How to choose the perfect carry-on

Hardshell or softshell? Two wheels or four? We’re breaking down all the best carry-on options that comply with Canadian airline regulations.

With horror stories of lost luggage and travel headaches (cancelled and rerouted flights, overbooking, crew shortages and endless queues at the airport), taking the guesswork out of one of the parties most stressful parts of travel – waiting for a suitcase to appear on the carousel – can help relieve travel anxiety.

But with full flights, a big question arises: will my hand luggage make it on the plane?

One way to protect against being checked at the door is to make sure it’s the right size.

What size carry-on baggage is compliant for airlines in Canada?

Air Canada and WestJet allow the same size for carry-on baggage: 21.5″ (height), 9″ (depth) and 15.5″ (width). This includes handles and wheels.

Suitcases must be able to fit in hand luggage upon request. And the more a flight is full, the more airline staff will check the dimensions of hand luggage at the boarding gate to avoid having too much luggage and not enough space in the overhead compartments. Airlines are strict with these dimensions, and extenders will likely have a bag checked at the gate.

A major frustration with buying carry-on luggage is that most don’t fit within these size restrictions, and are either too small (meaning a traveler will miss out on getting the maximum amount of space), or they are slightly oversized (sometimes as little as possible). little more than half an inch).

All sizes are noted in the product reviews below.

What is considered a “personal item” on an airplane?

Personal items are not meant to be extra carry-on luggage, but a small bag that will fit under the seat (think purse or laptop bag).

The maximum dimensions for this are 13″ (height), 6″ (depth) and 17″ (width). This includes all duty free or airport purchases.

What are the pros and cons of using a hardside suitcase?


  • Most have four wheels
  • A stiffer shell equals more item protection
  • Hard case helps prevent over-packing and creates “oversized” mass in the front
  • It comes in cooler designs and finishes than soft cases.

The inconvenients:

  • Unlikely to have front or side pockets
  • Not flexible
  • Scratches and scratches more easily than fabric
  • More rigid (so might be harder to store in a small space)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a soft-shell suitcase?


  • Depending on requirements, it can be available in two or four wheel options
  • May include front pockets for magazines/documents
  • Cloth can be cleaned in place

The inconvenients:

  • Easy to stuff and overwrap
  • Fabric can tear/wear easily
  • Rain, spilled coffee or other liquids can soak in and stain it

The best carry-on suitcases available in Canada

Briggs & Riley Baseline Essential Carry-on Spinner

Who is it ideal for: Frequent travelers and those who want a quality piece that will last.

Why we endorse it: The Briggs & Riley name came up frequently in Reddit’s “Buy It For Life” group, with frequent travelers raving about the durability, lifetime warranty and design.

Where it could use improvements: This is ½ inch above the height restriction for Canadian airlines. It’s priced higher than most other brands.

Height/weight/dimensions: 22″ (height), 9″ (depth) and 14″ (width).

Price (subject to change): $699 USD directly from the Briggs & Riley website (customs and shipping charges apply) or $859 through Canadian Luggage Depot.

ORV Eagle Creek Adult Wheeled Duffel Bag

Eagle Creek continues

Who is it ideal for: Travelers who want luggage with lots of compartments and protection.

Why we endorse it: It’s for people who value organization: there are internal and external compartments to separate clean/dirty clothes, padded electronics pockets and multiple shoulder straps.

Where it could use improvements: It is a two-wheeler.

Height/weight/dimensions: 21.5″ (height), 8.25″ (depth) and 14″ (width).

Price (subject to change): $359 on Amazon.

Freeform Samsonite

Freeform Samsonite

Who is it ideal for: While searching for the mythical Samsonite Fiero (sold across Canada), we came across the stylish and much-loved Samsonite Freeform.

Why we endorse it: Trust in the brand, 5 star user reviews, 360 degree wheel rotation.

Where it could use improvements: This is one inch above the 9″ depth dimension.

Height/weight/dimensions: 21.25″ (height), 10″ (depth) and 5.25″ (width).

Price (subject to change): $196.95 (on sale) at Amazon.

Travelers Club Expandable Hand Luggage

Travelers Club

Who is it ideal for: Anyone who wants a bright carry-on that doesn’t break the bank.

Why we endorse it: Great user reviews, relatively inexpensive and sturdy handle and wheels.

Where it could use improvements: The finish may scratch.

Height/weight/dimensions: 20″ (height), 8″ (depth) and 13″ (length).

Price (subject to change): $65.92 on Amazon.

Osprey Ozone adult carry-on

Osprey luggage

Who is it ideal for: The traveler who wants durability and flexibility.

Why we endorse it: Rigid bottom, multiple pocket compartments and the duffel shape give a touch of flexibility when you need a little more space.

Where it could use improvements: That’s a little bit more than the depth of Canadian airlines.

Height/weight/dimensions: 21.7″ (height), 9.1″ (depth) and 14.2″ (width).

Price (subject to change): $299.99 on Amazon.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Lightweight Expandable Suitcase

Traveler's baggage

Who is it ideal for: Anyone who wants reliable, hassle-free carry-on luggage.

Why we endorse it: Trusted brand, expandable options, four wheels, weighs less than 6 lbs.

Where it could use improvements: Differs slightly from Canadian carry-on dimensions.

Height/weight/dimensions: 21.75″ (height), 7.75″ (depth) and 15.75″ (width).

Price (subject to change): $159.99 on Amazon.

US Traveler Rio Sturdy Expandable Carry-on Set

American traveler

Who is it ideal for: Anyone who’s envied the professional-looking carry-on combo that flight attendants and pilots zip through the airport.

Why we endorse it: This matching set is an efficient and organized way to pack a carry-on and personal item without juggling two bags. Expandable sections, durable wheels and tote straps. There are several color options for those who aren’t into basic black.

Where it could use improvements: The personal items bag slightly exceeds the dimensions of the Canadian airline.

Height/weight/dimensions: Tote bag: 10″ (height), 6″ (depth) and 14″ (width). Carry-on: 21″ (height), 7.5″ (depth) and 13.5″ (width).

Price (subject to change): $79.76 on Amazon.

For a full selection of travel-approved picks (including luggage scale, packing cubes, and secure toiletry bags), check out our Amazon storefront.

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