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How to Choose the Perfect Carry-On Luggage for Travel

eople and traveling luggage walking in airport terminal building with sun set sky at urban scene and air plane flying background
Written by Dhinesh Manuel

This blog post was updated on July 10, 2019.

If you’ve traveled, then it’s most likely you have a piece of luggage that has earned its fair share of miles along with you. While we do agree that both your carry-on and check-in luggage need your careful attention when being selected, we also also tend to favor spending a bit more time on your carry-on because it’s going to be at your fingertips (or stored near you) through most of your flight. Also, if you choose to pack like we do, then your carry-on is going to hold your most important items that need to be easily accessed. Given the importance of its cargo, it’s quite important that you find the perfect piece of carry-on luggage that ticks all the boxes (carry on size isn’t the only thing you should be worried about). If you’re looking out for a piece of luggage that’s going to get you scurrying through airports to catch last minute flights and take your important stuff with you (all in one piece!), then here are some key factors to consider.

Size matters

Passengers putting luggage into overhead locker on airplane.

While some airlines have strict guidelines on carry on size, the safest standard you can stick to is no larger than 45 inches (length + width + height). Keeping this simple equation in mind when you’re shopping for that perfect carry-on can help you be confident your piece of luggage is not going to keep you from boarding your flight. These dimensions also ensure that you will most likely be able to squeeze this in on most overhead bins in most aircraft. But remember:  you need to make sure the length of your bag needs to take into consideration the wheels!

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Spinners over rollers

Travel green bag at street

While some older carry-on luggage had just two wheels (known as “rollers”), the modern standard is one that has four, 360-degree-turning, rolling wheels (AKA “spinners”). Going with spinners just gives you maximum ease of movement and will ensure that you can either roll your bag tipped on two wheels as well on all four. This is great when you’re navigating through the narrow aisles of an aircraft or when your hands are busy shoving your passport and ticket back in your travel pouch but need to push your bag with your feet so you don’t hold up the line.

Compartmentalization is king

neatly folded clothes in a suitcase

Most modern carry-ons have a special padded section where you can insert your laptop. This is especially useful when you need to pull out your laptop, tablet, or other electronics for airport security checks. Having an easy-to-access compartment will make sure that you’re not the one slowing down the line. Having a bunch of separate compartments is also great if you want to keep things separated and easy to pull out mid-flight or once you get to your destination. You could keep your clothes separate from your books and your stationary items away from your snacks, making for a much more organized and well-packed bag.

Stretch your capacity

lose up packing travel bag, luggage for a trip, vacation, travel

A lot of modern carry-ons have the capability to be expanded with the help of a few zippers on the outer pockets. This form of expansion can help you pack in more and squeeze in a little but extra when your check-in piece can’t hold any more. After all, who hasn’t frantically transferred a few pairs of shoes from your check-in luggage to your carry-on at the counter so you can make the weight limit and still catch your last minute flight? Been there, done that! Some newer models will also have the ability to compress your bag, much like a vacuum sealer would. This is done with the aid of brackets inside the back that can be expanded when packing, and then pressed down to compress your clothes. One benefit of this system is that your clothes are probably going to arrive at your destination wrinkle-free!

Don’t get too smart

Smart suitcase with built-in GPS, weights, wi-fi and battery for recharging gadgets.

Smart bags that come with their own batteries to charge up your devices, Bluetooth capability, and even the ability to connect to Wi-Fi may seem to be the perfect travel companion for the working traveler on the go, but you should be very careful if you’re considering one. The lithium batteries that they often carry are the main problem for most airlines, as there have been cases of some lithium-powered devices starting fires or small explosions. If they are with you in the main cabin, then there’s no problem. BUT, airlines are apprehensive about when you, on the rare occasion, have to check in that smart bag and it has to be stored in the cargo hold with other luggage. This is because any combustion in this part of the aircraft could be dangerous. In situations where you will need to check in your smart bag, you may be required to remove the lithium battery, so that it can stay in the main cabin, rather than in the cargo hold. Depending on which model of smart bag you’re carrying, this could either be easy, very difficult, or absolutely impossible…in which case your bag will end up in a trash can and you’ll have to go hunting for a new piece of luggage at the airport. So, choose your smart bag wisely!

Go soft

girl is using mobile phone in modern terminal

While colorful hard-sided carry-ons have made a fashionable comeback of sorts, it still is probably not the most functional. Let’s face it: you’re most likely going to be stuffing those last-minute souvenirs and other goodies (which you didn’t account for when you left home) into your carry-on at the very last minute, and on such occasions, it just helps to have the stretchability of soft sides. Plus, hard-sided luggage is also most likely to display dents and scratches rather than soft-sided luggage.

So there you have it. If you’re looking for that reliable, easy-to-use piece of carry-on luggage, then these key factors should help you hone in on the perfect piece that will help you get to your last minute flights with time to spare…and with all your personally belongings in one piece!

About the author

Dhinesh Manuel

Socialite, philanthropist, costumed crime fighter by wait...that's bad ...

Musician, writer, travel junkie, dog lover, and database of useless information. I love to learn about new cultures, experience new cuisines, meet new people, and have a few laughs along the way!

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