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Best Airline Carry-On Luggage 2015

Updated on January 12, 2015

Air travel can be so convenient, but it can also be confusing. After September 11, 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (T.S.A.) changed a lot of rules regarding air travel, especially rules about what can be carried on to an airplane. The rules still change occasionally, and it can be hard to keep up with what is allowed on a plane and what is

According to the T.S.A.'s website, some of the not-so-obvious items that are prohibited from being carried onto an airplane include gel candles, any kind of aerosol can, and golf clubs. I once had a jar of jelly confiscated from me at an airport.

Another confusing issue, when it comes to air travel, is what kinds of luggage can be carried on to a plane. Generally, every passenger is allowed to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item with them. According to the Southwest Airlines website, some examples of personal items include cameras, purses, and laptops. There are also some items that may be carried on and arent considered a carry-on or personal item, like kids car seats, umbrellas, and coats.

So what constitutes a carry-on piece of luggage? You know the one bag that you try to cram into those carry-on size check boxes while you're in line to get ticketed for your flight. The allowed size of a carry-on depends on the individual airline, and its subject to change, so check before you pack. For example, Southwest Airlines allows bags up to 10 x 16 x 24 inches; United Airlines' website states that their carry-on size limit is 14 x 9 x 22 inches. (Non-U.S. airlines have different rules entirely, so definitely check those before flying internationally.) Luckily, luggage manufacturers now make bags that specifically fit almost all U.S. airline carry-on guidelines.

Best Kids Carry-On Bag

My favorite of the kids' carry-on luggage is the Rockland Luggage 20" Polycarbonate Carry-On Luggage. It comes in four fun, girly prints that are sure to induce squeals from your favorite little traveler. I especially like the "Love" and the "Pucci" prints. This carry-on has an outer shell made of polycarbonate, so it's pretty lightweight, and it has four spinner wheels (the kind that can turn in any direction), both of which are important for kids who'll be wheeling their own carry-on in the air terminal. The fact that it's lightweight-just six-and-a-half pounds!-will also help you avoid fees for carry-ons that weigh too much. Its dimensions are 20 x 13 x 10 inches, so it should be fine for most airlines.

If you have a child that likes to pack their own things, their own way, this carry-on has inner pockets and straps, so at least you'll know that the bag's content's will stay put. No guarantees about whether your child will pack enough socks for your trip, though. And if you happen to decide you want to keep this fabulously colorful carry-on for yourself, I don't blame you.

A Good Wheeled Duffel Bag Under $50

Duffel-style carry-on luggage is great for casual trips like vacations. By "duffel-style," I mean carry-on luggage that usually rolls upright, like other carry-ons, but that can also be carried by a strap on the front, like a duffel bag. I like the Samsonite Luggage 22 Inch Andante Wheeled Duffel. Its dimensions are 12 x 22 x 22.5, and at that size, I was surprised at how much it can hold. I'm a light packer, so I can pack enough in this bag for several days, but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much you can fit in here, even if you tend to over-pack. I'd say that this duffel-style bag is the perfect compromise between holding a lot of items and fitting easily into an airplane's overhead bin. It's easy to roll, and lightweight enough that I didn't get tired hauling it around the airport.

This bag is a Samsonite, so it's pretty well made. The wheels and the handle seem to be pretty durable. Most of the bag is polyester, and I don't think it would do well as a checked bag, but I expect it to hold up well as a carry on.

Best Carry-On Duffel Bags for Men and Women

Best Wheeled Carry-On Bag

TravelPro is well known for sturdily built luggage. I like that their products have a classic look to them. My favorite is the Travelpro Luggage Maxlite 2 22" Expandable Rollaboard. Nothing flashy here-it comes in a basic black or medium blue. The number one benefit of this carry-on-and also a feature of some of their other products-is that it's expandable. In addition to the large, main compartment, it has two layered outer pockets that expand as you pack them. One caveat here-over-packing this bag could lead to it being a little too big for carry-on limits, so measure it after you've packed it. That said, I've never been questioned by any airline officials when I've carried this bag fully packed.

I've found that I can pack a variety of sizes of items in the different pockets, which is something I really like about it. I'm kind of small, so I also like that it was lightweight and that the handle telescopes to two different lengths. And, true to TravelPro's reputation, this carry-on does seem very well made.

Best Lightweight Wheeled Luggage

Lightweight carry-on luggage is always a good choice, for two reasons: one, it's easier to carry and roll around the airport; and two, it won't exceed weight limits when you stuff it full of your favorite vacation items. My favorite of these is the Delsey Luggage Helium Shadow Lightweight Hardside Four-Wheel Spinner. This carry-on has so many great things going for it. It's made of a hard, lightweight polycarbonate, so it protects the items inside it. It has four spinner wheels, which is one of my favorite features on carry-ons. And it comes in a brilliant, eye-catching blue shade that I really like. The other pieces in this luggage collection are also available in purple and platinum (the color, not the metal).

This carry-on isn't expandable, and it isn't as roomy as some others, but it's large enough to hold a couple of outfits, a laptop or some books, and a few other small items. It's also pretty durable. The zipper and handle are high quality, and the wheels roll easily. I'd expect this carry-on to last a good, long time.

Best Wheeled Professional Luggage

I'm guessing that if business trips are your main reason for travel, you aren't going to be looking for a bright-blue carry on like the one I described above. You'll be looking for something more professional, right? Well, good! Luckily for you, there's a wide selection of professional-style carry-on luggage out there. I like the Ricardo Beverly Hills Luggage Sausalito Superlite Freewheelers 20-inch Wheelaboard. It has a slightly glossy, faux-leather look, and it comes in either black or pomegranate (a purplish, wine-like color). It has a full-size laptop pocket on the front, and it also has a zippered suite compartment that can help prevent garments from wrinkling.

One unique feature on this carry on is that it comes with its own 3-1-1 bag. (3-1-1 refers to the T.S.A. rule that liquids must be three ounces or less; contained in one clear, zip-top bag; with one bag per passenger.) This carry-on's various parts are well built-the handle, spinner wheels, zippers, and expandable pockets are all sturdy and meant to last. It's also one of the roomiest carry-on bags that I've seen, with plenty of space for everything that you'd need for a business trip.

What carry-on luggage do you own?

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