Working Girl's Guide to Carry-on Luggage

I travel a lot for work all around the world. I do this with the same carry-on bag I've had since 2001.

For this edition of Working Girl Press I've done some research about what you should look for in a carry-on bag. I've also shared what I like and don't like about my carry-on.

And it comes down to these categories: size, weight, convenience, durability and warranty. And, of course, looks and price.


Here are the size restrictions from a few airlines around the world. If you do or will one day travel internationally, you might as well be prepared. Note that these measurements include handles and wheels:

- United airlines: 9"x14”x22" (22x35x56 cm)
- Qantas: 9“x14”x22” (23x36x56 cm)
- Japan airlines: 10”x16”x22” (25x40x55 cm)
- British airways: 10“x18”x22” (25x45x56 cm)

Other than this, make sure that your laptop, inside it's laptop sleeve, fits inside your bag. I've had a huge laptop where this was a close call.


Outside of the U.S., airlines also have weight restrictions. Yep, they will weigh your bag if it looks suspiciously heavy. Here are some examples:

- British airways: 51lbs (23kg)
- Japan airlines: 22lbs (10kg)
- Qantas: 15lbs (7kg)

The Qantas maximum weight is ridiculous, especially since many bags weigh 4kgs empty! Whatever.

If you do plan on international travel, get the lightest carry-ons you can find.


For convenience, here are the features I like:

- two-wheels, not four. In a two-wheeler, the wheels can be larger and this a lot easier to wheel over rough city streets. Wheels should be around 2".

- it is handy to have a hard-sided bag. You can sit on it in a pinch. You can put your feet up on it.

Here are the features I don't like:

- integrated laptop bags. They are usually huge and will become obsolete long before your bag does.

- bags with zipper openings in the middle, like a clam shell. These can get messy, especially if you're trying to find something in the plane and there's no room to flip it open. 


The "getting things done" philosophy for shopping means buying once and never again, or, at least, not for a long time. So, we're looking for durability. Here are some random thoughts:

- Ballistic nylon has great durability, and the higher the denier, the better. Although, as with counting denier on bed sheets, there is much debate about this.

- The telescoping handle should be made completely out of metal, including the handle at the end. Mine is plastic and it broke. When it's pushed down the top should be flush with the bag and the mechanism should be inside the back of the bag, not stuck to the outside.

- Fabric handles should sit flush when they're not in use.

- Wheels should be recessed into the back of the bag.


Briggs & Riley have the best warranty. If your bag is ever damaged (however it's damaged) they will repair it free of charge. Forever.

Now, you have to get it to the repair center yourself, so that will cost you, but there are several repair centers in the U.S.. They also sell repair kits for $7.50. I have a Briggs & Riley carry on, and I plan to keep it forever. (Cross fingers).

For a list of manufacturers and warranties, this list from flyertalk is semi-reliable, and a good starting point.


The only bag that I'd consider a thing of beauty is Globetrotter. They don't tick every requirement but they are unarguably well-made and are surprisingly light (9lbs/4kg) and durable. And expensive. After you buy this, maybe you can't afford to travel.

Aside from Globetrotter, there are the bright and modern styles of Tumi and Rimowa. But really you're looking for something inoffensive.

As I look fondly at my carry-on, I can only wish you good luck in getting one of your own. 

We're off to Denver next. 

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