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With carry-on rules getting stricter and check-in bags bumping up the price of your flight, it pays to take a closer look at your carry-on baggage—and that doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank for an expensive, compliant bag. Here are some travel tips for carry-on baggage to help make your trip smooth sailing.

Before you buy, double-check all dimensions.

When you go to purchase your bag, take your tape measure with you. Standard carry-on sizes vary (Upgraded Poings has a great online guide for most airlines), but if you want to play it safe, look for bags marked “international carry-ons.” Foreign airlines’ carry-on policies have traditionally been much stricter than domestic ones—which could save you having to check your precious belongings at the door.

Check out discount stores for great deals on good luggage.

Discount retailers such as Marshall’s, TJMaxx and Ross often stock name-brand luggage for a fraction of what you normally pay. While more often than not your carry-on will actually be above your head and not in the belly of the plane, you’ll still want to get a fairly good bag just in case it finds itself in a baggage handler’s less-than-tender care. Don’t forget online retailers such as eBags—they can offer great discounts as well.

Think hard.

By that we mean, hard-sided luggage. Sure it’s a little more expensive, but you’re pretty much guaranteed against over-stuffing—and that can definitely lower your chances of slipping it comfortably into the stricter baggage sizers at the gates.

Don’t forget there are certain airlines that will always charge you a carry-on fee.

Yes, we mean you, Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air. Though the tickets are priced very low, they can really bite you if you don’t read their policies thoroughly. For example, a carry-on bag on Spirit will cost you $26 (as opposed to $21 for your first checked-in bag) but only if you play during online booking/before online check-in AND if you’re a member of the $9 Fare Club. Otherwise it’s $35 and $30, respectively, and if you forget and make it all the way to the gate, the fees skyrocket to $100 for each bag. No matter what. Yes, you read that right.

And if you tried your best but the gate agent still requests you check your bag, have a back-up plan.

If the fit is a bit too tight or the handle is too large, the gate agents might decide it’s a no-go (remember, they’re under pressure, too, to enforce these new policies!) This can be as simple as already having our valuables packed in a light cloth bag inside your carry-on so all you have to do is pull it out in one smooth move.

So, what’s the best carry-on tip of all, you may ask? Carry on your SkyMed travel coverage! It doesn’t take up much space and can literally be a lifesaver. Just ask these folks.


Safe Travels! 

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