One of the worst ways to ruin a holiday is to overpack and be stuck lugging around a mega-large suitcase filled with stuff you don’t really need. After spending about a decade traveling virtually full-time, we’ve perfected our packing and our choice of luggage.
In this travel tips post, we share our tips on how to choose the best carry on weekender bag for your trip, regardless of how long your trip is.
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What Is A Weekender Bag?
Over the last several years, we’ve only traveled with one bag regardless of how long our trip was. We would use the same bag for a weekend trip or a month-long trip.
Since moving to Europe, though, we take a lot more quick trips. We are always concerned about how much we can carry on when flying airlines in Europe.
They are a lot more strict about carry-on size than US airlines. We realized we needed to investigate what is the best weekender bag for travel. And, we want to show that it’s possible to travel to Europe with a carry-on only.
A weekender bag (or weekend case or weekend bag) is one that is often on the smaller side. It’s just the right size for a weekend away or a city break.
It can be a soft-sided case that is carried on the shoulder or a wheeled or spinner luggage that easily fits in the overhead bin on an airplane. It should be lightweight, versatile, and carry everything you need, all without being heavy or burdensome.
Using a Chester rolling weekender bag and a weekender tote for a long trip
Weekender Bag Reviews
Our weekender travel bag reviews come in all sizes. The reviews are organized roughly from smaller to largest. The smaller bag is perfect for a one or two-night trip. The largest can actually be expanded into full-sized checked luggage for longer trips.
In between are bags that are perfect for a city break, a weekend away, or even a longer trip. We use these bags for trips of one week, two weeks, or more.
Carry On Bags vs. Checked Bags
Regardless of packing for Portugal, Spain, or a trip to Asia, we are huge proponents of traveling light and have perfected how to travel with carry on luggage only. This is regardless of how long our trip is.
First, I don’t like waiting for my luggage to arrive at a conveyor belt. Second, I don’t like stressing about whether our luggage will arrive with us.
We’ve heard too many horror stories of lost luggage ruining a trip. There’s another reason why packing a carry on weekend bag is best, particularly is traveling to Europe.
Europe is small. The hotel rooms are small. Rental cars are small. Large luggage just becomes inconvenient.
This same was true with some of our small hotel rooms during our trip to Japan. In Europe, many of our city breaks also involve traveling by train.
Train stations in Europe often don’t have escalators, which require us to carry our bags up and down stairs. And, we need to carry our bags on and off the train and sometimes place them on a rack above our heads.
Watching people with mega-large luggage at an Italian train station makes me cringe. We’ve just learned that traveling light, and choosing carry-on-only bags just makes sense.
All of our recommended bags can be packed as carry on bags. Some can also be checked as well. For us, the best weekend bags are those that can be used in a variety of ways.
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The Best Carry On Weekender Bags For 2023
Here are our recommended weekender travel bags. We start with a carry on tote, then recommend a couple of spinner bags, and a convertible and expandable wheeled bag that is entirely unique.
All of these bags you can buy direct from the company, often with free shipping, returns, and a warranty.
Pakt Tote Weekender Bag
The Pakt One is a great option for weekender tote bag. It’s like a hybrid of a tote bag and a suitcase. It zips open like a suitcase but carries like a duffle or tote bag.
There is a zippered laptop sleeve in between, which keeps the laptop safe but also gives you easy access when going through security. The laptop sleeve fits up to 15 inch computers.
Eric was a little skeptical of this bag when we first got it. Now, he’s kind of hooked. He’s used this on a four-night trip to San Sebastian.
This weekender duffle bag is sized to fit under the seat in front of you. Its soft sides make it easy to squeeze into a crowded overhead bin too. All this while being big enough to hold clothes for a long weekend.
I don’t know that it can be classified as a “vegan” weekender bag, but Pakt says it is made of animal-friendly materials. And, it ships in 100% plastic-free packaging.
Check the current price for the Pakt One Bag here.
The Pakt One is 20 x 10 x 11 inches. It only weighs a little more than three pounds. The Pakt has a 35-liter capacity. That makes it a bit smaller than what I carry for a longer trip.
This makes it a great option for weekend luggage, or as a carry-on in addition to a wheeled bag. The bag comes in three colors, black, grey, and blue.
Eric loves using his Pakt Bag, but if I load it up with stuff it gets a little too heavy for me. This Knack Expandable Bag holds roughly the same amount for a weekend away, but because I can carry it on my shoulders, it’s easier for my frame.
