6 Carry-On Bags That Will Make Business Trips Less Stressful

We road-tested the latest, best-designed travel bags on the market in order to help you get ready for your summer jet-setting plans.

6 Carry-On Bags That Will Make Business Trips Less Stressful
[Photos: courtesy of Leatherology, Away, Nomad Lane; Timbuk2; MZ Wallace, Dagne Dover]

I am frequently on the road for my job, but I still find traveling inherently stressful. I hate being packed like sardines on the plane, worrying about making my connecting flight, and stuck eating awful airport food. Opening my carry-on bag to find a chaotic mess of papers, lip gloss, and USB cords only makes things worse.


I’m always on the lookout for bags that are thoughtfully designed to make traveling easier. Fortunately, there’s a world of startups that are devoted entirely to this purpose. I’ve spent the last few weeks testing a range of new bags, some that have just launched, and some that are about to launch in the next few weeks. I packed each one of them with all the stuff I usually tote around airports and carry on planes. These are five bags that are both beautiful and practical. They’ll help you feel more organized  when you travel, which will give you much-needed peace of mind.

[Photo: courtesy of MZ Wallace]

Ultra Lightweight And Beautiful

This brand was started by New York women who wanted beautiful bags that are highly functional and versatile. The Crosby Traveller ($395) is their take on the perfect travel bag. It’s extremely lightweight, made from a soft nylon that is very strong and also mess-resistant. It has eight exterior pockets, three different strap options for carrying, and a sleeve that slides easily into the handle of your suitcase. But it also looks very elegant. It’s the little details that make all the difference. The nylon is quilted, it has leather trim and gold hardware, and the edges have a contrasting red color.

Carrying it to South by Southwest in Austin, I found the lightness to be a huge asset. I found myself lugging around so much stuff every day: laptop, water bottle, recording equipment, books, pamphlets, an extra pair of shoes, plus various things I would pick up along the way, like business cards. This bag felt noticeably lighter than other leather bags I have carried in the past, but with its quilted exterior, it looked no less attractive. It’s also very versatile: It works wonderfully as a diaper bag, since it’s easy to clean. I have also used it to go to the gym.

[Photo: courtesy of Away]

From Airport To Office

Away, the direct-to-consumer luggage startup, has come up with a line of accessories that go with their by-now iconic hardshell cases. One of them is called The Everywhere Bag ($195). It is a well-designed bag that is compact, spacious, and indeed designed to be taken everywhere. It has a hidden pocket on the outside to store your phone, an interior laptop pocket, a zippered waterproof pocket for your wet umbrella, and six other pockets on the inside.

Its minimalistic silhouette means that it is very versatile. I packed it with enough stuff for an overnight trip, and on another trip I used it as my personal item when I was flying across the country for an extended work trip. But it also looks like it could be a large everyday purse, so I sometimes bring it to the office.

The simplest version of the bag ($195) is made of water-resistant nylon. But Away is regularly creating special editions of the bag in denim ($225) and leather ($325) in interesting patterns and color combinations, all of which are lightweight. The premium leather versions of the bag are very chic and fashion-forward, and they are also incredibly practical.

[Photo: courtesy of Timbuk2]

The Backpack That Converts Eight Ways

The brand, known for their handy messenger bags, just came up with a bag specifically designed for women who travel. They collaborated with fashion designer Phoebe Dahl, who was in search of one bag in her closet that could do it all. The Jet Set Pack ($249), which hits stores on June 1, is designed to work in a range of ways: as a tote, a backpack, a fanny pack, and a wallet. The bag comes with a small clutch that can be attached to a strap.

The bag is made from luxurious leather and features metallic studs. It is full of compartments that make it ideal for travel. It has many pockets, including an internal laptop sleeve. It also comes with a passport cover that can be attached to the strap, so you can go through the airport with your passport and clutch close to your body, while the rest of your valuables are in your backpack.

[Animation: courtesy of Nomad Lane]

Easy Access To Everything

Nomad Lane is a newly launched startup founded by a husband-and-wife team who have visited 42 countries. They hadn’t found a really good carry-on bag, so they decided to design and manufacture one themselves. After months of prototyping, they came up with the Bento Bag, a nylon bag with leather accents that slips into the handle of your roller luggage and fits neatly under the seat on a plane. The bag is launching on Kickstarter, with early bird pricing starting at $117 (The retail price will be $199).

The bag opens completely like a suitcase, allowing you to see all the contents at once. This means you’re never digging into your bag to find your headphones or hand cream on a cramped, uncomfortable flight. There is a padded compartment for your laptop, plus two small pouches: one for your tech accessories, and a clear one for your toiletries, making it easy to take them out during security. There’s also a compartment on the outside that unzips, revealing pockets for your passport, phone, and pens. There is even a built-in phone-charging port that allows you to charge on the go.

While the bag can hold a lot and keep everything organized, when everything is zipped up, it looks sleek and compact.

[Photo: courtesy of Leatherology]

Personalized Luxury At A Reasonable Price

If luxury is what you are looking for in a travel bag, you might want to consider Leatherology, a brand that sells high-quality leather products at reasonable prices by selling them directly to the consumer. The Kessler Duffle ($300) was designed with business travelers in mind. The bags are made from full-grain leather and come in a variety of colors. The company can personalize your bag either by having your monogram embossed for $30 or hand-painted for $50.


The medium bag is perfect for short overnight trips or as the personal item when you’re flying. It looks more professional than some of the other bags on this list, so it’s great for people who need to go directly into a formal office environment. But at the same time, it’s much cheaper than a bag of comparable quality from a designer brand.

Gym buddy ☝???? #LandonCarryall

A post shared by Dagne Dover (@dagnedover) on

For Sporty, Adventurous Travelers

If you need a more casual bag to carry on trips, consider Dagne Dover’s Landon ($125). The bag is made of lightweight neoprene, which dries quickly and is insulating. This means the bag is perfect for people with more active lifestyles who might go immediately from work to the gym or the pool and then throw wet clothes into the bag. It has a padded laptop sleeve that helps absorb shock, plus a bottle pocket that keeps your water cold. There’s also a leash that ensures you are never digging for your keys and a shoe bag.


This is an immensely practical bag for people who are always moving. But because the bag holds its shape, it looks structured. You could carry this to your office if you work in a more casual industry, and it can easily transition into a bag you can carry to the beach or the gym.


About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts