Our friend, the World Wide Will at MedjetAssist is an expert on all things travel related. This is the first in a series on making the best buying decision when purchasing luggage.

Whether you’re buying your luggage online or in a local store, there are many options to consider before making a purchase. In fact, there are so many individual considerations that making a buying decision can prove difficult. Do I want two wheels? Four wheels? None? Whatever your travel patterns and personal needs, there are specific criteria you should always consider when purchasing a carry-on bag. And don’t forget, you don’t always have to spend a lot to get a good bag, so long as it meets certain standards.

  • If possible, you should test-roll the bag in person before buying it to make sure it’s comfortable for you. I’ve tried many different roll-aboards over the years, and these are the criteria and potential pitfalls I’ve discovered.
  • For roll-aboard luggage I prefer soft-sided bags because they’re generally lighter, have more pockets to store things and usually expand a bit if necessary.
  • Remember to get proper measurements. To be allowed on most commercial airlines, your carry-on must be no larger than 22 inches.
  • Bags that expand are nice, but remember that once it’s expanded the bag may no longer fit through security or into the overhead compartment, then you will have to check it.
  • Make sure the handle is the right length and comfortable for you to use. I’m tall, which means I have a long stride. If the handle is too short, the bag hits my heel which will make it tip over. I’ve also found that cushioned handles are more comfortable for your hand than hard the ones, particularly if you’re wheeling your bag long distances in airports.
  • Extending and lowering the handle—not always so gently—puts a lot of stress at the point where it meets the body of the bag. Make sure that spot is reinforced and sturdy enough to withstand the frequent wear and tear.
  • I prefer a bag that has a separate suit compartment. If I don’t need the space for clothing, I take out the folded separator and use it for shoes and other items to keep them separate from my clothes.
  • Examine the wheels. They will be either flat or curved, like those on in-line skates. I prefer curved wheels because they’re generally quieter and roll more smoothly on sidewalks and airport floors.