How to Choose the Best Laptop Backpack for Travel


Woman with laptop on lap with backpack next to her on the couch

Important Features To Consider When Purchasing a Bag For Your Laptop

Your laptop allows you to work and play anywhere, but like any electronic device, it’s vulnerable to damage during travel. You could just slip your laptop into any old tote, backpack, or carry-on bag, but you're putting your laptop in jeopardy without features designed specifically to protect it. To keep your laptop safe, you need a laptop travel bag.

What is a Laptop Travel Bag?

Laptop bags include a dedicated, padded laptop sleeve that protects against impacts, jolts, and abrasions. The bag usually has built-in organization for cords and other laptop accessories. Travelpro® offers a range of extremely durable laptop bags, including backpacks, rolling carry-on bags, and business briefcases, all designed to protect and carry your laptop.

different size luggage

How to Buy a Laptop Bag

When choosing a laptop travel bag, it’s important to consider two important factors: the size of your laptop and how you’ll use the bag. For instance, the best carry-on laptop bag may not be the best choice in a business setting, while the best laptop backpack for commuting may not have all the features you need for air travel. 

Size also matters. You want a travel bag that’s large enough to fit your laptop but not so large the laptop can slide around during transport. It’s also important to note the laptop pocket dimensions given by bag manufacturers don’t always match up with the screen size of your laptop. With that in mind, here’s how to choose your laptop bag based on size:

Laptop Pocket Size Dimensions

When choosing a travel bag for your laptop, you want to think like Goldilocks. Choose a bag that’s not too tight and not too large. Too large, and you run the risk of damaging your laptop. Too small, and you won’t be able to fit the laptop in the bag, at least not without forcing it in, which risks damage to the laptop and the bag.

No doubt this advice seems obvious, but there’s a catch. Your laptop size is based on its screen size: a 15-inch laptop has a diagonal screen size of 15 inches, but this does not include the surrounding bezel, which can increase the actual size of your closed laptop by up to an inch. When a travel bag claims it fits a 15-inch laptop, it’s often referring to the outer dimensions of the laptop case, not the screen size. This is not the case with Travelpro laptop bags. We test fit all our bags to ensure they fit laptops by screen size, so you don’t need to worry about measuring bezels or outer cases.

How to Measure Your Laptop Size

To measure your laptop, close it and measure edge-to-edge diagonally. You may wind up with a measurement that doesn’t completely match any available laptop bag sizes. For instance, if your measurement may come out to 13.25 inches. If this happens, size up: it’s better to have a laptop pocket that’s slightly too big rather than one that’s too small, and you can always add extra protection in the form of a separate laptop sleeve

laptop sleeve

Measure the laptop's height, width, and depth as well and compare these measurements to the laptop bag’s pocket dimensions. If you’re looking at a backpack laptop bag, the pocket will usually be vertical, while totes, briefcases, and messenger bags usually hold laptops horizontally. Don’t forget to measure the depth of your device. Older, thicker laptops may be too deep for some laptop bags. Even the make of your laptop can be important. Most bags designed to hold 17-inch MacBooks will not fit 17-inch Windows-based laptops.

Again, you don’t need to measure laptops for Travelpro bags. If we say a bag fits a 17-inch Macbook, it will fit that size Macbook perfectly.

Laptop Protection

Protection is, of course, of paramount importance when choosing a laptop bag. The best laptop backpacks contain a suspended laptop sleeve that “floats' ' about an inch above the bottom of the bag, shielding the laptop from impacts and wet surfaces. Backpacks with suspended laptop sleeves are ideal for people who often rest their bags on the ground when they travel.

Laptop bag sleeves are padded to absorb impact and may come with air bladders to further absorb jolts and jarring movements.

The outside of the laptop bag acts as the first line of defense for your laptop. Most of the best laptop bags are made from either nylon, high-density polyester, or PVC tarpaulin and have a water-resistant or water-repellent finish. Your laptop bag’s zippers should be sturdy and coated with polyurethane to prevent water from seeping inside your bag. Many of the best backpacks for laptops have an outer flap that shuts over the zipper for added water protection.

Carry-On Laptop Bags

If you’re traveling by air, durable carry-on luggage is necessary for laptop protection. A carry-on laptop bag must be able to fit in the airplane's overhead luggage bins to ensure your laptop doesn’t wind up in the baggage compartment. Check with your airline for exact carry-on sizes. As a general rule, the maximum size for carry-on luggage is 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches, including handles and wheels. 

If you'd rather keep your laptop close to hand during your flight, most airlines allow you to bring one personal item. As with the dimensions for carry-on luggage, the exact measurements for personal items vary. The item should be able to be stored under the seat in front of you, which generally means it should be no more than 6 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches, which is still large enough for a small travel laptop bag.

Extra Features

So far, we’ve discussed the primary function of a travel laptop bag: keeping laptops safe. However, your bag should be more versatile and provide comfort, security, and other helpful features. Here are a few extra features that add to the value and usefulness of any laptop bag.

Comfortable Straps and Handles

You’ll be carrying your bag, so choose a bag that emphasizes your comfort. Our best backpack for laptops, the Crew Executive Choice™ 3 by Travelpro® Computer Backpacks feature padded airflow back padding and adjustable shoulder straps for ease of carrying and long-wearing comfort.

Crew Executive Choice 3 Backpack features

USB Connectivity

Smart luggage helps you keep your phone, tablet, and other devices charged during long trips. Our best carry-on laptop bag, the Crew™ VersaPack™ Rolling UnderSeat Carry-on, includes an external USB port and FAA-approved pocket for a removable power bank (not included). If you prefer to travel with a backpack, the Crew™ Executive Choice™ 3 Large Backpack includes external USB A and C ports.

QuickSlip Pockets

When you’re going through security and navigating airports, you need quick access to your cell phone and travel documents. The TravelPro® QuickSlip™ pocket is a front pocket with magnetic closure and is found on our best carry-on laptop bags, the Platinum® Elite Slim Business Brief and the Maxlite® 5 Women’s Backpack.

quick slip pocket with phone

ID TheftBlock Pockets

The increase in RFID technology provides criminals with opportunities to steal sensitive personal information embedded on passports and credit cards. The Travelpro® ID TheftBlock™ Pocket keeps your cards secure and is included in some of our best laptop backpacks, the Crew™ Executive Choice™ Backpack Collection.

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