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- Monos luggage makes two sizes of its hard-sided carry-on that come with a handy front pocket.
- The Monos Carry-On Pro Plus is the best for extra space on bigger flights.
- The Carry-On Pro will fit in almost all overhead bins.
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A good carry-on bag should be durable, highly maneuverable, and easy to pack. Of course, size is also a key factor. If your suitcase doesn't fit in the allotted overhead bin space, it quickly goes from a carry-on to a dreaded last-minute checked bag. As a travel editor, I tested many carry-ons over the years and fine-tuned my top choices for the best carry-on suitcases.
Monos is a newer luggage brand that has quickly risen up the ranks to become one of my favorites — I named the Carry-On Pro Plus model the best carry-on for extra space. The company makes simple yet sleek bags in chic colors like Rose Quartz and Ocean Blue that stand out at the airport and are worthy of making it on your Instagram feed.
While Monos actually makes four hard-sided carry-ons, it's the Carry-On Pro and Carry-On Pro Plus that truly stand out from the competition and set this brand apart.
Design and specs
Both the Carry-On Pro and Carry-On Pro Plus have a handy front pocket great for organizing smaller essentials and holding a laptop. Even when packed, the pocket doesn't add any additional inches to the carry-on once it's zipped back up.
I first tried out the Carry-On Pro Plus and was immediately impressed with the extra organization and room this provided me. However, the Pro Plus comes in at 23 inches when measured from wheels to fixed handle, which puts it slightly over many airlines' regulation size limit for a carry-on bag. It also weighs 8.38 pounds, which is quite heavy for a carry-on suitcase.
That said, it also holds a whopping 46 liters, and I was easily able to pack a week's worth of clothes in it, plus utilize the front pocket for items that I typically have to put in my purse or under-seat bag.
Based on several reviews and feedback similar to my issues with the size of the Pro Plus, the company smartly came out with the Carry-On Pro. This suitcase has the same useful front pocket but measures 22 inches instead, which means it will fit in almost all standard overhead bins. However, you do lose 10 liters of packable space, so this bag is best for shorter trips of three or four days. It's also still on the heavier side at 7.8 pounds.
Both options have elegant exteriors with simple horizontal lines that add some dimension and come in eight standard colors ranging from midnight black to olive green. Both carry-ons also feature four smooth, multi-directional wheels, an adjustable handle, and YKK zippers.
What it's like to use
Due to the pandemic, I've been using these bags for weekend driving trips rather than on planes. I still put both bags through rigorous testing to mimic what a usual airport trip would look like, including wheeling them across multiple surfaces, lifting them over my head when fully packed, and even using the Pro Plus to help me move apartments, which subjected it to being thrown around in the back of a moving van.
I've found that overall, both bags hold up remarkably well and are incredibly easy to use. Both wheel well on surfaces from concrete to carpet, and the zippers are smooth and don't catch. The adjustable handle is fairly sturdy, though it does wobble just slightly. I also did notice several white marks appearing on their colorful surfaces after just a few uses. The company includes an eraser for just this purpose that works by wetting it and rubbing the marks away. Though I was skeptical, I was pleasantly surprised to find most of the marks came right off when I tested the eraser.
As mentioned, my favorite part of these bags and what really sets them apart from much of the luggage market is the zippered front pocket made out of the same polycarbonate shell as the rest of the bag's exterior. Unlike the front pocket of a soft-sided carry-on that usually protrudes and adds significant size to a bag when fully packed, the Monos front pocket zips right back to its standard size unless you really cram it to the gills, in which case zipping it also becomes a challenge. But it was easy to fit my 15-inch laptop, headphones, charging cords, and even lip gloss and a lotion tin into its multiple smaller pockets.
While some Away bags also feature a front pocket, the Monos front pocket has significantly more inner pockets for far superior organization. Additionally, the Away pocket only comes in leather or nylon, rather than a hard front pocket option.
