First it was the extra charges applied by some airlines that made travelling light appear attractive. Now, reports of horrifically long bag drop queues, lost luggage and baggage mountains have provided extra reasons to squeeze your holiday gear into a carry-on bag.
Your chance of getting to your destination with everything you need will be greatly enhanced by keeping your hands on it at all times and, depending on the airline, it will possibly save you considerable sums.
However, there are restrictions on what and how much you are allowed to bring on board the plane – and if you get it wrong, you could have a nasty shock at the airport if you find you have to check it in after all.
Buying a suitcase specifically designed as carry-on luggage, and which can be put into the overhead lockers, will help take the stress out of packing and avoid any unexpected surcharges at the airport.
The best cabin bags this summer
The consumer body Which? recently published a list of the top luggage retailers selling bags specifically designed to fit in the overhead locker on a plane.
Its survey of shoppers ranked Eastpak bags as the best, followed by John Lewis, Antler, IT Luggage, Samsonite, Cabin Max and Marks & Spencer.
Customers were asked to rate their purchases on their durability, packing space and value for money.
Guy Hobbs, the acting editor of Which? Travel, says: “There’s no need to pay over the odds for your cabin luggage this summer. Our research based on the experiences of thousands of holidaymakers found there are bargain bags that closely match their pricier rivals for quality.”
We’ve rounded up some of the best-value options from the highest-rated firms, and worked out which airlines will accept them as carry-on luggage.
The John Lewis Girona four-wheel cabin case has 55 x 35 x 20cm dimensions, making it suitable for Jet2, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights.
You would also be able to take it on board if you paid extra with Ryanair, Wizz Air and easyJet.
This week it was priced at £45 and, when we looked, was sold out online but in stock in some stores.
Eastpak’s Morepack bag measures 50 x 32 x 17cm, weighs 720g and can carry 35 litres.
Its £90 price tag makes it one of the more expensive options but it can be taken on most flights.
Passengers who have paid for Ryanair or Wizz Air priority boarding or easyJet carry-on luggage will be able to use this bag on board the plane.
It also fits within BA, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic’s free carry-on luggage requirements.
The £50 Cabin Max Anode 30 litre underseat cabin case is designed to avoid having to pay extra for baggage on easyJet flights.
It is a compact size at 45 x 36 x 20cm – matching the exact maximum dimensions allowed on board easyJet flights for free.
It also fits the requirements set by BA, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic to take on board for free.
It is slightly too big to take on a Ryanair or Wizz Air flight free of charge, but would be acceptable if you paid for priority.
The £40 Cabin Max Lyon cabin trolley backpack comes in at 55 x 40 x 20cm, including wheels, and weighs 1.7kg.
It matches Ryanair’s maximum carry-on allowance for priority customers, and would also be allowed if you paid extra with easyJet and Wizz Air.
There would be no charge for taking it on a BA, Jet2 or Virgin Atlantic flight.
Marks & Spencer’s £45 Porto cabin suitcase is 54 x 20 x 37cm, and has a 41-litre capacity.
Again, priority customers of the three budget airlines would be able to use this bag on board, and it meets BA, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic requirements.
IT Luggage is an online-only retailer selling a wide range of bags suitable for cabin luggage. The World’s Lightest unicorn and stars print case is the cheapest on its website at £40. Its dimensions are 55 x 40 x 20cm, it weighs 1.8kg and carries 37 litres.
Its dimensions exactly match the allowance for Ryanair priority customers, meaning it is also suitable for all of the other airlines featured.
The Resonating cabin bag is more expensive at £70 but it also gives you more packing space, with 48 litres.
With dimensions of 54 x 36 x 25cm, it would fit on all the same flights as the cheaper model, and weighs 3kg.
Antler’s Clifton vanity case is the smallest pick of the bunch at 16 x 34 x 27cm, so would fit on Ryanair and easyJet flights for free.
The bag is also fairly expensive at £79, although the brand was highly rated by Which? customers.
It is quite tiny, with just enough space for a change of clothes and some toiletries, meaning it is probably only suitable for short trips.
Alternatively, you could take it as your smaller piece of hand luggage on BA, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic flights, or if you pay to upgrade on easyJet, Ryanair or Wizz Air.
Cabin baggage allowances
Airlines have different definitions of what counts as carry-on luggage. Ryanair customers can take on one small personal bag with the dimensions 40 x 20 x 25cm free of charge.
If you want to take a bigger bag on board, you’ll have to pay between £8 and £32 extra for priority, which allows you to travel with a 10kg wheelie suitcase up to 55 x 40 x 20cm.
Meanwhile, easyJet passengers can take a bag up to a maximum size of 45 x 36 x 20cm, including any handles or wheels, free of charge. It must fit under the seat in front of them – and can weigh up to 15kg.
Customers who want to bring a large cabin bag – up to 56 x 45 x 25cm – have to pay extra for an upfront or extra-legroom seat, or book the add-on when they buy their ticket, with prices starting at £5.99.
British Airways allows travellers to bring a handbag or laptop bag with a maximum size of 40 x 30 x 15cm for free.
Passengers are also allowed to bring a cabin bag up to 56 x 45 x 25cm, with a maximum weight of 23kg, for no extra charge.
Customers booking with Virgin Atlantic can take a 23 x 36 x 56cm cabin bag, weighing a maximum of 10kg, for free.
Jet2 passengers can take one piece of hand luggage on board free of charge, as long as it weighs no more than 10kg and is no larger than 56 x 45 x 25cm, including any wheels and handles.
They can also bring a small personal item on board – such as a handbag, laptop bag or airport purchase – as long as it will fit under the seat in front.
Wizz Air allows passengers to bring a 40 x 30 x 20cm bag on board for free but customers who upgrade to priority – for an extra charge starting at about £4 – can take a 55 x 40 x 23cm case. Wheels aren’t included in the dimensions but they must not add more than 5cm on to the size of the bag.