We revised this guide in October 2021 to reflect updated testing on 25 new carry-on suitcases. New additions to this article include models from Samsonite, Away, Calpak and Vera Bradley. Recent tests were led by Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Product Analyst Emma Seymour.
People are more reliant on overhead space than ever, thanks to increased fees on checked luggage. Avoid having your carry-on checked at the gate or fighting for overhead space by maximizing your underseat luggage. A personal item must be able to fit under the seat of the specific airline you're flying. Each airline has different measurements for the size of a personal item, so it can get very confusing! Here are a few airlines' personal item restrictions:
American Airlines: 18 x 14 x 8 inches
JetBlue: 17 x 13 x 8 inches
Southwest: 18.5 x 13.5 x 8.5 inches
Spirit: 18 x 14 x 8 inches
United Airlines: 17 x 10 x 9 inches
Virgin America: 17 x 10 x 9 inches
The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab tests luggage by evaluating abrasion resistance, ergonomic design and ease of maneuvering through busy areas with hundreds of consumer testers weaving each suitcase around an obstacle course. We also conduct packing tests with items typically found in your purse as well as a full change of clothes, a laptop and other travel necessities: more than 25 items in total. These top picks for under seat luggage are from trusted brands, include innovative features or have excellent reviews. No need to stress about overhead space — start your vacation relaxation early with these convenient underseat luggage options:
- Abrasion-resistant polyester materials
- Padded laptop sleeve and toiletries compartments
- Comfortable telescopic handle
- Some reviewers find the design looks "dated"
Great for family or business travel, this underseater from Samsonite has added features such as a laptop sleeve, zipper pockets for toiletries and a USB port (powerbank not included). The brand's abrasion-resistant polyester showed no signs of wear during our evaluations. The two-wheel design glides through busy airports while the telescopic handle easily adjusts to your height.
Dimensions: 17.5 x 14 x 8.25 inches
Weight: 5.9 lbs
- USB charging port built in
- Easy-to-clean toiletries compartments
- Comfortable telescopic handle
- Currently only available in navy
For just $55, this two-wheeler underseat carry-on has all the same clever features as much pricier models such as a USB charging port, excellent organizational pockets for toiletries and a telescopic handle. Our pros love that this affordable pick is made with durable high-denier-count polyester and has accessible front pockets.
Dimensions: 14 x 15 x 8.5
Weight: 6 lbs
- Includes removable hanging toiletries bag
- Comfy padded handles
- Easy access side and front pockets for must-have items
- Some reviewers found it difficult to organize items when packing
The TravelPro Maxlite is a great pick for a jetsetter as it is lightweight, has easy-access compartments and has matching pieces available. This suitcase is perfect for frequent travel as there is a padded laptop sleeve and a removable hanging toiletries bag. It comes in four bold colors, and you can even buy the entire collection together to finally own your dream luggage set.
Dimensions: 17.5 x 14.5 x 8.5 inches
Weight: 5.50 lbs
- Chic design
- Comfortable padded handles
- Multiple zippered compartments
- Cannot accommodate 15" laptops
With two side pockets and a large roomy interior with multiple zippered compartments, this Calpak two-wheel underseater keeps everything perfectly organized. Testers loved the brand's padded handles for easy lifting when going through security. Whether you put this smaller pick on top of a larger carry-on or use it on its own, it will be your newest travel BFF.
Dimensions: 15 x 14 x 8.5 inches
Weight: 5.4 lbs
- Durable polycarbonate outer shell
- Easy-to-maneuver 360-degree spinner wheels
- Convenient nylon front pocket
- Most expensive style in the round-up
Most underseat luggage is available with softside exterior only, but this style from best-selling luggage brand Away has a durable polycarbonate outer shell. Testers found the brand's 360-degree spinner wheels easy to maneuver and appreciated the comfortable top handle. This style features a nylon front pocket ideal for easy-access items like your passport or toiletries.
