Shopping for a new carry-on can be overwhelming. There are so many articles out there about “the best” bags, without much advice about what to look for. I guess you could just splurge out on a $1,000 Rimowa bag and call it a day. But if you’re in the market for a carry-on bag that is affordable and high-quality, consider the following while you shop:
Hardside vs. Soft Side Luggage
Hardside luggage is all the rage now, thanks to increased durability and storage space. There was
a time when the expandability of soft side carry-on bags was preferential to the rigidity of hardside luggage. Neither of those are concerns anymore, since hard side luggage is made more durable and expandable.
I chose a hard side bag because they’re easier to clean and just look nicer. However, I was hesitant about giving up that front zipper, where I often store my laptop and power cords. There aren’t a lot of companies that make hard shell bags with front pockets, but I found a reasonably priced one from a company called 90FUN. The 90Fun Passport carry-on cost me around $120 and turned out to be the perfect fit.
The standard domestic carry-on size is limited to 22 x 14 x 9, including wheels. An international-sized carry-on refers to a bag that is fewer than 21 inches tall, which will ensure that your bag is accepted by every international carrier. If you’re a frequent international traveler who plans on checking their bag, you’ll want to consider getting one that conforms to these dimensions. Of course, you are giving up a little more space, but that’s not a problem if you know how to pack efficiently. Think about whether it makes sense for you to occasionally check your bag or whether you’re good with a smaller size year-round.
It’s important to keep checked bag weight restrictions in mind when shopping for a new carry-on bag, especially if you’re like me and only travel with a carry-on. Chances are that you occasionally overpack, so if your bag is already on the heavier side, it essentially gives you less space. I think a good weight for an international-sized carry-on bag is 8 pounds or under.
Transiting through Charles de Gaulle Airport is what ultimately convinced me to get a spinner. Dragging my heavy, wheeled luggage behind me was exhausting and it left me sore. Spinners are incredibly easy to maneuver and I can’t imagine being without one. Of course, the downside is that the wheels can break or get lost, and then they defeat their own purpose. It’s bound to happen eventually. When you’re shopping for a new carry-on bag and looking at spinners, be sure to walk it around the store a little and make sure the wheels are nice and sturdy. I’ve had my Samsonite spinner for about six years now and the wheels are still perfectly intact.
No matter where you’re traveling to, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and lock your bags. You don’t want some underpaid baggage handler to go shopping in your snazzy new luggage, do you? You can buy a TSA lock off Amazon for about $12, or get a carry-on bag that comes equipped with one. That’s the case with my new Passport carry-on, which has a built-in TSA lock. These locks keep thieves at bay while still enabling TSA agents to open and search your luggage.
Quality is the most important thing to consider when shopping for a new carry-on bag. But that term can be subjective. Obviously you’ll want to assess the quality of materials and consider its durability. Sturdiness is really key. I’ve come across a lot of bags that looks really nice and sleek, but the handles feel loose, like they’re about to come off. That’s not a good sign of quality. Think about every way you’ll handle the bag (rolling it around the airport, lifting it into the overhead, etc.) and test for durability. The same goes for what’s inside the bag – the zippers, especially.
What advice would you give someone shopping for a new carry-on bag?