I have spent the last few winter vacations travelling around European and Asian cities and for the most part have been fine with my existing luggage, but European carry-on requirements are different than those in North America, so particularly on discount airlines like Ryan Air or Vueling my bag has been too big to carry-on to the plane. I fly carry-on whenever possible because it makes travel so much easier. The price I pay for having less clothing, etc., is a small one considering the flexibility gained from travelling light. Not only can my luggage not be lost, I also don't have to wait in line for luggage check-in, or at baggage claim. When I'm actually travelling around everything is much simplified. I have less to keep track of, and less to lug around the streets. Finally, it's cheaper too fly carry-on. Discount airlines charge a substantial fee for any additional bag — anywhere from 15-30 Euros.
Now that I've established that I can live light, I need to get a new bag that absolutely without question meets the European carry-on requirements. As a point of reference I will use the stingy Ryan Air carry-on luggage requirements as my guide. Ryan Air states a maximum carry-on size of: 21.6" x 15.7" x 7.8" (55cm x 40cm x 20cm).
Here are my top picks from my favourite luggage manufacturers:
Briggs and Riley Fuse 20" Carry-on Computer Upright This could be the one. It fits inside the requirements, but makes good use of space and almost fills out the maximum allowable space. I like the double-post handle and the laptop and tech organization pockets. It has a garment portion for folding clothes which is nice. My only concern on this one is that all of the laptop pocketing will take up too much space and that there will be little left for carrying clothing, etc. While not as "swish" as some of the other suitcases on this page, B&R is probably the most all-around well respected choice in luggage for their legendary durability and warranty. If you're in a hurry Amazon.com has a good selection of these.
TravelPro Executive First 18" Carry-On You may remember TravelPro as the luggage of choice in George Clooney's frequent flyer fiesta Up In The Air. While I'm sure that was extremely good product placement ($$), TravelPro does make some nice stuff. This 18" may be a little tight, but you'll be guaranteed a quick carry-on breeze through any European budget airline as it's well within the size limitations imposed by Ryan Air. It may not be the same model that Clooney used in the movie, but remember that he was flying domestic, and that allows you several valuable extra inches!
Mandarina Duck File Trolly This one is exactly the size to meet the requirement. No more, no less. It maximizes space and has good organizational compartments. My only con for this bag is the single post handle. I hate these as they don't allow you to carry a laptop bag over the handle very easily. While this wouldn't be an issue for European travel since you can only bring one bag and would have to fit your laptop in the suitcase, it would be a nice option for travel in North America.
Mandarina Duck Knock Business Trolly This one makes the great. It fits just within the tighter carry-on restrictions and the Mandarina Duck name is synonymous with luxury luggage and high quality. I'm not a huge fan of the colour, but the dual-post handle and the overall case will likely hold up to the task.
Mandarina Duck Touch Trolley This one is on the borderline. I think it will probably pass, but it is technically .3" too wide for carry-on on Ryan Air. It is 2.6" shorter in the other direction, but if they force you to insert it into that metal cage thing at the airport there's a chance that it won't go. I love the look and style though as well as the dual-post handle.
Briggs and Riley 18" Expandable Carry-on Upright Briggs and Riley offers a lifetime warranty which is good enough for me. Anything I have ever owned from them is top notch. I like this case and it's ability to expand when needed. It's kind of plain, but you know it will get the job done and stand the test of time. If not they will fix it. The only thing stopping me on this one is that it is a bit smaller than the others. It is well within Euro carry-on limits, but is a couple inches shorter than some of the competing bags. It might be a tad small if trying to squeeze in a laptop, etc. Available at Amazon.com.
Tumi Alpha Lightweight Slim International Carry-on This one may take the cake. It is likely one of the priciest of the bunch, but it is stylish, carries the Tumi reputation for quality, and also has a double post-handle for slide-over laptop bags. The case also makes the most use of space and almost exactly fills out the Euro carry-on requirements.
Paul Smith Medium Trolley This is my favourite of the bunch, but that is largely based on style. I would believe that this is good quality and I have seen it in person, but it is largely the Paul Smith stripes you are paying for. At a price of about £435 it is also very expensive for what it is, but I'm very tempted! (See also: What's in a Bag?)
So overall my top 3 would be:
1.) Tumi - Alpha International Carry-on 2.) Briggs and Riley - Fuse 20" Computer Carry-on 3.) Mandarina Duck - Knock Business Trolly
We'll see which one makes it into my luggage collection.