Best Cabin Carry On Hand Luggage

In this article we review the best cabin luggage that is currently available in the UK marketplace. This is also referred to as "carry on luggage." And just to make it slightly more confusing is also referred to as "hand luggage."

Hopefully we can bring some clarity to what all of this means, and also point you to the top 10 pieces of cabin luggage, that we think are worth your time and consideration.

Let's begin with some clarification of what cabin luggage really is. The simplest way to define this is the piece of luggage that you are allowed to take on board the aircraft and put into the overhead locker, or at times under the seat in front of you.

This could be a piece of luggage that is used by those travelling on business on short trips. It could also be the cabin luggage you have for a short weekend away, or even for a short holiday.

For those on a longer holiday you will usually have a piece of check-in luggage (the case that goes in the hold) and also hand luggage. In this case the hand luggage is referred to as the cabin luggage. Hopefully that clarifies exactly what this means, when it comes to "cabin luggage."

Cabin Luggage Allowances for Airlines Explained

If you fly regularly then you will probably know all about what size and weight of cabin luggage you are allowed to take. Let's face it the airlines do not make it easy as many of them have different bag size restrictions, and also different weight allowances for your cabin luggage.

If you are not familiar with them, then I have summarised those below, and hopefully this will make life that little bit easier.

  • Easyjet (56 x 45 x 25 cm) - no weight restriction
  • Ryanair (55 x 40 x 20 cm) - 10 kg weight
  • FlyBe (55 x 35 x 20 cm) - 10 kg weight
  • Jet2 - (56 x 45 x 25 cm) - 10 kg weight
  • Thomas Cook - (55 x 40 x 20 cm) - 6 kg (10 kg for Premium customers)
  • Thomsons - (55 x 40 x 20 cm) - 5 kg (7 kg on some limited flights)
  • British Airways (56 x 45 x 25 cm) - 23 kg
  • Virgin Atlantic (56 x 36 x 23 cm) - 10 kg

"Please note when airlines quote their sizes they include the full size of the case including the handle and wheels. Manufacturers refer to these as the exterior dimensions."

If you want a case or bag that will suit all of the above, then you need to go with the tightest size restriction. That would be 55 x 35 x 20 (FlyBe) and then check the weight for each of the above.

If you are never going to use FlyBe then a 55 x 40 x 20 size would be a great choice.

It is also worth noting that although these airlines state that these are bags you are allowed to take onboard, that does not always guarantee that you will be allowed to take it into the cabin.

When a flight is classed as being a "full flight," then they reserve the right to hand your bag over before entering the plane, and it then gets placed in the hold. This has happened to me many times with Easyjet, much to my annoyance, as then I have to wait at the baggage line to retrieve my bag.

If this does happen make sure to remove your valuables first before handing over your bag. This usually happens to those who are near the end of the line at the departure gate.

best carry on cabin luggage

Types of Cabin Luggage

Travellers take many different types of cabin luggage onboard when flying. I have listed the most popular below:

  • Hard Shell Cabin Luggage
  • Soft Sided Cabin Luggage
  • Backpacks
  • Laptop Bags
  • Garment/Laptop Bags
  • Duffle/Holdall Bags

All of the above are fine as long as they meet the size and the weight restrictions.

Top 5 Cabin Luggage - Size 55 x 35 x 20 cm

This size is the smallest and that is the size restriction imposed by FlyBe. As it is the smallest it will then be suitable for any other airline. If you don't want to risk having too large a bag, and you may fly with Flybe, then this is the size you will need.

  1. Aerolite Super Lightweight Travel Carry On Cabin
  2. Slimbridge Alameda 55 cm Hard Cabin Approved Spinner Suitcase
  3. Aerolite Super Lightweight ABS Hard Shell Travel Carry On Cabin
  4. Karabar Brito Cabin Approved Trolley Bag
  5. 5 Cities Cabin Approved Trolley Bag

If you click on any of the product links above, you can read a summary reviw of each piece of cabin luggage.

Typically these bags have anything between a 33-42 litre capacity with the soft sided bags having a slightly bigger capacity. In most cases the capacity is not a big issue as you have to be careful with the weight.

As a rule of thumb though is that a 30 litre bag or case fully packed would weigh on average around 10 kg.