Dimensions: 16.5 x 17 x 9 inches
Weight: 8.1 lbs
- Durable polyester fabric
- Pockets to keep shoes separate from clothes
- Side compartment for a water bottle
- Some reviewers find the zippers difficult to open/close
Delsey luggage has been a top lab performer for its larger carry-on sizes. This two-wheel underseater has two shoe pockets and easy-access front compartments. This suitcase is built to last with a polyester exterior designed to be extra strong against abrasion. The back strap allows you to put this suitcase securely on top of a larger style for easy maneuvering.
Dimensions: 14.8 x 12.3 x 9.3 inches
Weight: 5.70 lbs
- Features popular characters kids love
- Lightweight hardshell material
- Great price
- Larger than advised for underseat luggage
American Tourister is a popular affordable luggage brand among reviewers and GH pros. These underseat hardside suitcases make traveling with kids as easy as possible with popular Disney cartoons, such as Minnie Mouse, Frozen and princesses. Reviewers rave that their kids love wheeling them through the airport themselves, but you can also easily place it on top of your own carry-on.
Dimensions: 19. 48 x 13. 18 x 7. 87 inches
Weight: 4.5 lbs
- Nylon material is durable and easy to clean
- Organizational zippered pockets
- Perfect size for weekend getaways
- Available in only two colors
Coming in two colors, this super lightweight tote is packed with features such as a back strap to attach to a carry-on and water-repellent nylon fabric. Open Story aced our in Lab and tester evaluations for creating durable and stylish luggage without the hefty price. Our pros love that this bag could easily be brought as an extra item when traveling or alone for a shorter trip.
Dimensions: 16 x 13.5 x 6 inches
Weight: 2.10 lbs
- Only $18
- Over 4,000 rave Amazon reviews
- Easy to store when not in use
- Material not as durable as other picks
- May exceed airline size limits when full
When traveling, it's easy to shop too much and not have enough space in your suitcase for your new goodies. This duffel zips itself into a small square, taking up barely any room in your suitcase. When unzipped, it’s a large duffel that is perfect for carrying home your souvenirs. For most airlines, this bag exceeds the measurements for a personal item, so make sure not to overstuff it in case the airline tests the size. Among the nearly 4,000 5-star reviews on Amazon, many say they can't travel without it!
Dimensions: 19 x 14 x 9 inches
Weight: 0.65 lbs
- Multiple stylish patterns available
- Easy to maneuver
- Padded laptop compartment
Available in nine trendy patterns and colors, this Vera Bradley bag combines style with function. Testers raved that Vera Bradley's suitcases were easy to maneuver around the obstacle course while having comfortable handles for lifting. With a padded laptop compartment and multiple mesh pockets, this bag is designed for work, but reviewers rave that it's ideal for travel too.
Dimensions: 6 x 14 x 17 inches
Weight: 6.78 lbs
- Under $30
- Thousands of rave Amazon reviews
- Well organized pockets and compartments
- Power bank for USB charging port is not included
Using a backpack as your personal item is the best choice if you're planning an active trip where you will need to carry snacks, sunscreen and a water bottle on the go. This pick from Matein impressed our pros for having a padded laptop compartment, many zippered pockets and a built-in USB port for on-the-go charging (power bank not included). With over 49,000 Amazon reviews and an average 4.8-star rating, thousands of everyday users agree that this backpack is worth the hype.
Dimensions: 18 x 12 x 7.8 inches
Weight: 1.56 lbs
- Trendy design
- Accessible zippered pockets
- Easy-to-clean Neoprene material
When traveling with babies, you may have to sacrifice your personal item for a diaper bag. But with Dagne Dover's chic Neoprene fabric and convenient backpack design, you do not have to sacrifice style. This pick features multiple zippered pockets for necessities like pacifiers and a mini changing pad to make changing while traveling more comfortable for your little one. Remember that if you are bringing anything considered medical supplies, it does not count as your personal item — so you can bring an extra bag for a breast pump and formula.
Dimensions: 12.25 x 6 x 13.75 inches (large size)
Weight: 3.50 lbs