lightest bags for carry-on travel

Size Matters

size matters when packing, choosing a small flexible bag for carry-on travel[trip style = weekending] With airlines continuing to jack up prices for checked baggage, and carry-on allowances getting more scant, traveling with the right type and size of carry-on can increase your packing space and provide peace of mind. Any time I'm travelling on an airline with stingy or overly strict carry-on requirements, or on a summer road trip, I bring a flexible bag instead of a structured carry-on, here's why...

Why Carry-On Type And Size Matter If an airline ever has any suspicion about your bag’s size, it will be tested in either the carry-on ‘cage’ or with a measuring tape. And if your bag’s wheels stick out even 2 cm beyond the guidelines, too bad so sad. Not only is your thoughtfully packed carry-on going under the plane, you may even get stuck with a fee. After leaning 'the hard way' from an experience with Allegiant Airlines, from now on, if my carry-on does not exactly fit with the airline’s baggage requirements, 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.

Flexible Bags a) Maintain the convenience of carry-on travel. b) Allow you to pack to the fullest knowing that if required, the bag could be forced into the airline’s carry-on configuration. c) Are lighter than structured carry-ons, allowing you to maximize the weight inside the bag! d) Provide travel {and packing} confidence.


  • always favour bags in darker colours, they stand out less and seldom attract a ‘random measurement.’
  • know your airline’s baggage sizing requirements, and be able to quote them if your bag is in question---being confident and assertive helps.
  • if you think there’s any grey area between your measurement and the airline’s measurement of your bag, bring a smaller size or buy an unstructured bag to cram into the measurement cage, if requested.
  • when buying a carry-on, look for long and lean versus short and wide. wider bags ‘appear’ bigger.
  • most airlines allow a max carry-on size of 45″ total, or 22″ x 14″ x 9″.
  • don’t forget about weight, many airlines' max carry-on weight is now 25 pounds or less, and again, if you bag looks big, it will be weighed.

Trip Styler Tip :: Flexible, dark-coloured, duffel-like bags are also great for summer road trips, weekending at the cabin or boating. They can be crammed into small spaces like a crevice in your trunk or boat, and beaten-up a little enroute. Your casual weekend clothes won't mind, just remember to pack your toiletries extra well, or keep them with you.

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[photo: Longchamp Extendible Le Pliage bag from Neiman Marcus in the US, and here in Canada.]