Carry-on tips for smooth flying

A good carry-on bag is the best way to avoid checked baggage fees. When traveling with kids, carry-on bags must be both lightweight and durable. We asked manufacturers to send us bags, then asked Charlotte Pope, a 4-year-old frequent flyer, to tell us which ones worked best for her.

Based on her tests and our experience traveling with kids, we offer these tips for buying the best carry-on for flying with kids:

Look for heavy duty wheels and a sturdy telescoping handle. Few things can put a damper on a vacation like losing a wheel or having the suitcase handle break as you’re running to catch a flight. If you want your kids to pull the bag, look for one that has two handle heights, one for little people and one for big people. The Eagle Creek Hovercraft Upright and TravelPro’s WalkAbout Lite 3 are good options.

Choose the bag that expands. You might fit everything nicely on your way out when it’s all clean and folded. But you’ll be coming home with new purchases and souvenirs, not to mention mounds of dirty, crumpled clothes, which always take up more space. The extra two or three inches you’ll get from an expanding suitcase are always welcome.

Look for a handle on the bottom. It helps provide stability to the bag when you’re standing at the ticket counter (fully packed, front-heavy bags tend to fall forward, especially when they have been zipped open to an expanded size), and it makes it much easier to heft a heavy bag into the overhead compartment. The best in our test was the Delsey Helium Breeze Carry On.

For manageability, nothing beats the Brookstone 21-inch Dash. It’s cute and lightweight and its four-wheel design make it really easy to pull. It was Charlotte’s favorite.

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