When travelling with only one carry-on, having the right bag is critical. I am on my second convertible carry-on bag and would recommend both of the models I have used.
Here are the things I like in a bag:
– comfortable backpack straps
– main compartment with a large opening (not access through the top where you need to pull everything out to find something)
– small outside compartments for travel papers, magazines, snacks
– (obviously) within airline carry-on size requirements
– small enough for my body size (5’5″)
My former bag was the Rick Steves Classic Back Door Bag, which is currently a great price of $79.99 on his website. This was a very good bag. Comfortable straps, nice outside pockets, lightweight and it even comes in cool colors! I didn’t buy another one when mine finally wore out because I found a slightly slimmer bag with better compression. I like to tighten up my bag as much as possible so that it will easily fit on the plane — even under the seat, if necessary. I still highly recommend this RIck Steves bag, and you can’t beat the price. (First photo)
My current bag is the Osprey Porter 46. It is a little bit sleeker and more rounded than the Back Door Bag and I think it has better compression and slightly more comfortable straps. I got mine at REI (my husband got one too!). You will likely pay $98 to $130 for this bag. (Second photo)
But you may also want a … purse/plane bag…
At home, I carry a teeny tiny purse. When travelling, I want something that will hold my iPad (and/or a book) as well as a charging cord, money, passport, notebook, sunglasses and other items I will want on the plane or during a long day of sightseeing.
I have taken this bag on one trip so far and I loved it. I wish it had a detachable strap so you could clip it onto your chair while you are having dinner and not have to worry about it. To that end, I have a clippy strap from another bag. Before my next trip, I will be cutting off the exisitng strap and using the clippy strap. Then it will be perfect! It easily holds the iPad, some snacks, a pashima for cuddling on the flight, as well as usual purse items. It has an expandable zipper to slim it down when you don’t need to carry so much stuff. It is the RIck Steves Veloce Guide Bag for iPad ($39.99). (Third photo) I notice he sells a detachable strap on his website, too — a good companion for this bag.