Carry On Bags for International Travel

By Kate Riley June 3, 2021

I made a bold move and booked a flight to Spain in September. It will be my first international trip in two years since I traveled to Peru and I am doing a happy dance knowing I get to hop on a plane in just a few months and visit a foreign country. I’m traveling with two besties, the same girlfriends I traveled with to Peru, and we are zig zagging our way through Spain: from Barcelona –> Valencia–> Madrid –> Zaragoza –> San Sebastian–> Bilbao.

My go to suitcase is this Samsonite Carry On Spinner, its dimensions work for both domestic carry-on and also international checked bags if I keep it in the weight limits. When I travel domestically, I squeeze most everything into my carry on spinner and bring it with a backpack on the plane. International travel requires a more thought out strategy because size and weight limits are different. With international travel I check a bag (the Samsonite spinner I mentioned) and carry on a larger tote that fits under my seat, one for toiletries, tech, and a change of clothes.

I went shopping for a bag that would fit international carry on regulations and rounded up some great options. Some of these have a trolley sleeve so they can sit on top of your rolling luggage, making transport through a terminal or to your accommodations much easier.

International carriers have different dimension limits for hand baggage (carry on). This little chart is as of June 2021 shows restrictions for a few major international airlines. (These are subject to change at any time at the discretion of these carriers so *always* double check with your airline.)


55 x 35 x 25cm
21½ x 13¾ x 9.9 inches
l + w + h = 118 cm
l + w + h = 46.5 inches
56 x 45 x 25 cm
22 x 18 x 10 inches
l + w + h = 157 cm
l + w + h = 62 inches
55 x 38 x 20 cm
21½ x 16 x 8.5 inches
56 X 40 X 25
22 x 16 x 10 inches
55 x 35 x 25 cm
21½ x 14 x 10 inches
55 x 40 x 23 cm
21½ x 16 x 9 inches
55 x 40 x 20cm
21½ x 16 x 8 inches
56 x 36 x 23 cm
22 x 14 x 9 inches
56 x 35 x 22 cm
22 x 14 x 9 inches
50 x 37 x 25 cm
20 x 15 x 10 inches

So if you’re like me and making plans to fly international sometime this year….

Carry On Your Flight Bags for International Travel (for Overhead or Under Seat)

dimensions listed are inches

convertible 16 x 19 x 8 / vera bradley 18 x 12¾ x 7½

stevyn duffel 19½ x 10½ x 14 / murphy underseat 14 x 15 x 8½

chatalet duffel 21½ x 14½ x 10 / baggalini duffel 16 x 13¾ x 7

stowaway duffel 19½ x 10½ x 8¼ / navy & leather 15½ x 10 x 6½

metro duffel 17½ x 10½ x 9½ / main line duffel 20 x 11 x 10

canvas rolling duffel 19 x 18 x 12 / adventure weekender 19 x 16 x 7


  1. I’m always wondering if to splurge on luggage (and then find I go cheap). I loved your recommendations.

    Also, if you are looking for a hotel, or nice bar in Madrid, then we stayed at Hotel Totem for New Years Eve a few years back and it was wonderful.

  2. I carry a leather backpack whenever I travel. It holds my make up bag, electronics, change of clothes, book & snacks plus purse. That way I’m hands free and not dragging around a tote. It fits under the front seat nicely so I can access anything I need. Something to think about.

    • I agree, having a backpack is the best! I bring one for walking around all day, it holds a water bottle, charger, sunscreen, etc. Herschel has some small canvas backpacks about 12″ high that I really like, and I flat pack it for the trip and use it everyday, but travel on the plane with a larger tote for under the seat, one that holds my laptop, toiletries, etc.

  3. This is somewhat timely as I’m sitting in an airport terminal as I type this (NC to NY). I actually ended up borrowing a friends carry on because mine was three inches too large. Got me thinking I may need to get something smaller for future travels, and like you will hopefully be doing some before the year is up.

    I read your post twice because I’m a little confused about something. You mentioned when you travel domestically you bring the spinner and a backpack but when you travel internationally you bring the same spinner, which you check, and a tote. Wouldn’t you want something bigger as long as you’re checking a bag? Especially considering an international trip presumably is longer and generally requires more items? And what is the advantage of a tote versus a backpack?

    • I still use my spinner on international travel because it keeps me within the weight limit and I’m accustomed to traveling light. I always stay somewhere in the middle of my trip that has a washing machine so I can wear everything twice. I also bring with me a small backpack for when I’m walking about the city, but it’s inside my suitcase or tote since I only use it on arrival for daytime walkabouts.

  4. I have the Monos Metro Duffel and absolutely love it!! Got mine in the Vegan Leather, it has a detachable pouch which is so handy when on the airplane you can snap off and bring it to your seat

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