I currently own a 20" rolling carry-on bag that has met my airline & train travel needs for years (I switched to it a year or two before airlines started charging for checked bags), and it's perfect for a week-long conference where I'm coming back or going out with a lot of stuff, or when I'm visiting my parents for close to a month at Christmas, but it seems excessive when I'm going for a weekend trip or a job interview.
I'm considering getting a smaller suitcase for those shorter trips, so I'm working out my requirements. This thread covers more or less what I have in mind
, but here's some personal preference/requirement notes:
1. Must have wheels. I used to do backpack+purse for shorter trips, but I've been finding that I often pinch a nerve during travel and I'm pretty sure carrying my camera/laptop on my back is a factor.
2. Can fit my laptop and possibly SLR camera + 2-3 days worth of clothes. Thankfully my clothes are pretty small. Camera may be optional: I'm trying a downgrade to a point and shoot for short trips.
3. Preferably I'd like something that can fit into the overhead bin on the smaller regional jets, since often my flight will have one hop with those. A search says that this means the bag will have to be around 18Lx14Wx7D. Sounds like you can fit larger, but I'd rather not have to argue it out with the gate staff / flight attendant every time. I am perfectly ok with being given a checked tag and then "obliviously" carrying my bag on the plane anyhow as long as it will fit, though.
4. Butnot arguing with the gate/flight staff every time I fly would be awesome. This may mean going with something more backpack-like so I can just put it on my back when I walk on the plane, but mostly it just reinforces "small" and "looks like it holds a laptop." Briefcases should work.
5. Should have an open clothing section as opposed to a bunch of filefolder divider things that will make it harder to pack.
6. Should open fully, at least for the clothing section. Pure preference on my part.
7. I'm not too picky about laptop sleeves, although something I can easily slip a laptop out of for the TSA or in case I do have to check the bag is good. I basically never use my laptop on the plane, I just don't want to skycheck it.
8. If at all possible, not black. Something like 90% of the suitcases I see are black and I don't want to be worrying about someone grabbing mine by mistake.
9. But (and i realize this may contradict the "not black" thing) something that looks more business traveller-y would be good. I have a *lot* of trouble with TSA reps assuming I'm young or an infrequent traveler which is especially frustrating when I go somewhere with J and they immediately assume he's an expert while I get the "oh, hon, you know our machines are perfectly safe?" talk-down-to-the-little-girl spiel. (My new response: "My sister is a physicist who works in health and safety; I'd like to opt out." which is factually true but irrelevant and calculated to throw them and possibly nearby travelers out of their default headspace without getting into an argument.)
I've been finding that
(a) A disturbing number of online sites don't give pictures of the inside of the bags.
(b) A disturbing number of online sites don't give dimensions or even pictures that could help me guess the dimensions
(c) Bags are expensive (duh)
(d) There is an entire market for "women's suitcases" which I find somewhat strange. Particularly given that the "women's briefcase-bags" seem pretty much identical to the non-women's ones.
I don't have any short trips scheduled, but I'm hoping to find some bag options I like and catch a sale (luggage goes on sale quite frequently, so it's a bit ridiculous to pay full price if I've got time to spare).
I would love to hear first hand testimonials from any of you who travel with a bag that might meet my needs, though. It was a recommendation from Linuxchix that drew me to my current bag which has done me pretty well although it's starting to show its age now.