[trip style = packing light]
With airlines continuing to raise prices for checked baggage and carry-on allowances getting more scant, traveling with the right type of carry-on can increase your packing space and provide an extra dose of peace of mind.
Except from recent trip home from Palm Springs Front Desk Agent: "May I see your Carry-on (measures it). I'm sorry mam, this is too large" Me: "But it's within your luggage requirements and I used the same bag to get here with no issue." Front Desk Agent: "It is a quarter-inch too long in height" Me: "Yet it slides perfectly into the overhead bin" (straight in vs sideways) Front Desk Agent: "We have an faa agent on our flight today and he is measuring every bag"
To make a long story short, I ended up being allowed to bring my bag on the plane even though it was a quarter-inch too long, but the other people beside me weren't so lucky (and they too brought the same bag on the inbound flight with no issue). As I expected, my bag slid perfectly into the over-seat bin. Strangely, I never saw an FAA agent on or near our flight, maybe he/she was in plain clothes?
Had the front desk agent not provided a mini amount of grace, I would have had to pay $35 to check my bag. I fly with a carry-on for convenience, so giving up that convenience coupled with the extra $35 that I would not want to spend for an extra quarter inch made me re-think the type of carry-on I'll use when traveling on this airline again.
Why does type of carry-on matter? If an airline ever has any suspicion on your bag's size, it will be tested in either the carry-on 'cage' (as I like to call it) or with a good, old-fashioned measuring tape. And if your bag's wheels stick out slightly preventing it from passing the measurement test, too bad. From now on, if my carry-on does not 100% fit the airline's baggage requirements--even by a quarter inch--I will always travel with a flexible bag (like my preferred Longchamp Le Pliage) so it can be moulded and punched into place if selected for a sizing test. This will allow me to a) maintain the convenience of carry-on travel b) pack to the fullest knowing that if required, the bag could be forced into the airline's carry-on configuration c) travel with confidence.
Tips - know your airline's baggage sizing requirements, and be able to quote them if your bag is in question - if you think there's any grey area between your measurement and the airline's measurement of your bag, bring a smaller size - always favor bags in darker colors, they stand out less and seldom attract a 'random measurement' - when buying a carry-on, look for long and lean vs short and wide. wider bags 'appear' bigger - in all this talk about sizing, don't forget about weight, some airline's max carry-on weight is now 25 pounds - most airlines allow a max carry-on size of 45" total, OR 22" x 14" x 9"