Travel Tips

5 Tips on How to Choose Your Carry-On Luggage

How to choose a carry-on bag

This is a guest post from Tony Tomasyan, the founder and CEO of Please note, I do not receive compensation for any of the links in this post. It’s an informative piece on a topic that I know many of us have questions on.

With the increase in baggage fees and the free checked bag becoming a receding and hidden commodity, more people are forcing themselves to carry on more and more. But how do you choose the right carry-on for you? What should you look for? Form and function or fashion and style? These tips will keep anyone on the right track and keep traveling easier and simpler in a world that gets more confusing every day.

Which airline are you flying?

Airlines are changing their rules all the time, especially when it comes to carry-on baggage size restrictions. Southwest and Jetblue have the most lenient policies with 10 x 16 x 24 in dimensions and United, American, Delta, etc generally use the much smaller 9 x 14 x 22 in dimensions, and that is supposed to include all handles and wheels! Talk about restrictive!

If you use Southwest or JetBlue, then you can not only benefit from some of their free checked baggage policies, but also their allowance for generally bigger carry-ons. If you frequent any of the other airlines, then you might need to look for some smaller options. The Traveler’s Choice Rome 21” upright carry-on will fit the smallest dimensions (so far) specified by airlines and is stylish to boot. Knowing which airline you travel with is always beneficial.

Wheels are a general must – spinners are best

The 2-wheel approach is so outdated, why not make it easier and switch to the 4-wheeled version? Not only do 4 wheels provide so much more stability, they add balance and style as well. With multi-way rolling functionality, 4-wheeled carry-ons are the only way to go. You don’t have to drag it everywhere anymore, but sometimes just the lightest touch and push can control the carry-on with ease. Several brands like Samsonite and Traveler’s Choice offer many 4-wheeled options.The  Traveler’s Choice Sedona 21” carry-on spinner is a prime example of what every traveler should look for in the ideal carry on luggage.

Hard case rules over soft cases

Airports are getting more crowded everyday and sometimes our luggage suffers because of it. The best and surefire way to keep everything protected is to go the hard case route. The extra money is well spent and these bags won’t tear like their fabric counterparts. Polycarbonate is ideal as it can withstand dings and scratches fairly well. Not convinced? Have you ever gotten to the gate and had the airline rep ask or force you to gate check your carry-on? Airlines have provided more seating and taken away more overhead space, sometimes causing a situation where your carry on has to be checked at the gate.

Wouldn’t you want to be prepared and have a hard-sided carry-on that will protect your belongings as it is gate checked? It will certainly last longer under the pressure where the fabric ones just might not fit the bill. With so many options, Traveler’s Choice Tasmania 21” Hardsided carry-on spinner is perfectly strong, sturdy and fashionable too. Look for that polycarbonate outside and you can’t go wrong.

Separate liquid carry on cases are so useful

With carry-ons, we sometimes carry liquids, gels, and creams. How much easier would life be if you just had a separate case for these pesky little necessary items? It would be so easy, so why not have one? When things are already separate, it makes it easier to pull out your liquids and get through the security line like a breeze. Everything organized and separate makes for easy removal and to put it back into your sturdy carry-on. Sephora has several options with clear bottles as well, but any clear resealable pouch will be perfect for this purpose.

Bright and secure

Again, with the numerous people in airports nowadays, you have to make sure your carry-on is secure and, even better, noticeable. A bright colored carry-on can help you find your luggage or notice if it’s suddenly walking away. Prefer a more muted color? Then opt for a bright carry-on luggage strap. They can come in different patterns and bright colors and provide extra security as well. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry. Also, opting for a TSA approved lock is always a good idea.

Make sure to follow these tips when choosing your carry-on and it will make everything easier while keeping you one smart and savvy airline traveler. With all the rules and change in fees, keep to the tips above and you won’t be steered wrong. Traveling is hard enough, so why not make sure your carry-on is perfect for it?

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  1. Sorry if it seems picky, but with airlines so strict about their dimensions of 9x14x22 … several of your recommendations given have dimensions of: 21”H x 14.5”W x 9”+2”D. The additional .5 in the 14.5″ W — would that be enough for airlines to reject the luggage? It would not surprise me if they were this strict. Can you please clarify? Also, are there examples you recommend of the separate liquid carry on cases? I am in the market and want to buy the best for practical usage, durability and safety … don’t care about the style.

  2. The recommendation that “spinners” are best is wrong for most of us. I’m 74″ tall and I lose an inch or more with these. I cannot afford that. Moreover, I have traveled extensively for many decades in business and I use a Briggs & Riley max carry-on bag with just 2 wheels. The latest versions weigh less and allow me to use a bundle method so I arrive at my destination without any creases or wrinkles

    Onebag dot com is where road warriors go for the best advice. I came across this site a few years ago and it is spot on for real world strategy.

  3. The generalized advice in this advert/article may be correct, but Traveler’s Choice is absolute crap. I bought a set of three hard side suitcases from them and they were broken wide open or had their handles ripped out after 2-3 trips of gentle use.

  4. Spinners are very handy, but you loose space with those wheels. Some airlines are really strict about it and if the carry-on bag is too big with the wheels included but not if you exclude the wheels then it’s still disallowed.

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