First things first. Always use a carry-on. Here’s why:
Use a Carry-on Because –
- You’ll save money: On most airlines, there is no fee for a carry-on for free (exceptions include Allegiant, Frontier and Spirt). By using a carry-on, you generally save a $50 round-trip fee.
- You’ll save time: Don’t get stuck at the baggage carousel. Get off the plane and go.
- You’ll save valuables: A carry-on is a bag that can’t get lost. Sure, fewer bags are lost all the time but why take a chance?
Which Carry-on is Better – Wheels or No Wheels
Only you can make this decision. Personally, I like a bag with wheels. You may not. Here are the differences spelled out.
Bags with Wheels
Wheelies can be bigger than the no-wheels variety but all bags must follow airline size allowances (typically 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall on U.S. carriers but it varies); otherwise, the bag could get taken from you and put into cargo. Here are the advantages:
- Cheap: As noted, you’ll save the checked-bag fee on most airlines.
- Muscle-friendly: It can save you a pain in the neck – or back or arms.
- More packing room: The fairly sizable footprint of many wheeled bags means you can pack more and clothes (or so I find) and they emerge with fewer wrinkles.
- Maneuverability: Great for sprinting through the airport, especially bags with spinner-type wheels.
Bags without Wheels
This can be anything from a backpack to a squashy duffle or gym bag to a designer bag with shoulder straps (Brooks Brothers has an extravagant one for $15,000). Here are the advantages:
- Avoid all fees: Even airlines that charge for carry-ons usually allow a small bag for free if it fits under the seat in front of you. Squishy no-wheels bags can often do this.
- Bag stays with you: When bin space fills up, airlines sometimes stop passengers from bringing carry-ons on planes if they’re too big (and sometimes if they’re not). This is probably something you don’t have to worry about with a no-wheels bag.
- Bathroom-friendly: Some find no-wheels bags are actually easier to maneuver into tight spaces like a restroom stall. [Editor's note: True!]