Experienced travelers swear by carry-on luggage. In the past I haven’t joined their ranks, mostly because I’m the sort of person who thinks if I may need something, I pack it. But for an upcoming trip that will require a series of getting into and out of planes, trains and automobiles, I’m convinced that travel carry-on bags will be my best option.
So, a few weeks ago I spent an hour and a half in a branch of a specialty luggage store looking for the ideal travel carry-on bags to haul my belongings across the ocean. Luckily, a patient saleswoman advised me about the pros and cons of the new options in luggage and opened suitcase after suitcase for me to explore, weigh and wheel.
By the way, if you haven’t bought luggage in a while, things have changed – for several reasons, such as: airlines’ restrictions on baggage weight and dimensions and fees for checked luggage. Lightweight bags and wheels are the gold standard.
A significant moment came in 2000, when Rimowa introduced the first suitcase made of polycarbonate, which was lighter than aluminum and very durable. Other luggage manufacturers soon followed suit.
In 2004, Samsonite re-invented the wheel with a four-wheeled suitcase that could be pushed, pulled and spun in any direction.
New travel carry-on bags on the market incorporate bells and whistles like compression systems and a mechanism for separating laundry. One new model has a portable battery you can pop out to power your phone without having to cozy up to an outlet.
Unfortunately, you can’t have all the features you’d like in one carry-on, or at least I can’t. For example, what you gain in mobility from four wheels you lose in overall packing area, so while my old Orvis two-wheeler offers more overall space than a prospective new carry-on, it weighs 10.4 pounds. Sigh. To make decisions more complicated, foreign and domestic airlines have different size requirements, with the latter being a bit more generous.
I finally chose Tumi’s Super Leger International Carry-On with a front u-shaped zip pocket with immediate access to must-have items. The compact wheeled case is made from a dense but lightweight nylon that keeps the suitcase light and easy to carry but also water resistant while traveling. It features leather trim, adjustable-height telescoping handle and four smooth-rolling wheels.
Although I found the looks of the hard-sided models very appealing, I couldn’t get past the fact there were no outside pockets I could stuff things into that I wanted access to quickly. Actually, Rimowa does offer a hard-side bag with the outside pockets of a soft bag, but it was a couple of hundred dollars more than I wanted to spend.
If vacation plans are dancing around in your head, here are some travel carry-on bags to consider. On the other hand, if you prefer to travel without the hassle of any luggage, First Luggage may be your answered prayer. The international door-to-door luggage collection and delivery service will arrange for your suitcases, trunks, golf clubs and bikes (to name a few examples) to be collected anywhere in the world and delivered to your chosen destination address.
The Delsey Chatelet Carry-On Spinner gets points for good looks. Made from polycarbonate, it weighs 9.3 pounds and features a braking system that locks the two front wheels to prevent runaway baggage.
Bric’s Firenze 21″ Carry-On Rolling Duffle Bag weighs 7.9 pounds. It only has two wheels, so the interior has more capacity. It’s made of durable, easy-to-clean PVC with tan leather trim.
From luggage maker Genius, a bag that comes with a packing checklist, labeled compartments for devices, a portable battery pack for recharging and a compartment for storing your laundry, which compresses into the bag’s wall and then zips out.
Victorinox’s Spectra 2.0 Expandable Global Carry-On, made of polycarbonate, weighs 6.8 pounds. A zippered expansion system gives you more capacity while staying compliant with most airline regulations. Maneuverable and dual-sided wheels on each of the base’s four corners.
Away’s four-wheeled, 7.3-pound, hard-sided, 22-inch carry-on has zippered and compression dividers to stay organized inside, TSA-approved locks and an unbreakable exterior. Also, a built-in USB charger, removable to comply with airlines’ new battery regulations.
Lipault’s Dazzling Plume Spinner, made of strong, lightweight (6.6 pounds) polycarbonate, features a zippered compartment to add 2 inches to the interior of the suitcase.
Louis Vuitton trunks are legendary; its more modern rolling luggage is sturdily built, lightweight (5.7 pounds) and comes with four wheels. For buyers with deep pockets. Interested? It’s currently out of stock online.
Tumi’s Super Leger International Carry On, at 7.5 pounds, won me over with its nylon, compact wheeled case with leather trim, adjustable-height telescoping handle, four smooth-rolling wheels and an easy-access front zip pocket.
Briggs & Riley’s Expandable Spinner, made of ballistic nylon, is compact and relatively lightweight (8.4 pounds) with four spinner wheels. It has an expandable main compartment with interior pockets for organization. Other features: a TSA lock, cushioned top handle and a large U-zip front pocket.
Rimowa’s Salsa Air Ultralight Cabin Multiwheel, made of polycarbonate, comes in ice blue, violet, red and black. It’s the lightest of our choices, at 4.2 pounds. A telescoping handle locks into any height position.