Lighter luggage is the trend
As airlines place restrictions on luggage, travel experts say it's important to pack lightly -- ideally in one carry-on bag. Luggage manufacturers are responding with versatile new bags that weigh significantly less than older models, meaning you can pack more and still avoid weight surcharges.
There are dozens of luggage reviews available online, covering bags in a variety of styles, sizes and price ranges. The problem is that few of these reviews cover the same individual bags. Good Housekeeping reviews both carry-on luggage and medium-size bags for durability and performance; many of the larger bags they test are also available in carry-on sizes. Other publications also put luggage through rigorous tests, but they cover fewer models. Outside magazine, for example, tests mostly larger bags suitable for extended travel. SmartMoney magazine also tests large bags, and Charles Passy of CNNMoney.com subjects five lightweight bags to hands-on abuse tests. ConsumerReports.org, usually among the better sources for comparison tests of products, no longer has any luggage reviews available on its website.
We found the best review of soft-sided carry-on bags at OneBag.com, where travel expert Doug Dyment recommends nonrolling, carry-on luggage rather than the more popular rolling luggage. Other travel experts -- including the editors at Fodors.com, travel blogger "Kevin" at PracticalHacks.com and blogger "Frank II" of One Bag, One World -- also like soft-sided carry-ons because they weigh far less, leaving more space for contents. These bags are designed to fit into overhead compartments, making them useful for traveling by train or bus, or when navigating crowded walkways. However, these same experts generally concede that not everyone is able to carry bags, even lightweight ones. Doug Dyment suggests that such travelers use a folding cart, such as the Going in Style Travel Folding Luggage Cart (*Est. $50), rather than "compromise" with a wheeled bag. However, he admits that this is the point on which readers most often disagree with him.
Many people -- particularly business travelers -- prefer to fly with only a carry-on bag. By not checking luggage, they can avoid checked-bag fees, get in and out of airports quickly and minimize the chance of lost or damaged bags. Because of this, our report (like most luggage reviews) emphasizes carry-on bags. The typical maximum external dimensions for a carry-on are 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches, including any wheels and pockets. Reviewers also recommend some rugged wheeled duffel bags that come only in a large size, suitable for car travel or long trips. We cover these bags in a separate section.