Top 5 Cabin Luggage - 55 x 40 x 20 cm - Suitable for Ryanair & Other Airlines

If you are not going to fly with Flybe, then the next smallest restriction for cabin luggage is Ryanair. Their size is 55 x 40 x 25 cm and they also have a 10 kg weight restriction.

This size of bag is also suitable for almost every other airline with the exception of FlyBe.

Ryanair Cabin Baggage Restrictions Explained

If you have purchased "Priority & 2 cabin bags" or a Plus/Flexi ticket you can carry the following on-board:

  • One small bag e.g. handbag, laptop bag etc. not exceeding 35cm x 20cm x 20cm
  • One cabin bag, not exceeding 55cm x 40cm x 20cm in size and 10kg in weight.

If you have not purchased "Priority & 2 cabin bags" or a Plus/Flexi ticket you can carry the following on-board:

  • 1 small bag on board (35cm x 20cm x 20cm)
  • If a second cabin bag (55cm x 40cm x 20cm) is brought to the gate, it will be put in the aircraft hold free of charge. The Regulations on Cabin Baggage apply.

Passengers who have reduced mobility and have prebooked airport special assistance can carry both pieces of their cabin baggage into the cabin with them.

Below is a list of cabin luggage suitable for the 55 x 40 x 20 cm restriction.

  1. Aerolite 55x40x20 Lightweight Travel Carry On Hand Cabin Luggage
  2. Cabin Max Backpack Flight Approved Carry On Bag
  3. Aerolite 55x40x20 Lightweight Hard Shell Carry On Hand Cabin Luggage
  4. Karabar Cabin Approved Hard Suitcase
  5. 5 Cities Ryanair Cabin Approved Main and Second Set

Top 5 Cabin Luggage Size 56x45x25  
Suitable for Easyjet, British Airways and Jet2

You get a slightly larger size of bag with these three airlines but please be aware they will not meet the requirements of the other airlines.

  • Easyjet have no weight allowance
  • British Airways have a 23 kg allowance
  • Jet 2 have a 10 kg allowance

This is as you can see quite a variation in weight so try to remember those when flying with the different airlines.

The top 5 bags of this size are:

  1. Aerolite 56x45x25 Easyjet British Airways Jet2 Maximum Allowance 46L Lightweight Hard Shell Carry On Hand Cabin Luggage
  2. Aerolite 56x45x25 easyJet British Airways Jet2 Maximum Cabin Allowance 60L Lightweight Carry On Hand Cabin Luggage
  3. Cabin Max Tallinn - Flight Approved Backpack for EasyJet & BA hand luggage
  4. Set of 2 easyJet & British Airways 56x45x25cm Maximum Cabin Hand Luggage Approved Trolley Bag
  5. 5 Cities Easyjet, British Airways, Jet2 56X45X25Cm Maximum Cabin Approved Trolley Bag

Individual Cabin Luggage Reviews

Underneath I have done summary and concise reviews on each of the cabin luggage bags or cases shown in the lists above.

Aerolite Super Lightweight Travel Carry On Cabin

94%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a 21" soft sided case that is suitable for all of the usual airlines. It measures 55x35x20 cm, weighs 1.85 kg and has a 33 litre capacity.

It is a soft sided case made from a hard wearing Jacquard polyester. It has a large front pocket and a smaller top pocket

Runs on 4 spinner wheels and has a retractable handle. Also has a 3-Digit Barrel Padlock

10 Year Warranty for Peace of Mind

Slimbridge Alameda 55 cm Hard Cabin Approved Spinner Suitcase

94%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a hard shell option that is made from a high quality ABS hard shell. It measures 55 x 35 x 20 cm, weighs 2.5 kg and has a 35 litre capacity.

The case has 4 spinner wheels, a lightweight aluminium push button trolley system, and is available in either a blue, black or purple colour.

The case is fully lined branded interior and overall has a fresh modern and highly stylish look. It also has a combination lock.

It comes with a 3-year warranty.

Aerolite Super Lightweight ABS Hard Shell Travel Carry On Cabin Hand Luggage Suitcase

90%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a hard shell option that is made from a high quality anti-scratch ABS hard shell. It measures 55 x 35 x 20 cm, weighs 2.5 kg and has a 33 litre capacity.

