The 5 Best Carry-On Backpacks for Air Travel in 2022

I found a Mary Poppins level Flight Bag that fits under the seat on airplanes!

In my epic hunt to find the best carry on travel bag for international and local flights, I’ve probably poured at least 4 full days into research. I’ve found all sorts of neat options, but there was always something wrong.  They wouldn’t meet the regulation size for smaller or budget airlines, they’d be too heavy, too flimsy, too bulky, not have enough pockets, and so on.  In this review, I’ll go over a comparison of two great, affordable options.  First, I’m going to spare you the time and show you my top pick for one-bag travel. 

What’s the best laptop travel bag for carry on flights that fits under your seat?

Here’s my #1 choice for minimal luggage trips:

– Click here to skip ahead to the photo review of my top choice for 2022 airline backpacks

If you’d like to see more options first, and read about why this magical Mary Poppins backpack was the winner after I scoured the web for days, and tested multiple options, read on…

What is One-Bag Travel?

Travelling with only one bag isn’t just a way to spare yourself the back pain on long flights. It’s also a great way to save on checked baggage fees at the airport, skip lines at the luggage claim, and stay portable while you’re exploring new countries or city hopping. As a digital nomad, this minimal way of travelling makes moving around much easier! The only catch is that you need one bag that fits everything you need, and it needs to be small enough to meet airline regulations for multiple countries.

I must have looked at every single option out there, from the very expensive to the most budget options. This might seem like an excessive amount of research, but after a recent journey through the Middle East, France, Iceland, and the USA, lugging around a giant wheelie bag (which broke mid-journal) and a heavy laptop bag (which caused crazy back pain after 30 plus hours of travel), I decided I never want to travel in such a cumbersome way again. I started hearing about the One-bag travel phenomenon, and that sounded better by the second.

So what if I’m a total hoarder who wants to bring all my junk journal supplies, and laptop, and clothes and extra shoes with me?

Surely there’s a Mary Poppins level bag out there that can do all of that AND fit under the seat on an airplane, right?


What’s the best fancy travel backpack with lots of pockets?

First I looked at some top of the line things, fully knowing I wasn’t willing to invest in them, just to see how high the bar could go, and what sort of features are on the market.  If budget didn’t matter, these 3 brilliantly versatile packs seem like some of the coolest women’s carry on backpacks available (although, my final pick may actually be the best for my needs at any price range).

These are the top 3 carry on backpacks in the medium to high-end range:

What’s the best budget friendly travel backpack?

The three options above are truly wondrous, and a traveller would be very lucky to have any of those!  But I don’t travel enough to justify that expense.  So… What is the best affordable one-bag travel carry-on backpack for international flights?

I narrowed it down to two bags, and read through all the specs and reviews, then realized I had to test for myself.  So I ordered both of these, and although it was very close, one came out the clear winner, because it had a more structured system that would let me safely stuff in all the extra vintage ephemera I find on my travels.  Because at heart, I’m a junk journaler, and every adventure is an excuse to find more ephemera!


These are the top 2 budget-friendly travel backpacks for 2022:

Product Listing Title on Amazon Prime

HOMIEE Travel Backpack 38L Flight Approved Carry On Backpack for Men Women, Expandable Large Daypack Luggage Backpack Weekender Bag Water Resistant Business Backpack Fits 15.6 Inch Laptop
Large Travel Backpack Women, Carry On Backpack,Hiking Backpack Waterproof Outdoor Sports Rucksack Casual Daypack School Bag

*I want a bag that will fit under the seat on the airplane so I’m not away from my valuables while they’re stowed in the overhead luggage compartment.  That means I’ll need a bag that can fit in a space of 18 x 16 x 10.5 inches beneath the seat in front of me.

This bag is expandable!

17.7 x 11.4 x 6.7 inches
45 x 29 x 17 cm
Volume: 22.185 L

This bag expands to:
17.7 x 11.4 x 11.4 inches
45 x 29 x 29 cm
Volume: 37.84 L

This bag is available in 2 sizes.

Small Bag:
16.5 x 12.2 x 6.7 inches
42 x 31 x 17 cm
Volume: 22.134 L

Large Bag:
18.1 x 11.8 x 7.9 inches
46 x 30 x 20 cm
Volume:  27.65 L


3.1 lb

Although this one technically weighs a bit more, the weight is better distributed so it feels lighter when you wear it.  It sits perfectly on my back so it feels really comfortable and light!

Size Small: 2.2
Size Large: 2.83 lb

There’s a lot of padding on this and it’s taller than the other bag. I think it would fit someone 6′ tall best.


Matte black. Looks clean!

Black with a slight sheen. Pretty!

Laptop Pocket


Fits up to a 15.6″ laptop.

The laptop pocket folds out completely for easy TSA inspection, and there’s another pocket in that compartment where you could store another large device or notepads.

This bag opens luggage style.  It has a mesh inner compartment on one side, and two waterproof zip pockets on the other side.


Fits up to a 14″ laptop.

The padding on this bag is generally a bit thicker, so your laptop has a bit more cushion.  It is accessible from a top zip, like a school backpack.

The main compartment opens like a clamshell.  There are pockets on the flap for computer cables and other small accessories.



  • two on top
  • one on the side
  • luggage handle pass-through on back
  • one on top
  • luggage handle pass-through on back


  • USB charging port
  • headphone jack port
  • USB charging port

Compression straps 



Main Compartment


Fits up to a 15.6″ laptop.

The laptop pocket folds out for easy TSA inspection, and there’s another pocket in that compartment where you could store another large device or notepads.


Fits up to a 14″ laptop.

The padding on this bag is generally a bit thicker, but it adds a lot of weight to the bag, making it too heavy for me.

Special Features

Each of these has awesome extras!  Depending on your needs, you might prefer one set over the other.

  • I love the various accessory storage areas.  I can fit my laptop, nook, notepad and cables in these pockets.
  • The straps on this one are more comfortable with my curves, so it feels more like it’s better engineered for a female body type.
  • This backpack is more compact and has an organized shape, so the wight stays close to your body and it feels lighter. (I’m a sliver under 5’7″ and the way this sits on my back feels so good!)

Junk Journal specific features:

  • The front main pocket is the perfect size for my junk journal! 
  • The smaller front pocket can fit journaling supplies: glue stick, washi tape, pens, inkpad, stamps and seals, etc.


  • There’s a shoe compartment with air holes at the bottom of the bag.  This is the best one I’ve seen for shoes, because it’s sealed away from the rest of your clothes, but that area sits inside the main area, so you aren’t limited to a tiny, sneaker-sized box on the bottom of the bag.  Very efficient layout for shoes or even boots!
  • There’s a wet pocket in the front, so you can easily take out liquids in the customs inspection line.
  • There’s a waterproof umbrella pocket on the side!
  • This bag is taller and less structured in person than the other one.  For me (because I’m a bit under 5’7″ tall), that means it doesn’t sit close to my spine so it hangs away from my body when stuffed and feels more cumbersome.  I believe that if you are 6′ tall or over, this bag will feel better on you than the other one.

Links to read more about these carry-on flight bags on Amazon:

Photo Review of the 28 Liter Coowoz Travel Backpack

Photo Review of the 38 Liter Homiee Travel Backpack

The Best Carry-On Backpack for International Air Travel in 2022

Drumroll please…

The winner is the HOMIEE TRAVEL BACKPACK.  

In my opinion, this is The Best Carry-On Travel Backpack for Junk Journal Lovers who want to take a 1 bag journey!

I’ll be taking this compact beauty to Paris with me, and inside it will be my handmade Paris Travel Journal

Which bag would you choose? 

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