The interiors of the Pro and Pro Plus bags are nearly identical. Each opens to reveal two packing spaces — one that can be secured by a zippered flap and the other by two strong buckles. The main difference between the two bags is that the Pro Plus is larger by a little over an inch each way. While this may not sound like a lot, it adds up to 10 extra liters of packable space.
I'm a notoriously light packer, and I still found it tough to fit more than about four or five days' worth of clothes in the Pro, making it better for shorter weekend trips. I was able to pack for a week-long trip in the Pro Plus. However, as previously noted, that extra space comes at the cost of it fitting in many standard overhead compartments. That said, if I were taking a longer trip on a cross-country or trans-Atlantic flight where I knew overhead bins would be larger, that extra space would be a serious boon.
What makes the Monos Carry-On stand out
What makes the Carry-On Pro and Carry-On Pro Plus unique is a highly useful hard front pocket that unzips on the front of the bag. The pocket has a place for a laptop and is an excellent place to organize other small essentials from headphones to charging cords. Plus, the fact that the pocket is also made of sturdy polycarbonate helps better protect those accessories.
To be clear, Monos is not the sole suitcase brand with a hard front pocket option. However, it couples the front pocket with an excellent overall bag at a great price point. Arlo Skye and Rimowa are also excellent luggage brands with carry-ons with hard front pockets, but they will set you back $375 and a whopping $815, respectively. On the flip side, I find the overall suitcase to be superior to lower-cost options like Delsey ($110) or CoolLife ($120).
Their stylish exteriors in fun yet chic colors will surely draw comparisons to Away, another buzzy luggage brand popular with millennials. In fact, the Away carry-ons that feature a front pocket are priced similarly.
However, I find the Monos bags to be the superior option. I also prefer the sleeker look of the Monos front pocket, as well as the fact that the pocket includes more zippered compartments than the Away options for wrangling all those extras you inevitably throw in last minute. The polycarbonate construction of the Monos front pocket also provides superior protection and durability compared to Away's nylon counterpart.
Similarly, the Monos bag wins out for me on the overall construction of the bag and the price when compared to other luggage brands that do offer a carry-on with a hard front pocket. Additionally, the bag is guaranteed for life and has a 100-day trial period.
The obvious con of the Pro Plus is the fact that it doesn't meet a lot of standard airline regulations for carry-on sizing. The Pro meets these requirements, but you do lose vital packing space.
Additionally, both bags are on the heavy end of carry-ons at 8.38 and 7.8 pounds respectively. While I didn't have an issue with this, those who have a hard time lifting bags into the overhead bins may find the extra couple pounds really make a difference. If you frequently take flights with very strict weight limits, the extra weight of the bags will cut into how much you can pack.
The bottom line
These carry-ons fall squarely in the mid-tier range of luggage. For the price, they are some of the best options on the market, and I have continued to be impressed every time I use either bag. I particularly love the smart front pocket feature that's easily accessible and makes organizing a breeze.
Whether you prefer extra packing space or want to ensure your bag fits in all overhead bins will determine if you want the Pro or Pro Plus, but you can't go wrong with either option.
Pros: Sturdy and reliable, chic look, significantly more packable space in the Pro Plus, smart front pocket that doesn't protrude when packed on both options
Cons: Heavy, Pro Plus doesn't meet all airline sizing requirements, handle wobbles slightly
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Former Associate Travel Editor, Reviews
Hannah is the former associate travel editor for Insider Reviews. She's been to over 50 countries on five continents and is always on the hunt for the best hotels, food spots, and off-the-beaten-path finds. Before joining the Insider team, Hannah oversaw all digital content and edited print features for Family Traveller magazine. Under her guidance, the Family Traveller website won multiple awards, including in the Best Online Travel Magazine category, from the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also previously worked at Oprah.com and has written for outlets including Vanity Fair, Travel + Leisure, Thrillist, Brides, Here Magazine, Greatist, and more. She holds a master's in Publishing and Digital Media from NYU. An avid traveler, you can follow along on Hannah's adventures on her Instagram @hfreed11. Learn more about how our team of experts tests and reviews products at Insider here.