Ask Belle: Chic Carry-On Bags

Oct 15, 2015

Hi Belle,

Could you suggest options for a practical (i.e.roomy) yet sleek carry-on bag? JetBlue lost my suitcase on my recent honeymoon and I am swearing off checking bags for the foreseeable future. I currently use a LeSport Sac duffel as my carry-on, however I’d like something a bit more grown-up, possibly leather. Goal is to maximize space without totally sacrificing style.

Thanks! Liz

The airline has lost my luggage several times, so I always carry-on.  I like a real suitcase with spinner wheels for airplane travel.  But I use a duffel-style weekender for short overnight trips so that I don’t overpack (because I feel the need to fill empty spaces).  Since I can’t afford this gorgeousness, here are some affordable bags that caught my eye.

Leather or Faux-Leather Bags

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Sole Society Oversize Weekender ($85, three colors)

Also comes in a medium size (I love the oxblood shade).  This is the bag I own; it’s pretty tough.  I just wish the drop on the handles was more generous.

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LL Bean Leather Duffel ($299)

I love the broken-in feel of this bag.

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Sole Society Mason Bag ($80, four colors)

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Ted Baker London Leather Duffel ($495)

Fabric Bags

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Everlane Twill Weekender ($98)

People rave about this twill weekender.

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Hook + Albert Garment Weekender ($445)

This bag is extremely cool.  If you need a gift for a stylish man, this is it.  It’s a duffel that transforms into the garment bag.  Perfect for a weekend wedding.  Also in leather.

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Herschel Supply Co. Novel Bag ($80)

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  1. L says:

    I bought the Herschel bag for my boyfriend last Christmas, the fabric seemed cheap and the zipper was white (!) which only added to the sense it was cheap. Love the other suggestions though!

  2. terri says:

    love all these options

  3. Anna says:

    If you need a wheeled option, I just got this one (coincidentally for a trip to Madrid) and LOVE it: https://www.ebags.com/product/ak-anne-klein/madrid-22-wheeled-city-bag/277475. I wanted something that I could roll around in airports and train stations, but that I could also carry on my shoulder while out in a city, going up stairs, etc and that wouldn’t scream “tourist!”. Some airline people questioned the size (even though the measurements are within the allowable limits), but since it’s soft, it easily squeezes into the contraption they use to decide if a bag is too big.

  4. Julia says:

    These bags are gorgeous! I own the Everlane one and it’s fantastic. I need 360 wheels in an airport, and I have been able to find Samsonite and similar brands at Marshall’s and TJMaxx. They were under $100 and have lasted me years!

  5. AL says:

    While I love duffel bags as my carry on, I’ve found that my shoulder takes a toll with all that weight and schlepping, so I stick with rolling bags. These are gorgeous!

  6. Bunny says:

    I’m looking to get my husband a classy duffel bag for travel for Christmas, so this post is very helpful!

  7. Valerie says:

    I own the Sole Society bag (the oversize “Lacie”) in cognac and it’s one of the best weekend bags I’ve bought. The leather doesn’t look cheap and it’s weathered well (and unlike a friend who splurged on a real leather weekender, I don’t have to worry about putting it down somewhere and scratching a month’s worth of rent).

    Belle, since you also own it, I have a question: did you notice a strong chemical smell in the lining of the bag? I haven’t managed to quite get rid of it, despite letting it sit outside and stuffing a bunch of fabric softener sheets and sachets inside. That’s the only (very minor) downside to that bag.

  8. Erin says:

    I suppose you couldn’t really call it chic, but I cannot express how much I love the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30.
    https://www.tombihn.com/travel_bags/aeronaut30.html
    I also prefer not to check bags, and this one has such a genius design and is so easy to carry. You can wear it as a backpack or with a shoulder strap. It is very compact and easily fits in the overhead bins. I have fit a week’s worth of clothes (using packing cubes – I like the Eagle Creek ones rather than the Tom Bihn ones), all my travel sized toiletries, and several pairs of shoes in the bag. It’s fantastic!

    • Katherine says:

      I’ve been eyeing that for a good 6 months and on the fence. I’ve got a lot of work travel coming up in the next year and will probably bite the bullet to supplement my favorite little Lipault case.

      Curious, did you look at the Aeronaut vs the Western Flyer?

      • Erin says:

        It is my understanding the the Western Flyer is smaller and really more of an overnight bag. I think it would be perfect if you mainly travel for short business trips and maybe weekend get aways. Most of the traveling I do is for workshops and conferences which last for about a week. I bring the Aeronaut and a laptop bag as my personal item so I don’t need all the pockets on the front of the Western Flyer. Overall, I think Tom Bihn bags are really well designed and well constructed.

  9. Shannon says:

    I have a 1980s Ghurka leather weekender that was my father’s, and it’s both beautiful and wholly impractical for flying. It’s just far too heavy. But I see they make newer ones out of canvas, so if you can splash out the cash, I can vouch for the brand’s craftsmanship and quality.

    My carry on challenge is finding a lightweight overnight travel bag, preferably cross-body, that has a strap on the back so I can slide it over the handle of my rolling suitcase. Anyone have any suggestions?

    • Erin says:

      The Lo & Sons OMG or OG, depending on how big of a bag you need. After I finally got a tenure track job,I splurged on an OMG and have never regretted it.

  10. Katherine says:

    I really like the Lipault line; I’ve got one of their small 2 wheel cases (https://www.ebags.com/product/lipault/2-wheeled-19-carry-on/280845?productid=10324245)
    and a 19″ weekend tote that kind of looks like a big purse and I can do 2 weeks, with laptop, easily.

    The weekend tote (https://www.ebags.com/product/lipault/19-weekend-tote/266541?productid=10300495) is great – I can double it as a work bag and it has thing on the back to slide it over a suitcase handle.

  11. Sarah says:

    I gave my brother the Hershel bag above for Christmas last year (as well as the iPad sleeve) and he’s brought it on every trip since. He loves it! Sustainable, stylish and affordable!

  12. Chloe says:

    I bought the Lo & Sons Catalina after seeing so many posts about the brand on Belle’s blog … and I love it. Brought it for a weekend in Chicago and was able to fit outfits, PJs, date night shoes and more.

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