The case has 4 spinner wheels, and is available in either a charcoal, blue, silver or wine colour. It has a push button double-tube retractable trolley grip handle

It also has a 3 digit barrel padlock. The interior has packing straps and an internal zipped divider with elasticated pockets (perfect for shoes).

It comes with a 5-year guarantee

Karabar Brito Cabin Approved Trolley Bag

88%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a very light soft sided case that measures 55 x 35 x 20 cm, weighs only 1.8 kg and has a huge 40 litre capacity.

It is made from a high quality polyester material. The case has 4 corner wheels, and is available in a grey colour. It has a push button trolley system.

Thanks to the large capacity you can certainly pack a lot in.

It comes with a 10 Year Warranty

5 Cities The Valencia Collection Hand Luggage

82%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a set of 2 soft sided cases and each case measures 55 x 35 x 20 cm, weighs only 1.45 kg and has a huge 42 litre capacity.

This is a 2 wheel design and it has a rigid back frame.

It is made from a lightweight but tough material. It has a top and side handle. There is also a retractable black handle for pulling the bag along. It also has a front pocket for easy access.

It has a key lock.

Aerolite 55x40x20 Ryanair Maximum Allowance 42L Lightweight Travel Carry On Hand Cabin Luggage Suitcase

92%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a soft sided case and measures 55 x 40 x 20cm, weighs 2.1 kg and has a huge 42 litre capacity.

It is suitable for Ryanair, Easyjet, British Airways and others. It is made from a lightweight and hard wearing 600 Jacquard polyester material.

It has a large front pocket and a smaller top pocket for quick access. It also has a 3-Digit combination barrel padlock.

It comes with a 10 Year Guarantee

Cabin Max Backpack Flight Approved Carry On Bag

90%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a backpack and measures 55 x 40 x 20cm, weighs 699 grams and has a huge 44 litre capacity.

It is suitable for Ryanair, Easyjet, British Airways and others. It is available in 44 colours so plenty of choice there.

It is made from a lightweight and hard wearing 600D polyester material. It has adjustable padded shoulder straps with side compression and internal packing straps.

It has 3 zipped main compartments and 2 zipped internal compartments.

It comes with a 3 Year Guarantee

Aerolite 55x40x20 Ryanair Maximum Allowance 40L Lightweight Hard Shell Carry On Hand Cabin Luggage

88%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a hard shell case and measures 55 x 40 x 20cm, weighs 2.8 kg and has a huge 40 litre capacity.

It is suitable for Ryanair, Easyjet, British Airways and others. It is available in charcoal or dark charcoal colour.

It has an anti-scratch ABS hard shell and has a 4 wheel spinner design. It comes with internal packing straps, has zipped compartments and elastic pockets for something like shoes.

It comes with a 5 Year Guarantee

Karabar Cabin Approved Hard Suitcase

88%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a hard shell case and measures 55 x 38 x 20 cm, weighs 2.2 kg and has a huge 31 litre capacity.

It is suitable for Ryanair, Easyjet, British Airways and others. It is available in black, silver or red.

It has made from a lightweight impact resistant ABS shell and has 4 multi-direction spinner wheels. It has an aluminium frame with a telescopic push button handle.

It has a lined interior with restraint straps and organiser pockets.

5 Cities Ryanair Cabin Approved Main and Second Set

76%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a trolley bag and measures 54x35x19 cm, weighs 1.45 kg and has a huge 42 litre capacity. You also get a holdall that measures 35x20x20 cm, weighs 0.4 kg and has a 14 litre capacity.

It is suitable for Ryanair and their 2 hand luggage rule. You can get it in black, black/red, black/blue, navy/black, pink/black and wine/black.

The trolley has a telescopic handle, a protective base, a carry side handle, and a top tug handle.

They both come with a 2 year guarantee.

Aerolite 56x45x25 Easyjet British Airways Jet2 Maximum Allowance 46L Lightweight Hard Shell Carry On Hand Cabin Luggage

92%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a trolley bag and measures 56 x 45 x 25 cm, weighs 3.2 kg and has a huge 41 litre capacity. You can get it in charcoal, silver or wine.

