Are you ready to start traveling again? As I update this article, we’ve been in the midst of a global pandemic for the past 6 months. For now, the best I can do is stare at my Away hardside carry-on luggage longingly, waiting until it’s safe to travel again.
The more often I travel, the more I try to streamline my packing process.
In the past, I always packed more than I needed. So with each trip, I paid attention to what I really needed and used, and how much those “just in case” pieces I packed in my luggage were simply never worn.
So in this article, I’ll be showing you my favorite hardside carry-on luggage options, but also give you a few suggestions for weekenders and travel essentials I never travel without.
My favorite hardside carry-ons
You might be wondering, “Why hardside luggage? Why not soft-sided carry-ons?”
I’ve used softside luggage for years, up until I bought my first Away Bigger Carry-On. So why the switch? Simply put, you end up packing more with a softside bag, since they expand and you can really stuff it.
Instead of bringing a bunch of unnecessary things, I wanted to force myself to learn how to pack efficiently. Having hardside luggage prevents you from overstuffing your carry-on.
Another issue this solved: Sometimes overstuffed softside carry-ons won’t fit in the airlines’ carry-on luggage checker at the gate!
When it doesn’t fit, the gate attendant will force you to gate check your bag and pick it up at the baggage carousel at your destination. This is fine if you planned on checking in luggage, but sucks if you travel with a carry-on specifically to avoid wasting time at the carousel when you land.
With hardside carry-ons, you never have to worry about it not fitting in the luggage size checker.
Best Affordable Carry-On Luggage: The Away Carry-On (and Bigger Carry-On)
I love the luggage brand, Away. I realize they’re old news by now, but all these years later, I still enjoy using my Bigger Carry-On.
The luggage is thoughtful and well designed, has plenty of compartments, comes with TSA-friendly locks, and includes a charger for your USB devices. And if you need to check in your luggage, the battery is removable.
Bric’s Bellagio Carry-on
My wife has the Capri from Bric’s and it’s served her well the past few years. The Bellagio, while also polycarbonate, has handsome-looking contrast leather trim that I like.
Hook & Albert Garment Luggage Carry-On
I use the Hook & Albert Garment Duffel whenever I have a short trip (less than a week) and I love the functionality of the garment bag built in, especially when I have to travel with a suit or sportcoat.
The Garment Luggage carry-on takes it one step further. If I didn’t have my Away carry-on, I’d most likely choose this one.
This is a definite upgrade from the Hook & Albert Garment Duffel, which I also love, but sometimes I'm just lazy to schlep a duffel bag to the airport. This carry-on takes it to the next level, marrying the convenience of a small roller with the utility of a garment bag.
My Favorite Garment Duffel Bags and
For a somewhat minimalist traveler, a
Now that’s some efficient packing!
There’s a good chance that if you can’t fit your essentials into a cavernous
Affordable Garment Duffel Bag Option: J.Crew Ludlow Garment Duffel
I’m so excited about this bag and if you’re reading this, I want you to buy it RIGHT NOW BEFORE IT DISAPPEARS.
It keeps selling out on J.Crew’s site… then they have it in stock… then it disappears again. (If it happens to be sold out when you click, keep checking back.)
I have a similar garment
The Ludlow Garment Duffel from J.Crew is awesome. Plenty of built-in compartments, the ability to pack a few pants, and everything else once you zip it up to its duffel shape.
My Favorite Garment Duffel Bag: Hook & Albert Garment Duffel
I believe Hook & Albert created the first garment
If you got the billz, grab one of these. Otherwise, the J.Crew garment duffel above is a great option with the same core features.
Best Men’s Carry-On Backpack: Aer Duffel Pack 2
If you’re more of a hands-free kinda guy, this duffel pack might be what you’re looking for. You have easy access to the main compartment from the center zip, with the convenience of backpack straps.
There’s also plenty of interior and exterior pockets, including a special shoe pocket and a dedicated laptop pocket.
My Favorite Toiletry Bag, Travel Organizers, and Accessories
While not carry-ons or
Awesome Travel Tech Organizer Case: Bagsmart Small Travel Cable Organizer
Instead of stashing your wires in one of your bag’s pockets, or worse, just throwing them in the main compartment, have a separate pouch for everything electronic that will keep all your wires and gadgets organized and easily accessible.
A Minimal Travel Tech Organizer for Cables: Joto Travel Gear Small Cable Organizer
Maybe another pouch is too much for your situation. Maybe you need something simple and minimal. This wire organizer might be up your alley.
You can lay out and strap in your cords a number of ways, making organization super flexible and easy. Plus, this will lay flat in your carry-on or backpack.
Solid Men’s Toiletry Bag: Hanging Toiletry Kit from AmazonBasics
I like that you can hang this toiletry bag on a hook. Also, its U-shaped main opening is wiiide, making it easier to access my stuff inside.
Most dopp kits have a single zip down the middle, which can be incredibly difficult to grab the stuff at the bottom / corners of the kit.
And like I already mentioned, bonus points for the ability to hang this thing, which keeps your bathroom counter clear.
Anker 2-in-1 Portable Charger
A few things I love about this Anker charger.
One, the charger plugs directly into the wall, so no annoying extra cords. Two, when plugged in, you’re able to charge two USB devices simultaneously. Three, the charger itself holds charge, so it acts as a portable battery you can take with you and charge your devices on the go.
I’ve gotten at least 1.5 full device charges (from almost 0% to 100%) when the battery is fully charged, but rarely do I let my phone get to 0%. So if you need to juice up from, say, 20% to 60%, this battery will keep you charged for a long time.
Beats Studio 3 Wireless Headphones
I used my Apple earbuds on flights for years and thought over-ear headphones were overkill. I was wrong.
The noise cancellation, the comfortable encapsulation of your earholes, the entire aural experience… I can easily tune everything out when I slip these on.
Sure, there are other highly-rated, more affordable wireless over-ear headphones. But I didn’t want to spend a lot of time testing, and I knew the Beats headphones would sound incredible. Plus, I’m willing to spend a bit more for brand reputation and quality if I know I’ll be using something regularly.