I'm a destroyer of carry-on bags (5 in 5 years!). These are tips to keep in mind when buying a carry-on bag based on my mistakes and more about the best carry-on backpack for budget airlines. Includes a review of the Cabinzero Classic 44L Ultralight Carry-On Bag.
DISCLOSURE: I received this bag for free in exchange for a review and a share on social media. I did not send the review to CabinZero prior to publication. I do not earn anything from you deciding to purchase the bag as the link at the bottom is not an affiliate link. Please click for my disclosure policy.
Six month update (October 2017): The top handle of my CabinZero bag ripped off while traveling in Romania and within 1 week, I received a brand new CabinZero bag sent to me in Paris with free expedited shipping under their 25 year warranty terms after sending two photos. (The bag is still functional and I'm going to be donating it to charity.)
It's been seven years since I got my first passport and went on my first trip solo. I'm finally on my second passport and my sixth carry-on bag. Most trips that I've taken have been carry-on only. Since then, I've learned a lot in terms of things to look for in a good travel backpack, packing more effectively, and whether it's worth it to invest in high quality hand luggage.
My previous experiences with carry-on luggage and the tips for finding the perfect carry-on only bag.
Carry-on bag #1: Cheap carry on luggage from Amazon
When I bought a small travel duffel-bag, I got what I paid for: a cheap duffel bag that actually hurt my shoulder due to the thin plastic strap that did not distribute the weight equally. Definitely not the best carry on duffel bag for Europe to carry around for over a month.
Lesson 1: A good thick strap that distributes the weight equally and/or backpack straps with cushioning are important, otherwise your back/shoulders will hurt! Invest in a good bag that will last and that you don't mind carrying with you. Cheap bags break.
Carry-on bag #2: A weekend tote bag (Grand Tote) from Vera Bradley
A friend gave me a large Vera Bradley weekend tote bag to use as a lightweight carry-on bag. Although it was a great carry on tote bag for car trips with friends, the inability to close the bag drove me crazy as my clothes/electronics would spill out at the worst times and I'd lose things in what seemed like a never-ending bucket.
Lesson 2: Zippers are important. Obvious, but important.
Lesson 3: Packing cubes are a lifesaver in terms of packing neatly and not losing your stuff in a larger carry-on bag! Packing cubes are a way of separating your items from each other, so you can set aside clothes that you'll need for one day (in its entirety) without needing to dig through your bag! Perfect for not needing to unpack over and over.
Carry-on bag #3: A conventional rolling carry-on suitcase
Don't get rolling carry-on luggage if you're planning on backpacking through small Italian towns in Tuscany/Umbria...or simply anywhere in Europe that has cobblestone streets. Almost a month of "backpacking" through Italy and Hungary with dragging my rolling suitcase around killed my suitcase. I also ended up paying extra baggage fees after as my carry-on would not fit the size requirements for Ryanair.
Lesson 4: Rolling carry-on bags don't work well with cobblestones. Small travel backpacks work better for European cities.
Lesson 5: Avoid baggage fees on budget airlines by getting a carry-on bag that fits size requirements from the most restrictive airlines.
Carry-on bag #4: Army backpack
My husband swears by Army bags. It attracts unwanted attention as people assume that we're American soldiers and/or really broke backpackers. When I attended a work conference in Prague, I brought this backpack, but I was the only one in a suit with an non-professional backpack and a couple people made negative comments about it. My laptop kept moving around as there was no padded pocket.
Lesson 6: If you travel for work, a professional looking backpack can go a long way and a padded laptop sleeve is useful for protecting your belongings.
Carry-on bag #5: CabinZero Classic 44L Ultra-Light Cabin Bag.
As a young professional who routinely travels on budget airlines, I felt it was time to invest in a high quality bag that had good reviews, looked professional, included a good warranty, and was comfortable. I ended up reading about CabinZero's bags and wanted to see how it measured up. Read about my test of the CabinZero bag.
CabinZero is a British producer of lightweight, high quality, ethically produced carry-on bags that are sized perfectly for budget airlines and those who love to travel without checking a bag. They're comfy, professional looking (with a padded laptop sleeve), and sturdy. It comes with a 25 year warranty and free shipping worldwide! The Classic 44L costs 70 Euros.
I've been hesitant in the past about investing in a good travel backpack and I've paid the price in refusing to buy a good backpack: back pain, needing to carry a rolling suitcase around, and replacing my carry-on an almost yearly basis as it didn't fit my needs anymore. After my disastrous trip to Romania and taking it with me on city weekend trips around the Netherlands, my husband has requested it to borrow for his work trips.
Why is this the best carry on backpack for international travel?
CabinZero is a British producer of lightweight, high quality, ethically produced carry-on bags that are sized perfectly for budget airlines and those who love to travel without checking a bag. They're comfy, professional looking (with a padded laptop sleeve), and sturdy. It comes with a 25 year warranty and free shipping worldwide! I hope you love yours.
The Classic 44L bag costs 70 Euros.
Have you traveled carry-on only?
Note: I would not recommend it if I did not test it as rough as possible! (It's spelled CabinZero, not Cabin Zero.)
Karen & Jacob. American expats and cat lovers from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... Then, Paris. (Confusing, we know!) Now, we're living in The Hague, the Netherlands.
Unless otherwise noted, blog posts are written by Karen and original photographs are taken by Karen.
Click to see what destinations we've written about and our facebook group where you can ask advice for travel in Europe.
Wanderlustingk is about adventure travel, cultural travel, off the beaten path places, good food, learning about other cultures, and photography. New posts weekly.
Day Trips Amsterdam
Work And Travel Tips
Note: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Please check my disclosure page for more information.
All content and photos COPYRIGHT to Wanderlustingk.com unless otherwise noted. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Wanderlustingk. ANY unauthorized use will be pursued under US Law.