This bag is the maximum allowance cabin luggage size for Easyjet, Jet2 and British Airways.

This case has a telescopic handle, a protective base, a carry side handle, and a top tug handle. It has internal packing straps, zipped compartments and elastic pockets. It also has a 3-digit combination padlock

This case has a 5 year guarantee.

Aerolite 56x45x25 easyJet British Airways Jet2 Maximum Cabin Allowance 60L Lightweight Carry On Hand Cabin Luggage

90%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a trolley case and measures 56 x 45 x 25 cm, weighs 2.3 kg and has a huge 60 litre capacity. You can get it a black colour only.

This bag is the maximum allowance cabin luggage size for Easyjet, Jet2 and British Airways.

This is a lightweight and hard wearing 600 Jacquard polyester material. It has a large front zip pocket and a smaller top pocket for quick access.

It has a 2 wheel base with a retractable handle. It also has a 3-digit combination padlock.

This case has a 10 year guarantee.

Cabin Max Tallinn - Flight Approved Backpack for EasyJet & BA hand luggage

88%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a flight approved backpack that measures 56 x 45 x 25 cm, weighs 850 grams and has a large 55 litre capacity. You can get it a black colour with orange piping only.

This bag is the maximum allowance cabin luggage size for Easyjet, Jet2 and British Airways.

It is showerproof and made from 600D polyester. It does have a padded back, 3 main zipped compartments, an internal pocket and a laptop pocket.

It also has adjustable shoulder straps, top and side carrying handles and side adjustable compression straps.

This pack has a 3 year warranty

Set of 2 easyJet & British Airways 56x45x25cm Maximum Cabin Hand Luggage Approved Trolley Bag

82%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is 2 soft sided suitcases and each case measures 56 x 45 x 25 cm, weighs 1.95 kg and has a large 60 litre capacity. You can get it a black colour only.

Each bag is the maximum allowance cabin luggage size for Easyjet, Jet2 and British Airways.

They are lightweight cases, with top and side handles and they are 2 wheeled for pulling along. There is a retractable handle and a front compartment to allow easy acess.

They come with a 2 year warranty

5 Cities Easyjet, British Airways, Jet2 56X45X25Cm Maximum Cabin Approved Trolley Bag

78%
Buyer Satisfaction

This is a soft sided suitcase that measures 56 x 45 x 25 cm, weighs 1.95 kg and has a large 60 litre capacity. You can get it a black colour only.

Each bag is the maximum allowance cabin luggage size for Easyjet, Jet2 and British Airways.

Made from a lightweight material and has 2 wheels for pulling.

They come with a 2 year warranty

We hope that this article has at least explained the current UK carry on luggage allowances in terms of size and weight allowed. It would make life a great deal easier for all of us, if they could agree a standard size.

You may well ask why they all have different sizes and weight restrictions. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Mainly it is down to the size of the aircraft and the total weight it can carry. In other words it includes passenger weight, luggage in the hold weight and cabin luggage weight along with crew weight and equipment, fuel etc.. The total weight is limited depending on the size of the plane
  • Another reason for curtailing the size is down to the actual size of the overhead locker, and also the distance between the floor of the plane and the seat in front of you. The width of the bag needs to be able to fit under that if they run out of room in the overhead lockers. The bags need to tuck under the seat so as people don't trip over them in the case of an emergency.

Some people simply believe that the airlines can make more money on booked in luggage, if they restrict the carry on allowance. They could well be right of course.

Carry On Hand Luggage Frequently Asked Questions

Many travellers are not only uncertain about the size and weight restrictions, but they are also uncertain about what you are allowed to take in your hand cabin luggage. We have answered the most frequently asked questions below.

Can you take e-cigarettes on a plane?

Almost all UK airlines will allow you to take your e-cigarette, or indeed your cigarettes onto the plane. You can carry these on your person or have them in your hand luggage.

You are not however allowed to use it in the cabin at any time nor are you allowed to use the e-cigarette in the toilets.

Two other points are worth noting

  1. An e-cigarette contains a small lithium battery and is subject to the same rules as other electronic devices. You may be asked to switch it on at security. It should be packed in your hand luggage, not in your hold luggage
  2. The liquid in your cigarette (and any spares) are restricted and you should include these in your clear plastic bag of liquids at security.


