Carry-On Luggage – 7 Important Features to Check Before You Buy

carry on luggage luggage travel travel bag travel hacks

Airplane aisle

As airline baggage fees and limitations keep rising, carry-on luggage has gradually become more important. 5 years ago you most people would check in a suit case and take a small backpack onboard for snacks, media or other things to pass flight time more comfortably.

Today however, things work completely different, and most people going on a short trip prefer taking a single carry-on bag which includes all their belongings, including things for the flight, and for the destination (clothes etc.). Taking your luggage with you on board means you won’t have to wait at the carousel later, and won’t have to worry about your luggage getting lost or damaged.

Especially if you’re a frequent flyer, here are a few features to consider while buying a bag to be used as a carry-on luggage, to make sure that you make the best out of it.

1. Dimensions

Make sure that the bag is cabin compatible and meets most airlines’ restrictions. In the U.S. that’s usually 45 (22 x 14 x 9) linear inches (or 115 cm – 56 x 36 x 23), including handles and wheels. Some companies are building bags specifically to meet airline luggage restrictions, for example, Horizon Studios and Cabin Zero. In any case, don’t just rely on the seller’s website, and make sure the dimensions are right. 

Luggage isn't what it used to be


2. Weight

Dimension’s evil twin – having the right size still doesn’t mean you’ll pass the fit-or-doesn’t-test, though the weight of your luggage might be easier to disguise… while in the U.S. carry-ons can weight up to 40 lbs (18 kg), in Europe the restrictions are more strict, and maximum weight is usually 17 lbs (8 kg).

We recommend that aside from packing light and taking heavy things in a separate, smaller bag, you should also, while comparing your options, notice the weight of the different models. Especially in Europe, sometimes this 2 lbs difference could be a life saver. Of course there might be a certain trade-off between the weight and the robustness of your luggage, but most quality brands use innovative materials to compensate that issue and make sure that your luggage is durable to withstand your journeys.

In this link you can find a table which summarizes allowed baggage size and weight in over 150 airlines, both in metric and imperial units for your convenience.


3. Look inside

Don’t buy a bag before you see what it looks like from the inside. The handles and wheels might protrude or the inside might just be much smaller than what looks like from the outside. Carry-on luggage is already small, so why make it even smaller? You need to make sure that the space in the bag is enough for your needs.


4. Wheels or straps

Either you let your luggage roll or you prefer carrying it using a shoulder strap or by hand. Wheels are obviously the easier to carry type, except when you get to a staircase or a really bad sidewalk. The bigger the wheels, the smoother your luggage will role, without getting stuck on each little bump. Also, opt for models with four wheels that can spin 360 degrees, for easier navigation.

If you prefer a duffle travel bag with a shoulder strap, make sure that it’s wide and padded enough to support the weight without leaving red marks on your shoulder. Another option in to get carry on bag that has two shoulder straps and of course this is ideal for a lighter luggage. Some companies also offer hybrid versions, a combination of the above mentioned carry systems, primarily backpacks with wheels for more flexibility. Just keep in mind that the foldable handle ads a bit to the overall weight of the bag.

Do you travel for work or for leisure?

5. Hard shell or soft shell

In the past, hard shell luggage was considered the best, due to its durability and the protection it provides. However, hard shell luggage tends to be heavier in comparison to the soft shell, and also less flexible if you have to cram it into a narrow space. In recent years new materials have been introduced into the market, and it’s easy to find lighter hard shell luggage and more durable soft shell. If protection is most important to you, stick to the hard shell, just make sure that it’s not too heavy (less than 7 lbs or 3.5 kg).


6. Pockets

This one is a matter of convenience – do you tend to travel with a laptop and keep up with work during flights? Are you used to having your travel documents on you or in a small designated pocket in your luggage? Do you take things out of your luggage often during flights and need a fast easy access to your things without having to open the main compartment, or do you try sleeping the flight through? Do you plan to use the bag also after landing, let’s say for meetings, or do you need it primarily to carry your clothes? These are all your habits and preferences, so make sure you buy the luggage that meets your needs and wants in the best way.


7. Looks

The looks of your luggage would combine your needs and personal taste. If you travel often for work it goes without saying that it would be better if your luggage fits the standards of your field. If you’re meeting with clients while still with your luggage it’s probably best to stick to the black color, and if you prefer a backpack you might also want to consider that it looks more professional. All in all, carry-ons seems to project a more professional vibe, while travel duffle bags and weekender bags project a more relaxed one.

People prefer not to check in bags anymore


Today, the options while coming to choose a carry-on luggage for your travels are literally endless, and one might get overwhelmed. After you’ve done some initial research and know more or less how much you’re willing to spend, we suggest that you do your first screening according to the dimensions and weight of the bags, to make sure that they meet airline restrictions. After that you can move on to considering aspects of purpose (business or leisure) and convenience such as spaciousness and whether you prefer wheels or straps. The pockets, the looks and the structure materials all depend on your taste, and will wrap up everything together. And of course, make sure that you get warranty, at least for a few years.

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