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Saturday, September 19, 2015

How To Pick the Right Carry-On Bag

You've probably been on a summer vacation and realized the bag you have is not really the best bag you could own. I know a lot of people bought a suitcase or carry-on (or both) years ago and have never replaced it because "it works". I'm a big bag collector. Not all bags work for all trips and I feel like I need to be prepared for most situations, so if you came to my house, you'd notice I have at least five regular sized carry-on bags and more than 10 personal-sized ones. Now, I'm not saying that everyone needs to have a closet full of luggage, but a few different bags can't hurt, and an update to your decades-old one is probably in order at least.

finding the right carry-on bag

Usually I'm talking to you about how to pack your bag and what to put in it for any given trip, but having the right bag for your travel needs is just as important. 

photo credit | Will  your roller bag survive this terrain?

Think about your destination
It's not just about what you're putting in your bag, but where you're taking your bag. You'll obviously need a different bag for going to Greece than going to Disneyland. Why? Well, I don't know if you noticed all those deliciously blue and white pics of those Grecian seaside towns, but they are 90% steps. Good luck getting your roller bag up those. This is where I suggest taking a bag that can be hefted onto your shoulder, like a convertible backpack carry-on or a duffel bag. The Skyroll would be perfect. 

A city getaway is fine for a roller bag, because it's easy to go from airport to rental car to front desk, but if you're headed to a quaint European city, you might be faced with cobblestones. If you are, you'll want some extra rugged wheels, because nothing sucks worse on vacation than a broken carry-on wheel. 

Another reason to take a look at your destination is because of carry-on rules. Many airlines have their own special rules that may be strictly enforced, like Ryanair and Air France. If your carry-on doesn't comply with dimensions and weight restrictions, you will have to check your bag and shell out money you may not have in order to comply with rules and regulations. 

Are you packing for more than one?
I always pack for two of us in one bag, which means I pretty much need a full-size carry-on, but I do have one that is a bit smaller that we use for shorter domestic trips. It's a sweet little hardsided carry-on that makes overpacking impossible. It has compartments that can be customized to make them suitable for however you want to pack them. Do you want to be organized? Do you like a lot of pockets? Are you just going alone? If I pack for just myself (for a solo trip), I take a smaller bag that fits my clothes, laptop and toiletries, plus has room for a few purchases. Then just bring my purse for snacks and tablet. 

Obviously, your needs will change if you're just worried about yourself or packing for you and another or you and a child/baby. 

How organized do you want to be?
I like to stay organized and know where all my stuff is in a bag, therefore, I enjoy a bag with tons of pockets. Of course, you can also use packing cubes/envelopes, but sometimes it's just nice to have different compartments to put different stuff. I have another bag that has one large compartment on one side and the other side has four-five small mesh pockets for underwear, socks, etc, and one large mesh compartment with a loop for a hanger if you want to pack something flat, like a suit jacket. There are two zipper pockets on the outside for a book, travel docs or tickets. 

The bag helps me keep everything in its place, but it also can be hard to not overpack and make it hard (or impossible) to get it in the overhead of the plane. More than once we've had to take things out of the outside pockets to get it up there, but it also has a zipper expansion to the main compartment if you buy too much stuff and are cool with checking the bag back home (which I will sometimes do if it's cheaper than shipping those purchases through the post office).

Make sure you know what you like and what you want before buying a bag and tossing all your stuff into it.

Can you guess which bag is mine?
Being different is important to you
There are so many black bags out there. I have a few, but only because the bag I loved didn't come in a different color. If given the choice, I will pick a bright color or pattern. As you've seen, I have a red carry-on, a Hawaiian floral carry-on and a bright yellow carry-on. I like to know which bag is mine without having to scrutinize it. I want other people to know immediately that my bag is not their bag. If you're like me, you may find you'll be paying a little more for uniqueness, but if it makes you happier when you travel, then it's worth it.
Do you want to buy another bag in a few years?
I may like to buy new clothes to pack my bag with every few years, but I'm very attached to my bags and want them to last. It may take a little bit of practice to pack each bag perfectly, but once you know how to do it, it's comfortable feeling every time you pull it out for a trip. I'm also willing to spend a bit more to get a bag that I love and is also super well made and meant to last for a long time. 

If you find you're paying to replace a crappily made bag every few years, then you may not be saving any money by carry-on packing. Look for bags that are made by great companies that stand behind their products. They should have a guarantee, warranty and give you a run-down of all their features and how they are made well. Unbreakable zippers are important to me. When your zipper teeth don't quite meet and make a gap, sometimes that's just the end of it. Throw that bag in the garbage. If you can find a bag that has self-repairing zippers, you have dodged the biggest bag malfunction. 

I like in-line skate wheels, because they're more rugged. I've had a wheel break on me in the middle of a trip. It wasn't fun. I also like a handle that pulls out smoothly and doesn't take a strong man to get it back into the bag. Side and bottom handles need to be well made and well attached. If you've ever had a bag handle just break off, you know why this is something I want. So, paying more for a well made bag is something I'm willing to do and suggest to everyone. Unless you know you get bored easily and will want to replace your bag sooner rather than later, you'll want to really check out the construction and reviews. 

If you need suggestions on the best carry-ons on the market, check out Luggage on Tour, where you can find reviews of bags you might be interested in. I always look at reviews before I make a luggage purchase (the more photos the better, too) if I can't find a bag at a store nearby for me to handle. The holidays are coming, so now's the time to get your new bag or purchase one for the traveler in your life.

When you look for a carry-on, what are your must-have features?

Disclaimer: This post has been sponsored by Luggage on Tour.

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