If your summer involves air travel, you probably plan to carry a suitcase onto the plane—and that can be a good idea. Taking a suitcase with you means you won’t have to wait at the baggage carousel later, you’ll worry less that the bag has been stolen and you’ll have everything you need just above you, in the overhead bin.

In a recent survey, Consumer Reports subscribers agreed. Of the 39,000 subscribers who said they flew in the past year, more than half of them say they carry on a bag either on some or all of their trips. Almost three-quarters told us that they do so to save time at the airport.

Of course, all the benefits of carry-on luggage won’t be worthwhile if the bag is too big and the airline won’t let you take it on. It could even be a problem if the airline does let you take it on but you pack it so full you can’t cram it into the overhead bin.

Our advice: Make traveling a little easier. Find a bag that you can comfortably take on the plane with you.


Check our 
luggage buying guide and ratings of suitcase types and retailers to find the right luggage for your travels.
 

More on Luggage

Here are four steps to take to buy the right carry-on luggage.

Measure It
The maximum allowable dimensions for domestic flights on the big three airlines—AmericanDelta, and United—are 22 inches high, 9 inches deep, and 14 inches wide. This includes wheels, retracted handles, and compartment protrusions. Most importantly: Measure it yourself with a tape measure. You can’t always rely on the product dimensions found on the bags’ hangtags or on a seller’s website to determine whether a piece of luggage is carry-on-compliant. 

Spin It
Most luggage sold in the United States comes with wheels. In our survey of the more than 14,000 readers who replaced their luggage for reasons other than loss or damage, more than half of respondents told us that one reason they replaced their existing luggage was that they wanted a case that was “easier to wheel.” For carry-on, easier-to-wheel usually means four wheels instead of just two. A four-wheeler, also called a spinner because the wheels turn 360 degrees, is easier to navigate in tight spaces—like in the aisle of an aircraft. It also beats the two-wheeler in ergonomics because you can push it, pull it, wheel it at your side, and turn it in any direction.

Look Inside
Not all interiors are created equal, even with the same exterior dimensions. And it can be hard to know just how much space you actually have since many manufacturers don’t disclose the interior volume. But certain features maximize interior packing space. These include squared (not curved) corners, outer compartments that are integrated (not protruding), and handles mounted on the exterior (not inside, where it occupies valuable real estate).

Weigh It
Most of the weight you lug around should be the weight of your belongings, not the bag. Thirty-one percent of recent luggage purchasers in our survey who replaced their luggage wanted something lighter. Experts recommend that a wheeled bag weigh no more than 7.5 pounds.