Carry-on bags have been in the news a lot lately. It started with United cracking down and making passengers fit their suitcases into those little bag sizers at the gate. Then the San Francisco Chronicle’s travel editor started a #CarryOnShame campaign to embarrass people who try to roll half their belongings onto a plane.
For the road warriors who have a user name on FlyerTalk and have platinum status with multiple airlines and hotel chains, this is a welcome turn of events. They’re tired of seeing people who don’t know how to buy luggage or pack properly overstuffing the overhead bins. Of course we rarely had this problem before the airlines made charging for bags their main profit center—not serving customers—and brought this on themselves.
Since I run a site that has five new travel gear reviews each week, I’ve got a few things to say on this subject.
What Size is Your Suitcase?
So first I got quoted in this Reuters article: Why some bags are not going to fly this summer. It’s all good, but I’m at the very end of the article, making a point some people probably don’t want to think about. That point is, wheels take up a lot of room. If you really want to get the maximum amount of stuff into a bag that will fit the regulation 9 X 14 X 22 inches, get tough and carry it, old school.
That’s depth by width by length. Make sure the measurement includes the wheels if you do go that route and remember, just because the bag has expansion space doesn’t mean you can use it. That turns it into a bag you need to check.
Besides the wheels, the telescoping handle adds weight and takes away packing space too. Now I’ll freely admit I usually travel with a carry-on that has wheels, but then again I know how to pack for a week or two in that space and don’t try to push it. If I really need to cram in the max though, I use my Tom Bihn Aeronaut. There are others that will work, but that’s my pick. Made in the USA, made to last.
Is Your Luggage Made Well?
I was a source for this US News & World Report article (also in Yahoo News) titled 4 Tips to Buy Luggage That Lasts. This one is about buying smart and getting what you pay for. If you just take one vacation a year to go see the relatives or to stay at a beach resort, it’s probably fine to buy that cheap suitcase you found at Costco or TJ Maxx.
But if you’re a frequent traveler who takes a lot of flights, lay out the cash to get something with a lifetime warranty. These include Briggs & Riley, Eagle Creek, and Osprey. Others (like Tumi) give you five years and TravelPro says lifetime but excludes “wear and tear.” (Isn’t every suitcase going to encounter “wear and tear” more than anything?). If you’re going to spend a few hundred bucks you might as well go all the way.
Some more luggage advice you’ll be glad you listened to later:
1) Don’t buy a black suitcase. You’ll end up having to put duct tape on it or tie something on it to pick it out in the sea of other black bags. If it gets lost, “22 inch black bag with wheels” means they’re looking for one of 1,000 just like it.
2) Buy a hard shell if you’re tempted to overpack. With those, you can’t—especially if it doesn’t expand.
3) If you do get one with wheels, make sure they’re really good wheels. I’ve seen a lot of bags with broken wheels being dragged through airports.
4) If you’re going backpacking around the world, buy a backpack.
5) Make sure the materials are water-resistant. If it’s raining at the airport, your checked bag will get wet. If you have to walk four blocks to get to your hotel because the road’s under construction, ditto.
6) Learn to do laundry, either via a drop-off service or the sink. If you master this, you can travel for a week or two months with nothing but a carry-on bag.