The 5 Best Carry-on and Personal Item Combos to Replace Your Checked Bag

Once the standard for international air travel, checking a bag has become an increasingly expensive feat. And if the bag fees haven’t had you abandon your bag checking habit yet, the high rates of lost and damaged luggage on certain airlines might. The solution: Forgo a checked bag altogether in favor of the best carry-on and personal item combos, so you can spend less time at baggage claim and more time exploring.[st_content_ad]

The Best Carry-on and Personal Item Combos

Replacing a larger suitcase is a job for streamlined, ultra-organized luggage and personal item bags like the ones below. Here are 10 that create the best combos to consider, or to mix and match for maximum effect.

Genius Pack Aerial Hardside Spinner + Dagne Dover Medium Landon Carryall

Genius pack aerial hardside spinner + dagne dover medium landon carryall.

My personal workhorses for abandoning the luggage carousel are Genius Pack’s Aerial Hardside Spinner and Dagne Dover’s Medium Landon Carryall, each of which has a stylish, minimalist exterior that’s bolstered by surprisingly organized inner compartments. Genius Pack’s spinner has a separate laundry compartment paired with zippered pockets that are labeled for easy access to all the necessities (“chargers,” “socks,” etc.), plus an added packing list to remind you of what you need.

Dagne Dover’s neoprene carryall accomplishes similar organization with an inner tablet sleeve, a zippered accessories compartment, a water bottle sleeve, and a removable zipped shoe bag perfect for separating everything from dusty sneakers to dirty laundry. The bag also conveniently opens wider than most duffels thanks to snap buttons that disconnect the zipper ends from the bag’s body, so you can easily see inside.

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Victorinox Connex Frequent Flyer Hardside and Victoria 2.0 Deluxe Business Tote

Victorinox connex frequent flyer hardside and victoria 2.0 deluxe business tote.

Frequent business travelers probably already know Victorinox’s durability and utility, but the Connex Frequent Flyer Hardside comes in a stylish array of colors, has a built-in combination lock, and can expand an extra two inches for added packing power. The Victoria 2.0 Deluxe Business Tote is similarly stylish-yet-business-appropriate thanks to its leather straps, rear sleeve to slip over your telescoping suitcase handle, and plethora of pockets.

OGIO ALPHA Convoy Four-Wheel Spinner Carry-on and Boundary Modular Errant Pack

OGIO alpha convoy four-wheel spinner carry-on and boundary modular errant pack.

An expanding carry-on that makes protecting your laptop a priority, OGIO’s ALPHA Convoy Spinner has huge outer pockets that allow easy access to more than just the smallest items—keep a change of clothes in the outer pocket for optimal ease of changing on a layover, or stock it with larger in-flight essentials like socks, back-up chargers, and sleep accessories. One of the outer pockets is a spacious laptop sleeve, so you won’t be fumbling to remove your computer in the security line.

A similarly utilitarian bag with a sleek look, Boundary’s Errant Pack has electronics sleeves and a hidden compartment for your passport. Like all the best carry-on bags, its zipper runs longer than most so that it can open wide like a book. Plus, it has specialized compartments for everything, from its document sleeve to the shoe compartment.

The Errant Pack is lightweight with a robust array of features and tons of space, including a spot for your computer and dry storage on the bottom.

North Face 20-Inch Stratoliner-M and Solo New York Grand Travel TSA Backpack

North face 20-inch stratoliner-m and solo new york grand travel tsa backpack.

An adventure-worthy carry-on that meets all international airlines’ cabin bag limits, the North Face 20-Inch Stratoliner-M earned recognition from SmarterTravel’s Editors’ Choice Awards for best carry-on thanks to its straightforward packing space, elegant exterior, and durable construction. It even has a lifetime warranty, so you’ll never need to buy another carry-on.

Make up for its lack of bells and whistles with Solo New York’s Grand Travel TSA Backpack, which features a TSA-approved laptop sleeve design, a 30-liter capacity main compartment, front pockets and side mesh pockets, plus a back panel that slides over luggage handles—which is notably missing from most backpacks. Its multiple handles, padded back, and durable straps make it easy to carry, and compression straps in the main compartment make for tighter packing.

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Speck Travel 22-Inch Carry-on and Tortuga Setout Laptop Backpack

Speck travel 22-inch carry-on and tortuga setout laptop backpack.

It doesn’t get much more organized than a carry-on with not one but four zippered compartments inside Speck Travel’s 22-Inch Carry-on, including one built into the main compartment’s luggage straps for optimal packing power when you need to fit more clothing. Its sleek outer also makes it perfect for both work and leisure trips.

Pair it with Tortuga’s SetOut Laptop Backpack, a 25-liter personal item that is equally work- and play-friendly and opens like a suitcase so you can fit all your necessities plus a change of clothes, shoes, a laptop, and a tablet.

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Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

By Shannon McMahon

Editor Shannon McMahon is always planning her next trip and often writing in her travel journal. Follow her on Twitter @shanmcmahon_ and on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

Shannon joined SmarterTravel in 2015. A former news reporter, she's lived in the south of Spain, spotted elephants in Sri Lanka, gone spelunking in the Caribbean, hiked Jordan's Petra Basin, interviewed Sao Paulo's Michelin-Star chefs, and explored China via bullet train. Travel trends, news oddities, and her visits to up-and-coming destinations are some of her favorite things to write about.

Her stories have also appeared online on USA Today, The Sun, Huffington Post, Business Insider,,, and more. Her educational background is in journalism, art history, gender studies, Spanish, and film. She's been quoted as an expert travel source by CNBC,, MarketWatch, The Washington Post, USA Today, and more.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Plenty of extra thick hair elastics. They tame my frizzy curls and come in handy in a surprising number of packing and hotel dilemmas."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Climbing (yes, climbing, it's steep!) the Great Wall of China before it's gone."

Travel Motto: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." - Mark Twain

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window, of course."

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