Few luggage trends rival the increasing availability of smart bags, suitcases that allow you to charge your phone and other devices while traveling. Yet even as many brands have leaped into the category, consumers still have questions. Is a smart bag’s battery safe, and what do I need to do to ensure an airline accepts my bag without any problems? The latter is a valid concern in view of a recent viral story, when journalist Pandora Sykes was booted off an EasyJet flight because her checked baggage included a lithium-ion battery that reportedly had not been disconnected prior to check-in. The British-based airline’s rules state that smart bags can be checked, but their batteries must be disconnected.
While several of the latest checked sizes offer smart capabilities, including the ability to track your luggage as it moves through the baggage system, the battery feature seems best employed in carry-on pieces. That only makes sense to anyone who has ever sought to charge a dying phone while waiting at an airport gate, only to find electrical outlets taken by other passengers and seat-adjacent chargers not working (a recent experience at JFK’s Terminal 4 springs to mind). Ultimately the simple rule of thumb is that it’s best to unplug any power bank prior to boarding to avoid accidental overheating, which also could occur if a lithium battery is broken, hence the concern about batteries in checked bags.
With that in mind, we rounded up a selection of the latest carry-on pieces that offer a variety of styles and charging options. Fold in a little knowledge about safety and you’ll be a smart traveler in no time.
Best Choice to Quickly Access Your Laptop
Arlo Skye Zipper Carry-On Max with Front Pocket
A front zippered pocket has become a popular detail as luggage brands come up with ways to ease our trip through TSA, and Arlo Skye’s latest is among the most stylish and feature-friendly. Seen here in Champagne, this 23-inch polycarbonate carry-on offers a hard-side exterior pocket that fits a 15-inch laptop. The included removable charger promises to get your iPhone back to a full battery in less than 30 minutes, and with both USB-C and -A ports, it will charge your Mac, as well.
$395, at arloskye.com
Best Choice for a Long Weekend
Away The Bigger Carry-On
Away was among the earliest brands to feature smart-bag technology, so it has had plenty of time to finesse its look and features. Among the newest pieces is the brand’s The Bigger Carry-On, seen here in millennial-friendly Petal pink. A tad wider than standard sizes (though it still fits in most overhead compartments), this style offers a compression system to assist with those last few pieces you want to squeeze into your bag. Away offers a removable charger for an additional $20; the included slot below the handle also may fit one of the 17 power banks you’ve received as corporate gifts.
$295, at awaytravel.com
Best Choice for Everyday
Briggs & Riley Baseline Traveler Backpack
Part of Briggs & Riley’s Baseline collection, this piece isn’t as much about smart technology as it is about smart design. The seriously durable Traveler Backpack includes a side pocket with two slots: one for the power bank (not included) and the other for your phone, with the cord threading from one to the other with ease. Whether you want to ensure a full charge while you’re commuting to work or walking a convention-show floor, this piece handles the task without a lot of fuss or tangled cords. Other features include padded slip pockets for a 15-inch laptop and tablet. This 18-inch backpack is also roomy enough for a weekend trip.
$329, at briggs-riley.com
Best Choice for Instagram Fans
July Carry-On Trunk
Australian brand July has quickly become a favorite on social media for its bright and outside-the-norm color choices. That’s certainly true with the Coastal Blue hue seen here on the brand’s Carry-On Trunk. It’s dubbed a trunk both for its heritage styling and because there are no zippers. The piece opens via twin latches on an anodized aluminum frame encased in crush-proof polycarbonate. The included ejectable USB-C battery, located under the handle, charges both a phone and laptop. If you’re willing to wait 12 to 15 days, the bag can be personalized with up to 10 letters for an additional $50.
$395, at july.com
Best Collab with a Tech Company
Samsara Un-Carrier On
Any T-Mobile customer will instantly recognize the magenta and black tones and graphic styling featured in this collaboration with luggage brand Samsara, the New Jersey-based company known for its AirTag technology. The two companies partnered to create the limited-edition Un-Carrier On, which debuted in November. An included power bank allows both wireless and corded charging, while the Tag Smart device enables tracking via Apple’s Find My app and Bluetooth. Another thoughtful detail is the flat top on this 22.5-inch suitcase, designed to be used as a mini-desk when needed.
$325, at samsaraluggage.com
Best Choice for Walking a Trade Show
Tumi Voyageur Oxford Compact Carry-On
We love this Tumi style because it combines the ease of fitting under an airplane seat with elegant styling (seen here in a burgundy shade dubbed Beetroot, with gold hardware). Anyone who has ever traversed a convention floor will recognize the appeal of this rolling nylon bag with telescoping handle, which fits a laptop up to 14 inches. A plethora of zipped and slip pockets keeps everything organized, while the USB port just above the luggage tag connects to a power bank (not included) conveniently tucked inside.
$625, at tumi.com