What Is the Best Carry On Bag for Under $100?

Carry On Luggage

What Is the Best Carry On Bag for Under $100?

Finding a good carry on bag for less than $100 is difficult—but it’s definitely not impossible. Whether it’s because you’re on a tight budget at the moment or aren’t the sort of person who travels enough to make spending more than a hundred bucks on a bag impractical, you can profit from the selection of carry-ons we found here.

The three we’ve chosen to include in the lineup below are the ones most likely to qualify for the title of best carry on bag for the $100-budget buyers club.

TravelPro MaxLite3 22-inch Expandable Rollaboard

This bag is a soft-shell carry on made of 100% polyester. It combines EVA foam with a honeycomb frame inside to give it structural strength while keeping the bag within 6.1lbs. The two roller wheels come with skid guards, crash guards, and corner guards, and the handle can be extended to 38 inches and 42.5 inches. The bag itself measures 21 by 14 by 9 inches and is expandable.


  • Very light but durable
  • Subtly attractive
  • A lot of zippered compartments


  • Usually no longer within airline regulations once expanded
  • An inch shorter than the old MaxLite (version 2)

This is a great offering from TravelPro that really does live up to its name. It holds a fair number of things for something really light and is also well-enough built that you don’t feel like things are always in danger of being torn out with rough usage.

Looks-wise, it’s not necessarily a show-stopper, but it nevertheless has a certain style about it that will attract those who do take a second look. It’s also rich in compartments and zippered sections—something many travelers will appreciate.

Those who owned its predecessor, though, may dislike some of the changes made to the old version: in particular, the loss of one inch from the old one’s length will not be viewed with approval by many old fans. Even so, this MaxLite remains a great purchase for its cost and easily one of the better rollers and soft-shells in this range.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20-inch Upright

This Kenneth Cole carry on spinner is made predominantly of ABS for strength. The corners have molded reinforcement to give it added toughness against damage from impact and the lined interior includes clothing straps, as well as zippered pockets (1 inside, 1 out). It stands 20 by 12.6 by 8.5 inches and weighs 8.1lbs. It can also be bought in the colors cobalt, red, pink, purple, and charcoal.


  • Shell is nicely scratch-resistant
  • Easily falls within most airlines’ carry-on requirements
  • Side-zippered closure means easy access


  • Small size, so people who prefer the bigger bags may have trouble with it
  • Lacks external compartments

This is a nice-looking and compact carry-on bag that sells for less than you might think from just looking at it. That doesn’t mean Kenneth Cole has skimped a lot on this thing’s manufacture, though. It’s actually quite well made, with a lot of impact- and scratch-resistance, and decent spinner wheels that compare to the ones found on market leaders.

The range of colors available for it is also a plus.

It is a bit small compared to many of the other popular carry-ons—but that’s a good thing. There’s no worrying whether or not this will be permitted by your airline as a result. It’s also very light and actually slightly flexible despite the “hard” shell.

Overall, if you want a safe carry-on that will see you through most short trips very capably, this is a fine choice.

Rockland 20-inch Polycarbonate Carry On

This is a spinner carry-on constructed out of polycarbonate for lightness and robustness. Measuring 22 by 13 by 10 inches, it also only weighs 6.5lbs for truly effortless carry. It comes in a colorful and striking variety of prints, as well as animal skin patterns. The interior has multiple compartments, including a zippered divider, and elastic restraints for your garments.


  • Appealing graphics if you like bags that make a statement
  • Very cheap
  • Nicely durable


  • Dimensions make it unsuitable for a few airlines
  • Inner liner is a bit on the thin side

This is the cheapest item on the list but still a fantastic one. Most of the print options for it are eye-catching and will make heads turn at the airport. It has pretty good wheels that don’t make you work to guide it somewhere, and it fits a good amount of stuff in it.

The zippered lining is a bit thin, yes, but we weren’t able to tear it during our tests, so it should handle most usage fine. As for the polycarbonate shell, it’s nice and tough, just as Rockland advertises.

The problem is that the dimensions usually advertised for it don’t include the whole of the bag, shaving 2 inches off the height and 1 inch off the width (usually).

The actual dimensions (the ones we quoted earlier in this review) mean that it won’t fit some airlines’ requirements, although it should stay within the limits for most of them, both internationally and in the US. If you plan to get it, you should just check what the limits are for the airlines you usually patronize.


These bargain buys are all excellent choices, but we have to award best buy status to the TravelPro. Not only is it expandable, but it also has the most practical compartments in its design. It’s a roller, though, which not everyone will like.

For those who prefer the spinners, both the Kenneth Cole and Rockland are great. You could get yourself the latter to save a few bucks, but that’s really only if you want to take a chance on the airline regulations for carry-ons during your trip.

If you want to go the safe route, choose the Kenneth Cole instead, which isn’t so much more expensive than the Rockland.

Comments are closed.