Each rucksack holds 44 litres - this is absolutely loads" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, Janek

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. 

Key specs

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

2. Best budget hand luggage: 5 Cities Cabin Approved Trolley

5 Cities Carry On Bag

Price: £15 | Buy now from Amazon

"I just bought 4 cheap carry-on wheelie cases from Amazon. They are a brand called '5 cities'. About £15 each!" - vetted by Mumsnet user, Eolian

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. 

Key specs

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

3. Best hand luggage backpack: Osprey Transporter Global

Osprey Transporter Carry On Bag

Price: £90 | Buy now from Amazon

"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" - lekkerkroketje

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. 

Key specs

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

4. Best lightweight hand luggage: it World’s Lightest 2 Wheel Soft Cabin Suitcase

IT World's Lightest Luggage

Price: £40 | Buy now from Argos

"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

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. 

Key specs

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

5. Best two-wheel hand luggage suitcase: Briggs & Riley Verb Cabin Suitcase

Briggs and Riley Carry On Suitcase

Price: £349 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

"People here swear by Briggs & Riley as the hardest wearing travel luggage around" - recommended by Mumsnet user, alipiggie

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. 

Key specs

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

6. Best four-wheel hand luggage suitcase: American Tourister Summer Funk Cabin Case

American Tourister Summerfunk Suitcase

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

"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

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. 

Key specs

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

7. Best space-saving hand luggage: Kono Hardcase Suitcase Set

Kono Luggage Set

Price: £230 (set of three cases) | Buy now from Amazon

"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" - reviewed by Mumsnet user, BernardsarenotalwaysSaints

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. 

Key specs

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

8. Best hand luggage for organisation: eBag Motherlode Convertible Junior

eBag Mother Lode Backpack

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

"I travel with hand luggage a lot to cities including very cold ones in winter. I use an eBag rucksack/case as I find much easier to get through airport/public transport with it on my back than dragging a wobbly wheeled case around and giving myself arm ache" - recommended by Mumsnet user, bingohandjob

The eBag Motherlode Junior is so popular it went viral on Tiktok this January, and it’s easy to see why. It unzips like a suitcase, but can be carried like a backpack, giving you the best of both worlds. Its roomy main compartment can hold up to seven packing cubes, plus it has a laptop sleeve and loads of outer pockets for all your bits and bobs. 

Key specs

  • Dimensions: 55.8 x 35.5 x 22.86cm
  • Capacity: 54 litres
  • Weight: 1.78kg

9. Best soft sided hand luggage: Eastpak Tranverz S Suitcase

Eastpack Transverz suitcase

Price: £99 | Buy now from Amazon

"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

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. 

Key specs

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

10. Best heavy duty hand luggage: Samsonite S’Cure Spinner

Samsonite S Cure Suitcase

Price: £188 | Buy now from Amazon

"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

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. 

Key specs

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

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 

Because there’s no recommendation like that from a real person who has owned the product themselves, we always go direct to Mumsnetters for their recommendations first. 

We also looked at some of the top reviews sites to see whether the Mumsnetter-recommended hand luggage had also impressed the experts, and we checked out customer reviews online too to make sure purchasers of these bags and cases were happy with their products. 

Why you should trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.