The carry-on luggage these serious frequent flyers use

Travel pros pick the best suitcases and bags to take on board.

Travel pros pick the best suitcases and bags to take on board

(Credit, background: iStock/Getty Images)

Why choose a carry-on over checked luggage? Three major reasons, the first is cost. Major North America carriers often impose checked baggage fees. The second is peace of mind. You can keep your anxiety at bay knowing that everything you packed is landing with you and not headed to a different destination. Finally, it saves you time — skip the luggage carousel and make a beeline for the taxi stand.  

But with so many buying options, deciding on the best carry-on for your needs can be challenging, between the aesthetic options to practical function [read: wheels that roll like a dream]. So we reached out to Canadian frequent flyers who work in a number of different industries and fly regularly for work and pleasure. From hard-case rollers to vegan leather totes, here are their favourite pieces to travel with.


Suzanne Cohon, principal of ASC Publics Relations is a lover of travel, both personally and for her business. Cohon's frequent flyer status means she gets to check her luggage free of charge — but she never does. "Why would I want to wait in baggage claim upwards of 45 minutes. In that time, I could already be home with my family," says Cohon. Her favourite travel companion is Away's Bigger Carry-On. This tricked out suitcases has a built-in USB charger (that's removable), smooth wheels and is slightly larger than your average carry-on, so you can fit in an extra pair of shoes and a few additional outfits. It also comes with a limited lifetime warranty that covers any damage to the shell, wheels, handles, zippers, or anything else that functionally impairs the luggage.

Bigger Carry On, $345, Away


If you're looking to invest in a carry-on that's sure to last for even decades, you may look to the Rimowa Cabin. This seemingly indestructible aluminum case is a favourite of Maik Rehfeldt, who's the CEO of Hansamed Limited, a specialty pharmaceutical and medical device distributor for dental professionals — he's in the clouds so often that he's hit one particular airline's exclusive status. Think of this piece of luggage as the Rolex of carry-ons, which is definitely reflected in its price. Rehfeldt admires the case's functional aspects, such as its sturdy handles on all sides and ultra-smooth ride thanks to its ball-bearing mounted wheels with cushioned axles. It should last a lifetime, but if anything does go wrong it comes with a five-year manufacturer's guarantee. 

Cabin Classic in Silver Aluminum, $1,220, Rimowa

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Allan Deonar's profession is in construction, which doesn't grant him the opportunities to travel for work but that doesn't stop this frequent flyer. Exploring the world is his passion, so travel is a priority, from weekend jaunts to epic international multi-city trips, and Deonar's current carry-on is the Briggs & Riley Carry-On with Expandable Spinners ($599), with its built-in compression compartments, top zipper flap and durable wheels. "The four wheels glided so smoothly, even after they took a beating on stone streets of Busan," says Denoar. For weekend getaways, he also loves his Herschel Novel duffle bag. "It packs a ton, has a separate compartment for an extra set of shoes." Other highlights are internal storage sleeves and its removable padded shoulder strap, for a hands-free option.

Novel Duffle, $99.99, Herschel and Baseline Carry-On, $599, Briggs and Riley 


Award-winning travel writer, Emma Yardley, is often travelling solo to remote locations via planes, trains, buses and boats, which means she needs to manoeuvre easily and efficiently. "A carry-on just gives me more flexibility and independence," says Yardley. Part of her beat is to test and write about travel gear and she's currently charmed with the Travelpro Versa Pack. Its wheels are aligned by magnets, which helps deliver an ultra-smooth ride, and the case has many organizational compartments. Yardley especially likes the padded laptop pocket, clear TSA-compliant toiletry bag and the USB charging port. "It makes navigating multiple airport security checkpoints and working during long travel days that much easier." This case is covered by the brand's built for a lifetime limited warranty, which means they'll fix any defects in materials and workmanship.

Crew Versapack Max Carry-On Expandable Spinner, $380, Travelpro


Fashion, beauty and lifestyle photographer Alvaro Goveia regularly travels between Toronto and New York City for commercial and editorial photoshoots, and sometimes to a handful of far-off locations around the world. His go-to carry-on is the handsome Filson 4-wheel; the rugged yet refined bag is made from water-resistant cotton twill and is accented with leather straps. Above mid-range in price, it has practical additions such as side and top handles, which come in handy for carrying the bag over short distances, like manoeuvring it while placing it in the overhead compartment. It's slightly above the mid-range price, but Filson does guarantee a lifetime warranty against failure or damage in its intended usage.

Rugged Twill Rolling 4-Wheel Carry-On Bag, $650, Filson


If you fly the YYZ to LGA route, chances are good you'll bump into renowned makeup artist, Grace Lee — between filming Project Runway and being the lead makeup artist for Maybelline at countless New York Fashion Week runway shows, she amassed an impressive 55 flights last year. She lives by carry-on, especially because she often tries to hop on earlier flights to get home to her family. Just like Rehfeldt, she loves her Rimowa Cabin Classic, but her carry-on's companion is the Ai City Tote. "I love a big tote bag that I can plop on top of my Rimowa," says Lee. The Canadian tote uses vegan leather and has an inner bag with zip closure (perfect to house a passport) and fits a 15" laptop with ease.

City Tote, $175, Ai Toronto Seoul


As Communications Manager of G Adventures, a leader in small group adventure travel, Timothy Chan is always on the go, travelling both within Canada and overseas. His mainstay carry-on for the last few years has been his trusty Samsonite. "It's simple, without the bells and whistles, but I love that it's incredibly light and durable," says Chan. He praises its individual compartments for keeping him organized, and is continually impressed by how it manoeuvres around an airport. "Its multi-directional wheels allow me to zoom from security to the gate in no time." This lightweight Samsonite case comes with a 10-year limited warranty.

On Air 3 Spinner Carry-On, $215, Samsonite

Julia McEwen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @juliapjmcewen.

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