There’s a padded, kind of hidden side-zip computer pocket, which fits my MacBook Pro. I can stash a decent-sized water bottle in the side compartment.
Overall, the bag holds about 2-3 outfits. I brought it for a 4-night stay in San Sebastian, Spain, during winter, and fit an extra pair of shoes, an extra pair of jeans, and an extra sweater in addition to everything else I needed.
It easily fits in the overhead bin and can even fit under the seat in front of you on most flights. There are also some hidden sleeves in the back, which means I can put this bag on top of a wheelie suitcase for longer trips.
This is just what I did when we moved from Spain to Ireland.
Check out the Knack Expandable Backpack Here.
The Knack Bag is water-resistant with a water-resistant zipper, which was super helpful when it rained relentlessly on our trip to San Sebastian.
Unexpanded its dimensions are 19″ x 12″ x 4.5″ and expanded it’s 9.5″ deep. It holds a full 31 liters expanded, which is pretty darn good and holds up to 40 pounds.
ROAM Personalized Weekender Bag
ROAM Custom Luggage – How To Design Your Own Luggage
When researching designer weekender bags, I never thought we’d be able to design our own carry on luggage. On its surface, the ROAM Luggage collection seems like just a stylish weekender bag.
You can choose color combinations on nine different features meaning there are one million different color combinations.
I am not a bit embarrassed to say that Eric and I spent a morning in bed building our perfect color combinations. You can choose the colors of the shell, handle, zippers, binding, and more.
For me, I wanted something that was not too masculine, but not girlie either. I am not a huge fan of pink and wanted to avoid it at all costs.
Love pink and purple? You can customize your bag to be as feminine as you want and choose the perfect cute weekender bag.
From a tech perspective, each piece has an adjustable handle that adjusts to four different heights. The shell is made from lightweight polycarbonate. The wheels are durable but quiet and smooth.
We have the ROAM Jaunt Customized Luggage, which is the smallest of their bags. It’s a carry on bag with wheels that fit in the overhead bin on US and most international airlines. There is also a Jaunt XL, which is a little wider. They also have two checked bag sizes.
Check the pricing for ROAM’s custom Weekender bag here. Use the code FoodDrinkDest to save $50 off your new bag.
The Jaunt is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. It weighs a little more than six pounds. The interior capacity is 40 liters, making it one of the largest weekender bags on our list. There is a waterproof zipper, and water-resistant and washable lining inside.
The ROAM monogrammed weekender bag includes a tag on the back with your initials. It is handcrafted in the US, which I think is pretty unique when it comes to spinner luggage. There is an integrated TSA-approved luggage lock.
Check The Current Price For The ROAM Jaunt Here
Chester Luggage Minima Rolling Spinner
The Chester Luggage company makes a series of spinner luggage, in both carry on and checked sizes. The Minima wheeled weekender bag is perfect for a long weekend, or even a longer trip.
This weekender bag includes 360 degree spinner wheels making it easy to maneuver through the airport.
The shell of the luggage is made of durable polycarbonate. Chester prides itself on designing the shell to be lightweight, yet durable and waterproof. It’s also meant to take a lot of pressure so it holds up well to dents and dings.
We tested this by checking the bags recently when we carried too many liquids for a carry on bag. They survived the baggage handlers without a problem. We’ve also wheeled these bags around the hard stone streets in Spain.
The inside includes a hidden laundry bag. There are a few zippered compartments inside as well meaning that even though the interior is roomy, it keeps things organized too.
Check the current price for the Chester Minima here. Use the code TravelForFood10 to save 10% off your total order.
Colors And Styles
The Minima is their smallest size, but they also have a larger carry-on bag, and a checked bag. They also sell luggage sets. Check out all the options here. The TravelForFood10 code works on all luggage sets as well.
Each piece comes in a variety of colors. We have dark blue (haze) and dark grey (storm) colors, which means we can swap them out between the two of us.
And, they match the colors of our Pakt One bags too, so I feel like they work well as a set. The two pieces together are probably more than is needed for a weekend trip, but we can travel for weeks at a time with the two together.
The Minima rolling weekender bag is 21.8 x 13.7 x 9 inches (including wheels) meaning it is qualified as carry-in luggage for US carriers and most international airlines. It weighs seven pounds.
