Consumer Reports: Best carry-on bags

Consumer Reports: Best carry-on bags »Play Video

CONSUMER REPORTS -- Flying with a carry-on bag instead of a checked bag can save you $50 or more every trip. It's no surprise luggage sales are higher.

"We always take a carry-on if we can get away with it," said one traveler.

"Of course I don't want to pay the extra fees," another laughed.

Whatever kind you get, it's got to fit in the overhead bin. Airlines have different maximums they allow.

"This bag measures 22 by 14 by 9 inches deep and will get you onto most carriers, though some carriers will give you a few inches more," said Nikhil Hutheesing of Consumer Reports.

Size matters, inside and out. The inside should hold lots while the outside stays as small as possible. Avoid protrusions like exterior pouches. They can put you over the size limit and throw your bag off-balance. Be aware some handles take up a lot of room inside the case, so check before you buy.

Next, consider the wheels. "Spinner" bags have four wheels and maneuver easily in crowded airports and plane aisles. They can be pushed along, taking the stress off your shoulder and elbow.

"Spinner wheels are vulnerable to breaking off, so make sure they're attached with screws instead of rivets," said Hutheesing.

If you prefer dual wheels, they should be set far apart – too close together and you can lose control.

Before you buy, open the handle all the way and give it a shake. It should be firmly attached with no wiggling or rattling as you pull it along.

And then there's the zipper. It's all that stands between your stuff and the outside world. A cheap zipper can render your bag useless.

A lot of bags come with a lifetime warranty. That sounds great, but check the fine print. There are often exclusions for airline damage and wear and tear.