This blog post was updated on July 5, 2019.

All you seasoned travelers out there probably have a trusty piece of luggage that has gone the distance with you. After all, your favorite carry-on is most probably going to always be close at hand (unlike your larger check-in luggage) and is most likely going to hold all the valuable items that you need to access in case of an emergency. Given how important your carry-on can be, it’s essential to be very careful and very informed when purchasing one. If you’re looking out for a piece of luggage that’s going to help you easily and swiftly maneuver through airports so you can take advantage of cheap flight deals and keep all your important belongings safe, then here are some key factors you need to consider.

Pay attention to carry on size

Baggage is pulled out of cabin on airplane

The safest bet to ensure your carry on size is allowed by most airlines is to stick to the standard. Shop for carry-on luggage that’s no larger than 45 inches (length plus width plus height). While regulations on sizes may occasionally vary from airline to airline, you can be more confident that this size won’t be called out at the check-in counter and that it will comfortably sit in most aircraft overhead bins. Just remember: make sure that the above-mentioned size you should stick to should also take into consideration the wheels or other design elements that may protrude from the bag!

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Go for more compartments

Man hand preparing business luggage

Most modern carry-ons have numerous compartments that are padded and easy to access. There are special sections for your laptop, tablet, or other electronic devices so that pulling them out at airport security checks is quick and easy. This is important because having an easy-to-access compartment will help make sure that you’re not the one holding up the line and will cause less stress to both you and the security personnel. In general, having a number of different size compartments in your carry-on can help you when you need to access items in a hurry, and can also make sure that you land in your destination with the contents of your bag tidily segmented so that you can hit the ground running.

Take a spin for the win

rear view of tourists with backpacks wheeled bags walking near travel bus at urban street

A lot of older carry-on luggage sported two wheels, and were known as “rollers”. Newer designs, however, have embraced four-wheeled “spinners” that give you ease of movement so you can roll your bag either upright or titled. This is great when you’re trying to squeeze through the narrow aisles of aircraft or when your hands are busy clutching your travel documents and you just need to push your carry-on with your feet to get it moving a few feet. Making sure your carry-on has spinning wheels will give you maximum mobility when you’re on the road.

Look for expansion

 trying to pack lot of clothes in bag

Since your favorite carry-on is going to be your go-to bag to for all your essentials, it’s probably also going to be the bag where you squeeze in those extra souvenirs you picked up along the way or those unnecessary jackets when you reach your sunny destination. Because of these on-the-road, happen-as-you-go situations, it’s pretty important to have a piece of luggage that can rise (or expand) to the occasion. Almost all modern bags have zippers that let you expand its volume to carry more. Even other models have the ability to compress your bag, much like a vacuum sealer would, removing air pockets to create as much space as possible to fit in more. Go with a bag with good expansion capabilities, and you won’t regret it.

Choose soft over hard

Two travelers on vacation walking around the city with luggage

Colorful, hard-sided carry-ons have made a comeback, but they still lack the functionality of their soft-sided counterparts. Let’s face it: you’re probably going to be stuffing that last-minute shopping and those new pair of shoes you bought into your carry-on just minutes before your taxi arrives to take you to the airport, and the flexible material of your bag can help you squeeze them in and be on your merry way. Plus, hard-sided luggage is more likely to show dents and scratches than soft-sided luggage, which will help your bags look a bit more professional when you wheel it into that business meeting you just flew in to attend.

Don’t get too smart

Smart suitcase with built-in GPS, weights, wi-fi and battery for recharging gadgets.

Smart bags come with their own lithium batteries to charge up your devices and offer Bluetooth and W-Fi connectivity as well. It’s a nifty little upgrade from a regular carry-on for the tech-obsessed traveler, but if you’re thinking about purchasing one, do your research first. The trouble lies with these smart bags’ lithium batteries. As there have been cases of these types of batteries causing fires and explosions when overheated, they are not allowed to be checked in to the cargo hold with other bags. In the rare occasion, you do need to check-in your carry-on piece, this may pose a slight problem. Airlines will require you to remove the battery and keep it with you in the cabin. Depending on the model of smart bag, battery removal may be easy, cumbersome, or altogether impossible. If you can’t remove the battery, you’ll be forced to abandon your bag and transfer your belongings to another piece of luggage — so be careful if you choose to invest in one!

A reliable carry-on can be the first thing you look for once you’ve booked cheap flight deals to a dreamy new destination. But choosing the perfect bag is no easy task with all the limitless options out there. Consider these simple factors and you’ll be wheeling away a traveler’s best friend, who’ll keep you running effortlessly through airports around the world for years to come!

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Socialite, philanthropist, costumed crime fighter by wait...that's bad ... Musician, writer, travel junkie, dog lover, and database of useless information. I love to learn about new cultures, experience new cuisines, meet new people, and have a few laughs along the way!