The Minima has a 38-liter capacity, which is large enough to travel for a week or two if needed. There is a TSA-approved lock as well as a black luggage identification tag.
See our full review of Chester Luggage here.
The FUGU Minilux is a compact weekender laptop bag that is large enough for a one or two-night trip. It’s compact enough to fit under the seat in front of you.
The bag can be carried as either a messenger bag, handbag, crossbody bag, or backpack, making it quite versatile.
Although it is a slightly more masculine bag, being able to carry it as a crossbody bag makes it a great alternative as a carry on bag for women.
There are loads of pockets. Not only for a laptop, but it has hidden pockets for important things like a passport too. One of the coolest things is that it actually transforms into a desk.
This is quite handy for making use of the time while waiting at the airport or train station. There is also a built-in USB port to keep a portable charger inside the bag but easily accessible.
It doesn’t just hold a laptop, though. There is plenty of room for a handful of outfits. This makes it a super compact weekender carry on bag.
Check pricing for the FUGU Minilux here.
The FUGU Minilux is 16.5 x 6.5 x 12. It weighs 4.4 pounds. It can fit laptop computers between 11 and 17 inches. The bag includes a passport pocket, a laptop sleeve, a large front compartment, and back compartment, and several internal pockets.
The laptop sleeve is in between the two compartments that can hold clothing and toiletries. The laptop sleeve was enough to hold my MacBook and my Kindle so that they were in the same place when going through security.
FUGU Rollux Convertible Weekender Bag
The FUGU Rollux is one of the most unique bags we’ve used. It’s an expandable weekender bag. This means you can use it as a carry on or expand it to be a checked bag.
The bag has detachable wheels. When the wheels are attached they make the bag 360 degrees spinnable.
This means you can use one bag for every kind of trip. Or, you can bring a carry on in one direction and load of the bag up with souvenirs or shopping for the return trip. It expands by 120%. Even as a carry on it’s a pretty large weekender bag and holds 41 liters in capacity.
Check pricing for the FUGU Rollux here.
The FUGU Rollux big weekender bag is water resistant. It also has detachable spinner wheels that make it easy to store.
As a carry on it measures 19.6 x 8.6 x 15.7 inches (the wheels add two inches taking it to 21.6 inches). As a checked bag, it expands to 33.4 inches tall. It can hold 41 liters as a carry on and 93 liters as a checked bag.
Pair the FUGU Rollux with the Minilux above. The Minoilux fits securely on the handles of the Rollux and even converts into a travel desk – complete with a cup holder.
How The Fugu Works
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one until we tested it out. First, as a weekender bag, this one is great. It’s relatively lightweight considering it has an “extra” bag in the bottom. It rolls well. And, it’s cavernous. I could easily fit clothes for up to a week in this bag.
To convert it, I unhooked the strap on the bottom of the bag, pulled the bottom of the bag, press the inside, snapped a few pieces into place, and doubled the size of my bag. The video below explains it all. This is a pretty ingenious 2-in-1 suitcase.
We are big fans of packing light, whether packing for a city break or a two week trip to Europe. Most of the bags above can be used for a weekend trip or something longer.
I feel the FUGU Minilux and Pakt One can certainly be used on their own for a weekend trip. Or, we often use them in conjunction with one of the wheeled bags for a longer trip. We can travel for a month or more with this combination.
How do we do it? How do we travel with small bags, carry-on only? Here are some of our top tips.
Use Packing Cubes or Compression Bags
If you do need to pack a lot, but want to ensure carry-on only try using packing to organize your gear or compression bags to save space in your luggage.
We use the packing cubes from Knack Bags. They start out small and unzip to expand depending on how much you need to fit. I use one for electronics and cords and another for undergarments and socks. They are so easy to use particularly when packing a smaller bag where space is important.
Check out the packing cubes from Knack Bags.
Pack Coordinated Layers
It’s always important to check the weather of your destination in the days before your trip. Things are always changing.
Think about layers, particularly when traveling in the spring or fall. And, plan on coordinated layers. For example, bring one sweater that matches every outfit.
Pack a Stain Stick
Avoid the “Just In Case” items
This ends up taking up a good amount of space in your carry on bag. Don’t bother with the heels just in case you have a dressy night when you are packing for Italy and know you will deal with cobblestones. Not an avid exerciser at home, then don’t bother with workout gear just in case you start to exercise on the road.