There are so many carry on bag choices available right now, and choosing one that’s both stylish and functional is one heck of a predicament. Do you choose pretty, or practical? Backpack or tote? Wheeled or wheel-free? If you’re in the market for a new carry on bag, take a few moments and run some honest answers through this checklist to help you narrow down your choices to a manageable number. And, keep in mind that a safe maximum size is 45 inches total – just add the measurements of the length, width and height and if it’s 45 inches or under, you’re ok.
Hideo Wakamatsu Koura Carry-On Trolley $209
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Do I travel often?
YES: Look into backpack and/or wheeled options, and look into investing a little more than you might normally consider to get the best, longest-lasting bag possible for your money.
NO: You can afford to look for tote varieties in your carry on, and designer pretties are not out of the question for you since you won’t wear them out quickly.
Burton Wheelie Flight Deck $129.95
Do I have any back pain or problems?
YES: Go the wheeled route, and look for bags that have longer collapsable extension handles built in. They keep you from doing a lot of bending at awkward angles.
NO: The world of bags is yours to explore, then. Just remember that tote bags, when carried a lot and with considerable weight, can contribute to spinal curvatures and muscular displacements over time.
Hello Kitty Rolling Suitcase, Large: Deluxe $200
Do I absolutely HAVE to have a fashionable bag?
YES: If bag beauty is a prerequisite for you, then plan on forking over some cash for your carry on. However, you can be reasonably sure you’ll be able to find luggage that suits your style and is put together well. If you want wheeled, look for sturdy hardware, tight seaming and construction, and heavy-duty framework. If you want non-wheeled, look for well-stitched, wide straps to help evenly distribute weight, and double stitched seams for durability.
NO: If fashion is not your first concern, look for construction. Again, and as always, double stitched seaming, solid framework, durable hardware, and plenty of storage space are important to look for.
Samsonite Black Label by Alexander McQueen – Crocodile AI2 Upright – $750
LeSportsac Large Weekender $98
Am I traveling with a laptop?
YES: Laptops need a little extra packing care, but you still need to be able to access them quickly at the security checkpoints. Since most airlines allow you a carry on bag and a “personal” item, I’d suggest a rolling carry on for your clothes and personal items, and a large tote bag for your laptop. Many totes are large enough to fit a small purse inside as well, so that can help cushion your laptop from bumps and bangs.
NO: Your personal item, then, can be your purse. I still suggest, though, putting a small purse inside a larger tote so you’re able to carry a few other necessities with you as well (a pashmina, water bottle, iPod, notebook, reading materials, files, etc.).
Samsonite Black Label Medium Attache A4 DLX $360
Head Porter Navy Argyle Travel Bag, about $290
Longchamp Le Pliage Collection, various sizes
Am I hard on luggage?
YES: Consider a lightweight hardsided carry on if you’re really rough on your bags. The stuff you put inside it will thank you. If you can’t afford hardsided luggage, make sure you find hearty ripstop materials that hold up well to a beating.
NO: The luggage spread, then, is at your fingertips – tapestries, canvases, leathers. All can translate to turning your carry on into a beautiful accessory as well as a functional travel piece.
Samsonite Aspire Lite 21″ Expandable Spinner Upright $240
Regardless of the carry on bag you choose, make sure your choices are informed by your lifestyle, your health, your frequency of travel and your pocketbook. Don’t forget, also, that luggage need not be labeled “luggage” – you can find some gorgeous oversized handbags that can serve perfectly well as carry on bags. It’s all in how creative you get with what you find.
Diane von Furstenburg Carry On, $175
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