How Much Liquid can be carried in your hand luggage?

All liquids must be in a 100 ml container. Larger containers, that have only 100 ml of liquid in it, will not usually be allowed through security.  In addition to this they must fit into a clear bag (20cm by 20cm) The bag must be able to be closed and sealed shut. Overstuffed bags are not allowed, and each passenger is permitted only one bag.

Liquids include liquids like water, soft drinks, creams, pastes, gels and sprays.

Can you take your medication on a plane?

Yes you can take medication on the plane. The only restriction is that if your medicine is in a liquid form, like the syrup style, then it must be in a container of less than 100 ml in size. You can take more but you will need to contact the airline in advance and agree that.

Can you take alcohol in your hand luggage?

Yes but like all liquid restrictions nothing more than 100 ml are allowed. Alcohol with more than 24% but no more than 70% alcohol by volume must be in its original retail packaging

Can you carry scissors in your hand luggage?

I don't know who makes these rules up, but here is the current one.

Scissors are allowed as long as they have blades less than 6 cm. Scissors with a rounded point and blades of any length are allowed. 

Can you take a lighter or matches on a plane?

No the general rule is those are not allowed. However almost all airlines will allow one lighter on as long as it is on your person, but not in your hand luggage.

Can I take my laptop on a plane?

Yes you can. You may be asked to turn it off at certain times such as take-off and landing.

Can I take my mobile phone on a plane?

Yes you can. You will be asked to turn it off at certain times such as take-off and landing and also to keep it in flight mode.

Can I take my phone, tablet and laptop chargers on a plane?

Yes you can. Never put these in the hold luggage as they are not allowed in check-in luggage. If you have any device with a Lithium-Ion battery then it should go in your hand luggage.

Can I take my electric razor in my hand luggage?

Yes you can.

Can I take my hair dryer/straighteners in my hand luggage?

Yes you can.

Can I take my make-up in my hand luggage?

The 100 ml rule applies. All cosmetics and toiletries are restricted on flights to and from the UK. If you have a larger container than 100 ml that is part used then this will not be allowed.

They must fit into a clear plastic bag no larger than 20cm by 20cm, and the bag must be able to be closed and sealed shut. There is only one bag allowed per passenger, and overstuffed bags are not allowed.

Can I take my perfume in my hand luggage?

The 100 ml rule applies. All cosmetics and toiletries are restricted on flights to and from the UK. If you have a larger container than 100 ml that is part used then this will not be allowed.

They must fit into a clear plastic bag no larger than 20cm by 20cm, and the bag must be able to be closed and sealed shut. There is only one bag allowed per passenger, and overstuffed bags are not allowed.

It is fair to say that travel used to be a great deal easier. Almost every country has now stepped up their security requirements at airports. Personally I get frustrated with the many different rules at the different airports.

Some of the security measures are simply ridiculous where some of the people working there take things to the extremes. There are then all the baggage size restrictions and the weight restrictions, and as you can see, they are all different despite the efforts of the many travel organisations asking to standardise sizes and weights.

Add to that the possibility of delays, ridiculous car parking prices, extortionate prices for food and items, and the usual bunch of half drunk holiday makers, the whole travelling experience can become very frustrating.

These days I just view the hassle as something that I have to get through to get where I really want to be. When it comes to your cabin luggage I try and keep my contents to a minimum.

I don't buy any drinks until I get through security to avoid any hassle.

The bottom line is to know what you are allowed and try and match that with what you really need to take with you. Sun creams and items like that should go in your check-in luggage and make sure to seal them in a bag, as those are prone to leaking.

Avoid Overweight Charges

Also make sure to weigh both hand luggage and check-in luggage before you get to the airport. That will help you avoid their expensive over weight charges. If you know you are going to be over weight then pay for it online before you go as it is a great deal cheaper.

Use something like a portable luggage scale on the return journey to avoid over weight charges. These are cheap to buy and light in weight and could save you a fortune.

About the author

Enda

Hi, my name is Enda McLarnon and I love to travel. I travelled for many years with business, but these days it is thankfully all about holidays and enjoyment. Here I share everything I have learned about travel.

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