I Stopped Using This Travel Bag, and It Makes Airport Security Much Easier

The 20 Best Carry-On Bags—and the Worst



I never want to be that person at airport security. You know—the flustered traveler who slows down the line due to a lack of organization and what not. Basically my worst nightmare. While I’ve streamlined my process over the years (thanks in large part to TSA PreCheck), I noticed one hiccup recently that continued to slow me down…

Yep, like many, I’ve always relied on a massive open tote bag as my carry-on. In my defense, the choice has made sense in theory. You can toss your entire life inside and fill it to the brim to avoid checking extra bags. Unfortunately, this silhouette just isn’t that practical. Think about it: You send it off down the conveyor belt through security, and unless there’s a bin to toss it in, your belongings more or less jump ship, spilling out everywhere.

The issue then escalates when you put the bag under the seat, right? So much fun watching various items (a phone charger, a water bottle, etc.) roll out during takeoff—not. My solution was to invest in pouches to at least compact everything so loose items wouldn’t fall out. But I realized I kept making my travel routine feel even more high-maintenance… The solution? While it may seem simple, it’s all about opting for a zippered tote that has functional inside pockets to keep everything in place.

TBH, I recently introduced this type of bag into my airport style game with this pick from Dagne Dover—and it has minimized my airport stress. What about you? Do you rely on zippered totes? Are you ready to ditch your open tote for something else? Regardless, I rounded up 23 perfect carry-on bags to shop below that could easily streamline your jet-set life (like they have mine).

Meet the bag that’s basically become my go-to. It’s lightweight, expandable, and comes complete with practical pockets inside—including a removable mesh pouch (ideal for beach vacations).

Compliment your travel uniform with this very-right-now leopard-print tote that has a trusty top-zipper, along with every inside pocket you need.

Shoppers rave about this Madewell best seller’s chic look and functionality—especially the fact that it has a zippered top.

Offering plenty of room with 21.5 inches of expanded depth, this is the tote you need to keep organized with everything secure.

The mock croc and rich green hue makes this oversized tote look triple the price. One of the best features is the metal feet on the bottom for longevity.

With 4.7 out of 5 stars on amazon (out of more than 1600 customer reviews), this water-repellent tote can easily fit your 15.6-inch laptop—along with all of your other travel necessities.

A functional yet fashionable weekend bag that looks so expensive with the gorgeous blue hue. And at only $50? Yes, yes.

The name—“cloud bag”—pretty much sums this one up. It’s as roomy and light as a cloud, and packs in its own pouch for super-easy storage.

Not only is this AllSaints tote super functional, but it's gorgeous as well with the blue hue.

Into the logo vibe? You’ll be all about this beautiful catchall tote that has just-long-enough double straps to swing the bag over your shoulder for easy use.

This is not your average backpack. Saint Laurent and Google Jacquard have woven intelligence into this must-have that allows you to control music, take pictures, and more with a simple gesture. For more information, click here.

Don’t underestimate the power of a tote/backpack-hybrid. This top-rated silhouette is incredibly easy to carry with the adjustable padded shoulder straps and dual top handles.

Featuring a sleeve to slip over the handles of your wheeled-carry on, this durable zippered bag is water-resistant and has interior staples like a laptop pocket and waterproof umbrella pocket.

If you’re looking for a sporty silhouette (that could double as a gym bag as well), consider this under-$30 go-to.

This zippered croc-embossed bag will add an instant touch of sophistication to any jet-setting look. Also note that it comes in black and an emerald color a well.

Looking for a larger weekender to act as your tote and suitcase? Consider this spacious canvas tote with PVC lining.

You can’t go wrong with this customer-favorite that has the always-cool camo print.

Now this is classic you’ll have in your closet forever.

What’s more timeless than a monogrammed Louis Vuitton tote for travel? Exactly. This vintage style from Shopbop’s What Goes Around Comes Around section is where it’s at.

Fit everything and add an on-trend pop of color to your travel fit—all for under $100.

A cool yet functional carry-everything backpack. The best part is the removable pocket that turns into an across-the-chest pack.

This spacious tote features a removable pouch to add an extra layer of function to its already-practical nature.

The old-school neon rope handle and crossbody strap brings a unique twist to this technically-woven carryall.

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