Checking in bags is so over. Savvy travellers save time and cash by packing all that they need for their trip into one compact, carry-on case. But the days when a tatty nylon holdall cuts it as a piece of carry-on luggage are long gone.

Chic carry-on cases are big business. Designers are outdoing one another to make their models the prettiest, most practical, most packable on the market. As a result, the choice is staggering.

Tedious caution alert: remember that a passenger’s hand-luggage allowance varies from airline carrier to airline carrier. The ranges are vast, too. For instance, the major airlines’ total carry-on weight allowance varies from 7 kg to 23 kg. Always check your airline’s rules before you travel.

With that boring bit of advice out of the way, we have unpacked the best carry-on cases around.

Away luggage is the modern traveller’s dream. Founded in 2015 by US duo Stephanie Korey and Jennifer Rubio, the brand captured the zeitgeist perfectly.

Their stunning Carry-On case , designed to fit in the overhead locker on most airlines, comes with a lifetime guarantee and an optional ejectable battery.

In 2018, Korey and Rubio won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur New York. Away’s latest collaboration is with the red-hot creative director, Alex Eagle – a testament to the brand’s supremacy. Conde Nast Traveller has this to say about their astonishing success:

“Away made a relatively boring necessity into an enviable statement piece at an affordable price. Limited-edition colours and collaborations with celebs like Karlie Kloss and Dwyane Wade garner immense waitlists, and travel influencers boomerang their latest purchases on Instagram, encouraging their followers to join the club.

“At this point, it’s almost impossible to walk through a major US airport and not spot an Away carry-on gliding past you — all in muted shades of navy, forest green or sand, and steered mostly by America’s biggest travel market: millennials.”

Typically quick to pick up on trends, MADE has just launched a range of luggage that includes stylish cabin bags. Available in three sizes (cabin, medium and large) and two colours, these cases look great and are the most reasonably priced on our list.

The Galli Cabin Suitcase, with its rose gold accents, costs just £49 and is – unusually for MADE – dispatched within four working days. They say: “Interior dividers, pockets and packing straps make travel prep easier, and the push-button trolley system, easy glide wheels and integrated TSA lock bring function to form.”

Back in 1898, Rimowa was a small, family-run luggage business in Cologne with an emphasis on lightweight construction and superior stability.

By 1950, inspired by the golden age of aviation, Rimowa’s iconic groove design was born and the international jetset’s love affair with the brand began.

The company now enjoys half a billion euros of annual revenue – and still produces its luggage in Cologne.

They say: “We’ve seen a lot of change across three centuries but our philosophy has always stayed the same: expert travellers need expert travel solutions.”

We like their Original Cabin S very much. Meanwhile, their kids’ Essential Lite is close to irresistible.

Another heritage brand, Globe-Trotter was established in 1897. With soaring sales and a supremely elegant website, the handcrafted luggage label is just as relevant today.

Skilled artisans still make Globe-Trotter’s stylish cases in Hertfordshire using original manufacturing methods and machinery that date back to the Victorian era.

Explaining his fondness for Globe-Trotter’s vintage vibe, Hackett founder, Jeremy Hackett said (as far back as 2010): “I still use an old navy blue Globe-Trotter suitcase I bought 15 years ago. They are reasonably lightweight and I find that my suits and jackets keep their shape better. I understand the case for nylon-wheeled luggage but they lack any sense of style.”

We have our hearts set on their (pricey but perfect) Centenary 20” trolley case. It makes you want to book a flight to Nice and hit the hairpin bends of the Cote D’Azur in an open-top car instantly. Globe-Trotter offers a hand-painted initialling service, too. Just gorgeous.

The clever, young, Canadian brand Herschel has quickly become a global phenomenon, described by Slate magazine as being: “glimpsed wherever hipsters dare to tread.” Few commuters worth their salt travel without one a Herschel backpack these days.

Not all of them know, though, that Herschel makes a lovely, lightweight, carry-on case as well. We are big fans of the Highland Luggage Carry-On, with its lo-fi, simple, ageless design and agreeable price point.

Founded in 2017 by three creatively minded friends from Hong Kong, this luxury luggage label (pronounced “woo-cone”) is known today for its cult, round, carry-on cases.

We love the signature, patented Black Round Luggage.

Cleverly conceived with all mod cons in mind, these bags have an internal compression system, a removable laundry section and a TSA-approved lock – and they fit into most overhead lockers. Several personalisation options are on offer as well.

Their beautiful, distinctive shape was inspired by the hatboxes of times gone by. Co-founder, Ansom Shum, explains: “I’ve loved collecting vintage luggage since I was young. I went to all the antique markets and bought these beautifully handcrafted leather pieces. But looking at [a] hatbox, I wondered if we could make it a little more modern and convenient to carry. Then it would have been nice to use.”

Ookonn cases sure do look nice to use.

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August 2019

By Becky Ladenburg