What Is The Best Carry On For Seniors And The Elderly?

Keeping your luggage light is key to a successful trip for many seniors. So, the best carry-ons for seniors are lightweight, durable, have multiple handles, and properly spaced wheels for easy rolling. Here are my top recommendations.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
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Product recommendations are based on my personal experience working with seniors. I may earn a commission on items purchased from affiliate links in this guide. 

The Golden Years should ideally mean living life to the fullest, whether you’re retired, working, or somewhere in between. In fact, recent travel surveys reveal that 99 percent of Baby Boomers intend to travel every year, whether domestically or internationally.

Many retirees have the time and resources to head out and visit faraway family or travel with them as they see more of the world than they ever have before. Still, it’s not just a matter of throwing some things in a bag and heading out for adventures. Having the right carry on luggage can make or break a trip.

If you are a senior or someone who is shopping for one you care about, keep reading to learn more. This article will cover the advantages of packing light, what you should look for in the best carry on for seniors and the elderly and then some tips about how you or your loved one can pack light for their trip.

The Advantages Of Packing Light

Developing the art of packing light rewards you with several advantages:

Save on Excess Baggage Fees

First of all, you should avoid excess baggage fees when you fly. If you can actually pack light enough to only need a carry-on, then you can also avoid checked baggage fees. That frees up a few bucks for a round of drinks to celebrate hitting one of the Holy Grails of travel.

Save on Cart Fees or Porter Tips

Speaking of saving a few bucks, there won’t be any more airport cart fees to shell out for. You can even skip the ‘guilt’ tips you’re used to giving hotel porters struggling to get your bags to your room. That’s either another round of drinks, or just a few postcards to the grandkids back home. If they’re with you, maybe you can splurge on a fun excursion.

Save Wear and Tear on the Old Body

One final benefit that can really help seniors is just that moving less weight around significantly reduces your odds of bodily injury.

To be honest, there might be one extra benefit, if you’re the smug type. Putting your bag up on airport scales with ease and confidence isn’t something most senior travelers ever get to do.

senior couple walking with carry on luggage rolling behind them

Features To Look For In Carry-On Luggage For Seniors

Now that you know the advantages of packing light or helping your older relative do so, you can just get the lightest bag out there, can’t you? Not so fast. Any piece of serious carry-on luggage for the elderly needs to meet a few criteria:


This is the most crucial aspect. Whether it’s called durable, robust, strong, or sturdy, make sure that whatever carry on you buy can stand up to the travel and abuse.

More Than One Handle

Bells and whistles don’t always mean something is elder-friendly, but in this case, it does. Multiple handles make carry-ons easier to pull, carry, lift, swing, put down, and so forth.

Consider the Size and Weight

The smaller the bag, the less it weighs, and the less you have to lug around. However, it’s got to have enough room to carry your essentials, plus possibly have room left over for souvenirs. That campy snowglobe really was waiting for you, right?

Properly-Spaced Wheels

Wheels are essential, but if they’re too close to one another, the luggage will tip. That’s actually dangerous for seniors who really don’t want to risk a fall. Not that anyone of any age wants that.

Contrasting Colors

For older folks with vision issues, contrasting colors in the handles and zippers can help them find what they need faster. Plus your bag will stand out from all the others in the storage compartment.

Compartment Accessibility

Older individuals don’t need to have full-blown arthritis to have trouble opening and closing things. Easy access to priority possessions, medicines, or medical devices helps everyone.

Easily Operated Features

It’s not enough to see features clearly, but they also need to be easy to use as well for the same reasons.

senior couple looking at map with carry on luggage in the background

5 Specific Recommendations To Consider And Why

Now that you have some idea what you should look for in good carry-on bags for seniors, or even yourself, it should be easy to find the perfect one, right? How many options can there be out there?

You can stop chuckling or rolling your eyes now if you want, because the following sections list 5 great carry on options for seniors to consider. This should save you quite a bit of comparison shopping yourself, or at least start you off right.

Each description includes reasons why you should think about each one, and you’ll also find handy links where you can compare prices on them too.

Anyway, here are my top recommendations for the best carry on for seniors or the elderly.

Briggs & Riley Baseline International Carry-On Wide Body Upright

Size: 20 X 15 X 8 inches | Weight: 9.3 lbs

If you want to keep the weight up but still have the most size and space you can get while being a carry-on, this is the one. It’s also a great choice for international travel.

The classic exterior doesn’t really belie just how spacious the interior is, and yet this still meets the carry-on requirements of domestic US airlines. The functionality and light weight are a result of the soft shell.

Despite the soft shell, this bag holds up looking like new for many years of use, regardless of how hard you work it. The makers of this back rely on a reputation for durability, which is why they offer customers a lifetime guarantee to back up their high-caliber craftsmanship.

Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion 20″ Spinner

Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion 20

Size: 23 X 14.5 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 6.7 lbs

Previous travel experiences might have made you a believer in hardside carry-on bags. Granted, they should be safe when in your trunk or in the bin, but speed bumps and turbulence don’t care about such things. For that matter, in between, you’ve got everything from kids running to collisions or bumps with airport carts.

If you’re going to pack light, then you need something that will keep your few possessions in good shape from start to finish, and this is a great piece of luggage. As a matter of fact, this is the reason that it’s Amazon’s best-seller for carry-on luggage.

The spinner wheels have been totally re-engineered on the current model, making it easy to get around. Also included is a TSA lock.

Choose from 10 different colors to find the one that suits you, and strut the concourse in the confidence that comes with being backed by a 10-year warranty.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Lightweight Carry On

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Lightweight Carry On

Size: 23 X 14 x 9 inches | Weight: 5.4 lbs

If you are a senior or shopping for one, you might want the comfort and look of yesteryear. This soft-shell piece of luggage is great for anyone that still wants only two wheels.

This suitcase is a modern take on the classic version, especially with a deep main compartment with enough room for a week or so of clothes.

Solid handles and smooth-rolling wheels make this easy to travel through the airport with, and the front lid features numerous zipped compartments for effective organization.

DELSEY Paris Luggage Carry On

DELSEY Paris Luggage Carry On

Size: 21.75 X 13.75 X 9.75 inches | Weight: 4.7 lbs

Want something truly light in weight? This bag comes in under 5 pounds, even though it’s hardsided!

The shell is 100-percent polycarbonate, and while only professional chemists might really understand that, for you it means a hardside case that’s truly resistant to breaks and cracks.

On top of its robust durability, the metallic finish is sleek and shiny. This bag looks a lot pricier than it actually is.

It’s not all looks, though. Inside this hardshell spinner are a pair of packing bags for laundry and shoes, which makes it easier to keep things clean if any parts of your travel were good, dirty fun. That can either be time on the beach with the grandkids, or just good memories with friends that you’ll never mention back home.

AmazonBasics Hardside Carry On Spinner

AmazonBasics Hardside Carry On Spinner

Size: 21.6 X 14.9 X 10 inches | Weight: 7.4 lbs

If saving money is the name of your game, then this might be your go-to option. This cabin-size piece of luggage fits nearly all airline cabins, it’s senior-citizen-friendly, and it’s usually under $100, if even half that.

The hard shell is scratch-resistant, and the ABS is extra thick to give you something strong. Three zippered interior pockets make organizing smaller items a breeze. Also, this piece of luggage is expandable, which gives you room for all those gifts and souvenirs you get for people back home (or yourself).

Four double-spinning wheels mean smooth mobility in all directions, so getting through the airport concourse or down the cruise ship corridor is easy to pull off.

Will Your Carry On Fit?

Different airlines have different definitions of carry-on luggage. While these five pieces should match most airlines, it never hurts to review the carrier you’re going to fly with. Amazon has a useful page where you can do just that:

ALSO READ: 8 Tips for Air Travel for Senior Citizens

Quick Tips About How You Can Pack Lighter

Packing light means being smart and packing bright. Use the following tips to get started:

  • Maximize Your Space: A tablet or e-reader eats up far less space than a handful of paper books. Also, pull out anything you want ‘just in case’ and maybe even some essential toiletries you can just buy when you get there.
  • Pack Outfits You Can Mix And Match: Anything that can work with more than one outfit or ensemble helps you minimize the total number of garments you squeeze in.
  • Max Out A Personal Item: Not all airlines do this, but most do, in that they let you bring a personal item in addition to your carry-on luggage. This might be a laptop bag or a purse, usually whatever you can stuff under your seat. Fill it out as much as you can.
  • Packing Organization: There are cubes, folders, and envelopes you can use to partition your items inside your limited space, and they can minimize wasted airspace inside your carry on.
  • Wear Your Heaviest Item: Whether it’s a sweater, jeans, or some senior friendly shoes, if it’s on your person, it’s not eating up room in your bag.
  • Mail It: If you have something you want on the trip but don’t need on the flight or first night, ship it to your hotel in advance. FedEx and UPS Ground rates are far cheaper than checked baggage fees.

Final Recommendations

If you can’t get it all done with one carry on, remember that several lighter bags are better than one hefty one. At the very least, it’s less to lift up or down. When you do lift, always keep your luggage close to your body, bend at your knees, and never twist yourself while lifting. Also, never fear asking for help.

Segment your bag’s trip from the floor of the plane to the overhead bin. First, lift it up onto the seat top. Then use your hands on either side in order to get it up into the bin. Put the wheels in first before sliding the rest into the compartment.

When rolling, alternate arms frequently to spare your shoulders and muscles.

What tips do you have to make traveling with carry-ons easier for seniors and the elderly? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

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Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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